Friday, February 12, 2016

Eartha Kitt, James Dean, Sevilla Fort and me: memories of youth

This picture brings back fond memories : Eartha Kitt and James Dean of a dance teacher we shared .

Eartha Kitt wrote :
James Dean said to me, 'I want to move like you, can you teach me how to move my body like you do on stage?' And I told him where to meet me, here in New York and that's where we met for dance classes. And that's where Jamie and I always met downstairs from the studio to have coffee, to have our little tete-a-tete conversations... He had something in him that he didn't understand. He wanted to learn from me how to move on the stage the way I do, so I taught him how to control his body and how to let the words physically carry you from this point to that point. I was in a play and he had just done his first film so we were both becoming known at the time. It was a good time.

Eartha KittAmerican Masters

I remember also :

SEVILLA FORT was the teacher of each of us.

Sevilla Fort was a black, socially engaged dancer who was blacklisted in the fifties. Lee Strasberg sent me to her classes in the early '60's. I remember being full of fear as the class was full of black and brown kids she had taken from the streets of Harlem and when they went across the floor they were breathtaking. I thought I can never do that and balked when I was direct to " dance across the room "  I said something stupid like " I can dance like them"  . Forte told the class she was taking a five minute break .. and came over to me and in private said  so as I think not humiliate me in front of the whole class: "Jim, stop comparing yourself to these kids .. this is the only opportunity they have to feel free and expressed themselves. Stop comparing and simply do your best . I an not comparing you to any other person here. I just want you to have the courage to risk giving yourself the time to  develop the confidence in your ability."  Then she started up the class again and after two or three fabulous dancers crossed the floor she asked me to again try to cross the floor . I swallowed my pride and did the best I could ..which was in my mind nothing like  what I had seen .When I finished she said to the class.."Never compare yourself to someone else .. you will always think someone is better than you. That is negative ego and will stop your creative growth. All I ask is that each person strives to be the best they are capable of .. that is why this is called a class and not a production." these words still ring in my ears,

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