Today I stopped by the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center to check out New York Story: Jerome Robbins and His World, the library’s exhibit commemorating the tenth anniversary of Mr. Robbins’ death. A large room on the first floor of the library is divided into sections that each focus on a different aspect of his career: Broadway, Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, and Ballets: USA, which was a chamber-sized company that Robbins created in 1958 and which toured extensively. A brief section on his childhood, which explains that he was born in 1918 in Manhattan (as Jerome Wilson Rabinowitz – his parents were Russian) and raised in New Jersey, includes several family photographs and some of him dancing. There is a particularly nice one of him on a sunny beach leaping over his own shadow “a la Peter Pan”. In addition, I learned that Robbins not only danced, but also painted, sketched (some of his sketches are on display), played piano, made collages, took photographs, and enjoyed writing – certainly a multi-talented individual from a young age.
I was amazed by the size and breadth of the collection. Robbins apparently never threw anything away, and donated many photographs to the library near the end of his life. Upon his death, many more photographs were found in his apartment and contributed to the library’s collection. In addition to the plethora of photos – not only of Robbins but also of the dancers with whom he worked throughout his career – the exhibit displays several original costumes from his ballets. Two simultaneous slideshows on the walls show photographs of NYCB dancers – past and present – performing in his works. And six different videos show excerpts from Robbins’ ballets and Broadway shows, as well as clips from interviews and rare footage from studio rehearsals. After seeing Julie Kent and Gonzalo Garcia perform Other Dances a few weeks ago at NYCB, I particularly enjoyed watching Mikhail Baryshnikov and Natalia Makarova in a 1980 excerpt from that ballet. Finally, the exhibit included a clip from NY Export: Opus Jazz, The Film (not yet released), featuring NYCB dancers Rachel Rutherford and Craig Hall in the central pas de deux.
Jerome Robbins working with Natalia Makarova on Other Dances, while Mikhail Baryshnikov looks on (photo by Brownie Harris, 1980)
The exhibit’s videos, photographs, costumes, and text combine to create a diverse, in-depth look at Robbins’ career and the significant contribution he made to American dance. I highly recommend checking out the exhibit before it closes on June 28th. For more information on hours and location, click here.