Tuesday, December 29, 2020

A Little Ballet, A Little Women's History

TigerBlog stumbled on "The Nutcracker" on TV the other day (it was Christmas Day actually), and he ended up watching all of it. 

The work of Tchaikovsky dates to 1892, and it plays out in two acts. The first is set on Christmas Eve and revolves around gifts, including a nutcracker, that are given to children by a magician. The second is set in a land ruled by the Sugar Plum Fairy and includes a lot of the music known as "The Nutcracker Suite."

TB has always loved the music from "The Nutcracker." In fact, he remembers buying a version of it in a record store in West Lebanon, N.H., in a strip mall opposite the hotel where Princeton teams stay when they play at Dartmouth.

In fact, TB walked over to the music shop with none other than Pete Carril, a few hours before a Princeton-Dartmouth game. Pete wanted to buy some Spanish music.

This was when TB was still in the newspaper business. To give you a sense of how long ago that was, TB bought a cassette of the "The Nutcracker," not even a CD, let alone a download.

The ballet, of course, is a Christmas staple. It's incredibly impressive to see it performed by the top dancers in the world, who make something really difficult seem easy.

There would seem to be a lot of overlap between being a great ballet dancer and a great athlete. They both require, among other things, strength and endurance, as well as mental toughness to push through when fatigue starts to set in.

Then there is the teamwork involved. And the concept of how much preparation is necessary to reach the highest levels. And of course how all of the practice leads to a public performance.

About the only difference is that there's no score kept in ballet.

TigerBlog has seen it at McCarter Theater. So have a lot of other people.

As near as TB has been able to figure, "The Nutcracker" first played at McCarter in 1935. The theater was five years old at the time.

There were still several decades between when McCarter opened and when women were first admitted to Princeton. This year has been the 50th anniversary of when women first competed for Princeton in intercollegiate athletics, and TB was asked a very interesting question the other day.

What was the first intercollegiate event for women and when was it? Not Princeton women. That he knows well - it was Oct. 17, 1970, when Helena Novakova and Margie Gengler Smith represented Princeton in the Eastern tennis championships.

No, when was the first time women competed anywhere in intercollegiate competition.

TB found this in "The Sport Journal":

Women were not active in intercollegiate sport until basketball was introduced at Smith College in 1892. Basketball quickly spread to other colleges, and students began to clamor for intercollegiate play. Women’s physical educators opposed such competition because they were not ready to lose control over their programs (as they perceived the men had). The first intercollegiate competition among women was a scheduled tennis tournament between Bryn Mawr and Vassar. It was canceled because the Vassar faculty did not allow their women’s athletes to participate in competition between colleges. The honor of being the first teams to compete in women’s intercollegiate athletics belongs to the basketball teams of the University of California, Berkeley vs. Stanford and the University of Washington vs. Ellensburg Normal School; they played in 1896.

It doesn't say what year that tennis match would have been between Vassar and Bryn Mawr.

Still, that goes back further than TB might have guessed. That was pretty advanced for the times, he would think, to have allowed women to compete. 

Intercollegiate men's basketball only began three years earlier. There is some doubt as to what should count as the first game, but it seems like it was between Drexel and Temple on Nov. 22, 1893. 

That game, which Drexel won 26-1, was played with nine players on the court for each team at a time. 

It would be a few years before Princeton would first play basketball. The first game for the Tigers was on Jan. 26, 1901.

Anyway, that's your story for today. 

Some ballet. Some women's athletic history.

Coming tomorrow and Thursday? TB offers some 2020 Year in Review stuff.

Guess what the top story was.

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