Jump to content
This Site Uses Cookies. If You Want to Disable Cookies, Please See Your Browser Documentation. ×


New Member
  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Registration Profile Information

  • Connection to/interest in ballet** (Please describe. Examples: fan, teacher, dancer, writer, avid balletgoer)
  • City**
  • State (US only)**, Country (Outside US only)**
    United Kingdom
  1. Male dancers -- yes, they were definitely in short supply because of conscription. Some of the mature experienced men remained available because they were foreign (Helpmann from Australia, Rassine from Lithuania via South Africa, etc.), had a medical disability or admitted to the recruiting board that they were homosexual. But it's true that students were put on stage quite young, some even in solo roles. Changing the rep -- I know that The Sleeping Beauty was dropped, presumably because it needed too many men, but otherwise the standard repertory seemed to continue, and new ballets were produced using plenty of male dancers. There seemed to be a habit of starting mixed bills with either Sylphides or Swan Lake act 2, but I always assumed that was audiences were thought to want a "white ballet" as part of the show. Yes, service men on leave were among the audience (one point is that you could buy tickets on the day of performance). I remember the ballet historian Ivor Guest telling me that was how his interest started. Choice of ballets -- Swan Lake for instance was always popular, war or no war. But there were ballets such as Ashton's Dante Sonata (good versus evil) or The Quest (based on Spenser's poem The Fairy Queen), or Helpmann's Comus (a treatment of Milton's masque -- including some speech) or Miracle in the Gorbals (Christ returns to earth and is killed). A point worth mentioning is that some people argued that all male dancers should be exempted from call-up so that their special skills could entertain the public, but Ninette de Valois was vehemently opposed to this.
  2. Alexandra: Yes, Charrat was glamorous. The only film I know of her won't help much -- she was only 13 when she appeared with Yvette Chuvire in La Mort du Cygne. Later did solo recitals, then worked with Roland Petit. Her first notable choreography was Jeu de cartes starring Babilee. Best of her later pieces were Le Massacre des Amazones and Les Algues -- in both she played tragic drama. Rosella Hightower wasn't pretty but had a good physique and the strongest technique of any ballerina. Her Black Swan was remarkable -- instead of flashing her speed she did amazing SLOW pirouettes. She could shine in classics (e.g. Giselle, La Sylphide) but also created roles by Taras (La Piege de Lumiere), Lichine, Bejart etc. Exceptionally intelligent, she became an outstanding teacher and a good director (including a spell at the Paris Opera). She was, incidentally, one of the American indian stars together with the Tallchief sisters, Yvone Chouteau and Jocelyne Larkin.
  3. Re-reading some of the many varied recent comments, I'm reminded how little by Fokine still gets danced -- the man who led the way on from Petipa. Another thought is that the Nijinskys, brother and sister, left enough superb ballets between them to make one fantastic programme -- Biches, Faune, Noces. I don't think anyone ever did them together; any chance we could persuade a sensible management to do so? Also, how are the mighty fallen: would you believe, from his present limited showing, that for years amny people thought him the best living choreographer? And, this is probably going to surprise you, just as it surprises me: the Massine ballet that keeps waking me up at night, remembering and wanting to see it again, is Le Beau Danube. Yes, a very light entertainment, with its picture of flirtations and rivalries in the Vienna Prater. But wonderful music (Strauss waltzes), first rate clothes (everyone really looked dressed just right), lively dances full of character. And the way they used to dance it! What you saw was real personalities on stage, and how often does that happen now?
  4. As I remember, the only difference between Suite en Blanc, as created by Lifar for the Paris Opera Ballet, and revivals under the title Noir et Blanc, is that originally [and still at the Opera] everyone wore white, and that subsequently the men wore black tights ... The music was taken from Lalo's long story ballet Nanouma. Hence some of the solos have titles (e.g. Cigarette) which relate to the original context but not to the present plotless divertissement. It's worth watching -- and of how many Lifar ballets can you say that? Now, ballet under the bombs. When the war began my school was evacuated to the country and by the time I came back to London the air "Battle of Britain" between the Royal Air Force and the Luftwaffe over southern England had finished, so I must rely on other people's accounts for that. I do remember the "barrage balloons" intended to impede German planes. There were still some attempts to bomb London so we had air raid warnings given by electric sirens. Theatres carried a notice saying that audience members could leave if they wished but please do so quietly and not disturb those who chose to stay -- the performance continued. Later there were "secret weapons" -- automatic aircraft which crashed and exploded after travelling s certain distance, and rocket bombs aimed at the London area. Luckily our side foujd out about these in time to bomb the sites they were fired from, so the attacks were fewer than intended.
  5. The comments by members on some early productions have reminded me of old memories perhaps worth sharing. William Dollar's Le Combat (aka The Duel), in its original duet form, actually had its premiere from Roland Petit's Ballets de Paris in London, at what was then called the Princes Theatre (now the Shaftesbury), in February 1949, during the same week as Petit's Carmen. On some pretext -- perhaps an interview with Dollar -- I watched a rehearsal before the first night. The woman at that time was Janine Charrat, better known as a choreographer, and her partner was the excellent dancer Vladimir Skouratoff. I have an impression that I liked the ballet better in that form than when the extra warriors had been added. John Taras: the first ballet by him seen in Britain was Graziana, a reasonably attractive dance suite very much a la Balanchine to Mozart music, brought to Covent Garden by Ballet Theatre in its 1946 season. I remember him playing the Baron in Night Shadow for the Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas, 1948. He created Le Piege de Lumiere for that company in 1952, with Rosella Hightower as the butterfly heroine; she was the most virtuosic ballerina I ever saw (and later an exceptional teacher in Cannes, Southern France -- she's still there). Among various revivals of Piege was one for London Festival Ballet in 1969, starring Galina Samsova, and I was thrilled by Elisabeth Platel as guest star in a staging for the Lyons Festival during the 1980s. Taras's best ballet without doubt was Designs with Strings, created for the small English company Metropolitan Ballet to the second movement of Tchaikovsky's Trio in A major. With a cast of four women and two men, it had no plot but a theme of young love, built around the 15-year-old ballerina (yes, already a ballerina at that age) Svetlana Beriosova. Many companies, as you know, have danced this since -- the French title is Dessin pour les six -- and I wish we still had it in a British repertoire, assuming that a suitable cast could be found.
  6. 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.
  7. Some thoughts on Leigh's personal checklist of choreographers: Is Nijinska a one-ballet choreographer? No. But I suspect the two works which Ashton retrieved for the Royal Ballet, Les Biches and Les Noces, are far an away the best. I wasn't bowled over by Le Train bleu at the Paris Opera. And among several I saw from the Cuevas Ballet, only Brahms Variations (plotless and with some virtuoso sequences) left any real impression. La bien aimee was clearly liked well enough for the Markova-Dolin Ballet to revive it in the 1930s. Lifar: Out of the half-dozen or more Lifar ballets I saw, Suite en blanc (also known as Noir et blanc) is the only one I'd care to see again. It was, I think, quite a bit influenced by his teacher Nijinska. Leo Staats: His Soir de fete, to Delibes music, is a most attractive suite of dances; I was told in Paris that Balanchine much admired it. His interpretations of Sylvia and The Two Pigeons were interesting -- although certainly not as good as Ashton's ballets to those scores. However, Staats deserves to be remembered and revered for his invention of the Defile given at the Paris Opera on special occasions, parading every dancer from the youngest pupil to the most senior etoile.
  • Create New...