Martha Swope photograph of Jerome Robbins in rehearsal with young ballet dancers for "Circus Polka", June 1972
Guide to Martha Swope photograph of Jerome Robbins in rehearsal with young ballet dancers for "Circus Polka" C0463
Published by George Mason University Libraries
Jerome Robbins was one of the foremost dancers and choreographers of the 20th century. Born to Russian-Jewish immigrants in New York City in 1918, Robbins rose to prominence in the 1940s with his choreography for a number of Broadway shows. In 1949 Robbins became the Associate Artistic Director of the New York City Ballet under George Balanchine, cementing his place in the international ballet scene. Robbins gained worldwide fame with his Tony Award-winning choreography for the musicals West Side Story and Fiddler on the Roof, after which he pivoted to ballet for the rest of his career. Robbins passed away in 1998.
"Circus Polka" is a short ballet with music by Igor Stravinsky and choreography by Jerome Robbins. The piece was originally commissioned by Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus as an act for their elephants accompanied by ballerinas. In 1972 Robbins choreographed a showpiece to the music for the Stravinsky Festival which featured himself as the circus Ringmaster, accompanied by forty-eight young students from the School of American Ballet. The ballet continues to be performed today.
Martha Swope was one of the most prolific dance photographers of the 20th century. Born in Texas in 1928, she originally aimed to become a professional dancer and enrolled at the School of American Ballet. In 1957 she met Jerome Robbins and they bonded over their mutual interest in photography. This led Robbins to invite Swope to photograph rehearsals for "West Side Story," which cemented Swope's passion for dance photography. Swope photographed hundreds of theatrical productions over her career and was closely linked to many renowned people in the performing arts community, including Robbins and George Balanchine. Being a dancer herself, Swope's photography was known for truly capturing the dancers' movement and spirit. Swope passed away in 2017, leaving a large body of work behind her.
Original black and white photograph of Jerome Robbins in rehearsal with young ballet dancers for "Circus Polka" taken by Martha Swope in June 1972. Robbins stands in the center of the photograph in a rehearsal room surrounded by young ballet dancers. The back of the photograph is stamped with information on the photograph's provenance.
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There are no restrictions on personal use. Permission to publish the Martha Swope photograph of Jerome Robbins in rehearsal with young ballet dancers for "Circus Polka" must be obtained from the Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.
The Special Collections Research Center also holds the Costas photograph of Jerome Robbins rehearsing "Circus Polka" with young ballet dancers, Martha Swope photographs of Jerome Robbins rehearsing with ballet dancers for "Antique Epigraphs," and the Friedman-Abeles photography firm photograph of prominent members of the original "West Side Story" production team. It also holds many other performing arts collections that touch on Robbins, the New York City Ballet, and dance photography.
Martha Swope photograph of Jerome Robbins in rehearsal with young ballet dancers for "Circus Polka", C0463, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.
Purchased by Steve Gerber from Schubertiade Music in March 2012.
Processing completed by Amanda Brent in January 2021. EAD markup completed by Amanda Brent in January 2021. This item was formerly part of the Performing Arts Manuscript Materials collection, C0215.
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. "Jerome Robbins." Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica, inc., Accessed January 19, 2021. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jerome-Robbins.
Gold, Sylviane. "Martha Swope, 88, Who Etched Dance and Theater History in Photographs, Dies." The New York Times, January 12, 2017. Accessed January 19, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/12/arts/design/martha-swope-88-who-etched-dance-and-theater-history-in-photographs-dies.html.
Kisselgoff, Anna. "Jerome Robbins, 79, Is Dead; Giant of Ballet and Broadway." The New York Times, July 30, 1998. Accessed January 19, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/1998/07/30/theater/jerome-robbins-79-is-dead-giant-of-ballet-and-broadway.html.
New York City Ballet. "Circus Polka." New York City Ballet, Accessed January 19, 2021. https://www.nycballet.com/discover/ballet-repertory/circus-polka/.
Reside, Douglas. "Martha Swope: capturing the process." The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Google Arts & Culture, Accessed January 19, 2021. https://artsandculture.google.com/exhibit/martha-swope-capturing-the-process-new-york-public-library-for-the-performing-arts/IQKiySffceSmJA?hl=en.