How a feisty New Yorker got George Martin his first dance job


Debra Levine lectures on Jack Cole’s “The Gladiators”
dancers: Rod Alexander, Jack Cole, George Martin

A wonderful nugget of dance history sourced at New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

George Martin: “My mother took me to see Top Hat, whatever that year was, in the late thirties, I guess. And I wanted to tap dance. So I went to some little basement dancing teachers’ school for about a year, and then I went to another bigger school for about a year or two, in Canton Ohio.

“I just loved dancing. When the war came, and my teacher had to go to the army. How he did it, he never explained, except he did know about Ted Shawn and the men’s group, and he got me a partial scholarship to Jacob’s Pillow in the summer of ’42.

“So my mother swallowed her terror … and gave me $50 and a ticket to get up there to Jacob’s Pillow. I had traveled a little, but not alone. I just went. I got on the train and I got from Pennsylvania Station to Grand Central. I don’t know how I did it. And went to the Pillow which I think probably was one of the best things that ever happened to me because I knew nothing. I just knew dancing from movies. The teachers there included Nijinska. Madam Nijinska taught ballet. [Joseph] Pilates was in residence.

“I studied mostly with Madame Nijinska, Steffi Nossin (modern). I was seventeen. I became 18 while there.

“And then I went to New York and I stayed with a woman who was a sister of the lady who had taken care of my mother when she was ill one time. I stayed at 110th Street and Cathedral Parkway. I didn’t know how to get a job. I just used to get on the streetcar and go down to Broadway. “This is the Army” was playing and Gypsy Rose Lee. I didn’t know what to do. So one day [my mother’s friend] said, “We’re going to get you a job.”

“She got the Yellow Pages out and she went through dancing schools and she found one at Radio City. She said, ‘That’s a good address.’ So she called and said, ‘I have a young man here and he needs a job.’

“It was very strange. I would never have done it. And there happened to be a tap teacher there who was going to choreograph—it wasn’t called choreography then. He was going to do the dances for a Shubert production of “The Merry Widow.” Eddie Sinclair was his name. I went down, and he looked at me. I knew I couldn’t dance very well. I mean, I was only seventeen, having had maybe four years of dancing school.”

Ethel Martin, his wife: “More than I had.”

George: “He said, ‘Fine. Come to the audition.’ So I went to the audition and got the job. Two boys were chosen. I got in. We were on tour.

“And then – Lady in the Dark.

“I gave my notice at “Merry Widow” and joined Lady In the Dark at the old Nixon Theater in Pittsburgh [chor: Albertina Rausch].

Source: George and Ethel Martin interviewed by Liza Gennaro, Goshen, N.Y., Jan. 17, Feb 25, 2003, sound recording, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

Leave a Reply

The Guadalajara scene seen by Hans Burkhardt

Visual arts

Hans Burkhardt, City At Night I – Guadalajara, 1957, Oil on Canvas, 50 x 60 inches

Hans Burkhardt in Mexico, opening tonight at Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, features major works painted in Mexico by the Los Angeles artist Hans Burkhardt over a span of more than 10 years beginning in 1950.

Mexico’s contrasting architecture and sensual landscape had a big impact on Burkhardt. Upon his arrival, Burkhardt – a modernist – was confronted by an ancient culture of contrasts, stating,

Everything was old, antique…What can I paint? I decided I had to study their culture…I painted the soul of Mexico…

Hans Burkhardt, Journey, 1956, oil on canvas, 50 x 60 inches

Hans Burkhardt was born in Basel, Switzerland in 1904, immigrating to New York in 1924.  There he was associated with and shared the studio of Arshile Gorky, before moving to Los Angeles in 1937, representing the most direct link between Los Angeles and the New York School.  He resided in Los Angeles until his death in 1994.

As an lead-in to the Burkhardt show, one of several Rutberg contributions to Pacific Standard Time LA/LA, was the gallery’s just-closed summer show, “Mexico in Los Angeles.” The paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture therein explored the impact that Mexican artists had on Los Angeles art, and the impact that L.A. had on them — ideas and images from which Rutberg examines in this wonderful video. His personal tour of the show’s works begins at 03:45. Highly recommended viewing.

Hans Burkhardt in Mexico | Jack Rutberg Fine Arts | opens September 23

Leave a Reply

Pond·ering sixty years of art history

Visual arts

Sixty years, more or less one generation, brought us from Monet to Almaraz. To my eye, two works aligned in hot harmony. Above, the majestic vision of Los Angeles painter Carlos Almaraz, in his reconstituted four-panel Echo Park Lake (1982) — now on rare display at LACMA, as part of Pacific Standard Time LA/LA. (Our review of the Almaraz show here.)

And below, painted sixty years prior, Claude Monet’s Waterlilies (1922), recently viewed at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Art as part of the museum’s superlative permanent collection.

Playing With Fire: Paintings by Carlos Almaraz | LACMA | thru Dec 3

Leave a Reply

Motown magic to Malibu: Mary Wilson, Martha Reeves @ Pepperdine 1

It’s difficult to witness the decay of present-day Detroit and reckon that the city was a booming factory town in the 1960s. While Detroit’s auto manufacturers put America in the driver’s seat, Motown Records flooded dance floors and came as close to dominating Top 40 radio as any domestic record label in history. Berry Gordy, ...

Baryshnikov praises Pam Tanowitz, Cage Cunningham awardee

Dance · Featured · Language & ideas
It’s whippped cream — dolloped onto Pam Tanowitz Dance receiving the Baryshnikov Art Center’s Cage Cunningham Award. It’s the high praise BAC Artistic Director Mikhail Baryshnikov gave in noting the ‘distinct intellectual journey’ of the choreographer’s work. “We have followed Pam’s work throughout the years, and are greatly impressed with her intelligence, determination, and the ...

Showing & telling the difficult: Laura Aguilar @ Vincent Price Art Museum

Visual arts
The wonderful Vincent Price Art Museum on the campus of East Los Angeles College has as its Pacific Standard Time LA/LA exhibit, “Laura Aguilar: Show and Tell,” opening Sept 16, the first comprehensive retrospective of the challenging photographer’s works. A series of talks and community events accompanies the show. This exhibition tells the story of ...

Tales of New York neurosis from Roz Chast @ ALOUD

Featured · Language & ideas · Visual arts
New Yorker magazine cartoonist Roz Chast has a new book. That makes me super anxious. It’s not that I’m jealous. I would be totally fine, but I couldn’t sleep last night. I think the waiter at that restaurant was looking at me funny. Then my neighbors were keeping me up … Chast’s new book, Going ...

To be greedy or not to be greedy, that is The Actor’s Gang question

In the photo, CBS Radio quiz show ‘Strike It Rich’ Program host, Todd Russell looks on as contest winner Joseph Snyder hands out dollar bills to men on a breadline in front of the Franciscan Monastery in New York City. Snyder, a winner of $230, reflected on his own breadline times. Dated: January 19, 1948 ...

Let Anniversary Classics entertain you … with GYPSY

Laemmle Theatres and the Anniversary Classics Series present a 55th anniversary screening of GYPSY, the 1962 film adaptation of one of the masterworks of the American musical theater, renowned for its hummable Stephen Sondheim-Jule Styne score. The film version stars Natalie Wood as burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee, Rosalind Russell as Momma Rose, the ultimate ...

Smart, independent, passionate: Jeanne Moreau’s film personae on view in Cinematheque series

Well, I didn’t even know she died. I can be forgiven as my own mother died the prior day. I was preoccupied. Still this eternal artist was not meant to perish. The magisterial French actress, the queen of assertive intellect and a noble sensuality, film star Jeanne Moreau (Jan 23, 1928 – July 31, 2017) ...