Posted 05 December 2004 - 11:07 AM
Posted 05 December 2004 - 05:41 PM
Ari gathered together a wonderful collection of obits and appreciations for Dame Alicia on Links, December 3, and I thought they should also be on this thread:
Dame Alicia Markova died yesterday at the age of 94.
As one of the greatest ballerinas of the 20th century, Dame Alicia's contribution to British cultural life was profound. Born plain Lilian Alicia Marks in Finsbury Park, London, she was renamed "Markova", by the Russian impresario Sergei Diaghilev, her early champion, when she was plucked from her Chelsea ballet class to join his famous Ballets Russes in 1925, aged 14.
Diaghilev called her his "English daughter"; she called him "Sergypop".
She was crucial to the invention of British ballet, dancing for Marie Rambert and with the Vic-Wells (now Royal) Ballet from the early 1930s.
She will for ever be associated with Giselle — her 1960 autobiography is called Giselle And I — but her range was far, far wider than that. She created roles for all the great choreographers of the 20th century and, during her performing career, she was an ambassador for ballet comparable only to Anna Pavlova, dancing in places where classical dancing of her quality had never been seen before.
Unlike Pavlova, though, Markova always welcomed the new. Giselle was the ballet most closely associated with her, but she combined a love for the classics with an appetite for modernity. She was the clay for some of the 20th century's greatest choreographers when they too were just starting out — George Balanchine, Frederick Ashton, Antony Tudor. She starred in some of Leonid Massine's biggest, most important ballets.
Her undeveloped androgynous body and fearless male-type technique contrasted with the sophisticated femininity of Diaghilev's famed ballerinas, and was a valuable spark to the modern revolution.
Henri Matisse designed daring all-over leotards for her (now standard ballet kit), Igor Stravinsky found her able to absorb new musical ideas readily, and — because of her emotional immaturity — the choreographer George Balanchine began to conceive a more abstract kind of female dancing, driven by music rather than drama.
Minute they may have been, but those feet had arefined strength. Her technique, according to the choreographer Agnes de Mille, was "prodigious". Yet she exhibited none of the muscularity of today's dancers, who have a lighter workload than she ever had. As Markova once said: "The great dancers were all great athletes — if you analyse Pavlova, for instance. But they didn't look it. That was what fascinated the audience."
But the tiny fee which was all Rambert could afford was only enough to keep Markova in ballet shoes; to support herself she also had to dance three times a day between films in a cinema at Marble Arch, the choreography again by Ashton.
Posted 05 December 2004 - 07:38 PM
Posted 05 December 2004 - 09:38 PM
Amy Reusch said:
Alexandra, I think it's part of her mystique that someone threatened her life over her dancing... and went to lengths to try to stop her... Markova put it in her own biography, I don't think she felt embarrassed by it...I think it's history not gossip.
Funny thing about history is that it is sometimes gossip repeated so many times that it becomes "true." Markova, in her book "Markova Remembers", does not mention sabotage and the whole incident appears to be a mistake:
Markova had one of the most remarkable careers, hitting every major point in 20th century dance: Diaghlev, Fokine, Balanchine, Massine, famed Ballet Russe spinoffs, Ashton, Sadler Wells, Tudor, ABT, Robbins, a great partnership with Dolin, starting the London Festival Ballet, bringing ballet to the regions...
Of course, I never saw her dance live, but her taped solo in the opening act of Giselle is the best I've ever seen and I subconciously judge all dancers by it.
Posted 05 December 2004 - 10:55 PM
Posted 06 December 2004 - 10:01 AM
Amy Reusch, on Dec 6 2004, 02:55 AM, said:
The incident you refer to is in Maurice Leonard's book "Markova The Legend". It is very lively reading (all you need is to put Serge Lifar in the mix). Leonard fully covers the 'costume' scandale and then goes on to her debut in New York (with Lifar, who was still smarting over the 'costume' incident). Someone thrust a note into Markova's hands---"Don't dance Giselle tomorrow night or....." Danilova and Hurok warned her not to be alone for the evening---and along with Danilova, Franklin and Youskevitch went to a Rodeo (not the ballet, but a genuine event at Madison Square Garden). Nothing sinister happened but she spent the night with Danilova....Next day she told Hurok to let Toumanova dance...he refused but implemented a full-scale security alert and omitted the trapdoor.
It gets better---Lifar used real lillies in Act II which could be slippery....and on the se cond performance in Act I, as she sat on Lifar's knee, he slipped and Lifar rolled on top of her and crushed her foot....without telling the audience, Slavenska showed up in Act II---a brilliant redhead. (I saw Slevenska in later performances of Giselle and I can attest to the brilliance of her hair; a sexy terre-a-terre dancer)
Do we have any performers today who could compare to this skulduggery?
Posted 06 December 2004 - 10:02 AM
Excerpts of Dame Alicia's fabulous Giselle may be seen in the commercially-released (ca 1980) VHS tape, 'A Portrait of Giselle.' She also appeared in various long-ago-telecast documentaries, such as 'Tales of Helpman,' 'Central Ballet of China On the Go,' and Makarova's 'Ballerina' series.
Posted 06 December 2004 - 07:25 PM
I think Markova also made a pilgrimage to visit Spessitseva, but, typically, I can't remember much of that either. Perhaps Spessitseva was already in an asylum. (talk about drama... there's Hollywood material in Spessitseva's life... but perhaps the outcome is too sad... I suppose it would have to be about another ballerina's obsession with Spessitseva, just to have some plot outlet from the impending doom).
Back on topic, however, here's a link to and excerpt from Jane Pritchard's "Appreciation of Dame Alicia Markova, DBE" on ENB's site. Jane Pritchard is the archivist for the English National Ballet. Dame Alicia Markova, Prima Ballerina Assoluta, Founder and President of English National Ballet: "The People's Ballerina"
I didn't realize La Chatte had a special floor. I wonder what it was made of?
Posted 06 December 2004 - 11:27 PM
This is off the top of my head, but I think some of the settings were made of mica. I don't know about the floor.
Posted 07 December 2004 - 04:31 AM
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