John Alden Carpenter and the Krazy Kat Ballet

1922 Self-Portrait

          After it’s debut in 1913 Krazy Kat gained an appreciative audience in the world of the arts. In 1922, Adolph Bolm choreographed a jazz-pantomime Krazy Kat ballet written by John Alden Carpenter. It was first performed in New York in 1922 by Ballet Intime, and Herriman illustrated the libretto and designed the costumes and scenario. While it was not a great success, the critics Deems Taylor, Stark Young and Henrietta Straus wrote favorably about it. The strip itself was the subject of an article by literary critic Gilbert Seldes called “Golla, Golla the Comic Strip’s Art”, which appeared in the May 1922 issue of Vanity Fair. Seldes expanded this article as part of his book on the popular arts, The Seven Lively Arts (1924), in which Seldes argued against conservative tendencies that excluded artists in the popular arts, such as Herriman and Chaplin, from being considered alongside traditional artists. Krazy Kat was the subject of a chapter entitled “The Krazy Kat That Walks by Himself”, which is the most famous piece of writing about the strip and the earliest example of a critic from the world of high art giving legitimacy to the comic strip medium. Vanity Fair inducted Herriman into its Hall of Fame in the April 1923 issue.

Krazy Kat On Stage ~ New York 1922

          Adolph Rudolphovitch Bolm (September 25, 1884 in Saint Petersburg – April 16, 1951 in Los Angeles) was a Russian-born American ballet dancer and choreographer, of Scandinavian descent. He graduated from the Russian Imperial Ballet School in Saint Petersburg in 1904 (the teacher was Platon Karsavin), and that same year he became a dancer with Mariinsky Ballet. In 1908 and 1909 he ran a European tour with Anna Pavlova. He then collaborated with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in Paris, along with several other dancers from Mariinsky. In 1917, during the second part of a two-part American tour by the Ballets Russes (without Diaghilev, but with Nijinsky), Bolm was injured during the ballet Thamar. The injury was serious, and he was taken to the hospital for a long time and left the tour to stay in the United States. He went on to organize Ballet Intime in New York and choreographed for the New York Metropolitan Opera. Bolm and dancer Ruth Page appeared together in an experimental dance film Danse Macabre (1922) directed by Dudley Murphy.       

          Carpenter’s compositional style was considered to be mainly “mildly modernistic and impressionistic”; also, many of his works strive to encompass the spirit of America, including the patriotic The Home Road and several of his works are jazz-inspired. He composed three ballets, including the one based on the Krazy Kat, and one in 1926, possibly his best-known, Skyscrapers, set in New York (it was premiered at the Metropolitan Opera), but equally inspired by his native Chicago. One of his most famous works was 1914′s impressionistic orchestral suite Adventures in a Perambulator. In 1932 he completed The Song of Faith for the George Washington bicentennial. He composed one symphony (Symphony No. 1, in C), which was premiered in Norfolk Connecticut in 1917, and revised for the 50th anniversary of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, who performed it on October 24, 1940. He also wrote many piano pieces and songs, including the song cycle Gitanjali, with poems by Rabindranath Tagore.

          Thanks to YouTube and that dagnab internet you can listen to Calvin Simmon‘s arrangement and the LA Philharmonic‘s performance (©1977) of John Alden Carpenter‘s 1922 Jazz Ballet Krazy Kat. Carpenter based the ballet on George Herriman’s comic strip, Krazy Kat. The video does a decent job of matching the actions of the performers with the music using a combination of the sheet music of a piano adaptation and the stage notes from the original score. Here is the link; 

Cover of the Original Score ~ 1922

 ~ sidestreetsam

About sidestreetsam

Sam Hallmark ~ Graphic Designer ● Conceptual Design ● Animation ● Multi-Media ● Music ● Desert Wind Graphics was established in 1994 as an affordable graphic design solution for a wide range of clients. From conceptual media, storyboards, print collaterals, logo design, multi-media presentations, animation, engineering, technical, marketing , advertising and corporate image packages, Desert Wind Graphics will fulfill your design needs for projects both big and small. With over twenty-five years of design experience I can provide you with access to a unique skill set that will deliver your project on time, within budget and on target! Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have regarding your graphic design needs.
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