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Getty images has some archival-type ballet clips (mostly very short and sometimes with dancers and companies unidentified) on their website. Examples are:

  • 6 second clips from some 1930s performances of Les Sylphides and Swan Lake




  • 1940s and other ballet performance footage




  • Nearly a minute of the Royal Ballet's “Birthday Offering” from the 1950s with Margot Fonteyn and other Royal Ballet dancers plus a second clip of Margot Fonteyn's variation.



Is it the original cast? http://www.abt.org/education/archive/ballets/birthday_offering.html.

  • One minute of Nathalie Krassovska in London Festival Ballet's “Nutcracker”


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  • Nearly a minute of the Royal Ballet's “Birthday Offering” from the 1950s with Margot Fonteyn and other Royal Ballet dancers plus a second clip of Margot Fonteyn's variation.



Is it the original cast? http://www.abt.org/e...y_offering.html.

Possibly not - the entire first cast only did 3 performances. For instance, is the woman in blue tall enough to be Beryl Grey? And if it isn''t Grey, then the one in purple isn't Elvin as she was the first to drop out.

(I just love the musicality of Fonteyn's supported pirouettes and the lifts - could watch it 20 times running and I'd still be smiling!)

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It is actually rather sad to think about it now. Most of those wonderful dancers are no longer with us. Nerina, Fifield, Beriosova and Fonteyn have all passed away. I am not so sure about Jackson and Elvin. Beryl Grey is still with us. Sorry, you have to bear with me: As a kid I was enormously proud of having performed on the same stage as Beryl Grey. Well, not so strange really, she was married to the late Dr. Svensson, a Swede, and she frequently holidayed here and then she made some guest appearances, all concertant with a partner ( a poor trembling creature from the theater's corp, it had to be a tall and strong guy for her, not necessarily the best one). I remember she did highlights like Black Swan and Sleeping Beauty pdd. We were all totally in awe, never having seen something like that.

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It's very sad – it must have been so exciting to see Beryl Grey and the other dancers in performance – the dancing is wonderful but there is so little film left, and that's almost nothing compared to seeing them live.

The men all look so young in the film - I don't remember noticing this in other fifties film. I can hardly recognise Michael Somes as his face often looks more sculptured in photographs. I can't believe that he was then just a few years from retirement. Maybe Alexander Grant is one of the other partners?

What surprised me most about the clip was how good the men are - lovely flow of movement, lots of musicality, lovely style and they are so together – maybe that's what the Ashton company style looked like in the fifties. They even look great just standing at the back of the stage during Margot Fonteyn's variation.

The footage was part of a travel film made “to attract tourists to London in winter” It was filmed on April 12, 1957, about a year after the May 1956 premiere of “Birthday Offering” and just about the time Beryl Grey left the company. (By September 1956 Violette Elvin had left the company and had been replaced in her role by Anya Linden – at this time the other roles were still danced by the original cast)

If we knew which colour dresses were associated with each variation/dancer, maybe we would have a better chance of working out the ballerinas and their partners.

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The colours were:

Fifield - grey - partner was Brian Shaw

Jackson - red - Desmond Doyle

Beriosova - green - Bryan Ashbridge

Nerina - orange - Alexander Grant

Elvin - violet - David Blair

Grey - blue - Philip Chatfield

Fonteyn - gold - Michael Somes

The only review I can find for a performance in April 1957 was of a gala which had Anya Linden dancing for Elvin (who had left), Merle Park for Jackson (who was out around that time for medical reasons) and Annette Page for Beryl Grey. According to Alexander Bland's RB book, Grey didn't dance her role after 1956 so unless this (the film) was a special performance it must be Page in blue.

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It is so interesting to see the cygnets pas de quatre danced with relatively smooth rolling of the heads rather than darting focus changes, something that has always been a turn off for me. This roll looks very cute and more baby swan like. Very interesting. I wonder what the original was like.

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Thanks so much for this – it's great to know who is dancing. The April 12 1957 date for the filming came from a newspaper article (archive) – perhaps it wasn't the only day they filmed the dancers if that date isn't the same as the gala date. There are some other clips from the film (not with dancing) on Getty images, and it certainly looks as if they filmed the gala that Jane referred to:



In terms of Swan Lake, I've never really liked the head movements of the cygnets either. I found another tiny 1937 clip of Swan lake and there is another “les Sylphides” clip (I guess it would be really difficult to identify the poet).



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