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tigger

Alida Belair

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I've just read an autobiography (Out of Step) about this Australian dancer. Has anyone heard of her or seen her perform? She trained in Australia, Europe, and Russia, and danced with Rambert's company for a while. Whatever happened to her? The book stops abruptly and web searches haven't turned up much (some movie choreographing credits, but nothing about her career). Perhaps she changed her name? She was born Alida Glasbeek and apparently took several stage names before settling on Belair, but maybe it's changed again since then>

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I did a search, and I havent really come up with anything except this which is probley in the book:

-Alida Belair was born in 1944 in the south of France, where her parents were in hiding from the Nazis. Her family emigrated to Australia in 1949. She began studying ballet at the age of six, and joined the Borovansky Ballet Academy a year later. At the age of eleven she was chosen to play her first major role, with the Borovansky Ballet with whom she toured Australia over the following four years.

In 1962, at the age of eighteen, Alida travelled to Moscow, where she became the first Australian dancer to study with the Bolshoi Ballet Company. After her studies were interrupted by the Cuban missile crisis she went on to London, where she became a guest artist with the London ballet, the principal ballerina with Ballet Rambert. In 1966 she moved to the United States, where she danced with several prominent ballet companies including the American Ballet Theatre.

Sorry I wasnt much help.

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Thanks for looking! Yes, all of that is in the book. It stops a little bit after she goes to the States. Interesting tidbit: she mentions going into a bar where a lot of young actors hang out, including a certain Anthony Hopkins. I hadn't realized he was so old! :shhh:

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I saw Alida Belair dance the title role in "Coppelia" with Ballet Rambert at the Ashcroft Theatre in Croydon in 1964 (and still have the programme), but a couple of years later Rambert transformed itself into a modern dance company and all the more classically minded dancers left, including Belair.

I've also read her autobiography, "Out of Step" and consider it one of the better dance biographies around. She certainly writes with honesty and provides an invaluable insight into many of the dance personalities of the time.

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How fascinating, Mashinka! Was Croyden one of the smaller towns the company toured to (sorry, my knowledge of British geography is terrible)? Do you remember what her dancing was like? Did you enjoy the performance? It sounds like Mme Rambert would send her onstage with frightfully little preparation, did it show or just make it more exciting? From her photos it looks like she had a very expressive, very dramatic face even as a child. My apologies for all the questions, but it's so exciting to hear from someone who's actually seen her!

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First of all Tigger, I have to confess that 1964 was the first year of my ballet going career and I would be less than honest if I could claim to give you fair assessment of anyone’s dancing abilities back then. All I remember of Belair was that she was a rather glamorous girl who danced with a lot of panache and I certainly enjoyed the performance at the time.

Croydon is a very large town just outside London and the Ashcroft Theatre is what I would call a typical provincial venue suitable for a smaller touring company. Ballet Rambert had as its home base the tiny Mercury Theatre in Notting Hill, which was little more than a church hall. If you have ever seen the famous ballet film "The Red Shoes", the scene where Moira Shearer dances Swan Lake to a defective record player takes place in the Mercury Theatre and of course Marie Rambert herself is in that scene.

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(sorry for the late reply...)

Thanks for the interesting tidbits, Mashinka. I'll have to re-watch the Red Shoes.

I did suspect that you would've been too young to remember any performances from 1964 :D

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Out of Step: A Dancer Reflects is an extremely disturbing autobiography. Alida at the age of six starts ballet lessons and after a few lessons goes on pointe. Soon after she entered the Borovansky Ballet Academy. The book is threaded with the verbal cruelties and unrealistic expectations of Madame Borovansky, Marie Rambert and others; the compulsions of anorexia and the isolation of a child too soon thrust into an adult world.

Biographical information from web and newspaper articles. She is married to Simon Sempill with two children and is one of Australia's leading pilates practitioners. She has also written "Travel Pilates: Fitness To Go" and "How to Look Like a Dancer (Without Being One)".

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Here is a description on Alida's induction into Ballet Rambert:

The next day Rambert coolly announced that I would dance Giselle on the Saturday matinee. This time I had a day to learn an entirely new production of
Giselle
with a new company. Each of Mim's demands seemed more audacious than the last; in these past few days I had begun to discover that she was not only a hard taskmaster, but also incorrigibly Machiavellian.

My one rehearsal day was a shambles. It took place on the narrow strip of carpet between the front row of the stalls and the orchestra pit. While the rest of the company were rehearsing other sections of
Giselle
, their new leading lady was navigating herself around the kettle drums and the conductor's podium....

Apart from Ken [Ken Bannerman], who I had already been told would dance the role of Albrecht to my Giselle, I had not the foggiest notion who else was in the cast. I presumed that I would recognize Hilarian by his villainous make-up and attire. But how would I recognize the friends with whom Giselle had supposedly grown up?"....

When I
balloneéed
out of Giselle's cottage on that Saturday matinee, I felt so disorientated that I might as well have landed on the moon. I tried to familiarize myself with my new terrain, new props and people as quickly as I could. It wouldn't do to look as if I didn't recognize my own front door! Once again I was steered through most of the first act by assorted helping hands, Ken's brilliant partnering and some (at times conflicting) instructions from the wings."

Page 200 of
Out of Step: A Dancer Reflects
by Alida Belair

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