Photog Herb Migdoll captures Eugene Loring’s “Billy the Kid” (1989) 5

Dance · Visual arts

Here’s an historic oddity: an American ballet about an American theme. It’s danced by an American dancer in an American company. Now this is getting tedious — it has a score by an American composer. It’s Eugene Loring‘s “Billy the Kid,” to a score by Aaron Copeland.

Yes, we now live in a different world. But honestly, don’t you wish you could see more of this?

This great set of Herbert Migdoll photos lives in the archive of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Tom Mossbrucker, seen in the lead role Billy. Now the co-director, along with Jean-Philippe Malaty, of the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Mossbrucker remembers this:

“It was one of the highlights of my career to perform in such a masterwork. I remember performing it in an ancient outdoor amphitheater in Granada, Spain. I was there alone on the stage under the stars and moonlight and I could hear dogs howling in the distance. It was thrilling.

“The piece is not a solo.  But there was a section where Billy is alone, in the prairie, hiding out! The image of the hand in front of the face is meant to convey hiding in the brush. I used to love that.”

Mr. Migdoll is now the Graphics Director at the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago (sets, photography, graphics). Just love these photos, sir.

Loring’s significant Los Angeles history includes running the go-to ballet school of the 1950s on Hollywood Boulevard, and establishing the dance department at UC Irvine.

To give a little context, in 1938, the year Loring made “Billy,” George Balanchine was in Los Angeles, having just choreographed “The Goldwyn Follies,” on Vera Zorina soon to be his wife. And Earl Carroll was building his groovy revolving stage cabaret.

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5 thoughts on “Photog Herb Migdoll captures Eugene Loring’s “Billy the Kid” (1989)

  1. debra Apr 17,2012 12:03 pm

    Don that is tremendous, tremendous news. Press on! Thank you for writing to me. Debra Levine

  2. Donald Bradburn Apr 17,2012 12:00 pm

    I am hard at work on my Loring Biography : Beyond Billy the Kid/ A Dance Biography of Eugene Loring.

    Just found some new photos and a vhs tape of “show Biz” numbers he gave me.

    Good to read your comments of interest.

  3. Larry Billman Mar 1,2012 1:10 pm

    Amen Brother Boross! There is so much great Loring on film that has never gotten the attention it deserves: Cyd Charisse’s solo to “Silk Stockings” and her most athletic display in “The Red Blues;” Charisse’s pas de deux with James Mitchell to “One Alone” in “Deep in My Heart;” Astaire and Lucille Bremer to “Coffee Time” in “Yolanda and the Thief” and the dream ballet in “The 5,000 Fingers of Doctor T.” And the American School of Dance set the standard for the complete dance and theater school. Hopefully you might be able to convince Don Bradburn to lead the way to a biography.

  4. Marcus Mar 1,2012 11:09 am

    I LOVE this ballet!

  5. Bob Boross Feb 22,2012 6:28 am

    It’s good to see Eugene Loring get some recognition today, as he was such a catalyzing force for theatrical dance as well as ballet in NYC and on the West Coast. One of his contributions that does not get proper notice is his work as a dance teacher/educator. His American School of Dance was a new model for training dancers – in many techniques, his own “freestyle” technique, and in music, art, dance films, and even classes in understanding spatial formations. Thorough training like this is long gone, and it would be interesting to see his concepts applied to dance training in higher education today. (As a former faculty member of the UC Irvine Dance Dept, I can reveal that even in the dept that he founded, Loring’s heritage was dismissed by the newer, more contemporary thinking faculty.) Will there be a biography worthy of his achievements coming soon? I hope that someone is working on just such a book.

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