Was Dancing Star Juliet Prowse Really Mauled By the Same Jaguar Twice?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to dancing and dancers and whether they are true or false. Click here to see all of the dancing urban legends featured so far.

DANCING URBAN LEGEND: Juliet Prowse was mauled by the same jaguar twice.

Juliet Prowse was born in India to a British father and a South African mother. After her father died when she was just a toddler, she moved with her mother to South Africa and soon began studying dance at a young age. She was discovered as a dancer in Paris in her twenties and she was soon a key player in the 1960 film, Can-Can…

Prowse starred in her own sitcom a few years later after some more film roles, where she plays an actress who marries a guy in the Air Force and they try to live on his salary while she continues working as an actress.


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What Unique (and Stinging) Review Did Noted Dance Critic Louis Horst Give to an Early Dance of Famed Choreographer Paul Taylor?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to dancing and dancers and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the dancing urban legends featured so far.

DANCING URBAN LEGEND: Louis Horst had a stinging review of an early Paul Taylor choreographed performance.

Louis Horst was one of the VERY earliest proponents of modern dance.

He was around for so long that Martha Graham was HIS student!!

Besides being a prominent dance teacher, Horst was also a notable dance critic.

In 1934, he debuted a new magazine called the Dance Observer to get across his particular views and theories about the world of modern dance.

The magazine lasted until 1964, when it ended upon Horst’s death.

In any event, one of Graham’s students was a man named Paul Taylor.

Taylor began performing in the early 1950s in a special dance performance joint choreographed by Graham and the famous ballet choreographer, George Balanchine (you might recall Balanchine from one of the very first installments of Dancing Urban Legends Revealed). Balanchine developed a solo that was so unique that they had to drop it from the show when Taylor left the show.

Within two years, Taylor was choreographing his own shows!

When Taylor started out, he was all about the ideas and theories of what one could accomplish with modern dance – what different kinds of expression you could make.

As a result, some of his dances were not exactly audience friendly.

In 1957, just three years after making his professional dance debut, Taylor debuted his choreographed work, “Seven New Dances.”

Mixed in throughout the dances were dances that, well, did not appear to the naked eye to BE dances. Much like how John Cage felt that his four minutes and thirty three seconds of “silence” showed you how silence was not ACTUALLY silent, so, too, did Taylor feel that, depending on how you handle it, NOT moving could be as dramatic as moving.

He played with that idea throughout the show, but one dance, in particular, stood out – in this dance, Taylor and a fellow dancer basically stand/sit still for four minutes.

Horst, the modern dance pioneer, was especially put off by this dance, and he made that clear with one of the more brilliant critiques you’ll get a chance to see.
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How Did Two Unexpected Acceptances Force Merce Cunningham to Devise a Brand New Dance Routine?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to dancing and dancers and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the dancing urban legends featured so far.

DANCING URBAN LEGEND: Unexpected acceptances by two major rock bands led to Merce Cunningham developing a brand new dance routine.

Mercier “Merce” Cunninghamn (pronounced like terse) just passed on a few years ago, at the age of 90. He died as one of the most prominent dance figures of the 20th Century.

Cunningham began working with Martha Graham (one of the early leaders in the modern dance movement) during the 1930s, and by 1944 he was doing his own shows.

He soon began working with John Cage, the avant garde musician (I discussed Cage in this installment of Music Urban Legends Revealed).

The pair would become partners both on the stage and off, working (and living) together for nearly 40 years until Cage passed away in the early 1990s.

Cunningham continued working (in fact, he was doing podcasts about dance just five years ago, at the age of 89!) and his dance studio continued to be one of the most well respected modern dance studios out there.

However, as Cunningham got older, a problem was to get people still interested in going to see the dances that Cunningham was choreographing – also, more specifically to get a NEW crowd interested as Cunningham’s Dance Company reached its FIFTIETH year of existence in 2002.

So Trevor Carlson, the general manager of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, came up with a novel idea for the Company’s 50th season – instead of having Cunningham’s dances alongside the music of Cage – the avant garde, post-modern style of music (Cage’s most famous piece of music was four minutes and thirty three seconds of ambient crowd noise), Carlson would ask a major contemporary rock ‘n’ roll band to work alongside Cunningham!

Carlson sent off requests to two separate hip bands…

Radiohead…

and Sigur Rós…

Carlson’s plan was that if he sent out two invitations, PERHAPS one of them would say yes.

However, surprisingly (to Carlson, at least), while neither group had ever actually seen a performance by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, they both agreed to do the show!

So now, just like a sitcom character, Carlson had basically TWO dates for the same event!

This being Merce Cunningham, though, weird situations were not a problem…
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Did George Bernard Shaw Use a Brutal Putdown on Isadora Duncan?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to dancing and dancers and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the dancing urban legends featured so far.

DANCING URBAN LEGEND: George Bernard Shaw had a particularly witty rebuke to a comment by Isadora Duncan.

Isadora Duncan was one of the first “modern” dancers, beginning at the turn of the 20th Century.

In the first 30 years of the 20th Century, Duncan was one of the most celebrated figures in the world.

Meanwhile, during this same period, one of the most celebrated intellectuals (due to his long life, he remained famous until the 1950s, when he died at the age of 94) was the writer George Bernard Shaw.

Shaw is most well known for his play Pygmalion, which was adapted into the classic musical, My Fair Lady.

In any event, as the story goes, one day when the pair met while at a party, Duncan suggested to Shaw that the two should have a child together:

Think of it! With your brains and my body, what a wonder it would be.

According to the story, Shaw thinks for a moment before replying:

Yes, but what if it had my body and your brains?

It’s a great line, and that’s likely why the story has lasted so long. But is it TRUE?
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Were Cyd Charisse’s Legs Really Insured for a Million Dollars Each?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to dancing and dancers and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the dancing urban legends featured so far.

DANCING URBAN LEGEND: Cyd Charisse’s legs were insured for a million bucks each.

Cyd Charisse (born Tula Elice Finklea) sadly passed away a few years ago.

The gorgeous dancer with the beautiful long legs was a screen starlet for a number of years.

Charisse danced with Fred Astaire in a few films, including…

Band Wagon…

and Silk Stockings…

She also danced with Gene Kelly in some films, including, perhaps most memorably, Singin’ in the Rain…

So she had the rare treat of dancing with two of the most notable ballroom dancers of the 20th Century, even though her background before this time was strictly ballet.

When Charisse passed away, a number of obituaries about her made reference to her legs, stating that MGM insured them for a million dollars each.

Is it true?
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Was Jim Thorpe Really a Ballroom Dancing Champion?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to dancing and dancers and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the dancing urban legends featured so far.

DANCING URBAN LEGEND: Jim Thorpe was a ballroom champion dancer.

Awhile back, I wrote about the fact that, unbeknown to most of his biographers for decades before it was discovered, Jim Thorpe had played professional basketball for awhile in the 1920s.

Jim Thorpe was really one of the greatest athletes of the 20th Century.

A star of track and field (and Olympic Gold Medalist), Thorpe also played professional baseball, basketball AND football!!!

However, amusingly enough, Thorpe’s athletic dominance was not just reserved for competitive sports, he also dominated in, of all places, the ballroom!!
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Does Fred Astaire’s Will Really Stipulate That He Can Never Be Depicted in a Film?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to dancing and dancers and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the dancing urban legends featured so far.

DANCING URBAN LEGEND: Fred Astaire’s will stipulates that he never be portrayed in a film.

Fred Astaire is likely the most famous ballroom dancer of the 20th Century, although he was a lot more than just a dancer. The American Film Institute named him the fifth Greatest Male Star of All Time.

Astaire is probably best known for his musical films, especially those where he danced with his dance partner of TEN films, Ginger Rogers.

Some of the hit films they did together include…

The Gay Divorcee…

Swing Time…

and Top Hat…

And of course, no one can forget Astaire’s famous “dancing on the ceiling” routine in Royal Wedding…

For a man who was so famous on the silver screen, Astaire made a curious demand upon his death in 1987. In the decade or so leading up to his death, Astaire had been turning down requests for “official” film versions of his life, and upon his death, Astaire went one better.

In his will, Astaire stipulated that he never been portrayed in a film.
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Was Marie Taglioni Really the First Ballet Dancer to Dance En Pointe?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to dancing and dancers and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the dancing urban legends featured so far.

DANCING URBAN LEGEND: Marie Taglioni was the first ballet dancer to dance en pointe.

En pointe is a form of ballet that involves presenting the ballerina on the tips of her toes. Ballerinas wear specialized shoes to support this maneuver, which, as you might imagine, can be practically devastating to a ballerina’s toes and feet.

This is one of the more notable parts of ballet that requires a large amount of training to make the body capable of doing such a maneuver.

The invention of the en pointe in ballet is often credited to Marie Taglioni, a legendary ballet dancer of the 19th Century (she was born in 1804 and died in 1884).

Taglioni danced en pointe in 1831.

WAS that the first time someone danced en pointe?
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Did Gelsey Kirkland Make Herself Sick to Avoid Starring in The Turning Point?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to dancing and dancers and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the dancing urban legends featured so far.

DANCING URBAN LEGEND: Gelsey Kirkland made herself intentionally sick so that she would not be able to do the film The Turning Point.

Gelsey Kirkland has led a rather tumultuous life as one of the most famous American ballerinas in history.

She joined the New York City Ballet under famed choreographer George Balanchine in 1968 when she was only 15 years old. By 1969, she was a soloist and by 1972 she was principal.

Later in the decade she joined famed ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov at the American Ballet Theater, where they performed probably her most famous role, opposite Baryshnikov in the 1977 televised performance of The Nutcracker…

Later, she even made the cover of Time magazine in 1978 for her performance in Swan Lake. Kirkland was a star.

Hollywood did not fail to notice the buzz that was surrounding the American Ballet Theatre during the mid-to-late 1970s, so in 1976, Arthur Laurents (who certainly had no lack of experience with the world of theater and dancing, having written the book for the classic Broadway musicals West Side Story and Gyspy) wrote the script for the film The Turning Point, with the movie centering upon two old friends, one (Shirley MacLaine) who gave up ballet stardom to raise a family and the other (Anne Bancroft) who went on to become a prima ballerina. Now Bancroft is offering MacLaine’s daughter a position in her ballet company. The reunion brings back old memories for the two friends, both good and bad.

The ballet company in the movie is made up of American Ballet Theatre stars, including Baryshnikov (the director of the film, Herbert Ross, also choreographed for the ABT). MacLaine’s daughter was to be played by Kirkland.

However, Kirkland was removed from the film because of health problems. At five foot four inches, Kirkland was only 80 pounds! In addition, she was suffering severe potassium deficiency.

Kirkland was replaced by her understudy, Leslie Browne, who went on to receive a nomination for an Academy Award for her performance in the film. Here is Director Ross lifting Browne (with Baryshnikov in the background)…

Okay, so the question at hand here revolves around Kirkland’s intent at the time. In her auto-biography, Kirkland stated that she made herself sick so that she would not have to do the film. Do we believe her?
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Did a Famous Ballet Dancer Have a Particularly Painful Introduction to Ballet?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to dancing and dancers and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the dancing urban legends featured so far.

DANCING URBAN LEGEND: Ron Cunningham had a rather painful introduction to the world of ballet.

An interesting aspect of ballet training is the fact that almost all ballet dancers begin their training at an extremely young age, very often pre-adolescence. This is because ballet is extremely demanding on the human body, and it often asks people to do things with their bones and muscles that is just flat-out unnatural.

Ron Cunningham learned this first hand when he decided to become a ballet dancer late in his life.
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