|Choreography by Balanchine|
Music by Rodgers
Slaughter on Tenth Avenue was created as part of the 1936 musical comedy On Your Toes (Balanchine’s first Broadway collaboration). It was actually a “play within a play” – an integral element in the overall storyline.
On Your Toes centers around Phil Dolan III, the youngest member of a vaudeville act. His mother, wanting her son to have a cultural rather than theatrical background, and his father, make Phil give up the stage. Phil becomes a music teacher, but inwardly finds himself drawn to the intricate aspects of dance on the stage.
When a struggling Russian ballet company comes to town, Phil contacts the promoter and submits a bizarre ballet he has secretly written called Slaughter on Tenth Avenue; the promoter feels this very American work would help the company. As rehearsals begin, Phil becomes smitten by the prima ballerina, Vera, whose partner Morrosine can’t master the offbeat steps and jazz rhythms of this new dance. Phil’s identity as the choreographer comes out when he literally must jump in as the lead dancer – which so angers Morrosine that he hires a gangster to sit in a stage box on opening night and shoot Phil as the dancing stops. Luckily, the plot is uncovered and Vera manages to get a warning note to Phil while he is dancing and thus saves his life.
In 1968, Balanchine expanded the dance into a stand-alone ballet – complete with the gangster in the audience, talking parts and tap dancing – all decidedly Broadway in character. The plot of Slaughter on Tenth Avenue itself revolves around a “hoofer” (tap dancer) who visits a low-life club in New York City and becomes infatuated with a stripper – whose husband (the club owner) intervenes and the girl is accidentally killed. Others will share her fate before the ballet is over.
|Jennifer Kronenberg in Slaughter on Tenth Avenue. Choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo © Steven Caras.|