Today on 4dancers we have with us Mr. Bruce Marks, Chairman of the International Jury for the USA International Ballet Competition. (I have included two links at the end of the interview which you may want to read…they are other, more in-depth interviews with Mr. Marks. Very interesting.)
1. First, a bit of background on Mr. Marks and his extensive career:
Bruce Marks is a native of New York City. Marks received his training at the New York High School of Performing Arts, Brandeis University and The Juilliard School. At 14, he began his performing career when he created the role of the young boy in Pearl Lang’s Rites. He continued his ballet training with Margaret Craske, Antony Tudor and Mattlyn Gavers at the Metropolitan Opera School and joined the corps de ballet there in 1956 becoming premier danseur in 1958.
After appearing at the Spoleto Festival of Two Worlds in 1959, in a company organized by Herbert Ross and Nora Kaye, Marks joined American Ballet Theatre in 1961. He soon became one of the most respected and versatile of ABT’s male contingent, excelling in both modern and classical ballets. Shortly after his arrival, he was promoted to principal dancer. He created one of the two leading male roles in the American premiere of Harald Lander’s Etudes, as well as the leading role of Prince Siegfried in ABT’s first full-length production of Swan Lake. Marks was the first to be entrusted with the roles of Jose Limon when he danced The Moor’s Pavane and The Traitor for ABT.
During his ten years with ABT, Marks appeared as guest artist with the Royal Swedish Ballet (1963-64) and London Festival Ballet (1965). In 1971, he became the first American principal dancer of the Royal Danish Ballet, and remained there for five years, mastering the 19th century works of August Bournonville.
Marks has partnered some of the world’s great ballerinas, including Natalia Makarova, Cynthia Gregory, Eva Evdokimova, Maria Tallchief, Lupe Serrano, Violette Verdy, Melissa Hayden and Toni Lander, whom he married in 1966.
In 1976, Marks became Co-Artistic Director of Ballet West at the invitation of founder Willam Christensen. Following Christensen’s retirement, in 1978, he was named Artistic Director. The company flourished under Marks’ direction and his distinctive stamp was made with the addition of new works to the repertory from Bournonville and Balanchine, plus 19th century full length classics and exciting new Modern Dance.
In 1985 Marks and Toni Lander recreated and staged the “lost” 1855 Bournonville ballet, Abdallah. The production had its East Coast premiere at Washington’s Kennedy Center on May 1, 1985. The critics raved. “Abdallah is a triumph,” said the Boston Globe. The Wall Street Journal said, “That it communicates such broad meanings and does so, moreover, with such effortless charm, is the great achievement of Bruce Marks.” In 1986 Marks staged Abdallah for the Royal Danish Ballet, the company for whom the work was originally created.
In 1985, Marks assumed the position of Artistic Director of Boston Ballet. Under his dynamic leadership, the company achieved international acclaim and built a reputation for performing authentic versions of the classics and for encouraging daring modern works. In 1991, in Boston’s South End, the company opened a new facility that is one of the country’s leading centers for dance and dance education. During his tenure the Company’s annual budget and attendance tripled. His time in Boston had many highlights: An unprecedented American/Soviet production of Swan Lake, a 1991 five-city tour of Spain, and a highly acclaimed version of The Sleeping Beauty in 1993 to kick off its 30th season. Following a second Kennedy Center engagement in March of 1994, Boston Ballet became the first American company to perform John Cranko’s Onegin. In 1995, they added Cranko’s The Taming of the Shrew to the repertory. And in 1997, Michael Corder’s award-winning Cinderella.
Marks mounted the world’s most popular production of The Nutcracker. He also brought to the repertory the oldest existing version of Coppélia from The Royal Danish Ballet, and a traditional Russian production of Giselle, staged by Anna-Marie Holmes and coached by the legendary Natalia Dudinskaya of the Kirov Ballet.
The encouragement of American choreographers was one of Marks’ major thrusts as Director. Marks commissioned works by Mark Morris, Danny Buraczeski, Merce Cunningham, Bill T. Jones, Ralph Lemon, Monica Levy, Susan Marshall, Bebe Miller, Twyla Tharp and Lila York.
In July of 1997 Marks stepped down from his post at Boston Ballet and became Artistic Director Emeritus.
Marks was a founding member of Dance/USA, a national service organization that represents professional dance companies. From 1990-92, he was chairman of that organization. In 1989, Marks was chosen to succeed the late Robert Joffrey as Chairman of the International Jury of the USA International Ballet Competition held in Jackson Mississippi, a position he still holds. He served as the American judge at the international competitions in Helsinki, Nagoya, Moscowand Seoul. He was the American judge at the 1994 Prix de Lausanne. Until 1985, he was Board Chairman of the American Arts Alliance. He has been an Artist Fellow of the Aspen Institute the Humanistic Studies and a member of the Inter-Arts Panel of the NEA. Marks has been Chairman and a member of the National Endowment for the Arts Dance Panel. He was a member of the NEA’s International Advisory Panel.
Marks has been a pioneer in innovative Dance education and outreach programs, most stunningly, Boston Ballet’s Center for Dance Education’s City Dance, a tuition free ballet training program for urban public school students.
Marks is a recipient of the 1995 Capezio Dance Award for achievement in dance and contributions toward public awareness of dance in America. He received the 1997 Dance Magazine Award. He was awarded the Dance/USA honors in 1998. He holds honorary doctoral degrees from Northeastern University, Franklin Pierce College, the University of Massachusetts, Wheaton College, and Juilliard.
In 1998 Marks created ArtsVenture, Inc., a consulting firm dedicated to passing along the vast knowledge and insights he has accumulated over the years to others in the field. Through ArtsVenture, he has served as consultant to ballet and modern dance companies in America and throughout the world. He has also created a landmark program for the training of Artistic Directors.
Mr Marks is currently at work on an autobiography. He has three children by his late wife Toni Lander – Erik, Adam and Kenneth and lives in Boston, Florida and New York City with his partner, the American artist, Paolo Fiumedoro.
2. How did you come to be associated with the USA IBC?
I was invited to become Chairman upon the death of Chairman Robert Joffrey. I had been recommended to Sue Lobrano by then editor of Dance Magazine, William Como.
3. What is your current role in the organization?
Chairman of the International Jury.
4. Can you talk a bit about the international standards by which competitors are judged?
Competitors are judged against the highest standards of ballet. I ask each juror to ask themselves if this artist could someday attain the status of soloist or principal dancer. At Jackson we do not always award all the medals if we do not consider the artists to be of the highest caliber. In that sense they are not just competing against each other.
5. How did the IBC arrive at these standards?
They have always had these standards.
6. How are the dancers scored?
Dancers are scored on a 10 point scale. The top and bottom numbers are thrown out, ruling out partisanship. Only one judge from each country assures fairness. Almost all other competitions have multiple judges from the host country.
7. How are the judges/jury selected and how many are there?
The Chairman selects the jury.
8. As Chairman, how does your role differ from that of other jury members?
As Chairman I set the tone for the Jury. I place an emphasis on artistry. I insist that the jurors not discuss the competitors until the end of each round.
9. What is it that you like most about this competition?
I most enjoy the the enthusiasm of the young artists and the sense of community that the Jackson IBC fosters. Generally, everyone has a great experience at Jackson…..only a few go away disgruntled; but then they are those who felt that they were assured a gold medal.
10. What is next on the horizon for you personally?
I am now teaching all over the country….in summer dance programs and I am making new ballets….is there anything better?