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Documentary: Royal Ballet 50th Anniversary


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I have run a search on BalletCo but couldn`t find out if it has been posted already.

 

While trawling youtube for anything relating to Kenneth Macmillan I found an old documentary about the 50th anniversary of the Royal Ballet, made by the BBC.

 

The quality is not too good, but there many extraordinarily interesting snippets from the beginning of the Vic-Wells Ballet, interviews and recordings of rehearsals, such as “Isadora” with Merle Park, and also Monica Mason as Myrtha.

 

Part 1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEqRTzOm7HI

 

Part 2

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1SCzurD0IM

 

Part 3

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIaKMravz7s

 

 

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I have run a search on BalletCo but couldn`t find out if it has been posted already.

 

While trawling youtube for anything relating to Kenneth Macmillan I found an old documentary about the 50th anniversary of the Royal Ballet, made by the BBC.

 

The quality is not too good, but there many extraordinarily interesting snippets from the beginning of the Vic-Wells Ballet, interviews and recordings of rehearsals, such as “Isadora” with Merle Park, and also Monica Mason as Myrtha.

 

Part 1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEqRTzOm7HI

 

Part 2

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1SCzurD0IM

 

Part 3

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIaKMravz7s

So enjoyed watching this, thank you. I still remember the disapproving audience at the first night of Isadora. Looking back, we all know that David Wall was the most handsome man the RB ever had but I can't be the only one to have forgotten how ravishing was Marguerite Porter.

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Yes! I found it not always easy to follow.

 

So, I`m sure a few of you have been around at that time. Was "Isadora" received badly by the Audience? Although I`ve recently read the biography of Sir Kenneth, I can`t remember if the ballet was revived later.

 

It`s so sad that there are hardly any Macmillan ballets to be seen in Germany.

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I was at the premiere of Isadora and I remember the performance as a bit of a muddle. I would also say that the work was not well received. It had two acts, but seemed much longer. I always remember Stephen on the ROH box office information desk saying 'I was never so pleased to see a car arrive in all my life'. Some of the performances were very good but the mix of dance and spoken took some getting used to. There was a lot of cutting after that start.

 

There is a DVD of the Vanessa Redgrave film Isadora which has a full performance of the (cut) ballet. Merle Park looks beautiful but it is still a mess.

 

There was a problem seeing the news reportage from parts of the amphitheatre which didn't help following the story.

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I remember Clive James reviewing this for Punch.  He rather liked it and particularly commented on one pdd in which he described the dancers as trying to undress each other but only using their teeth...!  He remarked enviously that it 'looked like a lot of fun'.  Sad that the rest of the ballet was quite the opposite.

 

Linda

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There is a DVD of the Vanessa Redgrave film Isadora which has a full performance of the (cut) ballet. Merle Park looks beautiful but it is still a mess.

Sorry, Two Pigeons, I am not sure I understood how the film made in 1968 could have a full performance of the ballet, which was staged in 1981? And Merle Park there?

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I was there on the first night too and I actually challenged one of the booers, seems he was part of some ant-MacMillan claque, he said some vile things about Lynn Seymour (who wasn't even dancing that night) as well.  A really nasty individual,   However the ballet was an absolute turkey, a real nadir in RB first nights.

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On paper Isadora had everything going for it with Gillian Freeman providing the libretto,as she had

for Mayerling, and Georgiadis as designer. It had to be good. I am sure that most people who were at

the first night of Isadora went with very high hopes but as the night progressed the work fell apart.

 

I do not think that it was the cast that was the problem It was strongly cast throughout and it did notwork with either Park or Conley in the lead role. There were people who thought that it would have

worked better if the role of Isadora had been danced by Seymour rather than Park. If the ballet had

been made on Seymour it would, of course, have been a very different work.

 

I think that it was the subject matter itself which caused the problem.Mayerling works because at its

heart it is a ballet about Rudolph's relationship with a number of women which can be expressed in

balletic terms; the scenes with the Hungarian officers, the tavern scene and the hunt work less well.

In some cases this is because the scene is there merely to provide a link in the action in others

because the material is too complex to be expressed in dance A ballet about an influential dancer must have seemed a much easier proposition by comparison.

 

However Isadora's importance and interest lay in the impact that she had on the development of dance atthe beginning of the twentieth century not in her love life. The fact that it was necessary to have a

dancing Isadora and a speaking Isadora gives some indication of the difficulties that were encountered.

 

Ashton who had actually seen her dance made no attempt to revive or reconstruct her dances instead he

sought to evoke the effect that her dancing had had on her audience. MacMillan on the other hand

provided pastiche when he put Loie Fuller on stage and did little better when it came to creating

choreography for Isadora's dance performances.

 

Perhaps MacMillan saw this ballet as an opportunity to do for the female dancer what he had done in

Mayerling for the male dancer. He had already gone a long way in extending the sort of material that

could be included in a full length ballet for a female lead when he turned his one act ballet Anastasiain to a full length work by adding two more acts.If that was his intention he failed and while he

should be given credit for the attempt I sincerely hope that no one attempts a further exhumation

of it in either full length or one act form.

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On paper Isadora had everything going for it with Gillian Freeman providing the libretto,as she had

for Mayerling, and Georgiadis as designer. It had to be good. I am sure that most people who were at

the first night of Isadora went with very high hopes but as the night progressed the work fell apart.

 

I do not think that it was the cast that was the problem It was strongly cast throughout and it did notwork with either Park or Conley in the lead role. There were people who thought that it would have

worked better if the role of Isadora had been danced by Seymour rather than Park. If the ballet had

been made on Seymour it would, of course, have been a very different work.

 

I think that it was the subject matter itself which caused the problem.Mayerling works because at its

heart it is a ballet about Rudolph's relationship with a number of women which can be expressed in

balletic terms; the scenes with the Hungarian officers, the tavern scene and the hunt work less well.

In some cases this is because the scene is there merely to provide a link in the action in others

because the material is too complex to be expressed in dance A ballet about an influential dancer must have seemed a much easier proposition by comparison.

 

However Isadora's importance and interest lay in the impact that she had on the development of dance atthe beginning of the twentieth century not in her love life. The fact that it was necessary to have a

dancing Isadora and a speaking Isadora gives some indication of the difficulties that were encountered.

 

Ashton who had actually seen her dance made no attempt to revive or reconstruct her dances instead he

sought to evoke the effect that her dancing had had on her audience. MacMillan on the other hand

provided pastiche when he put Loie Fuller on stage and did little better when it came to creating

choreography for Isadora's dance performances.

 

Perhaps MacMillan saw this ballet as an opportunity to do for the female dancer what he had done in

Mayerling for the male dancer. He had already gone a long way in extending the sort of material that

could be included in a full length ballet for a female lead when he turned his one act ballet Anastasiain to a full length work by adding two more acts.If that was his intention he failed and while he

should be given credit for the attempt I sincerely hope that no one attempts a further exhumation

of it in either full length or one act form.

 

A small correction, the designer for Isadora was Barry Kay.

 

I have a memory - possibly erroneous - of Galina Samsova dancing the title role when the RB toured Isadora to Manchester.

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I am fairly sure that I read somewhere that the original plan was for Ashton to contribute towards the reconstructions or re imaginations of Duncan's dances but he declined when Macmillan intended to use pastiches of the type of music rather than the real thing. Ashton stressed that she used good music by great composers and I think anyone lucky enough to have seen Lynn Seymour in the Five Brahms Waltzes probably had a clearer idea of her importance as an artist. Macmillan showed her rather colourful life but her role as an artist got a bit lost.

 

I am sorry I didn't see Galina Samsova in the role as she was very well received by those who did.

 

As an aside I remember Lynn saying in an interview in the Dancing Times when she was 70 that this was her favourite of all her roles as she considered it the most beautiful work he ever wrote. Given the wonderful roles she created during her career I found that comment very illuminating.

Edited by Two Pigeons
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I, for one, hope that Anastasia (in either its one or three act form) returns to the RB's rep. in the not too distant future

 

Me too.  At least, I did.  None of the ballerinas I wanted to see in the leading role are still with the company now, though :(

 

And actually, I'd have welcomed the single, non-tampered-with, Act III.

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A small correction, the designer for Isadora was Barry Kay.

 

I have a memory - possibly erroneous - of Galina Samsova dancing the title role when the RB toured Isadora to Manchester.

Samsova did dance Isadora in London with David Wall in what was to have been his created role too. 

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It`s so very interesting to read your recollections, thank you for sharing! FLOSS, you gave me a lot to think about.

 

I also wonder whether Isadora was MacMillan’s take on Dance Theatre and if an audience who is more familiar with that would react differently.

I’m going to order the DVD and see for myself.

 

Yesterday I watched Elite Syncopations, The Judas Tree and Winter Dreams in a row. I’m still in awe. What a wealth!

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I stand corrected it was of course Barry Kay who designed Isadora. MacMillan's was working with a tried

and tested team when he made the ballet.I do not think that it was a case of a stuffy ROH audience

failing to appreciate a work of dance theatre which led to the ballet's lack of success. I am sure that

most, if not all, of the audience at the first performance of Isadora went with high expectations

hoping to see something as extraordinary as Mayerling.

 

It is the pas de deux in Mayerling that are memorable: each of them is different and whether or not

Rudolph dances in them they serve either to to tell us more about him or to move the story on to its

tragic conclusion. Isadora like Mayerling also focuses on personal relationships but its pas de deux

tell you far less about the characters than those in Mayerling and they do not have the same theatricalimpact or provide the same impetus . In Mayerling the action of the ballet makes the double suicide

seem inevitable in Isadora the deaths are not an inevitable consequence of what has gone before.

Accidental deaths however tragic or bizarre are not of themselves the stuff of theatrical tragedy and

that is something that anyone seeking to revive it in whatever form has to contend with.

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