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Nadia Nerina

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Was watching a video of Royal Ballet's production of "Petrouchka" today and enjoyed Alexander Grant as Petrouchka, Antoinette Sibley and Merle Park as the street dancers and Nadia Nerina as the Ballerina Doll.

I know she was the first Lise in Ashton's "La Fille Mal Gardee."

Did anyone see her perform live?

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Yes, I saw her fairly often during the 60s - she did all the standard classics and had some works set on her. Unfortunately, one of these was Robert Helpmann's wrong-headed setting of "Elektra" - wow, what a bad ballet. Nerina was unusually facile in allegro, and made a particularly splendid Odile.

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Wasn't the role of Lise in Fille Mal Gardee made on her?

I could be wrong and thinking of someone else, but I think I remember reading that she was taller than Fonteyn and physically capable of a wider range of technical things and that Ashton exploited those qualities in Lise. When I see Ananiashvilli these days in Fille, in the Act I balance in arabesque on point supported and slowly turned by the burst of bribbons, I think of that.

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:lol: OK, Mel, I can top you this time!

I might have posted this before, but after all these years I am still so impressed that I will take the risk of posting it again.

In the late fifties - early sixties I took classes with Madame Cleo Nordi. Open professional classes commenced at 11 a.m. Before that, at 10 a.m. most days Miss Nerina had private class with Madame Nordi. Not always, but very frequently, Miss Nerina stayed on to do the professional class as well. Thus I had ample opportunities to observe her in class. She was lovely!

No fireworks, but oh, so clean, every position was perfect and immaculate.

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On a trip to London as a child, I saw Nerina and Blair in Giselle. I remember it as a perfect partnership. I had never seen dacing of that caliber before.

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I have never seen Nerina (apart, perhaps, from a grainy monochrome excerpt from Fille on TV, and I'm not even sure of that), but I would like mention that when the RB toured the Soviet Union, Krushchev said that NN "danced like us." I'm not exactly sure what that means, but I would guess it had something to do with elastic or flexible phrasing. In her autobiography, Alice Nikitina accuses Ninette de Valois of dancing in a "dry, academic manner" (or words to that effect), and implies that this is something of a "vice anglais." Driness suggests a certain detachment of the steps from each other, or perhaps a too literal wedding of the movement to the beat. In any event, there seems to have been something about NN's style, over and above the precision and placement that Pamela remembers in the Nordi studio, that distinguished her from the other RB dancers. One thing is certain: I have pored over photographs of NN, and the spatial relation of her body to the stage leaves no doubt that she had extremely fine elevation.

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Nadia Nerina was indeed famous for her jump, as shown off by Ashton in Fille, and earlier in her solo in Birthday Offering.

She was wonderful in Fille in the early days - dazzling technique, funny and charming - but within three or four years she'd become much too coy and self conscious for my taste.

I remember her as more 'earthy' than Fonteyn and Beriosova, and in fact more of a soubrette than a classical ballerina. The first time I saw her in Swan Lake I thought she was terrible - 'Nadia Nerina looking rather cross' in Act 2, and a circus act in Act 3. (I can't remember if it was that occasion or later that she obviously had a terrible cold, and is the only ballerina I've ever seen who could whip a handkerchief out from the bosom of her tutu, blow her nose, and stuff the handkerchief back, all whilst she had hser back to the audience in the course of one promenade in arabesque.)

In Sleeping Beauty I liked her best in the Vision Scene - something I've noticed with other dancers I'd describe as soubrettes - as if having to subdue their natural exuberance for that act brought out some extra quality.

A couple of years ago I saw the television film of Giselle she made with Nicolai Fadeyechev - he looked like someone from another age, but she could have stepped into a Royal Ballet performance today and looked perfectly at home.

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I find this absolutely fascinating, Jane. I have also sensed, without seeing her in action (or at least not attentively enough to be certain), that NN came within a whisker of being a demi-caractere danseuse. I also have the same sense about Lopokova. Did you ever see NN's Swanilda? Indeed did she ever dance it? And could you report on her aplombes in the Rose Adagio. If she could blow her nose en promenade, I image she would have been rock-steady. Also, do you know if there is any truth in a story I once heard about Sibley's Rose Adagio, viz., that she struck such a steady attitude with the first prince in the first (static) balances that the remaining three didn't offer her their hands, but simply bowed before her while remained stabbed into the stage like an elegant shooting stick! Or do you think that might be the balletic equivalent of an urban myth?

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i believe v.durante did this same 'no thank you' to one or more cavaliers as she held her balance witout taking any but one, or two cavaliers' hands.

also, re: NN and swanilda, she was filmed in one of m.dale's distinctive films in COPPELIA; it's around still, i believe.

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Thanks very much for this information, RG. Ms Durante (I daren't initialize her name!) belongs to a generation of RB dancers unknown to me. I am very sorry I never got to see Lesley Collier as Aurora, for she would probably have been my ideal. I like the fullness and compacture of her figure, which, in my opinion, is best suited to Petipa's line--just as Suzanne Farrell's or Tanaquil le Clerc's is best suited to Balanchine's. It's good to know that the NN's Swanilda is on film, because that means it might eventually appear on tape and so enter my VCR in the fullness of time. Would you like to venture a reason why NN got to dance Odette and Giselle, while dancers like Mary Honer didn't? I am not altogether sure when a soubrette is thought suitable for cross-over. Is it simply a question of a technique so brilliant that it compensates for the inevitable stubbiness in the line? Or is there something else that I'm missing? I suppose some people, glancing at photos of Lesley Collier, might think her a soubrette--though of course she isn't when you see her dance.

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sorry rodney - but having watched collier a lot, i regarded 'soubrette' as one possible description of her - which was NOT to say that that was ALL she was, or that she was necessarily limited by being ABLE to be that way.

about sibley and the rose adage - i honestly don't know, but i feel quite sure this is likely to have happened. it's really not so unusual, even in a class, sometimes to get a freak fantastic balance, and to find it easier to stay there, than to come down. i saw maria almeida do an equally spectacular disregard-of-the-choreography in beauty, about 15 years ago.

if you liked collier, you are bound to like durante. :) she appears in the RB staging of beauty, directed by dowell, which is available on video. if you can't get hold of it, one day i will make a mammoth effort and get my 2nd VCR fixed, so that i can record you a copy. :)

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I am very intrigued, Grace. The more of your posts that I read, the clearer it becomes that you once danced with the RB. What a feat and what a privilege! My close friend Heather (she whose dogs, Sylvie and Bruno, are the canine counterparts of Gwen and Sissy) shares your view of Collier. Go figure! I was always wild about a dancer in the Cape Town co, RB trained, who had strong feet and soft arms and a Collieresque physique. Her name was Lynn Walton, and she had Florine and the Flower Festival pd in her rep. (I wonder what happened to her.) But Heather much preferred Linda Smit--very jarrete, but very good, make no mistake--and hers was the majority opinion here. LS could hold the balances in the Rose A for hours, but with a gentle pendular motion that spoiled the effect for me. I relish total stability, but very seldom get it.

I am interested to learn that a RB SB is on video, and shall make enquiries with David Leonard. Thanks for your most generous offer. The kitties send warm regards, G on my lap, and C on the mousepad. She gently bites my knuckles every time I click!

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I did see Collier's Aurora, and I'd vote with Grace on the soubrette issue (she was a charming Lise in "La Fille Mal Gardee") Her Aurora was speedy. Fastest Rose Adagio I've ever seen.

What's interesting about Collier is that, at the end, she was the last of the Royal Ballet's women to have the style, so even in roles where she wasn't ideally suited, IMO (Titania in The Dream, say) she was a pleasure to watch as a stylist.

I do agree with the compact body suiting Petipa, and Ashton -- I don't care for long-legged Auroras. But I don't think all compact -- or classically-proportioned, in the 18th century use of the term, as Fonteyn was, are soubrettes. But female employ is so complex, and so much of it is lost, that I can only get at it. I believe each fairy in the Prologue of Sleeping B represents a different employ, for example, and Balanchine uses the exact same employ, in the same order, in Divertimento No. 15, but I can only see it, not name it.

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rodney:

you once danced with the RB
~ i WISH!!!

no.

sadly, i was never in that class.

oh, i tried. i tried. but: no.

:) :nopity:

i HAVE danced - in much humbler settings.

when i went to london, to train as a benesh notator, (the benesh institute was then right behind the RB company - tube line in-between), i was lucky enough to spend lots of time at the RB and RBS.

i notated on a new bintley work, and an ashton work (when ashton was still alive & around). i watched rehearsals and company classes. i watched teachers at the RBS upper school, and i also worked one summer at white lodge. i took class with ex-RB people, like beriosova and maryon lane and lynn seymour. (i had come from training in australia with lucette aldous.) my partner was an RB dancer, so i met or knew many of the dancers who were current, then (80's to 1991) - including collier.

i feel very lucky to have been there at that time, and to have met living history in the form of people like markova, de valois, etc.

but to have danced in such exalted company - no. sadly not to be. :shrug:

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Alexandra, I know exactly what you mean, and have the same difficulty in establishing generic borders between dancers. My eye isn't subtle enough to distinguish 6 genres in the SB pas de 6, but I can certainly see something akin to the operatic idea of Fach, esp in the ways the fairies are cast in the subsequent acts. I have found that Canari will often double up as Chaperon rouge because both ask for rapid runs on pointe, and Miettes as Florine because of the sautes, and, as you have pointed out elsewhere, the LF will tend to be given the tallest and most gracious dancer (often something of a runner-up, who will never get to dance either Odette or Aurora). In my experience, these "danseuses nobles" don't turn as rapidly and confidently as their arque equivalents, so a good case could probably be made for reintroducing the Marie Petipa variation. A soaring pas de chat is something to be cherished, after all. Apparently Violetta Elvin's was legendary.

Anyhow, I wonder if NN got her breaks in the RB because of Dame Ninette's passion for demi-caractere ballet--her own idiom, and that of Massine, whom she invited to choreograph on at least three occasions for the SWB/RB. I know this because in late 70s/early 80s, the BBC got hold of three Petipa ballets (Paquita, La Halte de [la?] cavalerie and Les Millions des harlequins) and had Dame Ninette and David Vaughan comment in the interval. Dame N LOVED La Halte, and commented sadly on the eclipse of the d-caractere ballet. I think she felt a special attraction to mobility (somewhere she uses the adjective of Elaine Fifield), and probably favoured dancers who had it, even if they lacked in other departments. On my old vinyl Cinderella highlights sleeve, there is a photo of Fonteyn, Blair, Nerina and Ashbridge alongside each other. (That should be WAS--I have just gone to look for it, and it's not there. I must have given it away when I bought the complete ballet.) Anyhow, as I remember, Fonteyn, even in spite of her fullish legs that some people (not I!) don't care for, projects a sort of columnar presence. By comparison, Nerina has a physique more evocative of a top, wide at the thighs but narrowing down to the pointes. I can see how Jane might not have liked that in Odette, but for me it holds huge promise for Odile. As Mell has pointed out, she had a "facile allegro."

Grace, your career sounds very impressive indeed. How wonderful, like Doug, to have all the great ballets of the world at your fingertips. Lucette Aldous is a name to conjure with (one of those soubrette crossovers again). Doesn't one glimpse her Odile in The Turning Point? I loved her Kitri in the Nureyev film, even to the point of forgetting the HIDEOUS Lanchbery orchestration of her Act V solo. Are you teaching now, or notating for one of the Oz companies? Or both?

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Ah, but I don't think of the Lilac Fairy as a runner up -- not originally -- I think she's The Star. That was the great gift of seeing the Kirov's reconstruction, especially with Part in the role. She's not the Star in the sense of the most stage time, or the most varations, but she holds the ballet together. Petipa was giving us an 18th century neoclassical ballet fairie, but I don't think anyone got it :)

This was reinforced by seeing the short film, Act I only, and that condensed, of Excelsior. There, the Spirit of Light was completely mime -- whatever the equivalent of a bass is in a ballerina :) -- and the ballerina was demicaractere, quick and brilliant, the only soloist in a grand ballabile of corps dances and processions (she was the Spirit of Civilization). The Spirit of Liight presided.

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Petipa was giving us an 18th century neoclassical ballet fairie, but I don't think anyone got it

That’s so interesting, because in so many Balanchine ballets, it’s the second soloist, not the ballerina, who is the organizing principle of the work (Tchaikovsky No. 2, both Emeralds and Rubies, Gigue in Mozartiana).

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Good point, Roma! Thank you -- I'd never thought of that! You're right.

I'd never noticed the similarities between the Divert ballerinas and the Sleeping B fairies until I saw Farrell's company do Divert last season -- it was a very old-fashioned staging, or at least they danced in the way, I'm guessing, that Farrell did when she first danced it, and production was much more "classical" than we're used to seeing in a Balanchine ballet.

I did see one staging, by Colleen Neary, of "Rubies" (for PNB) where the "second ballerina" was Queen Bee and the leading couple was reduced to her sidekicks, and thought the balance was off. But maybe....just maybe.....

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Strangely enough, I recently had an email from Michelle Potter in which she said something similar about Berthe in G 1. Makes a girl think! (M Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) Roma, alas, I don't know the B ballets you mention--have some excerpts from Rubies, but not enough to make structural judgements. However, I wonder if, in the case of T No 2, which began life as Ballet Imperial with SWB, the transference of focus had something to do with B's antipathy (too strong?) toward Fonteyn, and preference for the mobility (l'arcana parola ognor!--as Manrico says in Trovatore) of Shearer.

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I wonder if, in the case of T No 2, which began life as Ballet Imperial with SWB, the transference of focus had something to do with B's antipathy (too strong?) toward Fonteyn, and preference for the mobility (l'arcana parola ognor!--as Manrico says in Trovatore) of Shearer.

Rodney, Ballet Imperial did not begin life at the Sadler's Wells Ballet. It was made in 1941 for the American Ballet Caravan, a predecesssor of NYCB, and the original ballerinas were Marie-Jeanne and Giselle Caccialanza.

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Well, there goes that little theory! Many thanks for the correction, Ari. I was somehow under the impression that it had been conceived in all its Romanov flamboyance and Berman wigs for the Garden, and that B had stripped it down to its austere current title and practice type clothes when it went to America.

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rodney - yes. lucette appears momentarily in TURNING POINT, as odile, with bujones, if i recall correctly. the AB DQ has recently been re-something-or-othered, (much to her satisfaction), and re-released - but i haven't seen the 'new' version. i am teaching now, where the notation DOES come in handy...

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That’s so interesting, because in so many Balanchine ballets, it’s the second soloist, not the ballerina, who is the organizing principle of the work (Tchaikovsky No. 2, both Emeralds and Rubies, Gigue in Mozartiana).

I never thought of it in quite this way--but it is so true in regard to "Ballet Imperial". I saw both Marie-Jeanne and MaryEllen Moylan in the ballerina part, but it is Maria Tallchief in the secondary role that I can still vividly recall. This was at a time in her career when she danced with great gusto, Balanchine's make-over was still in progress.

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re Divert and Sleeping Beauty. I was so intrigued by the idea that there might be a relationship there, I went back to watch the tape of the old Kirov version with Assylmuratova. I am not sure that my eye is sharp enough to clearly differentiate all the fairies by employ, but my jaw dropped when I saw them line up (arms around each other, a corps girl holding “the end of the line” on either side, and two supporting the Lilac Fairy) and then do an arabesque, developpe avant, which is the same exact thing that the women in Divert do (supported by the three men), only in reverse (developpe, then arabesque).

Re: Neary’s Rubies. I can see how it might be tempting for a stager to present the role she happened to have danced as THE role in a ballet, but probably about as desirable as having an overbearing Lilac.

Rodney, judging from pictures and descriptions, Marie-Jeanne was a soubrette type dancer—small, virtuosic, and quick. I often get the feeling that whenever you have a soubrette doing a role in a classical (or romantic) vein, you also get a danseuse noble that acts like a spindle around which everything is wound (I am thinking of the tall girl in Rubies, Myrtha, Lilac). But the classical ballerina doesn’t need anyone else; she IS the Queen Bee :). Of course, there are too many exceptions to this in every direction. No idea where that would put “Mozartiana” with it's classical ballerina and a male second soloist. :unsure:

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re Divert and Sleeping Beauty. I was so intrigued by the idea that there might be a relationship there, I went back to watch the tape of the old Kirov version with Assylmuratova. I am not sure that my eye is sharp enough to clearly differentiate all the fairies by employ, but my jaw dropped when I saw them line up (arms around the next dancer’s back, a corps girl holding “the end of the line” on either side, and two supporting the Lilac Fairy) and then do an arabesque, developpe avant, which is the same exact thing that the women in Divert do (supported by the three men), only in reverse (developpe, then arabesque).

Roma, I've noticed that, too. But there's bits of Petipa sprinkled all through Balanchine. Now, wouldn't it be wonderful to know from where Petipa got it? :unsure:

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