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NYCB Vol. 8 No. 11 - Slaughter on Tenth Avenue

(1/2) ‘On Your Toes' (1936) was the first musical Balanchine choreographed in the United States. It broke ground in numerous ways—for the first time, the dances advanced the plot of the musical, and it also marked the first time credits included the phrase, 'choreography by' rather than, 'dances by.' Act 2 of 'On Your Toes' featured a show-within-a-show called, 'Slaughter on Tenth Avenue.' This ballet is still performed by many companies today.

In 1936 the ballerina was Balanchine's former wife, Tamara Geva. In 1937, the production opened in London with Balanchine's then-current wife Vera Zorina in the lead role. Zorina reprised the role in the 1939 film adaptation, and the 1954 Broadway revival. In this post there are pictures of all 4 of the mentioned productions.

(top left & center) Tamara Geva, Basil Galahoff (in striped jacket), Ray Bolger (on knees) and cast in On Your Toes. Photo by White Studio, 1936.

(top right) Tamara Geva

(bottom left) Tamara Geva and Ray Bolger, 1936.

(bottom center) Caricature. Ray Bolger and Tamara Geva. By Alex Gard, 1937.

(top left) Vera Zorina in the film version of On Your Toes (1939).

(top center) Vera Zorina in the Broadway revival (1954) Photo by Fred Fehl

(top right) Vera Zorina in the Broadway revival (1954) Photo by Friedman-Abeles.

(bottom) Balanchine rehearsing Slaughter with Vera Zorina, 1937.


In Vera’s autobiography she talks about working on the 1939 film version of ‘On Your Toes’ which featured ‘Slaughter on Tenth Avenue’ within it:

“As with most of the films I made (at least those which George was involved), I remember very little except the ballets. It was what I was mainly interested in, and our combined energies were concentrated primarily on making them as perfect as we possible could. George insisted on carte blanche in his contract, making us virtually autonomous, so that some of the ballets are like separate artistic units in otherwise undistinguished pictures. […] It was George’s inventiveness and choice of unusual camera angles that made these ballets different, like little jewels. […] One shot in Slaughter is upside down to show what I would see being totally bent over backward. Another sequences shows me approaching in a slinky manner; it was shot from between the legs of a dancer, making it look very sexy. [swipe to last video to see example] One isn’t always pleased with what appears on the screen, but I was surprised when I saw the results of our labors. It made the whole tedious part of filming worthwhile.”

Zorina by Vera Zorina (affiliate link)

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