BWW Reviews: Gene Kelly: The Legacy - An Evening with Patricia Ward Kelly
If I ever become famous-the odds are against me--but if I do, I want Patricia Ward Kelly to give a talk about me. Bright, articulate, witty, insightful, eloquent, compassionate, she spoke about her late husband, the very famous Gene Kelly, for over two and a half with not an "uh, er or" to be heard. Yes, it's entertainment, but it's much more: professional speaking of the highest caliber. To say that I was impressed is an understatement. I wanted to hand her a prize. I'll zing to the point: Patricia Ward Kelly, you were superb. I can't think of a higher compliment.
Gene Kelly, has always inspired two thoughts in me: a magnetic dancer who blew you away with his vibrant, athletic and overpowering presence, or a dancer who didn't achieve true greatness because his choreography was just not good. Watching the films Wednesday evening, I saw how monochromatic his choreography was, how he shaped music only to suit his particular needs without any thought to what the music was saying. I've always found that dancers who choreograph their own material can't be subjective. So it's a matter of how good a dancer thinks the choreography looks on him, not what it will contribute to the work he is in. Time and again, Kelly displays such magnetism that you can be trapped into not seeing the real picture. Speaking choreographically, there is not much there.
Kelly was, to me, the person that got away from George Balanchine. And that's a pity. I could see a young Kelly hypnotizing Balanchine with his brashness and brio, very much like a Jacques d'Amboise or Edward Villella. Balanchine would have objectified the Kelly persona, bringing out not only his impulsive and explosive sides, but also the tenderness that was not always on display. I can easily see Kelly in the third movement of Symphony in C, the fourth movement of Western Symphony and the leads in Stars and Stripes, Rubies, Who Cares? Midsummer Night's Dream, or even the poetic Apollo and Sonnambula. Or the lead in Robbins Afternoon of a Faun or The Concert, dancing all the mistakes. I can imagine the dance critic Edwin Denby writing after seeing Kelly perform Balanchine, "I have a large vocabulary, but words can't describe it."
And who would be the perfect partner? Someone who could match him in energy, wit, and enormous technique. Violette Verdy would have been perfect.
There was much more to Gene Kelly that dance. His love of poetry, languages, and books. There was only so much that Ms. Kelly could cover. Still, there was enough to convince us that Kelly was one of greatest dancers of the twentieth century, one who came to represent what we hold most dear in American values: honesty, directness--he shot from the hip, as it were. If I am not always convinced of his choreography, that sentiment belongs to me.
Ms. Kelly is currently writing a biography of her husband. I look forward to reading it. I hope she includes an interview of Pat Suzuki and her working relationship with Kelly. I'll bet there's a fountain of mirth there!
Photograph courtesy of Patricia Ward Kelly.