This essay examines Lester Horton’s 1937 production of Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring) at the Hollywood Bowl. In particular, the genesis of the work and the transference of Russian modernism in 1930s Los Angeles is explored. The essay focuses on Horton’s professional relationships with two artists in Los Angeles, Adolph Bolm and Michio Ito, both of whom were in his proximity as teachers, mentors and colleagues when he created Le Sacre. The Russian émigré Bolm, a former dancer with the Ballets Russes during the period Nijinsky choreographed The Rite of Spring in 1913, was a well-established teacher and choreographer in Los Angeles. Bolm’s and Horton’s parallel interests in American Indian dance forms are discussed. Ito, the Japanese dancer and choreographer who was inspired to pursue dance after witnessing performances of the Ballets Russes, trained in Dalcroze Eurhythmics in Hellerau before settling in Los Angeles in 1929. Horton’s production of Le Sacre, the seventh created internationally and first West Coast version is discussed in detail, drawing on the choreographer’s rehearsal notes and other first-hand accounts.
This current volume of Experiment, Volume 20, entitled “Kinetic Los Angeles: Russian Émigrés in the City of Self-Transformation” (Guest Editor, Lorin Johnson) is dedicated to the contributions of Russian artists who lived and worked in Los Angeles in the fields of dance performance, visual arts, and film, exploring how the city was influenced by their presence as well as the reasons that drew them to Southern California. While many of the essays focus on the émigré community that gathered in Los Angeles during the 1930s-1940s, the investigation of “Russianness” in the city is not confined to those decades. Each essay in this volume is accompanied by photographs and illustrations which help to tell this story, many of which are previously unpublished and recently discovered in private collections and archives in the U.S. and abroad. Contributors include: Kenneth Archer, John Bowlt, Donald Bradburn, Elizabeth Durst, Lynn Garafola, Karen Goodman, Millicent Hodson, Lorin Johnson (Guest Editor), Mark Konecny, Debra Levine and Oleg Minin.
This article is an attempt to place Adolph Bolm’s ballet, The Spirit of the Factory, staged at the Hollywood Bowl with a cast of sixty dancers into the context of the choreographer’s oeuvre and explain how an avant-garde ballet, danced to dissonant accompaniment, could have been so well received by American audiences in the 1930s. A “neo-constructivist” work that was uniquely Hollywood in its inception, with a dual connection to film and the particular atmosphere of the resplendent outdoor Hollywood Bowl, how such a work came to be raises many questions about the sources that inspired Bolm.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Los Angeles audiences saw Soviet defectors Mikhail Baryshnikov, Alexander Godunov, Natalia Makarova, and Rudolf Nureyev in the prime of their careers at the Hollywood Bowl, The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and the Greek Theater. Dance photographer Donald Dale Bradburn, a local Southern California dancer describes his behind-the-scenes access to these dancers in this interview. Perfectly positioned as Dance Magazine’s Southern California correspondent, Bradburn offers a candid appraisal of the Southern California appeal for such high-power Russian artists as well as their impact on the arts of Los Angeles. An intimate view of Russian dancers practicing their craft on Los Angeles stages, Bradburn’s interview is illustrated by fourteen of his photographs, published for the first time in this issue of Experiment.