Friday, January 16, 2009

The Magic School Bus Didn't Lie

As a warning, some might find this particular post boring. I think it's awesome (or, the information contained is awesome), but just saying.

J.M. Barrie is best known for writing Peter Pan, but in 1919 he wrote a little known work called "The Truth About Russian Dancers." The play was based on a diminutive (Lopokova was barely five feet tall) Russian dancer named Lydia Lopokova who danced with the famous Ballets Russes. The company was formed in France and founded by Serge Diaghilev. The company was composed of 13 Russian dancers who had left or been exiled during the Russian Revolution. The company turned Paris and London on their ears and was so influential that modern ballet companies still resemble the style of dance perfomed by the Ballets Russes.

Lopokova loved Barrie's work and while in London, wrote to Barrie asking him to write a play for her. The two met and Barrie began work on "The Truth About Russian Dancers." The two were probably not romantically involved as Barrie was more than 20 years the ballerina's senior, but when Lopokova suddenly disappeared when Barrie was only half-way through the play, it did cause him to stop working on it.

No one really knows where Lopokova went, but rumor has it that she was having an affair with a Russian officer. She reappeared a few years later to dance in a few ballets, and then she did something very unusal. She married John Maynard Keyes.

That's right. Mr. Supply Side himself. The unusal thing is: Keyes was gay. But then he met Lopokova and they were married for 20 years. When Keyes got sick, Lopokova was his nurse, and when he died, she withdrew to the countryside and lived as a recluse for decades. Lopokova died in 1981.

Seriously, it's like Turn-of-The-Century 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon! Keyes married a ballerina, who J.M. Barrie wrote a play for. (By the way, Barrie did finish the play, for a different ballerina.) People, who we associate with completely different spheres, knew each other. Talked with each other. Important people in history had lives and didn't just do the dull stuff written in history books. And the more you learn, the more connections you find, because the greater frame of reference you have. I think that's cool. Miss Frizzle was right. Knowledge is Power.

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