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Frederic Franklin: Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo
An Oral History

Frederic Franklin.
Credit: Nanette Kardaszesk

This oral history-cosponsored by The George Balanchine Foundation and the Dance Division of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts-was conducted with the dancer, ballet master, and choreographer Frederic Franklin. It covers, in considerable detail, Mr. Franklin's 20-year career as principal dancer and ballet master with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. The text consists of 41 edited transcripts of interviews with the subject, conducted once or twice weekly, for two hours at a time, during the better part of 2000, at the performing arts library, then temporarily located at 521 W. 43rd Street. The focus of the interviews was provided by materials drawn from the massive collection of office records, photographs, scenic designs, and other documents relating to the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and donated to the Dance Division by Irina Pabst, a daughter of Sergei Denham, the company's founder and, for its entire existence, its director.

Mr. Franklin discusses nearly the entire repertory of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo during its 30-year life. He also speaks of many of its dancers (including Alexandra Danilova, his frequent and beloved partner), its artistic and technical staff, its patrons (notably Julius K. Fleischmann), its fans, and many other individuals who have been important to him during his eight decades as a dancer in England, France, and the U.S. It describes the making, coaching, and maintenance of ballets; the orchestra, conductors, and other musicians; the scenic designers, costumers, and their efforts at maintenance; the conditions under which the artists of the company worked, including the rigors of touring; the business and management practices of the administration and promoters; the critical reception in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico; and just about every other matter of significance directly pertaining to the arduous efforts involved in putting ballets on stage nightly for paying audiences.

Monica Moseley, the assistant curator of the Dance Division at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, and Mindy Aloff, dance writer, were the principal interviewers for this oral history; Nancy Reynolds, of The George Balanchine Foundation, also attended many sessions. From time to time, other guests would sit in and ask questions. Each transcript gives full information concerning who was present at a given session. During 2001, Ms. Aloff began to edit the raw transcripts; in the course of her editing, she consulted Mr. Franklin regularly and conducted many additional interviews with him to make the transcripts as readable and complete as possible. All additional interviews are set off in the text, each with the day it was conducted. Owing to the intricacy of the editing and the large number of transcripts, several other editors were engaged to help complete the project.

In 2007 the complete edited transcripts and all tapes of the interviews were donated by The George Balanchine Foundation to The Jerome Robbins Dance Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. Cataloging information, including detailed descriptions of the contents, may be accessed via the library’s website:>CATNYP>Frederic Franklin oral history, *MGZTC 3-2253.

The Franklin Oral History has been funded in part by Capezio/Ballet Makers Dance Foundation and the Friars Foundation.

Alexandra Danilova and Leonide Massine in Gaite Parisienne.
Credit: Dwight Godwin.
Choreography by Leonide Massine © Estate of Leonide Massine
Courtesy NYCB Archives Nancy Lassalle Collection.

If you would like more information on 30 Years of Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo: an Oral History with Frederic Franklin or would like to make a contribution to this project please contact The George Balanchine Foundation.


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