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Lynn Seymour at 80

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The first time I saw Lynn was in The Burrow. There were some remarkable performances (Anne Heaton, Donald Britton, Donald MacLeary as well as Lynn) and the dramatic intensity seemed very modern. The next day, although a very priggish 15 year old pupil at Birmingham's most academic school for girls, I skived off school to see Lynn at a matinee in the first full length Swan Lake I'd seen (in those days out of London we mostly saw just the second act, from LFB). She blew me away. Her fouettés (which now would probably be criticised on technical grounds) were the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. In her early days, and before she lost weight, she had the most wonderful quality to her dancing, a liquid flow as though she had no bones in her body. Her lyricism then was quite as remarkable as her dramatic quality. 

I got found out and hauled up to speak to the harridan of a headmistress. Somehow, so devoted to ballet and to Lynn, I admitted that I had a ticket for the matinee the following Wednesday (it was a 2 week season at the Alexandra theatre) and was actually allowed to go so I was able to see her as Prayer in Act 3 of Coppelia.

Later she was unique in the roles she inspired MacMillan to choreograph: The Invitation, a landmark performance,, the bride in Baiser de la Fee (which I saw in Edinburgh with MacLeary and Beriosove as the Fairy) Juliet, with Gable, (I was at their first performance, shamefully not the opening night) Mayerling with Wall, Anastasia (Festival Ballet showed the original version, what later became the third act), another harrowing performance. Also with Festival Ballet I saw her in Onegin.  People said she was too old, and in the first act her face's lived in quality did seem slightly out of keeping, but in the 2nd act, when Onegin walks past the sisters after killing Lensky, her pointed finger was chillingly accusatory. As for the final act, she absolutely convinced me she was going to change the ending and submit to Onegin.

Her dance qualities inspired the wonderful second movement in MacMillan's Concerto. She was also wonderful in MacMillan's production of Sleeping Beauty which I saw her do at the Coliseum, partnered by Peter Martins (she writes about their brief affair in her highly readable autobiography). The choreography in the Vision scene revealed her fluidity, again.

And of course she inspired Ashton to create her role in Month in the Country, with Dowell, earlier Two Pigeons, with Gable, which she made less saccharine with her stroppiness, and the wonderful Brahms Walitzes. At the Ashton conference at Roehampton a video was shown of her dancing Month in the Country and some of the younger critics were astonished by the quality of her movement; yet I've always been disappointed by that video as, to me, it fails to capture fully her lyrical flow.

One of my greatest regrets is that I was unable to see her in The Concert.

She choreographed several ballets but they haven't survived; great dancers are not always great choreographers.

There are videos of her dancing with Nureyev, a great friend, in Sleeping Beauty (in I am a Dancer) and in Giselle (includes Monica Mason, a very chilling Myrthe)

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One of my all time favourite dancers (and Ann Jenner too) - I never saw Seymour dance but I had numerous dance books and saw numerous clips of her dancing  - such beautiful feet.  She was featured quite often in the Princess Tina Ballet annuals every year.  My mother and my aunt raved about her and had both seen her dance. 

Ann Jenner, if I remember rightly, had a beautiful grand jété.

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SheilaC loved your story and your harridan school headmistress, who let you skip school again!

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Thought I’d share my fond memory of Lynn Seymour.... teaching a wonderful masterclass for us in the Isle of Wight in the 1980’s. She was such an inspiration.... I often wonder why she doesn’t coach the current RB dancers with so much knowledge to pass on?

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You're not the only one who wonders that, Seymour!

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Here are some beautiful pictures of her coaching the Five Brahms Waltzes at Ballet on the Rhine at Düsseldorf/Germany in 2013.

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2 hours ago, Angela said:

Here are some beautiful pictures of her coaching the Five Brahms Waltzes at Ballet on the Rhine at Düsseldorf/Germany in 2013.

Thank you, Angela. 

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I recall a rehearsal of Ashton's Five Brahms Waltzs ... Isadora Duncan (the correct title eludes me). This was at the BRB studios where Lynn Seymour was coaching Molly Smolen. Molly was a beautiful dancer and we were all entranced, but then Lynn Seymour got up to demonstrate a particular section. Well, she was absolutely extraordinary. This particular section was a soft run round - not fast, and she added extra weight to the movement. I am not referring here to physical weight although she was obviously a mature woman compared with a young slight ballerina, which was Molly. It was a grounded, earthiness, she gave to the movement and it was so completely different from the beautiful motion of the younger dancer.

It was that particular moment I remember from the whole rehearsal as she totally lit up the room for me.

 

I also remember she had with her a little dog who spent most of the rehearsal running around the room. I have to say the dog didn't actually interfere with the rehearsal, but ran round the outside, investigating the audience.

 

I didn't have the pleasure of seeing Lynn Seymour perform, just from video clips, but at this one moment I completely understood how captivating she was on stage.

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I didn't see her in her hey day but cherish the memories of her Tatiana (Onegin) and Anastasia Act 3 with English National Ballet as well as Lowry's mother with Northern Ballet.  She truly is a great artiste.

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I saw Lynn Seymour dance on quite a few occasions back in the 70's mainly and she was a completely unique artist. I really wished I could have seen her in Two Pigeons but am lucky enough to have seen her in many other performances. I have never seen that final act of Anastasia bettered to date. So very moving. And the Brahms waltzes were wonderful as she had such abandon and as others have said that fluidity of movement. But she had a fine comic touch as well and there is one dance in Dances at a Gathering which I can hardly bear to watch now because of the precise nuance of humour she put into it ( she wore a green dress). It's amazing she is now 80!! And yes I hope the RBand RBS will use her more for coaching. I do know a story I cannot really repeat here which totally dismayed me. 

And yes Ann Jenner did have a remarkable grand jete ....another lovely dancer as light as air!!

 

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In an early review of "Dances At A Gathering".Richard Buckle said"Seymour was such a miracle of Mozartian comedy,I was sure she had sprung it on them.I was right.Next day Robbins said"We didn't know she was going to do that".She had surprised the most Mozartian of choreographers."

I was lucky enough to interview her for BRB Friends when she was coaching the Ashton  Isadora Waltzes.She talked a lot about Sir Fred being so lovely to her when creating "Two Pigeons" and how she had no fear of him;the devastation of not doing the opening "Romeo" and working with Nureyev(no dancer ever worked so hard).

Some years earlier,i had interviewed Christopher Gable( rehearsing "Peter & The Wolf" for SWRB) and he spoke much  about dancing with Lynn;he recounted a tour  to a Festival  in the South of France,run by ,pianist,Moura Lympany;Gable said they had been there less than half an hour when the "director" approached him,throwing his hands up in the air saying"Miss Seymour is eem possibeel!".

"

 

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Tonight's streamed masterclass of Romeo and Juliet, in the dance for Juliet and Paris, gave more clues about Lynn's dramatic capacity. Leanne Benjamin, another great MacMillan dancer, kept advising Bea to stop dancing classically but act from the heart. Although the choreography is by MacMillan it was created jointly with, inspired by, Lynn and Christopher Gable. All three lived and breathed the ballet for months while they were creating it and Lynn, as a dance actor, was MacMillan's instrument. The episode where Juliet sits motionless on the bed was Lynn's idea. She believed in being real, often acting or moving in quite an ugly way, if she thought the dramatic situation required it; very much like Galina Ulanova, whose Juliet made such an impression when she first danced in London a few years before, in 1956.

It was good to see some lovely photos by Roy Round, in the masterclass, Leanne's father-in-law.

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The Macmillan Conference  a few years ago ended with Lynn giving a masterclass on the R & J..I think Bedroom pas de deux.

She urged the dancers to" make it more dangerous"......something i now always look for whether it is ballet or play.

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