rg

Dick Beard

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Dick Beard, a dancer I know of primarily from Julie Kavanagh's SECRET MUSES, died on Saturday, July 25th, in Los Angeles, California, where he lived, according to an email sent to a colleague by a close friend of Beard's.

apparently in addition to everything else, Beard was serious dance historian in his post-performing years.

the attached photo scan comes from David Leddick's 'The Male Nude' (Taschen).

post-848-1248732603_thumb.jpg

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Thank you for posting this sad news, rg. I too know of Beard only through Secret Muses, but I thought his comments as relayed by Kavanagh stood out for their candor and intelligence.

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I do remember him as a 'corps' member of ballet theatre and he was quite impressive looking on stage.

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It's fascinating Googling Beard. His performing career, with so many gigs, so many venues, gives you an idea of how a dancer had to hustle to get work in the 40s and 50s. Someone is quoted in Kavanagh's Ashton biography as saying,

Dick should have been a star. He had so much going for him -- Nora Kaye used to say that he had the best pair of legs since Serge Lifar -- but he was lazy. He rested on his glamour.

That may be true. When you are young and very beautiful, perhaps you don't work as hard as you might. But my impression drawn from the references on Google is that he got himself quite a variety of gigs with a variety of choreographers. Think of it: Ballet Theater (Pillar of Fire), New York City Ballet (Robbins' Age of Anxiety), dancing on TV variety shows (Your Show of Shows).

Maybe not the a career Kaye or Ashton would have liked for him. But ... he worked.

rg, do you have any details about his post-retirement work as a dance historian?

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I do remember him as a 'corps' member of ballet theatre and he was quite impressive looking on stage.

He certainly photographed well.

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Dick Beard, a dancer I know of primarily from Julie Kavanagh's SECRET MUSES, died on Saturday, July 25th, in Los Angeles, California, where he lived, according to an email sent to a colleague by a close friend of Beard's.

apparently in addition to everything else, Beard was serious dance historian in his post-performing years.

the attached photo scan comes from David Leddick's 'The Male Nude' (Taschen).

The photo was one of a set taken by George Platt Lynes

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The photo was one of a set taken by George Platt Lynes

Thank you for that credit, rjw2. I'm sure some of our readers will recognize the Lynes style. For others, it may serve as an introduction to the photographer.

Welcome to BalletTalk.

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Dick Beard, a dancer I know of primarily from Julie Kavanagh's SECRET MUSES, died on Saturday, July 25th, in Los Angeles, California, where he lived, according to an email sent to a colleague by a close friend of Beard's.

apparently in addition to everything else, Beard was serious dance historian in his post-performing years.

the attached photo scan comes from David Leddick's 'The Male Nude' (Taschen).

I only know about Dick Beard from the Secret Muses book which is mostly about Sir Frederic Ashton's

relationship and obsession with him. The correspondence between them is fascinating as anyone who read the book knows. Sir Fred wanted to bring him in to the Royal Ballet company but at that time it would have been impossible in England for a foreigner (as an American, Beard would have been a foreigner) to join. He possibly could have gotten a work permit from the Home Office as a 'foreign artist'. Now of course it's entirely different and RB is in fact made up of mostly non-British.

Does anyone know how old Dick Beard was when he died, and from what cause. He must have been fairly old if he was a Principal with ABT during the 1940s.

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I only know about Dick Beard from the Secret Muses book which is mostly about Sir Frederic Ashton's

relationship and obsession with him. The correspondence between them is fascinating as anyone who read the book knows. Sir Fred wanted to bring him in to the Royal Ballet company but at that time it would have been impossible in England for a foreigner (as an American, Beard would have been a foreigner) to join. He possibly could have gotten a work permit from the Home Office as a 'foreign artist'. Now of course it's entirely different and RB is in fact made up of mostly non-British.

Does anyone know how old Dick Beard was when he died, and from what cause. He must have been fairly old if he was a Principal with ABT during the 1940s.

Richka,

Beard was born in 1926 making him 83 when he died.

However, you're inaccurate on several counts. Beard was offered a place in the Sadlers Wells Touring Company, (now Birmingham Royal Ballet) which he declined he wanted a position in the Sadlers Wells Ballet (now Royal Ballet) based at Covent Garden. Although Ashton kept promising to get him a spot in the main company De Valois wasn't ameneable to this.

It was actually far far easier for Americans to work in the UK and vice versa back then and it's far harder now for foreign artists to achieve work permit status, let alone full residency status in the UK. Indeed with the current political climate and the UK's increasingly stringent policies regarding foreign nationals taking up qualified positions within the UK, the Government recently amended their criteria allowing highly trained ballet dancers to not have to submit to the university qualification criteria.

Also back then the company was composed of New Zealanders, Australians, South Africans, Russians, Rhodesians, Lithuanians, Canadians etc (to name a few nationalities off the top of my head) the only difference real difference was that the majority had been trained at the Sadlers Wells Ballet school (now Royal Ballet school) as opposed to coming to the company fully formed in other schools and companies as is now the case because the school can't seem to produce viable stars.

Also Dick Beard was never a principal with American Ballet Theatre, (then simply called Ballet Theatre) he was a corps de ballet dancer, who was elevated to certain roles because Anthony Tudor was sexually attracted to him, ditto Ashton when he saw him in 1946 in Pillar of Fire. If anything the consensus was that his physical beauty detracted from his becoming the dancer he had the potential to be.

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Thank you, Simon.

Dick should have been a star. He had so much going for him -- Nora Kaye used to say that he had the best pair of legs since Serge Lifar -- but he was lazy. He rested on his glamour.

Maybe not the a career Kaye or Ashton would have liked for him. But ... he worked.

If anything the consensus was that his physical beauty detracted from his becoming the dancer he had the potential to be.

There’s a difference between working decently hard and the focused dedication required for reaching the top in ballet, and it sounds as if the latter is what Beard was lacking. ‘Lazy’ is perhaps a little harsh but the very young and gorgeous can get accustomed to having good things materialize for them.

Could also be that Beard was happy as he was and didn’t want to get consumed by his career.

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Arlene Croce's 1997 New Yorker article on Ashton includes the following quote (Ashton writing to Beard):

I think that it is so wonderful that you who are so beautiful want to see your beauty and spread beauty from out of your being.

My goodness! Or, as a teenager might put it nowadays: "OMG!"

I don't believe that the article -- "The Loves of His Life," May 19, 1997, issue -- has been reprinted in any of Croce's collections.

http://archives.newyorker.com/default.aspx...derek#folio=084

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Arlene Croce's 1997 New Yorker article on Ashton includes the following quote (Ashton writing to Beard):
I think that it is so wonderful that you who are so beautiful want to see your beauty and spread beauty from out of your being.

My goodness! Or, as a teenager might put it nowadays: "OMG!"

I don't believe that the article -- "The Loves of His Life," May 19, 1997 -- has been reprinted in any of Croce's collections.

Bart,

I think "teenage" is the operative word. Ashton was obviously in thrall and also liked euphemism in his love letters. The one I liked reprinted in the Kavanagh was when Ashton wrote about Beard "showering him with stars".

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Simon, the Ashton story is indeed well documented. However, you write in an earlier post that Beard

was elevated to certain roles because Anthony Tudor was sexually attracted to him. (Boldface is added.)

I've been dipping into some of the literature on Beard -- and rechecking some stuff about Tudor -- and have not found such a suggestion. Considering the implications, I'd appreciate any documentation you have for this statement.

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Simon, the Ashton story is indeed well documented. However, you write in an earlier post that Beard
was elevated to certain roles because Anthony Tudor was sexually attracted to him. (Boldface is added.)

I've been dipping into some of the literature on Beard -- and rechecking some stuff about Tudor -- and have not found such a suggestion. Considering the implications, I'd appreciate any documentation you have for this statement.

I'm not sure I understand what the implications are? I didn't say he wanted to have sex with him but was attracted to his youtful and sexual allure, hence the casting in ballets where he had little or nothing to do except "be" an object of desire and Tudor's excommunication of Beard from Ballet Theatre after the machinations of Kaye to win Beard for Ashton.

Sexual attraction needn't be a salacious or seedy thing, it's merely a fact of human nature.

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Richka,

Beard was born in 1926 making him 83 when he died.

However, you're inaccurate on several counts. Beard was offered a place in the Sadlers Wells Touring Company, (now Birmingham Royal Ballet) which he declined he wanted a position in the Sadlers Wells Ballet (now Royal Ballet) based at Covent Garden. Although Ashton kept promising to get him a spot in the main company De Valois wasn't ameneable to this.

It was actually far far easier for Americans to work in the UK and vice versa back then and it's far harder now for foreign artists to achieve work permit status, let alone full residency status in the UK. Indeed with the current political climate and the UK's increasingly stringent policies regarding foreign nationals taking up qualified positions within the UK, the Government recently amended their criteria allowing highly trained ballet dancers to not have to submit to the university qualification criteria.

Also back then the company was composed of New Zealanders, Australians, South Africans, Russians, Rhodesians, Lithuanians, Canadians etc (to name a few nationalities off the top of my head) the only difference real difference was that the majority had been trained at the Sadlers Wells Ballet school (now Royal Ballet school) as opposed to coming to the company fully formed in other schools and companies as is now the case because the school can't seem to produce viable stars.

Also Dick Beard was never a principal with American Ballet Theatre, (then simply called Ballet Theatre) he was a corps de ballet dancer, who was elevated to certain roles because Anthony Tudor was sexually attracted to him, ditto Ashton when he saw him in 1946 in Pillar of Fire. If anything the consensus was that his physical beauty detracted from his becoming the dancer he had the potential to be.

Thanks for this information. And your corrections. You seem to know lots about the U.K. policies regarding foreigners. I read Secret Muses when it first came out around early 90s I believe. so must have forgotten many details about Dick Beard. In the mid 1960s I joined a small touring ballet company in London and had to, as American, go to the Home Office for a work permit as a 'foreign artist'. That was the title though I was little more than a youngster with experience only in Summer stock. It was quite easy to get at that time and I had no trouble for nearly a year until British Equity kept after me to join. As this would have cost a fortune (I was making 15 pounds a week, girls made 5) I decided to quit. Actually I had planned on going to the Soviet Union anyway for study, and did.

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[

Thanks for this information. And your corrections. You seem to know lots about the U.K. policies regarding foreigners. I read Secret Muses when it first came out around early 90s I believe. so must have forgotten many details about Dick Beard. In the mid 1960s I joined a small touring ballet company in London and had to, as American, go to the Home Office for a work permit as a 'foreign artist'.

Richka,

There was a big deal made about this in the British press only recently. The UK has become super vigilant in the "War on Terror" including all applications by foreign nationals to work and live in the UK. (That is when we're not releasing Libyan mass murdering terrorists after only 7 years in prison on "compassionate (BP oil) grounds")

Part of this increased "xenophobia" is a clamp down on foreign nationals taking British jobs, the criteria for this means that now any non Brit must have paper proof of exceptional qualifications in order to take a job that could go to an equally qualified Brit. However, since ballet dancers qualifications are totally non academic the Royal Opera House and Tony Hall spearheaded a campaign for exceptional circumstances in the case of artists such as dancers, opera singers etc which was passed as it's been several hundred years (slight hyperbole here) since a British dancer of any real note or worth has risen through the ranks of a British ballet company to achieve star or international star status.

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All rules regarding employment in the UK are ultimately subject to EU regulations. We cannot make our own laws if they do not conform to EU legislation.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) published the first review of the shortage occupation lists for skilled workers coming to the United Kingdom from outside the European Economic Area.

The shortage occupation list has three stringent tests: the occupation in question must be sufficiently skilled, there must be a shortage of workers and it must be sensible to fill this shortage with workers from outside the European Economic Area.

Professional dancers are on the Shortage Occupation list.

Dancers are required to be sponsored by the employing dance company to work in Britain.

In England, dancers can now study for BA (Hons) Ballet and Contemporary Dance.

At the Royal Ballet School, "In academic areas most students will complete one A level (current choice is from Art, English, Maths and French) and two BTEC National Awards in Performing Arts. (Students complete the award in Dance in the first year and Arts Management in the second.) For overseas students there is an excellent provision for English as a Foreign Language."

Updated legislation can be read at:

http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecont...for_dancers.pdf

Apologies for going further off topic.

Amended 07.47

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Apologies for going further off topic.

Yes, let's get back to Beard's legs, shall we? :wink:

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Nora said it, we didn’t. :wink:

I never thought Lifar’s legs were so great, actually, but Kaye and I may not share the same tastes. Lew Christensen’s were much better, IMO. No, let’s not start a topic....

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Nora said it, we didn’t. :wink:

I never thought Lifar’s legs were so great, actually, but Kaye and I may not share the same tastes. Lew Christensen’s were much better, IMO. No, let’s not start a topic....

"Legs" doesn't have legs, huh?

Ammended to add: and if we created a post called "Dick Beard's Legs," it might be the first in which each word refers to a body part...

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Ahem. This is a decorous board.

Boy, it really is August. Or the tag end of summer, I should say.

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The following points concerning Dick Beard come from an email sent me by Alastair Macaulay, who has agreed to my posting it here:

Dick died of lung cancer from which he had been suffering for nine years;

only in the last few months did he admit it was irreversible. He had a close

friend, Jim, who looked after him constantly. Julie Kavanagh and Alastair

Macaulay kept in regular touch with him; and Alastair Macaulay (then

visiting LA) saw him this April, when Dick was still vivid and often funny

in conversation. Apart from dancing for Tudor, Balanchine, and Ashton

("Illuminations"), Dick Beard was in the first NYCB performances of Merce

Cunningham's "The Seasons" (especialling requesting to dance in this). He

partnered Yvonne Mounsey in NYCB's first performances of "The Four

Temperaments"; they danced Second Theme, were great friends and laughed a

great deal. He and Mounsey (who also lives - and still teaches - in LA) were

in touch again this April. In the last year of his life, he sold the letters

Ashton had written him to the Royal Opera House archive. In his house he

kept originals by Tchelitchew (whom he had known) and Berman (including the

original 3-D set model for "Concerto Barocco").

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Thanks for that, rg.

The range of the choreographers he worked with is rather impressive. Surely his beauty and sexual allure, significant though they obviously were, are just not enough to explain his career.

In the absence of a video record, Beard survives -- as do so many in her generation -- almost exclusively in still photographs, memoirs, anecdotes, and in critical reviews by people who often were not dance specialists. This is a real loss.

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In addition to what has been posted here, Dick had a long and successful career after leaving NYCB. He first formed a cabaret act, The Cabots, with Frank Sabella and Marion Saunders appearing throughout the United States at such venues as the Palmer House in Chicago and Bill Miller's Rivera in New York as well as appearing twice nightly for over a year at the Lido in Paris.

Next came the move to Hollywood and television choreography as has been mentioned. In addition to choreography he was often called upon to appear with stars of the programs including Juliet Prouse and Cyd Charisse.

He retired at his home in Hollywood but stayed in contact with not just Yvonne Mounsey (above) but Tatiana Riabouchinska, Nick Magallanes, Richard Thomas, Nancy Norman Lassalle, Paula Lloyd, Natalia Claire (for whom he taught classes at her school and staged ballets for her performances) and especially Roy Tobias and Fernand Nault, who often visited from Korea and Canada respectively as house guests.

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