Rex Reid - My Teacher at the Australian Dance Theatre School
Quite by chance in London a few years back, I came across some photos of Rex Reid in a pile being discarded at the Australian High Commission where I was working.
Rex had been a dance teacher of mine at the Australian Dance Theatre School in Adelaide.
He had gone to the British capital as a prodigy, like Robert Helpmann, but in the 1950's. After dancing with Festival Ballet and Ballet Rambert (second shot below - the non-partnering dancer on the left), he formed a company in South Africa with Princess Natasha Watchinadze, a Georgian who had fled the USSR with George Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova in the 1920's.
Princess Natasha Watchinadze, the 'Black Garbo'
I knew Natasha from dinner parties at Rex's in Adelaide. Where she always used to refer to me as the 'person who speaks French'. Natasha would come into the room in a green Chinese silk jacket and gold Arabian pantaloons, preceded by a long and very Auntie Mame-ish cigarette holder, belching smoke from her Gitane. Her face would be whitened and her lips made blood red, the colour to match long fingernail claws.
Natasha would tell of knowing Cocteau, Nijinska (whom she nursed in her final illness) and dancers of the Ballets Russes, and many luminaries of the artistic world of the period.
She was also a friend of Picasso, having a table napkin in which the artist had sketched her then extraordinary almond-shaped green eyes and incribed with the sentence 'I have been seduced by your eyes' (in French). I particularly remember a story of her time in Berlin in the 1930's. Deitrich had commented on the the princess's beautiful bone structure and Natasha told her she had achieved this by having her back teeth removed. Apparently Deitrich followed suite. At which point in the story, Natasha would open her mouth to show a full set of teeth accompanied by roars of laughter.
Rex Reid came from the old school of dance instruction where, with a rapier slashing tongue, the pedagogue would bully students into progress. I recall him correcting a port de bras - 'looks as though you are wearing earrings!!!' - the shoulders were too lifted up and tense.
The last (small) photo is of Rex at the time I knew him. He died only a few years back.
Makarova in 'Le Lac des Cygnes' at Les Nuits du Louvre
In July 1973, Makarova and Nureyev gave a series of performances of 'Le Lac des Cygnes' in the Court Carre at Le Louvre in Paris. Things went wrong, and, at one point, I remember Nureyev yelling at the dancers from the 'wings' of this essentially outdoor event. Curiously, the most memorable thing for me was this photograph of Makarova as Odette in Act 2.
One dancer who (I feel) did not realize the attention or acclaim she deserved was Svetlana Beriosova, perhaps due to her own self-doubts and cancelation record. Lithuanian-born, she spent most of her career with the Royal Ballet. I was lucky to see her in some of her greatest roles: Cinderella in 'Cinderella' and Lady Eldar in 'Enigma Variations' (both by Ashton), and The Hostess in 'Les Biches' and The Bride in 'Les Noces' (both revived by Nijinska from the Ballets Russes/Diaghilev repetoire).
I loved the extraordinary beauty of line (great clear open sculptural forms) and grandure of presentation - so fitted to roles like Aurora in 'Sleeping Beauty', as the photos below show. She had a certain remoteness that, in a curious way, allowed you to read what you wanted into a performance. In this, I am reminded of a famous photo of Greta Garbo, the signature picture for 'Queen Christiana'. The photographer instructed the actress to let her mind go totally blank, and people spent much time talking about Garbo's expressiveness. This is not to say Beriosova was 'neutral' as an artist in a role - quite the opposite.
Well, what better start than Anna Pavlova (her, in 'Dying Swan' - choreographer: Michael Fokine) - I knew Frederick Ashton who saw this great dancer in Peru in the late 1920's - so two degrees of separation!
Just a bit about me first and then I want to share some photos and clips of ballet things that have meant something (or a lot!) to me. I want to see how the blog evolves, rather than impose what it will be all about. This is so I can respond (by quizzes and your comments) to what anyone reading this would like.
The 'me' bit - short and sweet. I studied fine art, aesthetics and literature in my first degree and then went on to linguistics and semiotic theory (in philosophy) in post graduate work, taking a PhD and becoming an academic on post graduate programs at a university in Sydney.
As a pre-teenager and into my early twenties, I studied ballet part-time, principally at the Australian Dance Theatre and The Dance Centre, Sydney.
I later lived in Europe for a number years and voraciously watched a wide variety of classical ballet and comtemporary dance companies.
I would like to put things here about some of the performances and companies I was lucky enough to experience. Among many artists were Fonteyn and Nureyev, Carla Fracci, Carlo Bortaluzzi, Maximova and Vassiliev, Paul Taylor, Judith Jamison, Maya Plissetskaya and Alexandre Godenov, Mischa Barishnikov, Yvette Chavire, Natalia Makararova, Alexandra Danilova and Anton Dolin. Among the companies, the Royal Ballet, the Kirov Ballet, the Bolshoi Ballet,the Australian Ballet, the New York City Ballet, the Netherlands Dance Theatre, a Noh Theatre Company (Japan), ... .
I'd also like to talk about some of the extraordinary people I have met, some of whom were more than a little influential on this art form in the twentieth century. As well as including many of the dancers listed above, there were figures such as Fredrich Ashton, Ninette de Valois, Alicia Markova, ... .
I want to share some photos and clips of dance things that have meant something to me. I have studied ballet part-time, principally at the Australian Dance Theatre and The Dance Centre, Sydney. Later, living in Europe for a number years, I watched a wide variety of dance companies and performers. I would like to put things here about some of the performances I was lucky enough to experience, and some of the extraordinary people I have met, some of whom were influential on this art form.