Alymer

Alexander Grant

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I've learned that Alexander Grant died late on Friday night. The actual cause of death seems to have been pneumonia, but he had been in hospital for some time following complcations after an operation.

He was a great dancer and a nice man.

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What sad news.

Rest in peace, Mr. Grant.

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Very sad news indeed. He did his final performance (I was told) here in Washington as Alain in "La Fille Mal Gardee" in 1976, if I'm remembering correctly (and I think I am, as that was my first full season of ballet). That's the only time I saw him on stage, but he is a legend.

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Didn't Ashton give him the rights to Fille because he made such a wonderful Alain? I see no mention of it in his wikipedia entry.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Grant_(dancer) ) I feel the wonderful Fille performances i saw at Boston Ballet and the Paris Opera were so because of Mr. Grant's gift for restaging. Thank you Alexander Grant for inspiring so many smiles.

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From Julie Kavanagh's biography of Ashton:

Alain is an even greater comic creation [than the Widow], a gift of love to Alexander Grant. The reeacted simpleton is never the maudlin figure he could have easily become, but combines the radiant stupidity that characterized Ashton's Cochenille in The Tales of Hoffmann with an endearing eccentricity encapsulated in his affection for his red umbrella. "Fred didn't want him to be an idiot. He's not tring to be sillyi, it's just his nature." His weak knees and turned-in toes recalled Grant's acclaimed portrayial of Petrkushka, another role hwich he took great care not to make self-pitying. Alain is a performance of perfect pitch; even his oafish dances are underplayed, with Ashton incorporating a private tribute to Grant's own idiosyncratically abandoned jumps. The dancer's main model came not from ballet but the theatre. Grant took his character's happy-go-lucky independence from Oliver Goldsmith's spurned suitor, Tony Lumpkin, whose catchphrase is "Ecod! I'll not be made a fool of no longer": the heroine could marry whom she pleases, and Alain, like Tony Lumpkin, would be "his own man again."

Possibly through nostalgia (or even settling old scores), Ashton gave Alexander Grant, rather than Nerina, the end of each act -- a perfect balance, whatever the motive may have been. Clutching his umbrella he takes flight in the storm as the curtain falls at half-times; in the final scene, he creeps back into the cottage to retrieve it. The epilogue may be derivative, but Ashton makes it seem not only original but also predestined: a good-natured, good-humoured indulgence of Alain's umbrella obsession, which sends the audience home chuckling.

Oddly, I was thinking of Petruschka when I watched the Russian dancer in the video linked by Mme. Hermine. There's the impression of a wonderful looseness of movement. And ... what about that buttock-wiggling crab-walk away from the camera right at the beginning of the clip? LOVE it.

Here's a photo of Grant (on the right), Nureyev, and Wayne Sleep -- the three Petrushka's in the Royal's 1975 season.

http://pix.avaxnews....320_medium.jpeg

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Didn't Ashton give him the rights to Fille because he made such a wonderful Alain? I see no mention of it in his wikipedia entry.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Grant_(dancer) ) I feel the wonderful Fille performances i saw at Boston Ballet and the Paris Opera were so because of Mr. Grant's gift for restaging. Thank you Alexander Grant for inspiring so many smiles.

Very sad indeed. I was hoping that ABT would revive La Fille.Mal Gardee this coming season with him staging and coaching the company.May he rest in peace.

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I am very sorry to hear this news! Does anyone know how old Mr. Grant was? A real loss to the ballet world.

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Very sad indeed. I was hoping that ABT would revive La Fille.Mal Gardee this coming season with him staging and coaching the company.May he rest in peace.

He spoke at a Dance Critics Association conference the last time he worked on Fille for ABT and he was full of fun! As I understand it, he did own the rights to the ballet, but I'm not sure if they revert to the Ashton estate on his death.

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Such a loss, indeed - one of the last and most important, if not the most important, direct links to Ashton. Grant takes so much with him. He has a monument -- an enduring monument, one hopes -- in the roles Ashton made for him that are warrant for and witness to his unique gifts.

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Sad news--a great, great dancer. The first time I saw the Royal was a performance of La Fille Mal Gardee at the Met in 1970 and he was Alain, hilarious and heartbreaking!

I thought his last performance with the Royal was as the husband in A Month in the Country--they were on tour in D.C. Grant took a solo bow at the end of that performance, and I was one of a group who waited backstage for him. When he saw us, he said several times how touched/surprised he was (I can't remember his exact words) that this tribute from fans was happening in Washington D.C.

A Washingtonian myself I was quite irritated when several people there rushed to tell him that they were from New York and did so exactly as he was expressing how touching it was that this would happen in Washington...I realize they probably wanted him to know that they had come down especially for the performance, though there also seemed just a whiff of disdain (intentional or not) for anyone who was not a New Yorker in their manner of rushing past his pleasure at being well-known among Washington ballet fans--which, of course, he was.

In that performance of A Month in the Country he once again brought great depth and humanity to a character who might seem merely a clueless or insensitive dolt...one was able to feel for him even while understanding his wife's frustration and disappointment.

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I worked with Mr. Grant in the late seventies and in the eighties when Mr. Joffrey was alive. Mr. Grant coached me in the roles of Puck and Alain. He was a very kind teacher. He also created the role of Drosselmeyer in Mr. Joffrey's THE NUTCRACKER. Later as a ballet master for Joffrey in Chicago I was given the opportunity to accompany six dancers to Birmingham, England to perform Monotones as part of a BRB "Tribute to Sir Fred and Mr. B". Though I had rehearsed the dancers to bend like the Royal Ballet dancers, I warned them that his one criticism of our performance would be "They don't BEND" and when it happened I had to smile.

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While he was a wonderful performer, I best remember Alexander Grant as a juror, then an emcee, at the Jackson Int'l Ballet Competitions in the early years. This gentleman knew how to have FUN and always had a sparkle in his eye. He will be missed & he leaves behind LOTS of friends in the USA, not least in Jackson, Mississippi. May he rest in peace.

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There is an obituary by Anna Kisselgoff in the print edition of the Ny Times today. In regards to the character he created, Alain:

Although many called Mr. Grant a character dancer, he was more of a classical dancer who used ballet technique in a demi-caractère style, which is less concerned with academic niceties.
It was Mr. Grant’s ability to portray a character through dancing rather than mime that made him outstanding. Ashton recognized this quality and cast him as the Jester in his new “Cinderella” (1948).

There's a nice photo -- quite UN-Alain -- of Grant seducing a supine Margot Fonteyn. The date is 1951. Is this from Daphnis and Chloe?

http://www.nytimes.c...&ref=obituaries

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Yes, it's Daphnis and Chloe, but unfortunately I think it's Michael Somes and Violetta Elvin rather than Grant and Fonteyn. (It's miscaptioned on the Getty site)

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I thought people might be interested in this example of how much Alain meant to Alexander Grant. I was in charge of the Dance Critics' Association conference when Alexander Grant came to speak--it was the year that ABT did their wonderful La Fille. Mr. Grant could not have been nicer--I was responsible for him, and managed not to make a complete fool of myself. Since he seemed so interested in everything, I did send him a copy of my review of La Fille in Ballet Review, where I talked about Alain. I had remembered his Alain, where, in the storm scene, he got a wonderful gleam in his eye looking at his umbrella. In the ABT production, the Widow Simone pointed out the umbrella to Alain, as if saying, you are such a dunderhead, you don't even know what an umbrella is. I said that I missed that little moment of Alain's triumph, but that, since Alexander Grant had set the ABT version, they must have it right. I got the nicest letter back (which I plan to have buried with me), and he said "I was delighted that you commented on Alain's moment when he says "look I am not so silly I am the only one with an umbrella"--it was a favourite moment of mine. Simone did not point it out to him in the original production, and I certainly did not teach her to do so in the present production, it is one of those times when artists take the idea on themselves." He was one of the greatest artists I have ever seen, and I still get shivers when I think of the way he mimed Bottom's dream. Mary

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Yes, it's Daphnis and Chloe, but unfortunately I think it's Michael Somes and Violetta Elvin rather than Grant and Fonteyn. (It's miscaptioned on the Getty site)

Ah. Thanks, Jane. Someone at the Times must have caught the error, because the on-line photo has now been changed to what apepars to be the real Fonteyn, cringing from the unwanted advances of Grant's Pirate Chief.

(I thought that first photo looked uncharacteristic of Grant's usual stage persona but did not question it. And I confess I did not look too closely at the partially obscured face of "Fonteyn." :blushing:)

Cargill, thanks for those reminiscences. I really love ....

I got the nicest letter back (which I plan to have buried with me), and he said "I was delighted that you commented on Alain's moment when he says "look I am not so silly I am the only one with an umbrella"--it was a favourite moment of mine. Simone did not point it out to him in the original production, and I certainly did not teach her to do so in the present production, it is one of those times when artists take the idea on themselves."

Just about everyone who has commented on contacts with Grant has talked about how downright nice he was. And many also state, as you do, that he was a great artist. I get the sense that these are deeply held convictions, not just conventional praise.

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So musical, such clear action, such smart timing.

He reminds me of Harpo Marx

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So musical, such clear action, such smart timing.

He reminds me of Harpo Marx

Yes! Thank you for giving a name to a quality that looked very familiar, but which I couldn't pin down. Based on what I've read, Grant seems to have been a natural stage performer. Still photos don't capture this well.

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I watched, enjoyed and admired Alexander Grant’s performances from 1961 to 1985.

Until the last seven or so years, I had often run into him at theatres and in the street. Mr Grant’s bright perky manner always brought an uplifting moment to what otherwise might have been a rather ordinary day.

Knowledgeable, opinionated and thus a lively personality. Alexander Grant was also a defender of tradition, but not entirely unbending when staging Ashton’s work for dancers who had not experienced the earlier Royal Ballet style.

As a performer I saw in Mr. Grant in at least twenty roles as diverse as Tirennio in “Ondine” to The Young Man in “Two Pigeons” with Lynn Seymour and the hilarious Tango in “Façade.” I remember him as very moving “Petrushka,” to another style of unsurpassed pathos, in the role of Alain in “La Fille mal Gardee.”

He was also the marvellously tortured Rake in DeValois “the Rakes Progress” and one can measure his sharply contrasted abilities when you consider with his sprightly Neapolitan dance often with Merle Park as they inimitably progressed at speed in Act III of “Swan Lake.”

Alexander Grant was never the same dancer one had seen in a previous role.

When he reprised the Tango from Façade in the 1984 Royal Gala tribute to Sir Frederick Ashton a tear came to my eye as the memories of my first seeing him in the role some twenty one years earlier, began to remind me of all those dancers who had filled the 1960’s with such dash, stylishness and emotion who had now, left the stage.

I saw Alexander Grant’s last performance as Herr Drosselmeyer in 1985 which for me seemed to be a Royal Ballet finale to the last days of the glorious 1960’s.

Alexander Grant was the quintessential Royal Ballet dancer who always entirely filled the roles he played.

I particularly enjoyed reading the Judith Cruickshank obituary of Alexander Grant at:-

http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2011/oct/04/alexander-grant

***STOP PRESS: ROYAL OPERA HOUSE ANNOUNCEMENT***

http://balletnews.co.uk/the-royal-opera-house-the-frederick-ashton-foundation/

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Alexander Grant was never the same dancer one had seen in a previous role.

What a wonderful thing to say!

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Hi, leonid. Good to hear from you.

This obit in The National Post by Michael Crabb discusses Grant's tenure directing the National Ballet of Canada in more detail -- some of the other obits barely mention it.

Despite initial skepticism from inside and out, Grant also commissioned one of his leading stars, Peter Schaufuss, whom he’d lured from George Balanchine’s New York City Ballet in 1977, to stage North America’s first production of the 19th-century Bournonville classic, Napoli. Its November 1981 premiere proved a triumph. National Ballet founding artistic director Celia Franca commented that she’d never seen the company dance better.

A constellation of rising talents such as Kevin Pugh, Kimberley Glasco, Kim Lightheart, Owen Montague, David Allan, Sabina Allemann, Jeremy Ransom and Raymond Smith emerged under Grant’s direction but the casting policy required to spread performance opportunities partly contributed to the internal tensions and public criticism that eventually scuttled Grant’s directorship.

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Greetings, leonid. Good to hear from you.

This obit in The National Post by Michael Crabb discusses Grant's tenure directing the National Ballet of Canada in more detail -- some of the other obits barely mention it.

Despite initial skepticism from inside and out, Grant also commissioned one of his leading stars, Peter Schaufuss, whom he’d lured from George Balanchine’s New York City Ballet in 1977, to stage North America’s first production of the 19th-century Bournonville classic, Napoli. Its November 1981 premiere proved a triumph. National Ballet founding artistic director Celia Franca commented that she’d never seen the company dance better.

A constellation of rising talents such as Kevin Pugh, Kimberley Glasco, Kim Lightheart, Owen Montague, David Allan, Sabina Allemann, Jeremy Ransom and Raymond Smith emerged under Grant’s direction but the casting policy required to spread performance opportunities partly contributed to the internal tensions and public criticism that eventually scuttled Grant’s directorship.

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Greetings, leonid. Good to hear from you.

This obit in The National Post by Michael Crabb discusses Grant's tenure directing the National Ballet of Canada in more detail -- some of the other obits barely mention it.

Despite initial skepticism from inside and out, Grant also commissioned one of his leading stars, Peter Schaufuss, whom he’d lured from George Balanchine’s New York City Ballet in 1977, to stage North America’s first production of the 19th-century Bournonville classic, Napoli. Its November 1981 premiere proved a triumph. National Ballet founding artistic director Celia Franca commented that she’d never seen the company dance better.

A constellation of rising talents such as Kevin Pugh, Kimberley Glasco, Kim Lightheart, Owen Montague, David Allan, Sabina Allemann, Jeremy Ransom and Raymond Smith emerged under Grant’s direction but the casting policy required to spread performance opportunities partly contributed to the internal tensions and public criticism that eventually scuttled Grant’s directorship.

Thank you for the greeting.It does seem a while since I contributed anything and thank you for posting the above link.

In trying trying to evaluate Alexander Grant's Royal Ballet afterlife,I think he brought quality rather than quantity to the National Ballet of Canada and the boldness in getting “Napoli” and “Onegin” staged that alone works by Glen Tetley, Maurice Bejart, Jerome Robbins, Kenneth MacMilan, works showed his faith in the company’s ability to hold a proud position in the world of dance. He gave them a legacy of works that had previously belonged to much more famous companies.

Thank you to everyone who has shared their memories.

I was of course more than interested to hear that an ABT dancer was able to improve on Ashton.

See also: The Dance View Times interesting interview with Alexander Grant in 2000 where he talks to Jane Simpson.

http://www.danceview.org/interviews/grant.html

See: Celia Franca talking about Alexander Grant and his rehearsing Fille

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Thank you leonid, for your thoughts on Grant. And for the wonderful clip of him rehearsing. Who are the dancers?

I loved the part of the clip in which he tells the boy: "You're looking up BEFORE. You should keep an eye on the foot." A small point, but what a difference it makes in terms of the small story Ashton is telling at this point.

That attention to detail makes me think of Jane's 2000 DanceViewTimes interview with Grant, which you were also posted:

DV: But it’s the tiny little incidents that make it...

Grant: Well that’s what I keep on saying: ‘Please, please, please do not lose the detail’; but they think it’s not important. The reason it was put there in the first place by the choreographer was to show the characterisation, and somehow they think it’s not important today, because they’re so concerned with the technique — which is very good, they have wonderful dancers — I mean to have the technique to do everything is what every dancer desires; but you don’t just concentrate on that if you’re wise, you have a little bit else, something else to offer besides just the technique. It’s like a fantastic concert pianist; I mean I’m sure there’s many many pianists with wonderful technique, but few who can translate that technique into saying something.

I suppose that this is a "demi-caractere" insight. But it is one that hits the heart of what classicism is about. Beautifully, clearly expressed detail allows the audience to feel the underlying essence of character and story-telling, even in "plotless" works. For example, Grant's story of the loss -- and recovery -- of Nerina's backbend during one of the lifts. You dont' have to be an expert on Fille to understand what a crucial difference THAT would make.

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