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1946, Sleeping Beauty -- a book


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Carbro and I were discussing "Sadler's Wells Ballet at Covent Garden: A Book of Photographs by Merlyn Severn" on another thread -- about how the photographs in this book show a different image of the [company that would become] the Royal Ballet. No neat, small, prim dancing -- it flows, I think you can see in these photos; it MOVES. And there's an emphasis on drama. (We were discussing it in the context of whether Sleeping Beauty was an abstract ballet or not. Not in this version!)

This book is long out of print. It is available through Alibris -- there were several copies yesterday, anyway, and cheap! You might also do a search for Merlyn Severn in Google.

I'll leave these up for a few days for educational purposes :) NOT to say that this is the way dancers should dance today, but just to show you how they did in those stodgy 1940s. :)

Prologue: Gerd Larsen


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There is a candor about it, and it's related to their having fun, I think. It's what struck me most about the Victor Jepsen film (he's the guy who snuck a camera in for ten years at the Met and filmed Sleeping Beauty.) They danced as though they weren't being filmed -- totally candid, like watching brilliant children who are supremely confident because they don't know any better, and yet totally innocent of competition. Obviously neither the dancers nor the company "censored" the photos, or that pas de trois shot would never have made the cut, and these don't have the frozen-in-time perfection that we're used to, but God, they MOVE.

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Yes, not at all self-conscious. (Jepsen also filmed that Gaite) I kept wondering why, what the difference was not only with today's live performances, but from the 1956 Royal Ballet film, which is very decorous. And it's that they didn't realize they were being filmed, so they just danced.

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Great pics! I'm so used to Gerd Larsen as the Queen Mother and those sort of character parts. She looks great in the first picture of this thread.

Take her out of that tutu and put her in a black leotard with pink tights and she might be in a position from "Concerto Barocco".

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wonderful pictures -- such supple upper bodies, such vivid dancers --

are these from the war years? THose days seem to have been incredibly charged for the Saddlers' Wells group, they were not just part of the war effort, they performed like heroes, under unbelievable conditions, air raids, all that.....

and i have to agree with Glebb, it's wonderful to see Larsen in DANCING form....

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The pictures appear to be either from the war years or just immediately prior to the Oliver Messel production. I don't recall Florestan having a hat, or Desiré a headpiece in the Messel. And yes, the Sadler's Wells folk had a vigorous and vibrant part to play in the WWII effort. I was doing some research into Operation Overlord (D-Day) and found a dispatch from an RAF station, sent by a "Flight Officer F. Ashton"! It was only passing along weather, but it was something!

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