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Important dates in ballet


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In the Natalia Osipova thread around the time of her (and Margot Fonteyn's) birthday last month, someone suggested starting a topic for birthdays and other important anniversaries in the ballet world and there seemed to be some interest.

 

So because today is significant for British ballet, I thought I'd start a thread.

 

Today is Ninette de Valois's birthday; she was born in County Wicklow, Ireland, on 6 June 1898. The world of British ballet would have been so different without her.

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  • 2 weeks later...

To give you time to buy the appropriate myrtles and lilies to decorate your home with: Tomorrow, 28th of June is the birthday of Carlotta Grisi (1819-1899), the first Giselle.

 

Travelling through Istria, Croatia a few years ago we came through the pretty village of Vizinada, in the north of Porec, where Istria looks like Tuscany, but a little wilder.

 

I saw a street sign saying “Ulica Carlotte Grisi” and was puzzled, so we went to the local coffee bar and asked (luckily everybody speaks Italian in Istria). The lady at the bar was very competend AND PROUD, and also delighted to share her knowledge with some random tourists. But she didn’t know how Carlotta made her way from the Istrian hills to Milan, do you?
 

No, there’s no ballet school at Vizinada. But for a short time I thought about opening one. :)

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  • 3 weeks later...

Couple of important anniversaries around now.

 

Alexandra Danilova died in New York on 13 July 1997, aged 93.

 

Marius Petipa died in the Crimea on 14 July 1910, aged 92.

 

Apparently ballet does good things for the life span!

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Does anyone have any definitive information about the date of the premiere of Pas de Quatre in 1845? Several reliable sources are saying it was 12 July, but Wikipedia says that was the date when Queen Victoria was in the audience and it was the third of four performances, which would put the premiere at least two days earlier.

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G.B.L. Wilson's "A Dictionary of the Ballet" says:  "July 12, 1845" was the first performance and that Queen Victoria attended the second performance of four.

 

The "Oxford Dictionary of the Dance,"  says:  premiere was July 121, 1845 and does not mention the Queen attending at all.

 

Wikipedia is often wrong - I know this by personal experience.

 

Sometimes premiere dates can be tricky since a "premiere" was often thought of as a final rehearsal.  This was kind of a psychological mind game to take the edge off the nervous pangs of the dancers - they could think of it as a rehearsal rather than a premiere.

 

Maybe this is why Queen Victoria attended the second night.

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Thanks for checking! Trawling through Google gives all sorts of different date combinations (although a lot of the entries aren't independent). Just goes to show how much research historians have to do in order to verify even simple facts.

 

I see Queen Victoria's diaries are available online, and I thought that might help give a clue, but apparently if you aren't resident in the UK you have to pay for access. Not fair...

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Thank you for this lead, Melody - I just checked the Queen's diaries and she saw the Pas de Quatre on July 17th. Already she refers to it as 'the famous' Pas de Quatre but was not totally bowled over:

 

"It was long & their exertions were immense, — the dancing being quite beautiful. Taglioni danced wonderfully & with such grace, but she is too old now to give real pleasure, though still wonderfully active. Carlotta Grisi certainly "emportait la victoire", & is charming."

 

Extraordinay to think that the evening started with Cosi fan Tutte, which she also thought too long!

 

If you're in the UK and want to see the original, it's at:

 

http://www.queenvictoriasjournals.org/search/displayItemFromId.do?FormatType=fulltextimgsrc&QueryType=articles&&filterSequence=0&PageNumber=1&ItemID=qvj04653&volumeType=PSBEA#transcript

 

What an amazing resource!

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So, if the Queen's Diary says the 17th of July - how did so many other resources (considered reliable) get it wrong?

 

I have also found differences in dates given for the Royal Ballet's very famous opening night "Sleeping Beauty" on its first ever visit to the USA - with Fonteyn in the starring role.

 

It is interesting to see how Queen Victoria gives her opinion - honestly but still diplomatically.  Did she assume it would be read?

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So - that means that it was not performed on sequential nights.  

 

It was first performed on the 12th and then not again until the 17th (second night/performance).

 

 

 

 

 

After my own experience with Wikipedia - giving wrong information of which I had personal knowledge - and was easy to check - I;ve  never trusted it..

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I've also seen somewhere that it had six performances although most sources say there were four. And some sources say Queen Victoria saw the second performance while others say she saw the third. At least it looks as though 12 July is the correct date for the first performance, not for the Queen Victoria one. So far the New York Times article seems to be the most correct. I've updated the Wiki entry to give 12 July as the first performance and 17 July as the performance attended by Queen Victoria. Now I know what date to give for the premiere in my Facebook ballet history group, thanks to everyone's efforts here.

 

Thanks for checking that, Jane! I don't see why it isn't available free in other countries - it's not as though she was only Queen of the UK. I guess next time we're visiting home, I'll need to plug into those diaries. I remember that they were put online during the Queen's diamond jubilee year, but I didn't realize the access was restricted.

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Yes, I think that's where I saw it. A further trawl around sources has shed a bit more light on the six performances - according to this monograph about Pugni's ballet compositions

 

http://www.cambridgescholars.com/download/sample/58157

 

there were four performances in London 1845 and a further two in 1847 with Carolina Rosati taking Lucile Grahn's role, and some performances in Milan as part of a longer ballet in 1846 in between the two London appearances. This source doesn't mention Queen Victoria, though.

 

Really, this forum is brilliant! I'd been thrashing around on my own for a week, trying to make sense of all the conflicting information, and I think between us we've got it sorted.

Edited by Melody
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I have also found differences in dates given for the Royal Ballet's very famous opening night "Sleeping Beauty" on its first ever visit to the USA - with Fonteyn in the starring role.

 

 

 

This source suggests 9 Oct 1949, from the shot of the poster; is that one of the dates you also found? That assumes that the opening night of the Sadler's Wells tour was also the first time they performed Sleeping Beauty; not sure how safe an assumption that is, but the backstage shots do seem to be Sleeping Beauty and I'm assuming it'd be the first night since they had the film crew there.

 

http://www.britishpathe.com/video/sadlers-wells-ballet-in-new-york/query/fonteyne

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I did find that date - but also Oct 7th - which I much prefer since it is my birthday.  :)

 

Sometimes dates seem fluid because when one says "first time performed" it depends on was it a one act version?  an expanded version? a 3-4 act version?  and who's version?  was it a "try-out" version?  Was it the "new and improved" version?

 

Facts can be slippery in the world of the theater.

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This source suggests 9 Oct 1949, from the shot of the poster; is that one of the dates you also found? That assumes that the opening night of the Sadler's Wells tour was also the first time they performed Sleeping Beauty; not sure how safe an assumption that is, but the backstage shots do seem to be Sleeping Beauty and I'm assuming it'd be the first night since they had the film crew there.

 

http://www.britishpathe.com/video/sadlers-wells-ballet-in-new-york/query/fonteyne

I have all Mary Skeaping's dance material, who was the company's ballet mistress at the time of the first US tour and it includes part of the programme from the opening night which states: Gala American Premiere, Sunday October 9th 1949 at 8pm, "The Sleeping Beauty". Produced by Nicolai Sergueeff after the choreography of Marius Petipa. This was the version designed by Oliver Messel with which the company re-opened the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 1946, i.e. Prologue and three Acts.  Incidentally Mary Skeaping staged American Ballet Theatre's first production of the full-length 'Beauty' in 1976 when the company acquired the rights to the Oliver Messel designs.

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I have all Mary Skeaping's dance material, who was the company's ballet mistress at the time of the first US tour and it includes part of the programme from the opening night which states: Gala American Premiere, Sunday October 9th 1949 at 8pm, "The Sleeping Beauty". Produced by Nicolai Sergueeff after the choreography of Marius Petipa. This was the version designed by Oliver Messel with which the company re-opened the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 1946, i.e. Prologue and three Acts.  Incidentally Mary Skeaping staged American Ballet Theatre's first production of the full-length 'Beauty' in 1976 when the company acquired the rights to the Oliver Messel designs.

 

Thank you so much for that very interesting information.  So it was not a premiere for the Messel production of Sleeping Beauty - but it was the company's first visit to the USA.

 

In her autobiography, Fonteyn writes that she practiced the Rose Adagio balances every day for a year prior to this very important date in ballet history.

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Thanks for the information, Irmgard. The current production is based on the Messel designs for that postwar production, sort of a nice touch. It must have been such a delight to see this production in 1946 after the awfulness of the war; I remember reading that the lavish designs were actually created very ingeniously from cheap materials, but that Pathe film clip really does show the dancers looking quite glamorous.

 

Anniversary today of a tragic ballerina - Olga Spessivtseva was born in Rostov-on-Don on 18 July 1895. The quintessential Giselle in more ways than one.

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Anton Dolin wrote an interesting biography of Spessivetseva: "The Sleeping Ballerina."   I read the book many years ago.  There is also some clips on Youtube of her dancing Giselle.  

 

I have a tape of her in a 1987 interview with Makarova and a second tape "A Portrait of Giselle."

 

Her dancing does not look dated and one can see how magical it must have been.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Speaking of Anton Dolin, he was born on 27 July 1904 (as Sydney Healey-Kay). So today would have been his 110th birthday.

 

I remember reading his bio of Spessivtseva a very long time ago; I must have got it out of the library because I don't have a copy here. I thought his books about Spessivtseva and Markova were a little more self-centred than they could have been, but still very interesting insights into the ballerinas.

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