Found in Translation (continued)

H er Moravian education proved to be a happy stroke of fate. Around the time she entered the College, in the mid-’60s, the Royal Danish Ballet toured the United States. When the company danced in Philadelphia, McAndrew discovered Bournonville’s choreography firsthand. “I was amazed when I saw his work,” she says. “What kind of person would have created this?” By 1967, McAndrew was enrolled in the summer dance program at Jacob’s Pillow, in Lee, Massachusetts, where she saw and met the Danish ballerina Toni Lander, who encouraged her to go to Denmark to learn ballet history.

At Moravian, the historian and musical enthusiast
J. Richard Jones—her advisor in the History Department, where she was a major—counseled her on the choice of an Honors thesis topic. She proposed Bournonville. In a profound example of what a thesis advisor should do, Jones said: “If this man fascinates you so much, why don’t you put him in the world in which he lived? Find out what made him tick.”

After looking through as many references in English as she could find, McAndrew realized: “I knew I’d need to learn Danish. The nice thing about the [small] size of the school was that, as I was doing an independent liberal arts project, they asked me what books did I need to write this?” The books were both bought and found.

Moravian’s library obtained current works. But even better: “In the basement of the old library, in Comenius Hall, was a collection of Danish books from the 19th century that had belonged to a Danish minister. They had been moldering down there; all they needed was someone who would read them. It was as if they had been waiting for me.”

Then McAndrew’s mother, “being ever resourceful,” reasoned that “wherever there are Scandinavians, there are metallurgists.” She called Bethlehem Steel, where she was referred to a young Norwegian, Ørnulf Valla, who loved the theater. He agreed to work with Pat, whose daily schedule became: college classes, ballet class, come home and “eat some,” spend the rest of the evening reading the minister’s books with Valla until midnight. “Some of the sentences would be 13 lines long!” McAndrew remembers.

On weekends, the two would visit the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, which owned a copy, in Danish, of Bournonville’s My Theatre Life. “We copied extracts from that,” says McAndrew, “and we would read until the library closed.”

When her Honors thesis was written and ready to be defended before a faculty committee, a recommendation from the dance critic Clive Barnes brought Selma Jeanne Cohen, dean of American dance historians, to Moravian. Cohen was impressed with McAndrew’s work: “She said, ‘You’ll be hearing from me.’ She went to Wesleyan University Press and said she’d found someone who could translate Bournonville’s memoirs. She connected me with Bill Bueno there, and he became my editor for the next 10 years.”

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The book that grew out of McAndrew’s Honors thesis: her translation of Bournonville’s memoir.

Photo Illustration: from a portrait photo of Patricia McAndrew by John Kish IV, and a portrait of August Bournonville painted by Carl Bloch in 1879, reproduced from Didlev Tamm, August Bournonville 1805-1879 (Copenhagen: Gyldendal for the Royal Danish Theatre, 2005); used with permission.