Edited and prepared for the Internet by Ronald Davis
Return to the Home Page
with further selections from
Stanley Roseman - An Artist's Journal
My First Days of Drawing the Dance
at the Paris Opéra
    "My twenty-minute train ride, however, did not take me to the well-known metro station 'Opéra,' located at the busy Place de l'Opéra in front of the Palais Garnier, but rather to another station called 'Chaussée d'Antin,' located behind the opera house. Disembarking from the train and making my way through the underground corridors, I was glad to have a direct line to the Palais Garnier from the two metro stations La Muette and Ranelagh close to my apartment building in the Passy district.
    "I exited the metro station at the intersection of Boulevard Haussmann, Rue Chaussée d'Antin, and Rue La Fayette in front of the luxury department store Galleries Lafayette. I walked a short distance down Rue Halevy, named for the French composer; detoured onto Rue Gluck, named for the German born composer; and passed through opened, large, iron gates that border onto Place Diaghilev, named in honor of the Russian impresario of the Ballets Russes. Continuing across the courtyard, I entered the stage door and announced myself at the reception desk. The concierge acknowledged my arrival, made a call on the house telephone, and asked me to please wait as someone would arrive shortly to bring me inside.
    "I was familiar with stage doors from my previous work on the performing arts in the United States in the 1970's. I knew the stage doors of the Metropolitan Opera House and the New York State Theatre at Lincoln Center, Broadway theatres, and some Off-Broadway theatres as well. I was also familiar with the stage doors of the Lyric Opera of Chicago; the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, in Washington, D.C.; and the American Shakespeare Festival, in Stratford, Connecticut. And I knew the performers' entrance at Madison Square Garden and other amphitheaters and coliseums where the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus played on its yearly tours around the United States.
Stanley Roseman was invited in 1989 to draw the Dance at the illustrious Paris Opéra. The prestigious invitation to Roseman from the Administration of the Paris Opéra was greatly meaningful as the Dance holds a preeminent place in the cultural tradition of France and is an important subject in French literature and art.
     At the Paris Opéra, Roseman drew at rehearsals in the dance studios and at dress rehearsals in the auditorium. There followed the excitement of opening nights and the renewed enthusiasm of drawing at subsequent performances during full seasons dedicated to the dance. Having become " 'an honorary member' of the ballet troupe,''[1] notes the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in a biographical essay on the artist, Roseman was given the extraordinary privilege to draw during performances, night after night, from the wings of the famous stage of the Paris Opéra.
     The Paris Opéra, Palais Garnier, was commissioned by Napoleon III and inaugurated in 1875 under the Third Republic. The majestic opera house crowns the grand Avenue de l'Opéra in the center of Paris. When the Palais Garnier closed for refurbishing and renovation in summer of 1994, Roseman accompanied the Paris Opéra Ballet to draw at the new Opéra Bastille in an eastern quarter of the City.
2. Charles Jude and Florence Clerc 1991,
Paris Opéra Ballet
Comme on respire
Pencil on paper, 38 x 28 cm
Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe, Uffizi, Florence
My First Days of Drawing the Dance at the Paris Opéra
© Stanley Roseman and Ronald Davis, 2014 - All Rights Reserved
Visual imagery and website content may not be reproduced in any form whatsoever.
"Stanley Roseman's drawings show the many facets of his great talents as a draughtsman.''[2]
- Bibliothèque Nationale de France
    "A smiling, middle-aged man approached from a doorway at the end of the hall, greeted me cordially and asked me to follow him. We returned through the doorway and continued down a corridor to another corridor which extended a long distance to the left. In front of us was a staircase to the floors above. Around the corner on our right was a set of elevators. The man pressed a button; we waited a minute or two for an elevator to arrive and stepped inside. We rode upwards some eight to ten stories and got out of the elevator into a narrow corridor in front of a staircase that terminated at that floor. Directly on our right and set into the thick outer wall was a large, round window with a wrought-iron lyre motif, a decorative leitmotif throughout the Palais Garnier. As I followed my guide past the window, I glanced out at a panoramic view of Paris, with the golden dome of the Invalides catching the wintry light on the distant Left Bank of the Seine and the Eiffel Tower, a filigreed, black silhouette rising high above the City.
    "We passed through a doorway where another large, round window with the lyre motif lit a modern hallway, its light-gray, painted, concrete walls in stark contrast to the nineteenth-century architecture and the somber corridors from where we had just come. I followed my guide down a stairway to a corridor with the words 'COUPOLE' and 'STUDIO JARDIN' painted in large, black, capital letters on a wall. An arrow pointed to the right. We passed through a set of glass doors to a brightly-lit, short corridor with floor-to-ceiling picture windows on one side. I could not help stopping in my tracks, for there, before me, on a roof of the Paris Opéra was an impressive sculpture group with a winged goddess familiar to me from a view of the opera house from the streets below.
    "Glancing out the picture windows, I saw to my left the majestic dome on an ornamented, neo-classical base punctuated with similar round windows with the lyre motif that was fast becoming familiar to me. To my right I saw a smaller but impressive, green, copper-plated dome adorned with theatrical masks of comedy and tragedy and spread-winged eagles patinated with age."
3. Palais Garnier: View of the cupola, which rests on a neoclassical base with round windows adorned with a lyre motif. To the left, on the flytower apex, stands a statue of Apollo holding aloft a golden lyre.
    "Eugene Polyakov, as I came to learn, was known to the dancers and his colleagues as 'Genia.' He was born in Moscow in 1943. Following his training at the Bolshoi Ballet School, Polyakov went on to become a principal dancer and choreographer with the Novosibirsk Ballet Company, in Siberia. He later returned to the Bolshoi Ballet School to teach a new generation of dancers of classical ballet. Like Nureyev, Polyakov left Russia for the West, where he earned great respect as a choreographer and director. Nureyev invited his compatriot to join him at the Paris Opéra as senior Ballet Master. Nureyev departed as Director of the Dance in November 1989, although he remained the principle choreographer of the Company. Eugene Polyakov, who upheld the perfectionism that Nureyev had instilled in the dancers of the Paris Opéra Ballet, was appointed interim Director of the Dance."
    " 'Ah, you're American,' Patricia Ruanne said. 'I can tell from your accent…a New Yorker, perhaps. How lovely to have you with us.'
     '' 'It's Stan, yes,' smiled Eugene Polyakov, repeating my name in its familiar form, which reinforced my feeling of welcome as he shook my hand. 'Find a place anywhere, but feel free to move around the room if you want - we all move a lot around here.'
    "I heartily thanked them both, my own smile conveying my appreciation and excitement.
    "With a clap of his hands, Genia signaled the dancers to take their places. Patricia Ruanne, whom I heard the dancers call 'Patti,' moved out onto the dance floor to demonstrate several dance steps, her arms gesturing as she gracefully turned on one foot, an arabesque of cigarette smoke rising into the air.
    "Soon the quietude was interrupted as more dancers arrived and settled onto the floor in animated discussion with their friends. Here and there they set down their rucksacks and duffel bags and extra garments and bottles of mineral water. The girls busied themselves putting on and lacing up their ballet slippers with firm, reinforced toes, the footwear that has come to symbolize classical ballet. Some of the dancers seated on the floor stretched or did leg raises; others went out onto the dance floor to warm up. Several male dancers practiced lifting their female partners. A few more dancers entered the studio, their bearing denoting their status as premiere dancers or stars. The pianist arrived in company with a man whom I thought might be a stage manager, for he was carrying typed sheets of paper and seemed to be taking count of the dancers present. Shortly thereafter, Genia and Patti entered the dance studio with Patrice Bart. Genia motioned for me to come forward and cordially introduced me to his colleague.
    "Patrice Bart offered me a friendly smile, a firm handshake, and a warm welcome. He asked if we could speak together after the rehearsal so that we would have an opportunity to become better acquainted.
    "Returning to my place, I sharpened my pencils, took up my drawing book, and readied myself for the start of the rehearsal. Gradually the talk and pre-rehearsal activity subsided and an intensity charged the air as the dancers took up their places, the ballet masters and répétitrices stationed themselves down front, and the pianist settled onto the piano bench and opened the sheet music.
4. Stanley Roseman drawing
at a dance rehearsal
in the Salle Petipa in the cupola
of the Palais Garnier.
    "After the rehearsal and most of the dancers had left the studio, I expressed again my appreciation to Genia and thanked him for introducing me to Patrice Bart. A stocky, pleasant-looking man with some gray in his wavy hair, he was serious about his work yet mild-mannered with the dancers. Patrice Bart had recently retired as star dancer of the Paris Opéra Ballet. He had danced many classical ballet roles and, as ballet master and interim Director of the Dance, like Eugene Polyakov, instilled confidence in the Company.
    "Patrice and I spoke about my previous work on opera, theatre, and dance and my drawing in theatres and opera houses in the United States in the 1970's. We also spoke about my drawing and painting portraits of the clowns at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and the resultant exhibition of my work on the performing arts that traveled the United States for the American Bicentennial and concluded at the Library and Museum for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center in 1977.
     Roseman further relates his becoming more and more familiar with the backstage world of the Opéra and his first time in the "splendid red and gold auditorium of the Palais Garnier," where he drew at the pré-générale and répétition générale (dress and final dress rehearsals) of The Sleeping Beauty. Writing about his first days at the Paris Opéra, Roseman concludes: 
    "Leaving through the stage door after the final dress rehearsal, I braced myself against a cold December wind that seemed to swirl to its own energetic dance rhythms around the majestic, brightly lit opera house. Tchaikovsky's waltzes and marches and polkas filled my head. I had been given a most wonderful and meaningful invitation to draw the dance at the Paris Opéra as the Dance is held in high esteem in the culture of France and is an important subject in French literature and art. The invitation was especially meaningful at that unique time in the history of the Paris Opéra when the Palais Garnier was in its first season consecrated exclusively to performances of ballet and modern dance.
    "I quickened my pace to follow my guide up more flights of stairs, through another set of double doors, and up another flight of stairs to a landing. My guide and I ascended two more flights of stairs, through another set of double doors, and still another where we entered a corridor that followed the contour of the architecture. Massive, gray-painted, iron girders arched from the floor to high above my head. I was in the cupola of the Paris Opéra."
     Roseman returned with the company for the reopening of the Palais Garnier in March 1996. The gala occasion comprised three events: the return of performances of opera, the recommencement of performances by the Paris Opéra Ballet, and the opening of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France exhibition Stanley Roseman - Dessins sur la Danse à l'Opéra de Paris at the Bibliothèque-Musée de l'Opéra, housed in the Palais Garnier.
    "On the early afternoon of 7 December 1989, I entered the metro station La Muette on Avenue Mozart, in the western part of Paris, and boarded a train for the Paris Opéra to begin a new work dedicated to the dance. I was cordially invited by the Administration to draw the dance at a unique time in the history of the illustrious Paris Opéra. With the opening in 1989 of the Opéra Bastille, in the eastern part of the city, the Paris Opéra consisted of two opera houses, each with a separate function. The Opéra Bastille was reserved for performances of operas and concerts, and in autumn of that year the Palais Garnier, in the heart of Paris, began its first season consecrated exclusively to the dance.
The Salle Petipa
    In his journal, Roseman relates his first experience in a dance studio at the Paris Opéra, where the ballet company was in rehearsal for Tchaikovsky's The Sleeping Beauty. The artist was ushered into the Salle Petipa, "a large, circular dance studio named for the celebrated, nineteenth-century, French choreographer and Ballet Master Marius Petipa, who was for many years choreographer at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg and a colleague of Tchaikovsky. Petipa's choreography is today a criterion for classical ballet.''
     Roseman describes the studio with its "raked and tarpaulin-covered dance floor that sloped down to a long, mirrored wall. . . . Dance bars on supports stood like linear accents around the circular studio. A grand piano imposed itself up front, its gleaming, black, curvilinear surface reflected in the studio mirror.''
     Roseman was introduced to the Ballet Master Eugene Polyakov, "an amiable, middle-aged man of slender build with an oval face, bright eyes that crinkled at the edges, and flecks of gray in his brown hair and trim, brown beard.'' Eugene Polyakov choreographed the pas de deux Comme en respire seen in Roseman's impressive drawing in the collection of the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, and presented at the top of the page, (fig. 2).
    "I took a seat on one of the benches, opened my attaché case, and brought out my drawing book and pencils. With pencil in hand, I watched and waited. The Ballet Master gave a signal for the pianist to begin. A beautiful Tchaikovsky waltz - familiar even to those who have never seen a ballet - filled the great domed space. Applying pencil to paper, I was inspired by the music and the dance to draw.''
The Second Day
     Roseman further recounts his return the following day to the Paris Opéra for a rehearsal of The Sleeping Beauty and his being introduced to the Ballet Master Patrice Bart, who with his colleague Eugene Polyakov was also interim Director of the Dance. 
From the Rehearsal Studio to the Auditorium of the Palais Garnier
    "I am deeply grateful that the two men who were directly responsible for the Paris Opéra Ballet - the interim Directors of the Dance Eugene Polyakov and Patrice Bart, both of whom had reached the top of their profession as dancers before becoming ballet masters, choreographers, and directors - were most gracious and welcoming to me and expressed sincere interest in my work. I felt truly fortunate indeed."
     To accompany his drawings on the dance, Roseman wrote about his work at the Paris Opéra. The artist provides information on the history of the Paris Opéra and its important contribution to the development of Romantic and classical ballet. In Roseman's text he speaks about his passion for drawing, his working methods and thoughts on art, and his love for the dance. The following are excerpts from Roseman's journal.
    "My interest in the dance is neither to illustrate the story of a ballet nor to depict dancers in repose or readying for a performance. For me the subject of the dance is the dancer dancing. Stimulated by the athleticism and sensuality of the dance, I am interested in the dancer's emotive use of movement as a means of personal expression."
    "A series of benches with high backs and sides formed the boundary of the rehearsal studio, save for the long, mirrored wall down front. The benches, constructed of light-colored wood, added a warm element to the austere studio interior. The backs of the benches formed the inner wall of the corridor from where I had entered the Salle Petipa. The benches, which were spaced sufficiently apart to provide narrow passageways from the corridor into the studio, could seat three to four people. For all the available seating in the studio, it might seem curious that most of the dancers sat on the floor. But then, I sometimes work on the floor, such as when I unroll a large bolt of canvas to cut into segments to staple onto wooden stretchers before preparing the raw canvas with glue sizing and coats of primer.

    "The following afternoon, as I entered the stage door and approached the reception desk, the concierge with a wave of recognition motioned me to continue on. Retracing my footsteps down the long corridor, I  thought of Genia and Patti's warm welcome the day before and having begun drawing the dance at the Paris Opéra. I continued up the elevator; past the round windows with the lyre motifs and the panoramic views of Paris; across the rooftop walkway with its picture windows, where again I glanced out at the sculpture group on the rooftop; through doors and hallways and up more flights of stairs to the Salle Petipa. I arrived early to settle into my place well before the rehearsal was to begin. I met a few dancers on their way to the studio and was appreciative of their smiles acknowledging me as they rushed along.
    "Patrice expressed enthusiasm for my work and said: 'After drawing in theatres and opera houses in America, being at the Paris Opéra will seem somewhat familiar, but with a French flavor.' We both smiled. Patrice told me where in the building the ballet schedules were posted and that I should check the schedules for rehearsal times and studios. He mentioned the upcoming dress rehearsals in the auditorium, where the dancers would be in costume and I would have the opportunity to draw during the full run of the ballet. 'But you know all that,' he added with a smile and concluded saying that I should not hesitate to come to him or Genia with any questions. I expressed my sincere appreciation to Patrice for his, Genia's, and Patti's warm welcome and said that I was very excited to be drawing the dance at the Paris Opéra."
You are cordially invited to visit
Palais Garnier: View of the cupola, which rests on a neoclassical base with round windows adorned with a lyre motif. To the left, on the flytower apex, stands a statue of Apollo holding aloft a golden lyre. Photo © Ronald Davis
    "The ballet master clapped his hands to signal the rehearsal to begin. Once again, applying pencil to paper and with growing acquaintance of the dancers and the choreography, I was inspired by the music and the dance to draw."
1. Stanley Roseman - Dessins sur la Danse à l'Opéra de Paris - Drawings on the Dance at the Paris Opéra
   (text in French and English), (Paris: Bibliothèque Nationale de France, 1996), p. 11.
2. Ibid., p. 11.
3. Ibid., pp. 13, 14.
    '' 'But this is the Paris Opéra,' I thought, impressed by the institution's centuries of tradition and cultural history dating back to the reign of Louis XIV and the Sun King's founding of the Royal Academy of Dance (1661) and the Royal Academy of Music (1669). 'But this is the Paris Opéra,' I thought as I stood at the reception desk while the concierge busily sorted and placed mail into open mail boxes in a wooden partition behind the desk and inscribed names of mail recipients on a message board. 'But this is the Paris Opéra,' I thought as I glanced at my reflection in the mirror-paneled wall opposite the reception desk and held tight my brown leather attaché case which had been my father's and now contained my drawing book, extra folios of drawing paper, and numerous graphite pencils, sharpened and ready for use.
My First Days of Drawing the Dance at the Paris Opéra
An Audience with Pope John Paul II
An Invitation to Draw at the Metropolitan Opera
On Portraiture
    "The cupola impressed me as it had the day before - the massive iron girders arching high above me, the raked dance floor, the grand piano, the mirrored wall, the benches arranged in a semi-circle on the perimeter of the dance floor, and the dance bars identifying the great, domed space as a dance studio - that is, a dance studio in the Paris Opéra.
    "I thanked Patrice Bart very much for the invitation to draw at the Opéra and said that I was looking forward to our speaking together.
Drawings on the Dance at the Paris Opéra
     The Bibliothèque Nationale de France publication Stanley Roseman - Dessins sur la Danse à l'Opéra de Paris / Drawings on the Dance at the Paris Opéra (text in French and English) includes a biographical essay on the artist and speaks of  the exhibition presenting "a hundred magnificent drawings from the artist's oeuvre on the dance.'' The essay concludes:
     The Paris Opéra Ballet presented a diverse repertory of Romantic and classical ballet, presentations from the repertory of the Ballets Russes, modern and contemporary dance, Paris premieres, and world premieres. The Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi, in Florence, conserves the sublime drawing, seen here (fig. 2), of Paris Opéra star dancers Charles Jude and Florence Clerc in the pas de deux Comme on respire choreographed for them by Paris Opéra Ballet Master Eugene Polyakov.
     The drawing Charles Jude and Florence Clerc, 1991, entered the world-renowned collection of drawings of the Uffizi with three equally superb Roseman drawings on the dance at the Paris Opéra. The document of acquisition enumerates ''four drawings by Stanley Roseman inspired by the dance'' and states that the works ''will enrich the Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi."
     With fluent lines of a graphite pencil, Roseman renders the graceful dance movements of star dancers Charles Jude and Florence Clerc. Their arms outstretched and their heads inclined, they dance together in beautiful harmony to John Field's Nocturne no. 4 in A major. As Florence Clerc told the artist, ''dancing in this pas de deux is just as one breathes'' - for it was she who had given the title to the choreographic work Comme on respire.
5. Charles Jude and Florence Clerc 1991, Paris Opéra Ballet
Comme on respire
Pencil on paper, 38 x 28 cm
  Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe, Uffizi, Florence
    ''The first time I saw Stanley Roseman, I was waiting in the wings to make my entrance on stage. I saw him make several broad pencil strokes and turn his pages at full speed. I was very interested, as I love drawings, but I must admit I was a little skeptical. At the end of the performance, I crossed the stage towards him to see the results. I was astounded! He had captured the movement in several seconds. Since then I have seen many of his drawings; I recognize immediately the work, the passage, and the interpretation. For me, his drawings are dance itself.''[3]
- Florence Clerc
  Star Dancer of the Paris Opéra
     Roseman's drawings on the dance earned him high regard from the dancers. The artist's intuitive understanding of the dance and his modesty and pleasant manner established friendships in the familial world of the Paris Opéra Ballet. The dancers appreciated Roseman's faithful presence at rehearsals and performances and his support and encouragement of the entire company by drawing étoiles (star dancers), premier dancers, and soloists, as well as members of the corps de ballet.
     Florence Clerc graciously contributed an eloquent testimony on the artist's work as did Charles Jude and other star dancers for the Bibliothèque Nationale de France publication Stanley Roseman - Dessins sur la Danse à l'Opéra de Paris / Drawings on the Dance at the Paris Opéra (text in French and English).
    "Charles Jude and Florence Clerc were senior stars of the Company when I began drawing at the Paris Opera. My friendship with Charles and Florence, as with my friendship with Genia, goes back to those early months of my work. I am sincerely grateful to them for their appreciation and enthusiasm for my drawings on the dance. At the opening of the 1991-1992 season, the occasion of drawing Charles and Florence in the pas de deux Comme on respire, choreographed by Genia, was a great joy for me."
     Roseman was also introduced to the Ballet Master's colleague Patricia Ruanne. "An Englishwoman with a trim, danseuse's physique, she wore a gossamer, white blouse, which fell slightly off one shoulder; white, Chiffon slacks; and smoked a thin, brown cigarette. Her short, auburn hair framed an attractive face, and from her ear lobes hung silver earrings, each a flat cutout in the shape of a cat. I thought that the danseuse must have a fondness for domestic cats as I do. I later came to learn that she does.
    "Patricia Ruanne had been a prima ballerina with the London Festival Ballet. She had partnered Nureyev and premiered the role of Juliet to his Romeo in the choreographer's Romeo and Juliet, with the symphonic ballet score by Serge Prokofiev. When Nureyev was appointed Director of the Dance at the Paris Opéra in 1983, he brought Patricia Ruanne into the company to be a répétitrice, that is a danseuse who oversees rehearsals with the ballet master, as she was presently doing for the production of The Sleeping Beauty, also choreographed by Nureyev, after Marius Petipa. Patricia Ruanne was later promoted to Ballet Master at the Paris Opéra.