Tuesday, October 14, 2008

O Agnes

Agnes George de Mille (September 18, 1905 – October 7, 1993) was an American dancer and choreographer. (thank you Wikipedia)

I'm reading Dance to the Piper- her autobiography, which I was supposed to read in college and am just now getting around to it, and I am completely underwhelmed by how depressing it is.

I'm not finished yet (on page 209 of 256) so there is the slightest possibility that Agnes will surprise me and finally have some self esteem for crying out loud.

Its like she can never just be in control of her own life and things only happen TO her. Her visa expires in the UK, she gets sent home. Her agent squandered her money because she was too stupid to ask questions. The lights weren't illuminating onstage for a stadium sized performance, so she did practically a whole show in the dark, and then acted surprised that the press was "murderous." She gets fired from jobs and just constantly drains her mothers money supply just to give herself a chance to perform. She wants people to consider her a serious concert dancer like Martha Graham, but excels at performing comedies.

The most upsetting part for me (so far) was the first page of Chapter 23. Agnes DeMille is now 30 years old, having just got sent home from London. Before she even gets home she writes to Mom to get her an apartment. So her mom gets her a place on 9th st on the East side that Agnes admits is too expensive. Even though her mom asked her to live with her, she insists on having her mom pay for an apartment for her to live in. She's killing the poor women!

If someone I know is still mooching off Mom or Dad at the age of 30, they can expect a wake up call from yours truly.

The thought for her to get an actual paying job to support herself and supplement her art doesn't even occur until after the age of 30 in chapter 24, when she mentions thinking about going to Macy's to get a job at the ribbon counter (whatever the hell that is)! Way to go.

Hey Agnes, ever heard of supporting yourself? Maybe live off a budget and file an annual income tax?

Granted, it must be difficult to be close friends with Martha Graham when you feel a bit overshadowed.

Kudos on Oklahoma!(1943) Fall River Legend (1948) and Rodeo (1942)


Donzed said...

Trashing Agnes De Mille's life style, her dependence on her mother for support, etc. totally misses the point. She put lots of excellent, lasting, and cutting edge choreography out there that still speaks to audiences today. If one thinks artists' lifestyles and means of support are relevant to their art take a look at people like Loie Fuller, Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, and on and on and on. Other than the difficulties these people had (particularly women) in being able to produce their art those lifestyles are almost totally irrelevant to the art produced. Can we get real here?
- Don Atwood

M. Butterfly said...

"... and things only happen TO her."

THANK YOU. I had the same reaction reading Gelsey Kirkland's autobiography--everything was always the fault of someone/something else. It gets grating. Stand up! Take some responsibility!

I do agree with Mr. Atwood's statement that the quality of art she produced negates any sort of questionable lifestyle/choices/personal traits. Many great artists have had dismal offstage lives (rough childhood, mental illness/addiction, perpetual bad relationships etc); and I think that's why they are the artists they are-- it's an escape. That said... some of the artists I've read about sound like the type of person I would punch in the face. Their brilliance negates that (again, Kirkland is a good example).

M. Butterfly said...

Thanks for visiting my blog, by the way! :)