I first met the acclaimed ballet dancer after I had ordered “Ballet Russes” from Netflix. I watched it with fascination; the graceful movements of the participants of the Ballet Russes, and the difficulties they endured with long hours, low pay, but profound love for their craft. These were the days when people performed for the love of performing, not for exhorbitant salaries.
George was interviewed on the documentary and from the locale and his dialogue, I thought I knew where he lived. So checking sources, I found I was correct, less than a mile from my home.
With a friend, I excitedly went to purchase a huge bouquet of flowers … as a thank you to this gentleman who had brought me pleasure just watching “Ballet Russes”. And I realized what a magnificient career he had and the pleasure he has brought to thousands of others.
We approached the wrought iron gate and rang the bell, and some time later, a wiry gentleman appeared and I knew instinctively he was George Zoritch. Bewildered, he wondered why this woman and friend were standing at his gate with flowers and he graciously invited us in where we sat and chatted for a long period of time.
Regaling us with stories of his career, telling us he still did his exercises every morning in bed before he rises, talking about his days at the Unversity of Arizona, and his impressions of people with whom he danced, George enthralled us.
We looked at awards and memorabilia, and fixed the flowers in a vase for him. And he brought out his recording, “Ballet Mystique Behind the Glamour of the Ballet Russe” A Memoir by George Zoritch. It is “the piano music performed during the barre and centre exercises by Vladimir Kudryavtsev, the Concertmaster” of the Bolshoi Ballet, according to the accompanying insert. It also includes thirty one compositions by Semeon Gravilovitch Zoritch who “founded Classical Ballet at the Place in St. Petersburg Russia” according to another insert. This gentleman was George’s Great Grandfather who founded Classical Ballet at the Palce in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The Premier Danseur was a protege of Mr. Leonide Massine, “who created 11 leading roles for him”. As George told us stories, his eyes danced obviously in delightful memory. He talked about his relationship with George Balanchine, the leading ballerinas with whom he partnered, his life in Europe, and his coming to America and dancing here.
I saw George at the post office one day mailing his letters and we all remarked upon his photo stamp, a replica of the famous photo “Le Spectre de la Rose”. Truly I am grateful the little Russian boy, born in Moscow in 1917, graced this world with the beauty of his movements and dance interpretations. We are all richer for this creatively unique life.
New York Times Obituary http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/subjects/d/deaths_obituaries/index.html