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Maria Almeida


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#1 volcanohunter

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Posted 21 November 2006 - 03:59 PM

volcanohunter, I'd LOVE to hear about Almeida's Aurora

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.

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!

#2 ami1436

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Posted 22 November 2006 - 06:11 AM

volcanohunter,

Thank you! :tiphat: I've seen a few pictures of Almeida, but no clips of her dancing. I think next year I may go on a BBC archive hunt and report back should I find anything.

I'm a huge Jonathan Cope fan, based on what I've seen of him in his *last few years* of dancing... which led me to 'discover' Maria Almeida, only to see that there's very very very little information available about her, at least from what I've seen.

Cope said in another interview a few years ago that she is coaching and judging a bit, but did not say where. I will see if I can find that article.

Muchas gracias!

Ami

#3 volcanohunter

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Posted 22 November 2006 - 11:28 AM

Thank you! :tiphat: I've seen a few pictures of Almeida, but no clips of her dancing. I think next year I may go on a BBC archive hunt and report back should I find anything.

Ami, the only clips I have of Almeida are from the 1985 telecast of the Royal Ballet's Nutcracker. She dances Columbine in act 1 and the dance of the mirlitons in act 2, though telling the dancers apart in that selection is difficult since all of them are wearing identical caramel-coloured wigs. That film also features Jonathan Cope as the Mouse King and in the Arabian dance. It may not offer much of a glimpse of Almeida, but it's worth seeing for Lesley Collier's magnificent Sugar Plum Fairy and the incredible stylistic unity she shares with Anthony Dowell, something sadly absent from the performance of Miyako Yoshida and Cope 15 years later. Not that I blame Cope. Originally he was to have danced in that broadcast with Darcey Bussell, but she became injured. Why the Royal Ballet decided to replace one of its tallest ballerinas with one of its smallest is beyond me. (Call me funny, but I often resent seeing tall male dancers "wasted" on little ballerinas.) On balance I definitely prefer the older performance. Yoshida is no Collier.

If you plan to go clip hunting, it would be worth investigating whether Ashton's Ondine was filmed when it was revived in 1988 with Almeida in the title role. Now that's something I'd love to see.

#4 ami1436

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Posted 23 November 2006 - 03:36 AM

Thanks! I actually own that version of the Nutcracker but so far have only watched the Sugar Plum Fairy gpdd (and yes, Collier sparkles. How I wish I had seen her live).

I'll have to make it the Nutcracker to watch this Christmas!

And, I'll definitely hunt - Ondine would be fab. Will have to wait til January, but I'll definitely report back. :)

#5 leighton

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 08:15 AM

Have just discovered the post from "volcanohunter" dated Nov 2006, ironicaly doing a google search for Maria Almeida.
I worked in the Royal ballet wardrobe department from 1984 to 87 and knew her personally.
She was the finest and most beautiful ballet artist i ever saw. She was promoted from soloist to principal during the time i was there, As "volcanohunter" so rightly pointed out, her "Aurora" was simply magical. I too cried over those rose adagio's!
I remember a particularly amazing one she performed on tour in Japan in 1987. Her final balances were so prolonged that the audience burst into spontaneous applause. Accustomed to clapping only at the end of the piece and unable to hear the music, Maria was thrown and thought that she had somehow got behind the music. She adeptly went from her attitude balance to finish position only for the applause to die down and realised she had some time left to go. So she just hung there untill the finish. Can't think of anyone else (other than the superb Jennifer Penney) who could have turned such a potential disaster into a feat of sheer brilliance!
Also enchanted by her Giselle. Partnered by Sir Anthony Dowell she was absolutely surreal.
Sadly never saw her perform Bayadere or Ondine. Had left by then.
Criminal that none of her full length pieces were ever filmed. She did perform the "Bluebird" pas de deux with Errol Pickford for a dance contest which was televised around this time. Would love to see that again.
Have seen many since; but there will never be another one like Maria. Very special lady.


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