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#1 Lolly

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Posted 26 December 2002 - 12:21 PM

Well, old books actually - I got four lovely ballet books for Christmas so thought I would tell you all about them!

The first is called "Studies of the Sadler's Wells Ballet Company" by Gordon Anthony (1947). It contains 65 large photographs of dancers from the company from lots of ballets, all the usual ones but also some I have never heard of, such as the Gorbals, Adam Zero, Les Sirenes, and the Masque of the Fairy Queen. I'll list the dancers;
Frederick Ashton, Jean Bedells, Pauline Clayden, Margaret Dale, David Davenport, Leslie Edwards, Richard Ellis, Julia Farron, Margot Fonteyn, Beryl Grey, John Hart, Robert Helpmann, Gerd Larsen, Gillian Lynne, Pamela May, Lorna Mossford, Avril Navarre, Anne Negus, Palma Nye, David Paltenghi, Violetta Prokohorova, Alexis Rassine, Moira Shearer, Joan Sheldon, Michael Somes, Norman Thompson, Harold Turner, Peter Franklin White, and Alexander Grant. My favourite picture is of Robert Helpmann as Adelino Canberra in Les Sirenes. He is wearing a striped knee length unitard (maybe a bathing costume?) and is doing a head stand underneath a giant dolphin which is leaping out of the sea! I also liked part of the foreword, written by the author. He said, "It is mainly by the use of books... that such artists are able to take their deserved and honoured places in the permanant records of contemporary ballet...".

The second book is called "Ulanova - her Childhood and Schooldays" by M. Sizova and translated by Marie Rambert (1959). It is written like a story and has pretty illustrations. The book ends when Ulanova joined the Bolshoi. I was very excited to find, tucked into the back of the book, two newspaper cuttings and an advertisement. The first was from 1978, and is an interview with Marie Rambert on the day before her 90th birthday. It tells her life story briefly, she sounds like a fascinating lady! I liked this part, "It was not a triangle between me, Diaghilev and Nijinsky. I wish it had been; but it wasn't because I got no response from Nijinsky at all. I was in love with him but he wasn't a bit in love with me and I didn't make any efforts because I assumed he was homosexual (which he was) and lived with Diaghilev, so that my love was hopeless." Isn't that sad? The second cutting is from 1983 and is a review of Ballet Rambert at Sadler's Wells in a tribute to Marie Rambert. The programme included Ashton's oldest surviving ballet (I wonder if this is still the case?) Capriol Suite (1930), Ashton's Brahms Waltzes, Nijinsky's L'Apres-midi d'un faune, Robert North's Pribaouki and Richard Alston's Rite of Spring. An amusing snippet is a criticism of Christopher Bruce as the Faun - the reviewer says "It seems all his muscles have moved from his legs to his brain, and his performance has little of the animal quality that once made it special." Finally, tucked away was a little flyer advertising Ballet Rambert at the Brighton Festival in 1982, where they danced North's Lonely Town, Lonely Street, Taylor's Airs and Alston's Rite of Spring in one programme, Alston's Night Music, North's "new ballet" (set to Stravinsky with designs inspired by Picasso) and Bruce's Ghost Dances. There was also an introduction to Ballet Rambert for young people showing the company's styles and works. I was very glad the person who owned the book before me had saved the cuttings - it's interesting stuff!

The third book is "Dancer - Men in Dance" by Mary Clarke and Clement Crisp (1984). It gives a history of ballet and dance, and has many beautiful photographs of dancers in ballet and contemporary works. Insightful was a comment from Ninette de Valois... "Don't you realise that the history of ballet is the history of the male dancer and the male choreographer? It has nothing to do with the women except in a secondary role... once ballet's got to a certain level again it's got to be handed back to the men."

The fourth book is "Balletomania Then and Now" by Arnold Haskell (1977). No photographs, so not immediately engaging, but it looks very comprehensive - I have dipped into it and found lots of fascinating anecdotes!

That's it... I'm getting quite a library now! Although my family expressed doubt that I would want "tatty books" as gifts, they found some lovely ones for me!:)

#2 dirac

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Posted 27 December 2002 - 11:00 AM

People often don't realize that many of the real dance book treasures to be found are "tatty" books now out of print and make excellent gifts! :) (Maybe they feel uncomfortable giving someone a book that's used and "old.")

#3 Jane Simpson

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Posted 04 January 2003 - 08:10 AM

Lolly, I also have that Gordon Anthony book - I think one of the most extraordinary of the photos is one of Michael Somes: he's wearing the tights and headdress from Symphonic Variations but no top, and is posed to look absolutely gorgeous - it's easy to understand how so many people fell for him!

#4 Doris R

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Posted 07 January 2003 - 04:59 PM

My daughter and son-in-law have quite a collection of "old" dance books. I'm always on the lookout for them and often give them as performance gifts. They also collect dance paintings/prints from the 40's through the 60's. The walls of their apartment are literally covered with them. The challenge now is to find something they don't already have!

#5 GWTW

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Posted 07 January 2003 - 11:28 PM

Lolly, how lucky you are. I have the 'Dancer' book - check out the close up of Nureyev (by Karsh, I think) - talk about 'to die for'.
I haven't heard of the Gordon Anthony book, but I grew up with 'Baron at the Ballet' books - you should tell your family to look out for them for your birthday (if you can't wait until next Christmas). The Baron books must be from about the same period as the Gordon Anthony, but with photographs of additional companies: various Ballet Russes, etc. What wonderful, atmospheric photos. Quite different to contemporary photos. I wonder to what extent the photographic aesthetic is influenced by the ballet aesthetic or vice versa.

#6 acslbourne

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Posted 26 January 2007 - 11:54 PM

Lolly'
Very interesting, ...... my mother Palma Nye features in that book. I have just started researching my family history and have a chestfull of Palmas ballet memorabillia from her time with The Sadlers Wells ballet in the 30's through to the 50's going right back to dance classes as a little girl. I remember as a child meeting Robert Helpman , Ray Powel, Joy Newton etc.
I have several programs from that period and books as well but not the one you mention.
If you or anyone else knows of a copy for sale or programs etc. please let me know. Any help with that period of English Ballet or any "must read" books that anyone can recommend please let me know.
Likewise I'm happy to help anyone else doing research.
Cheers,
acslbourne :thanks:

#7 Jane Simpson

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Posted 27 January 2007 - 04:42 AM

You should keep an eye on eBay - I often see books like this going for practically nothing! There's one called The Sadler's Wells Ballet at Covent Garden, by Merlyn Severn, which also has some photos of your mother.

I never saw your mother dance but know her from photographs - when I saw her name in your post I immediately thought of her as the Miller's Wife in The Three-Cornered Hat - was that the biggest role she did? But I just checked the other things she might have done and discovered that she danced the maid, Webster, in A Wedding Bouquet (the role created by Ninette de Valois) far more times than anyone else ever did (or ever will, I imagine).

I love the history of this period - do tell us more about what sort of souvenirs you have! (And also, something I've always wondered, how is Palma pronounced?)

#8 kfw

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Posted 27 January 2007 - 09:13 AM

Jane, since you love 30's-50's ballet history I hope you have a copy of the 1954 book "Ballet Panorama," with photos by "Baron," and commentary by Arnold Haskell. It's a sequel to "Baron at the Ballet," which I haven't seen. In this 222-page book of portraits and staged shots taken in the three years prior to publication the material is arranged into sections called The Dancer as Individual, Exotics (non-ballet), English Ballet, and Other Ballet Companies (NYCB, POB, RDB). Many of the photos are full-page; none are smaller than a quarter page.

Gordon Anthony's "Dancers to Remember" also features staged photos, mostly from the 30's and 40's, with a few from the early 50's, and has an appendix in which Gordon goes into detail about his methods and technique.

Another volume I treasure is Cecil Beaton's little 1951 memoir "Ballet," with its watercolor dustjacket and frontispiece, over 100 gorgeous and evocative photos, and numerous line drawings.

#9 acslbourne

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Posted 28 January 2007 - 12:39 AM

Jane, my Mother was named Palma because she was born on Palm Sunday and that is how it is pronounced.
I do have that Merlyn Severn book and have just bought another one via Biblio.com for my brother.
Yes I think her part in the Three Cornered Hat was one of her more notable roles - at least according to some fan mail I discovered. She danced many character parts and toured with the company to New York, Paris and Holland (interesting story of evacuation during the war there). Unfortunately I'm no expert on ballet so I'm studying up on this period late in life, I should have done it while Mum was still alive. She was a great fan of the Australian Ballet here and I accompanied her back stage one time and met one of her old buddies Ray Powel.
One of the Covent Garden pictorial magazines (like a year book) has been signed by all members of the company to Palma under each of their photos, thats quite special, unfortunately the ink is fading. There is lots of memorabilia here, photos, studies, characatures, press clippings , programs and so on. It will be kept together and hopefully added to over time. In the chest I also have 2 pairs of ballet shoes adult and child size.
The one thing I would love to find out is whether any filming was done of any of the ballets from that period and if so which film and sound archive institution would have a copy.

#10 Jane Simpson

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Posted 28 January 2007 - 01:45 PM

I found a review of the last performance Palma Nye gave with the Sadler's Wells company, in an old Ballet Today magazine, with a nice photo of her in Wedding Bouquet. Maybe you have it amongst your press cuttings - if not, let me know. Among other things it says that she was the first soloist in the first ever Sadler's Wells performance of Sleeping Princess, dancing the Camelia Fairy.

There is sadly very little film from the early days of the company - maybe someone will be able to point you at something in the New York Public Library collection, but there's nothing of your mother in the catalogue of what has survived from BBC Television.

Did she stay active in the dance world?

kfw, I think I have the books you mention - I'm getting to the stage where I find it very hard to find anything I haven't already got! The photographers of that era left such a fantastic record of the dancers of the time.

#11 acslbourne

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Posted 31 January 2007 - 12:21 AM

I found a review of the last performance Palma Nye gave with the Sadler's Wells company, in an old Ballet Today magazine, with a nice photo of her in Wedding Bouquet. Maybe you have it amongst your press cuttings - if not, let me know. Among other things it says that she was the first soloist in the first ever Sadler's Wells performance of Sleeping Princess, dancing the Camelia Fairy.

There is sadly very little film from the early days of the company - maybe someone will be able to point you at something in the New York Public Library collection, but there's nothing of your mother in the catalogue of what has survived from BBC Television.

Did she stay active in the dance world?

kfw, I think I have the books you mention - I'm getting to the stage where I find it very hard to find anything I haven't already got! The photographers of that era left such a fantastic record of the dancers of the time.

We emigrated to Australia in '56 (I was 2) and I believe that they tried to start a ballet school here but there was not enough interest to cover the costs - unlike today when every mothers little darling has to wear a tutu.
However, she did follow the growth of the Australian Ballet and went to any performances by the Royal Ballet when they toured out here and always went back stage to catch up with old friends. Took me along a few times as well.
I would be interested in a copy of that review as I don't think we have it. I'll swap you - I can scan and email a few press clippings relating to that era if you like,
acslbourne@optusnet.com.au

#12 Jane Simpson

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Posted 31 January 2007 - 05:31 AM

I would be interested in a copy of that review as I don't think we have it.


I've emailed you a copy - let me know if it doesn't arrive!

#13 atm711

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Posted 31 January 2007 - 09:30 AM

I found a review of the last performance Palma Nye gave with the Sadler's Wells company, in an old Ballet Today magazine, with a nice photo of her in Wedding Bouquet. Maybe you have it amongst your press cuttings - if not, let me know. Among other things it says that she was the first soloist in the first ever Sadler's Wells performance of Sleeping Princess, dancing the Camelia Fairy.


I also have a copy of that 'Ballet Today' issue--it was September 1950; the review goes on to say some very nice things about her 'le tricorne'.

#14 pasmaroo

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Posted 17 September 2009 - 10:23 PM

Speaking of which, I managed to get a hold of “Baron At The Ballet,” which considering the year it was published I felt fortunate for this to have fallen in my lap.

I had read and seen photographs here and there about the dancers of that period, especially in recent times with various Ballets Russes exhibitions that had been held locally.

But, to have a compilation of photographs, that portray the dancers of that time, all in one book makes it such a treasure to have in the bookcase.

There is an alluring element to these “archaic” type photographs particularly because they are in black and white and because you know almost every photo is “telling” a story.

Of course, the commentary simply adds to the delight of the photos.

It was interesting to read the introduction as it gave an excellent insight into one man’s thinking and attitude about the ballet scene of his day.


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