Friday, March 06, 2015

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tamara Karsavina Rehearsing Margot Fonteyn

Rehearsing 'Le Spectre de la Rose'

Rehearsing 'Le Spectre de la Rose'

Rehearsing 'The Firebird'

Rehearsing 'The Firebird'

I particularly love the first image - which gives the tiniest sense of Karsavina's performance in the role.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Film of Diaghilev Ballet Russe Ballerina Absoluta At Home

Tamara Karsavina arranging things in a doll's house in the garden at home in England (1920s)

A couple of days ago I came across some footage of the great Mariinsky (now Kirov) Theatre and Serge de Diaghilev Ballet Russe prima ballerina, Tamara Karsavina ...

In 'L'Oiseau de feu' / 'Firebird' (1910)

In 'Giselle' with Vaslav Nijinsky (1910)

With Vaslav Nijinsky in 'Le Spectre de la Rose' (1911)

With Vaslav Nijinsky in 'Le Spectre de la Rose' (1911)

With Vaslav Nijnsky in 'Le Spectre de la Rose' (1911)

In 'Les Papillons' (1912)

In 'Les Papillons' (1912)

With Serge Lifar in 'Romeo et Juilette' (1926)

Tamara Karsavina c1960 teaching the ballerina role in 'Le Spectre de la Rose' (1911) to Margot Fonteyn

... doing a variety of ordinary and less ordinary things at home in England in the 1920s, such as arranging things in a doll's house ...

... choosing some material to be made into a dress ...

... reading a letter in her study ...

... exercising and dancing in the garden ...

... and leaving the house for a performance at the Coliseum Theatre in London ...

... turning to take a coat from a maid ...

... as a cat scurries past!

The footage of Tamara Karsavina in these mostly every day activities seems to make her more real and less like simply the great and remote legend of the photographs, memoirs, histories and biographies of the Ballet Russe era.

Friday, October 02, 2009

One of those What-Might-Have-Been Situations

I came across some very grainy footage recently of a most extraordinary ballet dancer - someone who obviously had the greatest future. Around 16, she'd been taking leading roles in the Mariinsky (Kirov) Theatre while still a student at the school.

The film shows Valentina Semyukova in a pas de deux from 'The Nutcracker'.

She already seems perfectly formed as a dancer, about to enlarge on her technique.

Through the movement, there is a perfect disposition of the forms of her body - creating an continuously exquisite line.

The phrasing with respect to the music is always intelligently considered and placed in an unmannered fashion. Not just following the music but leading purposefully away and then returning to catch the beat.

She is still technically tentative, which is particularly evident in the section involving 'fish dives' - the choreography has been simplified somewhat for the still developing dancer.

Very sadly, Valentina Semyukova died of an unspecified illness at just 17 years of age.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Serge Lifar (1905-1986) - Last Great Male Dancer of the Ballet Russe de Serge Diaghilev

Lifar in 'Zephir et Flore' (1925)

Lifar and Tamara Karsavina in 'Romeo et Juilette' ?

I've just come across these two clips of Serge Lifar - in the first, he conducts a class at the Paris Opera, and in the second he is performing the last part of 'L'Apres Midi d'un Faune' (choreography after Vaslav Nijinsky, music by ?)

Friday, October 03, 2008

Anna Pavlova - Solo to Rubenstein's 9th Symphony (1916)

Again, I have no knowledge about this footage.

It was taken in California in 1916 at the studio of Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford.

It is extraordinary for the highly emotive second half.

Anna Pavlova

This film show Anna Pavlova in Grecian costume doing I know not what.

She seems strangely and surreptitiously supported in arabesque at the beginning. And then does a series of traveling bourrees round the stage and off to the wings. Accompanied by a beautiful fluid porte de bras.

Anna Pavlova - At Home and Traveling

This footage shows Anna Pavlova at home, and on some of her extraordinary travels to take ballet to people all round the globe. I love seeing her going off somewhere by camel!

It comes from a documentary about dance in general. And has Mikhail Baryshnikov as the talking head.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Frederick Ashton (1904-1988)

When I was a kid living in London, I remember seeing Frederick Ashton as one of the Ugly Sisters in the Royal Ballet's 'Cinderella'.

I recall two things vividly.

The first was the psychologically complex characterization: the warm, teasing, self-centred, loving, vain, vulnerable, shy, sly, nervous ... monster! In comparison with Robert Helpmann's much more broad-brush-stroke panto creation - as the other sibling. Some of all this is captured in the following photos:

The second occurred at the Ball. Each sister was vie-ing for the tall handsome prince as partner, as opposed to the other short ordinary-looking one. Of course Helpmann's tough and go-getting sister wins out. But then cunningly and placatingly whispers something in her gentler sister's ear - drawing a surreptitious but long glance at the diminutive prince's crotch. With a slow lascivious smile spreading over her face!

After the performance, I was introduced to Ashton and asked him to sign a book I'd just been given about his choreography.

Without being able to think just what to say to such a young person, Ashton gently declared that it was raining outside and my book would need a mackintosh (raincoat) to get it home safely.
Royal Danish Ballet - Ellen Price (1878-1968) in the Opening Solo of 'La Sylphide' (1903)

Elle Price despite what her name suggests was a Danish ballerina. More information about her life and dancing can be found at:

Royal Danish Ballet (1906) - Valborg Borchsenius (1872-1949) in 'Zigeunerdansen fra Troubadouren'