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Who was Ruth Page? Part II

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In 1934, when Ms. Page danced her Bolero with Kreutzberg in Chicago, the performances sold out. They toured in Western states in the spring under the aegis of the Chicago Grand Opera Company. She toured the Northeast with Bentley Stone, her partner from the Chicago City Opera Company.

She also introduced her Americana ballet Hear Ye! Hear Ye!, which was the first ballet with a score by Aaron Copland (1900-1990). November 23, 1934 saw the premiere of Love Song, which she choreographed to Schubert waltzes, at the Chicago City Opera Company.

In 1935, she continued to tour with Kreutzberg and Stone. She also returned to the Cincinnati Zoological Park for the premiere of her ballet set to Gershwin’s An American in Paris.

For it, she performed with the tap dancer Paul Draper (1909-1996). Later that year, she choreographed ballets for the operas Aida, Lakme, and The Bartered Bride for the Chicago City Opera Company.

In the spring of 1937, she performed in London and did a solo tour of Scandinavia, as she related in “A Dancer Glimpses Europe,” which later appeared in The New York Times. For the winter season of the Chicago City Opera Company, she choreographed American Pattern, her most ambitious Americana ballet, which premiered on December 18, 1937. The composer was Jerome Moross (1913-1983).

She and Stone co-directed the Dance Section of the Works Progress Administration’s Chicago Federal Theatre Project (in 1938 and 1939). They presented their most famous Americana ballet Frankie and Johnny, composed by Moross. It premiered on June 19, 1938 at the Great Northern Theatre.

The success inspired them to plan a “relevant” update of Carmen, also composed by Moross, called Guns and Castanets, and moved to the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). It premiered on March 1, 1939.

That fall, they presented a program of seven new works at the Civic Theatre in Chicago. It premiered on November 14, 1939.

During the 1940s, Ms. Page staged works in Chicago and toured with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. From 1954 to 1969, she directed the ballet for Chicago Lyric Opera.

Ms. Page formed the Chicago Opera Ballet in 1955. This Chicago-based company toured the U.S.

Her longtime associate Larry E. Long (1936-2009) was born in Des Moines, Iowa, but spent his formative years in Los Angeles, California where he began his ballet training with the former Russian ballerina, Alexandra Baldina (1885-1977). He was a member of Alicia Alonso’s Ballet and later joined the Chicago Opera Ballet at the Lyric Opera in 1958.

Columbia Artists asked for a grander name for the Chicago Opera Ballet. It toured under that name for the last time in 1966. The next year, it became the Ruth Page’s International Ballet Company. Also in 1967, Ruth Page’s Concert Dance Group began to tour Chicago schools.

Long became a principal dancer and later Ballet Master of Ms. Page’s International Ballet Company until its dissolution in 1969. From 1965 to 1968, Ms. Page choreographed and produced a full-scale of The Nutcracker at Arie Crown Theatre in McCormick Place, sponsored by the Chicago Tribune to benefit Chicago Tribune Charities, using dancers from her own Chicago Opera Ballet.

In 1966, Ruth Page began to donate materials to The New York Public Library. Tom Fisher, who had helped finance and manage the Nutcracker performances, began to face both setbacks in his law practice and health problems in 1966. The next year, the first McCormick Place, which was supposedly fire-proof burnt down.

Consequently, while the second McCormick Place was under construction, for two years Ruth Page’s Nutcracker was staged at the Civic Opera House. In May of 1969, Ms. Page went to Portugal to visit the Gulbenkian Foundation to gain insight as to how to keep her ballet company going without her husband to finance it.

Fisher considered cancelling the 1969 tour of Ruth Page’s International Ballet Company fearing it would be a disaster without him to manage operations. As he tried to prepare his wife for life without him, Fisher encouraged her to donate their letters, business records, photographs, clippings, programs, music scores, and posters to The New York Public Library.

These formed the Ruth Page Collection, 1918-1970 in the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. It is comprised of 2,793 folders of materials (containing approximately 42,000 items) and thirteen notebooks.

There is a second collection, the Ruth Page Papers, 1956-1965. It consists of seventy folders containing seventy items.

Both are located in the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, which is housed on the Third Floor of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center, 40 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, New York 10023-7498

In 1969, Fisher died at Whitehall Hospital in Chicago. I doubt it is a coincidence that there were no Nutcracker performances in 1969 and 1970. Ruth Page founded the Ruth Page Foundation in 1971.

The ballet performances resumed in 1971 and lasted until 1997. When performances of Ms. Page’s The Nutcracker resumed in 1971 at the new Arie Crown Theater, Mr. Long became Ballet Master and Associate Director. Long co-directed with Ruth Page until her death in 1991.

In 1973, Long and Ms. Page founded Chicago Ballet. According to Kathy Velasco, Long also served as “Ballet Master…with the National Ballet of Washington, D.C. and the Harkness Ballet of New York.” In 1976, he “became Artistic Director of the Ballet International in London.”

The widowed Ruth Page married Andre Dalfau, a French artist and stage designer, in either 1983 or 1987, depending on whether one believes her obituary in The New York Times or his obituary in the Chicago Tribune.

She died of respiratory failure in her home in Chicago at age ninety-two in 1991. She was survived by Mr. Delfau and also by her brother, Dr. Irvine Page.

Ruth Page wrote the book Page by Page, published in 1978, and Class-Notes on Dances Classes Around the World, published in 1984. John Joseph Martin wrote Ruth Page: An Intimate Biography and Ann Barzel wrote Ruth Page: A Chicago Dance Institution.

Delfau died at Northwestern University Hospital in Chicago on Tuesday, January 4, 2000. At the time, Long told the Tribune, "He was a lovely, gentle man--and totally impractical. All he wanted to do was paint and design and read books. The rest didn't matter to him."

Long became Director of The Nutcracker in 1992, a position he held until the final year it was performed in 1997. With his wife, Dolores Lipinski, Larry Long founded the Civic Ballet of Chicago, the Ruth Page School of Dance’s youth training company, in 1998. Long was Founder and Director of the Ruth Page Foundation School of Dance and Co-Artistic Director of the Civic Ballet of Chicago until his death.

A resident of Westchester, Long died on August 22, 2009 in a long-term care facility in Chicago. He had suffered injuries in a car crash July 15, 2009, as Venetia Stifler, Ph.D., Executive and Artistic Director of the Ruth Page Foundation, explained to the Chicago Tribune.

Long was survived by his wife. His funeral was held at Holy Trinity Church with a reception afterwards at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts.

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