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October 31, 1984 - Image 7

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1984-10-31

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The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, October 31, 1984 - Page 7

Ballet star recalls Balanchine

speed, vitality and technical wizardry,
Merrill Ashley has become a star of
the New York City Ballet. Critics ap-
plaud the special clarity to Ashley's
movements -- a verve and precision.
And audiences adore her.
From the age of 5, she knew that dan-
ce would be her career, and when she
was 12, she became a student at New
SYorkCity Ballet's School of American
v ballet.
"I saw my older sister taking ballet
classes and that's when I first decided I
} wanted to be a dancer," she said in an
Ashley, 34, was born_ in St. Paul,
Minn.,the daughter of Mardelle and
Harvie Merrill, who named her Linda.
She changed her name when she joined
the corps de ballet of the New York City
Ballet at age 16 because there was
another Linda Merrill in the company.
Before her family moved to Rutland,
Vt., when she was 5, Ashley remem-
bered going to see performances by
} professional dance companies at the
University of Minnesota's Northrop
Auditoriun with her parents. She ap-
peared there earlier this month when
the Ciy Ballet made its only Midwest
engagement of the 1984-85 season.
"They said I was too young to start
taking ballet lessions while we lived in
Minnesota. I was about 7 when I star-
ted taking lessons in Vermont," she

Ashley began studying at the School
of American Ballet when she was 12.
Then she missed a year. "I went back
when I was 13. I had a Ford Foundation
scholarship so I was able to spend the
full school year there," she recalled.
That extended into three full years,
then she joined the company in 1967 and
spent 16 years under the tutelage of the
legendary George Balanchine. The late
choreographer and dance director
changed her life, she said
In her book "Dancing For Balan-
chine," to be published by E.P. Dutton
Inc., Nov. 16, Ashley writes of the years
she worked with the choreographer who
built the New York City Ballet and
created more than 200 ballets before his
death in 1983.
"There was an air about Balan-
chine that I think anyone sensed im-
mediately. He seemed to have this per-
sonal interest in people," she said.
"He gave people some sort of energy
about themselves, made them feel
good," she continued."That quality
helped us give more. He kept proving
day after day that the things he asked
for were possible. It gave you an in-
credible respect for him.
"He always used to say about us that
we're like race horses and we need
somebody on our back to get us going.
It's very hard sometimes to make your-
self self-disciplined."
Ballanchine's spirit remains the
driving force behind the company, she

said, as dancer Peter Martins and
choreographer Jerome Robbins grap-
ple with administrative duties.
"The dancers are still trying to main-
tain what Mr. Balanchine taught us.
We're not going down a different path.
We still feel that we're his company,"
she said.
Ashley, who is married to Kibbe Fit-
spatrick, a simultaneous interpreter at
the United Nations, said her dance
discipline is often a part of her private
"I have a great sweet tooth," she
said, and it must be controlled.
"I'm 5-foot-7 and my weight ranges
from 115 to 118. The three-pound dif-
ference is noticeable on stage because
I'm wearing very form-fitting
costumes," she said.
Ashley said she burns off the calories
when she is preparing a new role
because she works so hard. Shen she's
living her normal routine of classes,
rehearsals and performances, she eats
dairy products and a lot of raw
vegetables, even though she doesn't
really like them.
During her years with Balanchine,
Ashley developed extreme muscular
strength and athletic agility, but said
she felt emotion often was lacking in
her performances.
"Balanchine always wanted to see
steps. Every time I started working on
presence, he'd say, 'You're acting too
much. Don't act.' Now, I think I'm a lit-

tle freer on stage -- my personality is a
little more developed on stage. I relate
a little more to my partner," she said.
"I feel that I have more to offer than
technique. I think I already was going
in that direction, buy I do think that
maybe I've gone a little further than I
would have if he were here."
Whether she's working on technique
or feeling, however, dancing is always
a joy for Ashley, who teaches at the
School of American Ballet when the
company is not in its performing
"There's nothing I'd rather be
doing," she said.
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Heller recovers with
typical irreverent humor


NEW YORK AP -- Three years ago,
Joseph Heller was 325 pages into his
new manuscript when he discovered
one day that he couldn't take off his
The next day he was in intensive care
at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan,
unable to pick up his manuscript. He
had Guillain-Barre syndrome, a
disease of the nervous system that,
leaves its victims weak with some
numbness. Most Guillain-Barre patien-
ts recover.
"I couldn't read. That was the hard
part, because reading made the time go
at night," the author said at a recent in-
The easy part for Heller now is that
he's recovered and busy promoting the
book he had started before his illness.
"God Knows" Alfred A. Knopf, $16.95, a
rip-roaring tale of King David that's
appeared on best seller lists.
"I would call myself 100 percent
recovered. But I still have trouble
saying certain words, like 'walk,"' he
said with that impish Heller smile.
Heller, 61, spent 42 days in Mt. Sinai
before transferring to the Rusk
Rehabilitation Institute at New York
University for four months. Later, he
went to his house n East Jampton to
recuperate and to pick up the pages of
his book.
"For a period of five or six months, I
couldn't write," he siad. "I had to re-
read what I had written because I had
forgotten the rhythms and what I had
put in.
"I couldn't use a typewriter, because

I couldn't move the roller," Heller con-
tinued. "A friend lent me a word
Heller's first book, the celebrated
"Catch-22," made him in 1961 at the age
of 38 a welcomed addition to American
literature. Each book since then --
"Something Happened" and "Good as
Gold" -- has been highly praised but
also criticized for not measuring up to
that debut.
But "Catch-22," which made min-
cemeat out of World War II and the
military, was not a best seller in har-
dback. It was in paperback and sold
well again during the Vietnam War.
Heller has never written a sequel to
the book, which later was made into a
movie starring Alan Arkin and Jon
Voight. Nor has he ever set out to em-
brace the same subject matter.
"With all of my books, there's an
imaginative way I deal with the
narrative contents," he said. "It would
be a failure on my part and a failure of
the imagination if I were to imitate
myself. With 'Something Happened,' I
deliberately tried to write something
different from 'Catch-22.' In both, I
tried to select a prose style that would
reflect what was happening in the
"If I ever imitated myself, I would
feel I had lost my vitality."
A driving force in Heller's works is
his irreverent humor. "God Knows" is
written in the first person. And King
David tells us: "I have the best story in
the Bible. Where's the competition?

Job? Forget him. Genesis? The
cosmology is for kids, and old-wives'
tale, a fey fantasy spun by a nodding
grandmother already dozing off into
satisfied boredom."
Heller did not realize any significamt
income from "Catch-22" until the '70s.
He worked on other projects, including
the screenplay for "Sex and the Single
Girl," and taught at Yale University
and City College of New York.
Then he did the play, "We Bombed in
New Haven," which kept him away
from novel writing for another two
"But with the completion of
'Something Happened,' and submission
of it to paperback even before that, I
knew I would have enough money so I
would have no excuses for not writing
novels," Heller said.
Heller never has more than one idea
for a book at a time, but said he usually
knows what he's going to write about
by the time he's finished the last. Right
now, he's working on a book about
Guillain-Barre syndrome with his close
friend, Speed Vogel, who also helped
him with his recovery.
"It's amusing,"' he said with a grin.
And Heller knows how the book will
end, as he dos all of his works before he
even begins to write.
"I regard writing my books as some
kind of journey," he said. "When I
move into the ending, it's like coming

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Photography exhibit
stirs senses at DIA

(Contined from Page 6)
in this particular series are in silhouet-
te; some blended with natural images
such as forests and trees and some with
manmade images such as urban
buildings and heating radiators. Each
unites man with his environment. In
one print, Eleanor is so finely blended
into a large tree with tiny branches that
she almost seems to grow from the tree.
Similarly, in one of the urban
collages, Eleanor's image is in com-
plete harmony with the building that
surrounds her. Her straight stance,
with hands upon her hips, directly
models (or mimics) the shape of the
windows which cover the entire front of
the urban dwelling. So well, in fact,
that the top of one of the windows comes
together to form the hips and vagina of
the majestic silhouette. This seems the
ultimate blending of man with his ur-
ban environment. This feeling is
enhanced by the discomfort of the
horizontal silhouettes of sticks from a
natural environment dissect the center
of the image.
Two fine prints, one of Barbara,
Callahan's daughter, and the other od
Eleanor, each sprawled upon a mat-
tress (Chicago c.1952), successfully
bridge the transition from the

photographer's collage to his later
photographs' (c.1953-53) tendency
toward stark contrasts between small
shafts of light and vast areas of all en-
compassing blackness.
Possibly the most impressive print
on display was one of Callahan's earlier
attempts (Indiana c.1948). Eleanor
stands majestically alone atop a small
hill in the sand. Callahan's mastery of
printing gives the sand a striking
texture made even righer by the foot-
prints dissecting the image itself.
The most exciting component of the
photograph, however, is the shadow
which Eleanor casts upon the sand.
The photograph, taken at a distance,
gives the shadow the appearance of a
thin line which curves its way over the
sandy slope abd reaches outward away
from Eleanor, gently gripping the sand
beneath it. The photograph is so rich in
texture that even the small lines upon
the sand, created by the wind, almost
beg to be touched.
The prints that compose this
photographic tribute to the human form
are, for the most part, soft and serene.
However, the occasional clash between
light and dark give the entire display a
dramatic flair, rounding out an utterly
sensuous exhibit.

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