3/27/23 O&A NYC MORE HARKNESS STORIES: Luc Louis de Lairesse- I Cherish Those Days      

Cherish Those Days      

By Luc Louis de Lairesse                                             

Now 44 years ago, Nikita Talin (director) and Rebekah Harkness invited me teach and choreograph for what grew into the Harkness Dance Theatre. The next spring of 1980, Mrs. Harkness, in a private meeting, arranged for my working permit as her administrator, Mr. Bartwink, called the White House. I was impressed to say the least!

She was a very strong lady with convictions such as dance belonged to all audiences, something she had showed with her company. I found her gracious and kind- hearted; she contracted me to teach and choreograph some of her own musical compositions (one at the Dance Department of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and her “Gift of the Magi” for the 1980 Christmas Show). There were several very talented young students like Laura Petta, Walter Rutledge or Julie Caprio making professional careers.

While I had just worked for the American Ballet Theatre’s Youth company, and for the Joffrey, some wonderful dancers continued to take my classes or got coached as did Clark Tippett, Ann Marie de Angelo or Leslie Browne. The summer of 1980, Susan Jaffe and Johann Renvall, on the threshold of international careers, and (my dear friend) Geneva Ballet’s highly versatile Melinda Jackson premiered, at the Harkness showcase, several of my new works such as WEB, EASY TANGOS. The latter entered the repertoire of leading companies such as Canada’s National Ballet.      

Thanks to Rosemary and Patricia Barnes, the distinguished Clive Barnes (NY-Post) accepted my invitation writing a positive review (New York Post), as did Jennifer Dunning for the NYTimes: a much-needed clean-up of a past of misunderstandings between Rebecca Harkness and the NY press! It’s amazing what a few talented dancers could do, (lol).

I’ll cherish those days. To myself, these works Mrs. Harkness had me create had the sole purpose to help develop the young talents and prepare them to join major companies. Her inspiring musical compositions were a part of an eclectic choice of composers I wanted to introduce such as Astor Piazzolla, Vivaldi or Poulenc, Brahms and Schubert. The House wore the perfume of legendary artists such as Salvatore Dali and other painters, and professional costume designers like Natalie Garfinkle and Broadway stars like Ann Reinking; the idea, no doubt, that all arts are always a part of the performing arts.

In those days the Harkness House also motivated others to develop their own projects. Brett Raphael crossed my path right there. Together, we created “Ballet Today” a new youth company. Sadly, disputes about management and financial dealings disrupted any further HDT development. But like my own company, Harkness had been a wonderful dance trampoline to move on, not to stagnate. Leslie Streit and Robin McCain’s documentary is a true homage to the company, its founder, her school, Harkness Dance Theater and all of us artists.- Luc Louis de Lairesse.

An American Ballet Story, a documentary about the the all too short life of the Harkness Ballet, will have it’s New York live screening premiere on April 20th at the New York Public Library Performing Arts – Bruno Walter Auditorium. O&A NYC Magazine. Editor in Chief Walter Rutledge will moderate the post screening Q and A. An American Ballet Story takes us into the stages and studios</span> of the Harkness Ballet through the stories of the dancers who were there. The screening is free but you must reserve seating in advance. 

If you have a stories you would like to share about your Harkness experience please send your articles (250- 500 words recommended) and  photos to walt.harkness@gmail.com.

The auditorium capacity is only 192 seats to reserve your tickethttps://www.eventbrite.com/…/screening-of-an-american…



In Photo:1) Luc de Lairesse 2) Julie Caprio and Luc de Lairesse 3) main studio at the Harkness House for Ballet Arts: Luc de Lairesse teaching his “Easy Tangos” to Valentina Kozlov & Leonid Kozlov, right after   Bolshoi Ballet defection.

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