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A little reminiscence - ballet and dance last century


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60 years ago at this very minute I was at Covent Garden for the very first time, watching a matinee of Swan Lake (still Le Lac des Cygnes at that time) with Svetlana Beriosova and Donald Macleary. It was a very foggy day and my train was 3 hours late so I missed most of Act 1 - they used to let latecomers in to stand at the sides of the Stalls Circle and I vaguely remember just catching the end of the pas de trois.

 

Beriosova was already my idol and I had never seen her live before -  I thought she was wonderful. Otherwise from my notes I seem to have been most impressed by the size of the stage and the way the curtains went up 'sideways' - but  looking at the cast now I really wish I could see the cygnets again - Merle Park, Antoinette Sibley, Doreen Wells and Debra Wayne - Wayne didn't stay long in the company but she had already danced Odile at her graduation performance and I wonder if they ever again had four once-and-future-Odiles as cygnets!

 

My Stalls Circle seat cost 17/6 (about 86p) and the programme was 1 shilling. I don't remember if the fog had lifted by the end of the afternoon but it was a memorable day, anyhow!

 

 

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A lovely memory to share. I never saw Beriosova, but the many beautiful pictures I used to see in ballet annuals suggested she was the very epitome of elegance. I gather her personal life  was not the happiest. As for those cygnets, what a cast. Doreen Wells was my first Aurora with David Wall.

 

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Thank you, Jane.  Someone (was it Lizbie?) suggested a while ago that we should have a thread of reminiscences from people whose ballet-going goes way back, so perhaps any others could go on this thread too?

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50 minutes ago, Beryl H said:

Svetlana Beriosova and Donald Macleary were my favourite dancers for many years, especially in Swan Lake, there was something about them that really made me believe in the story in a way I never have since! 

Saw them in Cinderella at some point, towards the end of Beriosova's career. Earliest ballet memory is Festival Ballet in Oxford where, to my excitement, I saw Markova dance the Dying Swan, Dolin the Ravel Bolero, they then both danced the divertissements from Nutcracker. All preceded by Chopiniana which was, I think, the original version of Les Sylphides, although I may be,wrong.

 

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  • alison changed the title to A little reminiscence - ballet and dance last century
On 07/11/2019 at 16:07, alison said:

Thank you, Jane.  Someone (was it Lizbie?) suggested a while ago that we should have a thread of reminiscences from people whose ballet-going goes way back, so perhaps any others could go on this thread too?

 

I've been prompted by the Vladimir Vasiliev 80th birthday thread and all the reminiscences on it

to hunt this thread out and turn it into the promised reminiscences thread for the longer-term ballet- and dance-goers.  I'm particularly interested in the 1970s and earlier, but I'd guess that a cut-off point of the turn of the millennium would be as good as any.  Over to you ...

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Before adding to this thread I shall dig out my old programmes.  I have long felt I should put them into some sort of order, probably when I retire, but now would be a golden opportunity.  Do you think they should be strictly choronological or subdivided into company?

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Well, if it were me, I'd go for by company first and then chronological, but your mileage may vary, as they say.

 

I'd do that, but most of mine are still in storage :(

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This brings back memories.  I saw Svetlana Beriosova and Donald Maclearly in Giselle in 1964 at the ROH.  My first ballet though, was in 1950 in Coventry - it was The Sleeping Princess, performed by the company run by Mona Inglesby.  

 

Edited by Margaret
typo
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To go back to an early memory of Beriosova. I've got a very hazy memory of seeing her when she first arrived in this,country. It was in a TV programme and she was introduced as just having arrived here with her father. Must have been early 50s

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Even earlier than that, perhaps? I think they came over for the first time in 1947, to work with Metropolitan Ballet - Beriosova was about 15 - and by the early 50s she'd already moved on to the Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet.

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7 hours ago, Jane S said:

Even earlier than that, perhaps? I think they came over for the first time in 1947, to work with Metropolitan Ballet - Beriosova was about 15 - and by the early 50s she'd already moved on to the Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet.

yes, you're right, it could have been very late 40s or very early 50s As a ballet mad little girl I remember being totally entranced but please don't ask me what she danced! I'm sure it involved a white dress of some sort, what else!

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At first Svetlana Beriosova appeared in London in November 1947 with the Marquis de Cuevas company at the Kings Theater in Hammersmith Rd., and in the summer of 1948 as part of the small Metropolitan Ballé troupe at the Scala Theater in Charlotte Street. When Svetlana’s colleagues had free time, they could rest, and she took out notebooks and books: she had to complete homework for sending to a school in New York where she continued to study in absentia.

The company also traveled around the provinces. In Swansea, they rehearsed in the hall, which miraculously survived among the ruins of the war. Female fans were waiting for the young ballerina at the stage door to give her a gift - their weekly ration of chocolate.
  In 1950, Ninette de Valois invited Svetlana to her Sadlers Wells company for the role of Odette in Swan Lake.
 

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