Tue Jan 9 2007
One of ballet's brightest lights, Ruthanna Boris, passed away on January 5. She was both a choreographer (Cakewalk, for New York City Ballet, was one of her biggest hits), as well as a revered dancer, first with George Balanchine's American Ballet and Lincoln Kirstin's group Ballet Caravan, and later with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet and the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.
The Brooklyn-born Boris, who was one of the 25 dancers admitted to Balanchine's School of American Ballet upon its 1934 inception, was in class the day Balanchine began to choreograph Serenade. In Robert Tracy's out-of-print collection of interviews, Balanchine's Ballerinas, Boris, with detail and candor, recalls her career. What follows, in which Boris was distressed to find herself playing second fiddle to ballerina Marie-Jeanne, is a typical highlight:
I complained to my mother about this, and she said to me, "I want you to go to Mr. Balanchine and tell him you want to be equal to Marie-Jeanne. That you are as good a dancer and you want solos." So I went to Mr. Balanchine and said those things, and then I started to cry. Balanchine said, "Don't cry and don't tell me what your mother wants. And don't ask me for solos. Do you know how to make a Caesar salad?" And I said no. So he took my hand and sat me down and it took about a half an hour for him to tell me how to make that salad. "First you go to the market and buy the freshest lettuce, and anchovies..." and so forth. Then when he was through he said, "You see how long it takes and how much you have to know and how you have to work to make a Caesar salad? Now go away."