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Ballet for All - How Ballet was Saved with David Blair

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Thank you very much for this. I don't think that the BFI has got the  Ballet for All series in its archive which is a shame if the other six parts are of comparable quality to this one . Coppelia has a pretty impressive group of dancers appearing in it from an incredibly young Margaret Barbieri as Franz in the French version of the ballet to Brenda Last and Nicholas Johnson  in the leading roles in the Russian version of the work. The dancers involved seem to me to be representative of the Royal Ballet Touring Company at the end of Ashton's directorship.

Any footage of Brenda Last is welcome, She was one of those dancers who lit up the stage as soon as she set foot on it and always seemed to give the audience her personal guarantee that  they were in for a hugely enjoyable evening. She was outstanding for her precision and speed in the Les Rendezvous pas de trois and is still the best Lise I have ever seen. She certainly had a great deal of experience in the role as she danced it over a hundred times. Somehow I have the feeling that this programme has a greater claim to careful scholarship and accuracy than the more recent series about the evolution of ballet performed at the opera house some bits of which were unfortunate to say the least. 

Thank you again for a chance to watch it.

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Thanks for posting, well worth watching. Quite interesting history of Coppelia, and that the type of music for Frantz was originally written for a woman.  I don't know if we would characterize it today as "too weak for a man" and that in general ballet and its "positive aspects" had to be "saved" from all women casts (would Serenade need to be saved?). I do remember that when the Balanchine-Danilova Coppelia was cast here in San Francisco, I was told that only the smaller men would be dancing the part. I took that as meaning the part was so detailed that it would be difficult for a bigger dancer to get all the steps in.

Maybe this should also be posted at Ballet Talk for Dancers, so young students can see the demonstrations of the various styles.

Edited by Quiggin
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17 hours ago, Ashton Fan said:


Thank you very much for this. I don't think that the BFI has got the  Ballet for All series in its archive which is a shame if the other six parts are of comparable quality to this one .

I saw a few of the episodes when I was in grad school just outside NYC -- I think the woman who taught my dance history course got them from the Lincoln Center library, so they do still exist somewhere.

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This educational series covered the development of ballet in Britain in one episode and had another  episode devoted to Ballet Today which included sections from MacMillan's Concerto and Ashton's Fille.Thinking about it you could see the series as an extended advertisement for the two Royal Ballet companies. Now my money is on Birdy Last being the dancer cast as Lise. That film  really would be worth seeing as there are quite a few people who think that she was the equal of Nerina in the role. Indeed there are those who think that she surpassed Nerina. Perhaps the episode  will turn up on the internet at some point. Unfortunately the NYPL is rather too far for me to attend in order to view it.,

Edited by Ashton Fan
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That episode is part seven; happily, though one has to go there, the library has all of them.

Concerto: second movement excerpt. Choreography: Kenneth MacMillan. Music: Dmitri Shostakovich. Danced by Patricia Ruanne and Kerrison Cooke. - La fille mal gardée: excerpts. Choreography: Frederick Ashton. Music: Hérold (arranged Lanchbery) Scenery and costumes: Osbert Lancaster. Cast: Brenda Last (Lise), David Blair (Colas), and Ronald Emblen (Widow Simone) Includes ribbon solos for Lise and Colas, their duet, the Widow's clog dance, Lise's mime scene, and the final wedding duet.

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