Just another visit to the library folks …
The people of New York City have an amazing resource in their Performing Arts Library. Located at Lincoln Center between the Metropolitan Opera House and the Vivian Beaumont Theater, the Library houses circulating and research collections for classical and jazz music, opera, drama, and dance. If knowledge is power, then the Performing Arts Library is a truly formidable arsenal.
The ACCESS Program
The Jerome Robbins Dance Division is one of the several research collections. Starting June 24, to get access to any of the research collections will require registration for an "ACCESS" card. Its free of charge and only takes a few minutes to register.
The application is made online via the ACCESS Card link on the NYCPL's webpage. The form can be filled out before coming to the Library or even done at the Library itself. You complete the registration by reporting to the Copy Center on the 3rd floor (same floor as the Dance Division). Sassy copy center staff will check your ID and take a digital photograph that gets imprinted onto the ACCESS card. Theoretically, come June 24 you present a call slip w/ what you want and your ACCESS card and the staff will issue your requested material.
On the afternoon I visited, I registered using the old paper form. Since my aim was to view dance on tape, the Librarian guided me to a computer terminal. You click on the icon for the Dance on Tape CD-ROM. Then, you type a query in the search menu box.
For example, "Slaughter Tenth Avenue and video" returned about 17 matches. Hit "Display" and your choices appear. I chose footage from the 1993 Balanchine Festival. "Tombeau Couperin and video" returned about 10 choices and again I chose the Balanchine Festival. Call numbers get written down and then presented to the Librarian.
The Librarian checked the call numbers and assigned me a video station. When the video was ready, the video terminal's laptop display showed the familiar video playback controls (if you don't see anything on the laptop at first, jog the mouse to turn off the screen saver).
On the laptop screen, I hit "play" and "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" appeared with Maria Calegari as the Strip Tease Girl and Robert LaFosse as the Hoofer. Delectable. The video was the "close shot" version where the camera zoomed in a little and followed the main action. The "wide shot" as I found out soon has an essentially stationary camera about the location of the camera that shows you what you're missing in the theater in case you come too late to be seated and have to watch by the coatcheck.
I thought that though not quite ready for a national broadcast, the video was well done and not amateurish at all. There is a numeric counter and pause/rewind/repeat commands which would be essential for anybody wanting to do a close reading of a passage. The sound however could use some work as it passed through every miscellaneous noise from the pit including voice clearings, whispers, and things falling down or over.
"Tombeau de Couperin" was also taped during the 1993 Balanchine Festival. I don't remember that the Balanchine Festival was available for public viewing when I was by last year. Perhaps it was only available to bona-fide scholars and dance professionals but has become available to the interested public (me).
Personally, I believe that material preservation issues aside, the ability to view archival footage of 70+ Balanchine ballets of the Balanchine Festival (and other such research footage) to potentially represent a veritable goldmine for dance scholarship at all levels, particularly the undergraduate and graduate levels. IMHO dance must be seen in a repeatable and quotable form if it is ever to be studied as music, drama, and literature are studied. How far would Shakespeare studies have gone without readily available scholarly additions. How far if all we had were a handful of PBS tapes and our memories of live performance?
For dance scholarship to be taken seriously, there must be enough of it participating in and contributing to the intellectual and artistic currents of our times -- take your pick of 'isms -- historical, genre, biographical, Leavisite, Marxist, New Historicist, psycho-analytic, structuralist and post-structuralist, etc. Judging from the number of book shelves devoted to dance versus that devoted to literature and music at my local university library, there are simply not enough people writing about dance or not getting what they write into print. For heaven's sake, there must be more written about obscure medieval or Renaissance what nots than about dance (w/ all due respect to the study of whatnots). Ok, editorializing (ravings) over...
Back to “Tombeau.” With all due respect to the choreographer, I think I preferred the rehearsal piano's accompaniment to the performance's orchestrated score. The solo piano retains a concentration yet a delicacy that fits the mannerly ensemble better. The "wide shot" showed the entire stage while the "close shot" focussed on the left quadrille.
As before, I found the Library staff to be very knowledgeable and helpful. A trip to the NYCPL is like a visit to your personal treasure trove which offers much to a dance enthusiast like me. The library is open Monday through Saturday 12noon to 6pm except Thursdays when it is open to 8 pm though the research collections are closed on Mondays. NY Public Library for the Performing Arts Research Collections
<small>[ 02 June 2003, 05:02 AM: Message edited by: Jeff ]</small>