This discussion began on the Darcey Bussell thread, but I would also love to hear what other posters remember about Maria Almeida, a fabulously gifted dancer with a frustratingly brief career.
volcanohunter, I'd LOVE to hear about Almeida's Aurora
I saw Maria Almeida dance Aurora not long before her self-imposed early retirement. Suffice it to say she was the finest Aurora I've seen. I never saw Gelsey Kirkland's Aurora, but I imagine that the experience must have been very similar. Edward Villella once described Kirkland as having "steel-like legs that are doing the most fantastic technical feats while the upper body is soft and lovely as though nothing were going on underneath." Almeida managed the same in Sleeping Beauty. She had wonderfully gracious classical style, in the best tradition of the Royal Ballet. Naturally she had gorgeous feet and fabulous extensions, but in her case, and this is pretty rare nowadays, I never found myself admiring them for their own sake. Her port de bras were exquisite, which is not a given these days either. She radiated femininity and serenity, so her princess was entirely believable. I have often found the vision scene a little frustrating, its static formality failing to live up to Tchaikovsky's ecstatic music, but Almeida was the sort of dancer who could make the poetry of the scene really come alive. I wish I could remember more details, but it was one of those rare performances that were so enchanting that my analytical brain shut down and I let myself be carried away by the rapture of it all. I can tell you it was the only time I wept during the Rose Adagio.
I don't know whether there are many films of Maria Almeida in the BBC archives, but I would dearly love to be able to see more of her. It's still a bit mystifying that a dancer who was so talented should have walked away from it all. Jonathan Cope, who knows her better than anyone, and who's obviously partial, said in an interview last spring, "She had everything, aesthetically, technically, artistically and was the greatest loss to the ballet world ever. God had given her everything but he hadnít given her the desire and she doesnít feel the need to get up and dance. She is perfectly happy now." No doubt this is very frustrating for all those with lots of desire and less talent!