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A Spandau Ballet?Question for ballet experts


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9 replies to this topic

#1 Guest_soldierblue_*

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Posted 20 April 2004 - 11:59 AM

Hello everyone!

I have a question which I would like help with if possible.

I am sure many of you will have heard of the British pop group from the 1980s called "Spandau Ballet". I would very much like to know if there was ever a real life ballet company (which would obviously have been located in the German district of Spandau, Berlin) called The Spandau Ballet.

In interviews during the 1980s the band members said there WAS a real life ballet company with this name which existed in the nineteenth century but I am not sure any weight can be placed on this. I have looked in a number of reference books (including Friedrich's Ballett-lexicon von A-Z) but have found no trace.

If anyone is able to help me get to the bottom of this matter one way or another I would be very grateful.

Thanks very much.

David

#2 Alexandra

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Posted 20 April 2004 - 02:08 PM

Hi, David -- welcome to Ballet Alert!

I asked a colleague who's quite knowledgeable about German ballet history, and he'd never heard of it, but said he will ask people he knows in the German ballet world and get back to us. It may well take a few days.

Thanks for the question.

#3 Guest_soldierblue_*

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Posted 20 April 2004 - 02:44 PM

Hello Alexandra,

Thank you very much for your welcome and your reply and, above all, for asking your friend. That is most kind of both you and your friend for taking the time to make enquiries. I will patiently wait the answer with keen interest!

Thanks again,

David

#4 Mel Johnson

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Posted 21 April 2004 - 04:07 AM

David, Spandau was an area of Berlin historically covered by the presence of a rather large fortress. Whether there were an historical ballet company or not, I think that the group may have more been influenced by the image of the postWWII war crimes prison (dark) and the image of ballet (light).

#5 Tancos

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Posted 21 April 2004 - 08:30 AM

According to the Spandau Ballet Unofficial Home Page, "The band's new name was derived from an inscription on a wall near a prison in Spandau, Berlin."

I've read somewhere that the term "Spandau ballet" referred to the twitching of the legs of prisoners there being executed by hanging.

#6 Alexandra

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Posted 21 April 2004 - 08:44 AM

I doubt that we're going to find anything -- I agree with Mel and Tancos. I think the group was just trying to pick a cool, provocative name. Or one that they thought was cool and provocative, not having put in much time there.

#7 Guest_soldierblue_*

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Posted 21 April 2004 - 09:47 AM

Hello Mel and Tancos, thank you both also for your replies.

I'm afraid I don't know much about ballet but I do know quite a lot about Spandau Ballet (the pop group!) having been a fan for some years. The name was suggested to them by a friend of the band, a journalist called Robert Elms, in 1979. They thought the name sounded "exotic", no doubt liking it for the sort of reasons Mel and Alexandra have put forward, and instantly adopted it. The standard story that all the band members now tell in interviews is that Elms later informed them that he had seen the words "Spandau Ballet" written on a toilet wall in a Berlin nightclub and thought it would be a great name for the band. On other occasions though Elms has said that the name actually came to him while passing Spandau prison and (bizarrely) wondering what the inmates did for entertainment, coming up with (even more bizarrely) ballet!

The rumour of "Spandau ballet" being the name for contortions of hanging victims (or sometimes gassing victims) in Spandau prison is one that has been around since the early 80s and is, I believe, completely false.

The possibility of Spandau Ballet possibly being a real company is suggested by the following comments: Band member Steve Norman said in a radio interview in June 1984: "I think there used to be an actual ballet company hundreds of years ago but they're not formed any more" and band member Gary Kemp was quoted in a 1986 book entitled "The Authorised Story of Spandau Ballet" as saying: "There was in fact a ballet in Spandau called Spandau Ballet in the nineteenth century. Basically we used the name Spandau Ballet because it had a lot more mystery than, say, Neasden Ballet". I do not think much reliance should be placed on these comments but they are essentially what has prompted my query.

However, I would like to stress that my query is independent of any connection between the band and the ballet company and I would like to know the answer regardless of whether or not the band's name was derived in any way from a real company. The question of whether there was in fact a real Spandau Ballet is one that has intrigued me for years but, despite my best efforts, I have never been able to establish the truth one way or another. It is certainly the case that if such a ballet company DID exist it must have been very small and obscure but that is really the difficulty I face in trying to answer the question.

To Alexandra, I would ask you not to give up just yet and if your friend is able to speak to anyone who might know I would be most grateful!

Thanks again to everyone who has contributed,

David

Edited by soldierblue, 21 April 2004 - 09:49 AM.


#8 Alexandra

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Posted 21 April 2004 - 10:28 AM

Don't worry, the queries are still out. We doubt it, though. If Spandau was ever a castle, there would have been court ballets performed there, but they wouldn't have been named "Spandau Ballet." I'll let you know what answers we get.

#9 JaneD

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Posted 21 April 2004 - 01:09 PM

I understood that "Spandau ballet" was the term used for the movements of the guards as they escorted prisoners across the courtyard of Spandau castle to their executions.

Jane

#10 Guest_soldierblue_*

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Posted 21 April 2004 - 03:32 PM

Alexandra - yes I've wondered where in Spandau any ballets would have been performed. I hadn't thought about the castle.

Jane - I would be interested in any documented occurence of the name "Spandau Ballet" before 1979. However, I suspect that the story you have heard only came into existence in the 1980s as a way of trying to explain the name of the band. I remember when I was younger thinking that the name must have something to do with the fact that the allied powers took it in turns to guard Rudolf Hess in Spandau prison with the constant changeover being like a dance, or ballet! But that was my own invention and totally wrong.

One point to add while I'm here. A couple of years ago I saw a postcard on ebay which was titled (by the seller) "Spandau Ballet". The picture on the postcard was of an audience inside a theatre (possibly nineteenth century) but I didn't notice anything to suggest they were at a ballet. To my eternal regret I did not bid for it or make any enquiries. At the time I thought the description was a mistake, there were no other details provided. But looking back now I wonder if I missed out on a chance to answer the question. Ah well....

David


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