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Walter Gorean appreciation by John Percival


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#1 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 08:12 AM

WALTER GORE

1910 – 1979

by John Percival

Before starting choreography, Walter Gore (Scottish, and first studying like his parents to be an actor) had already made his mark as one of British ballet's best male dancers, working during the 1930s with Marie Rambert's company, the Camargo Society and Sadler's Wells Ballet. Roles created on him included the Popular Song in “Facade” and the disreputable Lover in “Les Masques”, both by Frederick Ashton, the third dance in Antony Tudor's “Dark Elegies”, and the title part in “The Rake's Progress” by Ninette de Valois. He also briefly left ballet to arrange and perform dances in musicals.

On rejoining Ballet Rambert, as Tudor had left to form his own company, Gore copied his colleague Frank Staff in making ballets there. That's in 1938-40, before my time, but I did later pick up two expressive duets which Gore created and performed with Sally Gilmour for Oxford Ballet Club in 1941, notably “Confessional” based on a Browning poem. Staff is remembered for his satirically comic “Czernyana”, a vivid “Peter and the Wolf”, and (with Metropolitan Ballet) “Fanciulla delle rose” starring future Royal ballerina Svetlana Beriosova; but he returned to his homeland South Africa for the rest of a distinguished career before his early death.

Gore's further creations after war service (early discharge because his ship was twice torpedoed) ranged from the lively pure-dance “Simple Symphony” (which rightly delighted its composer Benjamin Britten) to the highly dramatic “Antonia”, a duet about jealousy and death featuring a new partner Paula Hinton; there was also the powerful autobiographical “Winter Night” in which he showed himself leaving Gilmour for Hinton. This made excellent use of Rachmaninoff's second piano concerto (Gore's understanding of music was often remarked) and introduced a fine designer, Kenneth Rowell. I should mention, perhaps, his outstanding Albrecht in Rambert's “Giselle” and such brilliant performances as the sailor hero of Andrée Howard's “The Sailor's Return”. But now, turning freelance, he worked for the New Ballet Company (“Street Games”, an endearing and enduring divertissement about children), Ballets des Champs-Elysées (“La Damnée” -- to Verdi) and Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet (“Carte blanche”). Thereafter he alternated between forming companies of his own, three of them in the course of time, and running or guesting with companies in Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Edinburgh, Norway, Lisbon, Augsburg, Glasgow etc.

In all he created some eighty or so ballets. Notable among them were “Mr. Punch” where his playing of the title role brought the traditional puppet to vivid life. “Eaters of Darkness” (Britten again – the Frank Bridge Variations) gave Hinton an unforgettable role as a woman who goes truly mad after being wrongly confined to an asylum by her unscrupulous husband. It could hardly be more different in mood from “The Night and Silence”, made to Bach music with Hinton and David Poole for Edinburgh International Ballet – a short-lived company but the work had several revivals. Gore and Hinton returned temporarily to Ballet Rambert to create “Sweet Dancer”, and “Embers of Glencoe” was commissioned from Gore as an evocation of Scottish history and a companion piece for Scottish Ballet's “La Sylphide”.

There are many of these and other creations by Gore which would have been well worth preserving as examples of his creativity, so why have they all disappeared? It isn't that they couldn't be done successfully without their original casts; that was demonstrated time and again, however much they showed of the special qualities of the creators. But because Gore's own companies died when he did, and because he moved frequently between other troupes, the works haven't been preserved. So many of the ballets by Britain's choreographers (yes, even some by Ashton and Tudor among them, and pretty well all the excellent output of Peter Darrell) have been allowed to disappear; Walter Gore's ballets are prominent among our losses – an extreme example but by no means the only one.

#2 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 08:19 AM

Eaters of Darkness was presented by the Chicago Ballet in the mid 1970s and I saw it then. What I recall of it is that it was very powerful and unusual to my somewhat untrained (!) eye at the time. The only dancer I remember in it was, I think, Carmen Mathe, but I would have to check that.

#3 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 08:23 AM

It's good to know that it was being done elsewhere -

Mme. Hermine - what other rarities were being done by Chicago Ballet - or any of the other companies you saw? Feel free to start a new topic if you want.

#4 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 08:27 AM

They did a ballet by Ray Powell (?) called One in Five, (I may be wrong this is out of my head), which I think was set by Richard Ellis and Christine DuBoulay. They did a ballet by Jack Carter called Pas de Fiancees (to the music from Swan Lake); a ballet by Domy Reiter-Soffer called Yerma. Frederic Franklin did a ballet called Tribute that used the music to Symphonic Variations, and there was a ballet called Danse Brillante that used the ballet music from Ruslan and Ludmila. They did, of course, Ruth Page and Bentley Stone's Frankie and Johnny and also Miss Page's Carmina Burana and Bolero. There's more but I have to shake the considerable cobwebs!

One cobweb removed. There was a ballet by Stuart Sebastian caled Saturday Afternoon at the Movies, a ballet by James Clouser called Con Spirito. They did Balanchine's Concerto Barocco. i remember a guest artist named Joanne Danto? They did Prodigal Son with Baryshnikov as the Prodigal. Frederic Franklin also set a Raymonda Pas de Dix for them.

They also did Facade. Ben Stevenson did the part of the Gigolo (though he wasn't called that then if I recall) with Carmen Mathe and I think Cynthia Ann Roses danced the Polka.

Many more cobwebs though. If you think it should be a separate topic, let me know.

#5 bart

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 09:09 AM

In all he created some eighty or so ballets.

[ ... ]

There are many of these and other creations by Gore which would have been well worth preserving as examples of his creativity, so why have they all disappeared? It isn't that they couldn't be done successfully without their original casts; that was demonstrated time and again, however much they showed of the special qualities of the creators. But because Gore's own companies died when he did, and because he moved frequently between other troupes, the works haven't been preserved. So many of the ballets by Britain's choreographers (yes, even some by Ashton and Tudor among them, and pretty well all the excellent output of Peter Darrell) have been allowed to disappear; Walter Gore's ballets are prominent among our losses – an extreme example but by no means the only one.

80 ballets !!! ".... why have they disappeared ... ? This is always an interesting question in the arts. It has particular poignancy with ballets of previous generations, where so much depends on memory of the participants who are now gone. I had a similar feeling when reading the very long list of Fokine's forgotten pre-Diaghilev ballets in Lynn Garafola's book, and when thinking about Alexandra's post (on another thread) of an article she wrote about Camargo and the ephemeral quality of long lost dance performances.

There's a sadness here. Ballet has no museum buildings in which to display living, moving ballets on the wall. It's not possible to present them frozen under spotlights.

Are there any reliable sources for Gore's ballets, or other lost ballets of tihs period in Britain? Any agencies that are devoted to preserving and reconstructing them?

#6 Andrei

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 09:12 AM

John, can you tell more about "Street Games", isn't any literarture piece behind it and who was the composer?

#7 JohnP

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 04:39 PM

Andrei, in reply to your question about Street Games, the music was by Ibert. There was no literary source: Gore himself invented the idea of children skipping, playing hopscotch, writing on the wall, etc, and a couple of older ones flirting. The BBC did a television version of it, with a Western Theatre Ballet cast, which was shown recently at the British Film Institute as part of a tribute to the producer, Margaret Dale.
Please let me add my congratulations and thanks for your wonderful evocation of Jacobson. I saw only some short pieces by him (e.g. The blind girl) apart from the Kirov's recent revival of The Bedbug, and now I have a far better idea of him. You might like to know, by the way, that when I was interviewing Makarova about something else she talked at length about how much she would have liked to revive some of his work.

#8 Alexandra

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 05:18 PM

Welcome, John, and thank you so much for joining in this project. I've never seen anything by Gore, and have always been curious about him -- you've made me more so!

#9 Richka

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Posted 06 August 2009 - 11:19 AM

In all he created some eighty or so ballets.

[ ... ]

There are many of these and other creations by Gore which would have been well worth preserving as examples of his creativity, so why have they all disappeared? It isn't that they couldn't be done successfully without their original casts; that was demonstrated time and again, however much they showed of the special qualities of the creators. But because Gore's own companies died when he did, and because he moved frequently between other troupes, the works haven't been preserved. So many of the ballets by Britain's choreographers (yes, even some by Ashton and Tudor among them, and pretty well all the excellent output of Peter Darrell) have been allowed to disappear; Walter Gore's ballets are prominent among our losses – an extreme example but by no means the only one.

80 ballets !!! ".... why have they disappeared ... ? This is always an interesting question in the arts. It has particular poignancy with ballets of previous generations, where so much depends on memory of the participants who are now gone. I had a similar feeling when reading the very long list of Fokine's forgotten pre-Diaghilev ballets in Lynn Garafola's book, and when thinking about Alexandra's post (on another thread) of an article she wrote about Camargo and the ephemeral quality of long lost dance performances.

There's a sadness here. Ballet has no museum buildings in which to display living, moving ballets on the wall. It's not possible to present them frozen under spotlights.

Are there any reliable sources for Gore's ballets, or other lost ballets of tihs period in Britain? Any agencies that are devoted to preserving and reconstructing them?


I am new to this forum so don't yet know if I am doing this right. We shall see, but I did want to comment on this subject of Walter Gore and his ballets.
I worked with Walter in 1970 while he was staging his Eaters of Darkness for Harkness Ballet. I notated it in Benesh notation and rehearsed it after Walter had left. We premiered it in Barcelona, Spain and later on in Lisbon, Portugal, where Walter and his wife Paula Hinton joined us. Paula danced the lead, with Zane Wilson and Vincente Nebrada. I have much to say about Walter and Paula, but I must wait to find out if this posting or reply has gone through and is of any importance. Remember, I am new at this forum and I could be doing it all wrong. We shall see.

#10 Alexandra

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Posted 06 August 2009 - 11:45 AM

Welcome, Richka. You did just great! And we would LOVE to hear your comments about working with Gore and Hinton.

#11 Mel Johnson

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Posted 06 August 2009 - 12:23 PM

...They also did Facade. Ben Stevenson did the part of the Gigolo (though he wasn't called that then if I recall)....


I don't think it was called then by its original name - the Dago.

#12 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 06 August 2009 - 12:40 PM

No, that's what it was called, The Debutante and The Dago. Carmen Mathe and Ben Stevenson.

#13 dirac

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Posted 06 August 2009 - 06:48 PM

I am new to this forum so don't yet know if I am doing this right. We shall see, but I did want to comment on this subject of Walter Gore and his ballets.
I worked with Walter in 1970 while he was staging his Eaters of Darkness for Harkness Ballet. I notated it in Benesh notation and rehearsed it after Walter had left. We premiered it in Barcelona, Spain and later on in Lisbon, Portugal, where Walter and his wife Paula Hinton joined us. Paula danced the lead, with Zane Wilson and Vincente Nebrada. I have much to say about Walter and Paula, but I must wait to find out if this posting or reply has gone through and is of any importance. Remember, I am new at this forum and I could be doing it all wrong. We shall see.


You're doing fine, Richka, as Alexandra said. Thank you for reviving this thread. Welcome to the board and please do tell us more.

#14 bart

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Posted 06 August 2009 - 07:04 PM

Definitely, please tell us more. The Harkness connection is especially interesting to me, since Vicente Nebrada and others associated with the Harkness Ballet later played a role in the development of Ballet Florida.

#15 Richka

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Posted 06 August 2009 - 10:01 PM

Definitely, please tell us more. The Harkness connection is especially interesting to me, since Vicente Nebrada and others associated with the Harkness Ballet later played a role in the development of Ballet Florida.


September/October 1970. I remember Walter Gore vividly as one of the kindest persons I have ever known. I just read one of the postings here that he and his wife Paula really loved birds. This fits with my memories of Walter, when he found an injured pidgeon in Central Park and brought it to Harkness House and set it on the piano where it stayed all through his rehearsal. I'm sure he took it back to his hotel and nursed it until it was well. That was Walter.

Eaters Of Darkness was not easy to notate. The actual dancing was easy but the pile ups of the corps dancers was really impossible. I took pictures of them instead. I don't think there was any pattern to it, just a heap of dancers. In revivals it would be the same. At first rehearsals Walter only set the principle dance parts and not knowing the ballet I wondered what was in store. Then he began with the actual inmates of the insane asylum. Basically staggering around and acting crazy but definately choreographed as far as one can do with that kind of thing. Walter was very fussy about the very start when the lead is pushed through a door upstage into the asylum. It had to be right on musical cue. When Walter left I rehearsed it before we left for the European tour. Vincente had not paid much attention to it at the beginning rehearsals so he was grateful I had his part notated. I don't know how many here have ever seen this ballet but it a highly dramatic and powerful story taken from real life. It has to have a perfect cast.

Along with Eaters, Walter also staged at the same time something called "The Light Fantastic" which we did on that tour. Mrs. Harkness did not like it so it was pulled after a few performances.

When Paula left, Linda DeBona danced her role in Eaters. There was a film made of it in Germany with that cast; Linda, Zane Wilson and Vincente.

Walter and Paula invited me to dine with them one evening in Lisbon, Portugal. They basically wanted me to leave Harkness and stay in Lisbon with them but I refused. Perhaps this was a wrong choice as I could have possibly gone on to stage his works all over the world for many years after. Walter was to die in 1979.
I still have the notated score and the Britten musical score. There was a video of it at Harkness House but of course when the company folded, who knows what happened to all those videos. I should have made copies while I was there. Ah, the things we SHOULD have done!

I took some pictures of Walter rehearsing Eaters but being a newbie here on this wonderful ballet forum, I don't know if pictures can be uploaded to it. Probably not.

I have other memories of Eaters and Walter and Paula for another time.

Vincente and Zane went on to Caracas where he had a company. They played Tucson, Arizona. where I live, several years ago with Vincente's breathtaking choreography.

More later.


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