Interview with Francis Mason, 1978
NamesMason, Francis, 1921-2009 (Interviewee)Heifetz, Jeanne (Interviewer)
Dance Oral History Project
Dates / OriginDate Created: 1978-11-11
Library locationsJerome Robbins Dance DivisionShelf locator: *MGZMT 3-437
TopicsMason, Francis, 1921-2009 -- InterviewsBalanchine, GeorgeMartin, John, 1893-1985Tallchief, MariaGraham, MarthaMartha Graham Dance CompanySadler's Wells BalletNew York City BalletBallet Society (New York, N.Y.)Firebird (Choreographic work : Balanchine)Dance critics
NotesContent: Interview with Francis Mason conducted by Jeanne Heifetz for the Oral History Project of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, on November 11, 1978, at the home of Francis Mason.Additional physical form: For transcript of interview, see *MGZMT 3-437.Source characteristics: Sound quality is excellent overall although there is some extraneous noise, in particular on streaming file 2.Bibliographic history: Title supplied by cataloger.Venue: Recorded by Jeanne Heifetz for the Oral History Project of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts 1978, November 11 New York (N.Y.)Funding: The conservation and cataloging of this recording was made possible in part by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. The support of the National Endowment for the Arts is also gratefully acknowledged.
Physical DescriptionAudiocassetteExtent: 2 audio cassettes (approximately 3 hr., 9 min.); quarter-track; 1.875 ips; +transcript (61 leaves)
DescriptionStreaming audio file 1 (approximately 48 minutes). Francis Mason speaks with Jeanne Heifetz about the origins of his interest in dance including his reaction to the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and Leonide Massine's ballets; his friends, William and Natalie Bodanya Gorman; the awakening of his interest in Balanchine and ballet upon seeing Ballet Society [a predecessor of New York City Ballet] perform Balanchine's work Orpheus; meeting Balanchine and Maria Tallchief; watching classes at the School of American Ballet and attending Ballet Society rehearsals; starting to write about ballet; collaborating with Balanchine on a book [101 stories of the great ballets] including how Mason became involved with the project and Balanchine's comments on some of Mason's ideas; Balanchine's attitude toward revivals, in particular of the classic ballets; Mason's thoughts about the Sadler's Wells Ballet [later the Royal Ballet] and its performance of The sleeping beauty at the Metropolitan Opera house; his impressions of Margot Fonteyn, Moira Shearer, and Robert Helpmann; his view that Frederick Ashton's works and the revivals of the classic ballets were the basis of the Sadler's Wells repertoire; the impact of the Sadler's Wells Ballet's visit on the ballet world in New York; John Martin's nonchalant attitude toward writing about the New York City Ballet; the effect in the ballet world of Balanchine's production of the Firebird, including with respect to Martin's writing; some of the dancers at the time, at New York City Ballet and at Ballet Theatre [later American Ballet Theatre]; the British critics' response to Balanchine's version of The firebird; Balanchine's working methods [ends abruptly but continues on streaming audio file 2].Streaming audio file 2 (approximately 47 minutes). Francis Mason speaks with Jeanne Heifetz about Balanchine's working methods; his near-silence regarding the work of such senior choreographers as Leonide Massine and Michel Fokine; Fokine's The firebird as compared with Balanchine's; Mason's admiration for Maria Tallchief including in the role of the Other Woman in Antony Tudor's Lilac Garden [Le jardin aux lilas]; more on Balanchine's working methods, especially in relation to music; observations about Jerome Robbins; Lincoln Kirstein's foresight and willingness to take risks with respect to choreographers; his memories of Alexandra Danilova and Felia Doubrovska; further description of the collaboration between Mason and Balanchine on the book 101 stories of the great ballets including Balanchine's view that the book should be descriptive and historical rather than critical; Balanchine's self-identification as an American [ends abruptly but continues on streaming audio file 3].Streaming audio file 3 (approximately 46 minutes). Francis Mason speaks with Jeanne Heifetz about the stagnation of ballet and other arts in Eastern Europe including as evidenced by his own experience at the Mariinsky Theatre and the type of roles he saw Maya Plisetskaya dance; the significance at the time of the name "New York City Ballet"; the style of the San Francisco Ballet and other companies contrasted to that of New York City Ballet; Balanchine's preference for Frederick Delius's music for Romeo and Juliet over that by Sergei Prokofiev; reminiscences regarding Nicholas Nabokov; Mason's impressions of Frederick Ashton and of David Vaughan's biography [Frederick Ashton and his ballets, 1977]; Mason's efforts while in government service to introduce American dance to Europe; the American Ballet Theatre's annual tours including performances in the [former] Soviet Union; Martha Graham, including their first meeting, and seeing her company [Martha Graham Dance Company] perform; Graham's success performing abroad under the aegis of the U.S. Department of State [ends abruptly but continues on streaming audio file 4].Streaming audio file 4 (approximately 48 minutes). Francis Mason speaks with Jeanne Heifetz about Martha Graham and her company's Edinburgh and London tour; Robin Howard and his relationship with the Graham company; the modern dance scene in London including the influence of Clive Barnes and Andrew Porter; the far greater number of dance critics in England than in the United States; Mason's thoughts on films of Graham's works; Jane Hermann and the Graham company's performance at the Metropolitan Opera house; Mason's wish that Graham would write about her works; Graham's personality including her need for constant contests [ends abruptly].
Type of ResourceSound recording
IdentifiersRLIN/OCLC: 51057670NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b15530739Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): fd8daf00-78bd-0136-c3b3-0c9385467518
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