R.I.P. Bryan Lawrence

Bryan Lawrence in Le Conservatoire. The Australian Ballet, 1965. Photo Ken Byron, Australian News and Information Bureau.

Bryan Lawrence, a soloist with Britain’s Royal Ballet before moving to Australia to become one of The Australian Ballet’s early principals, died over the weekend. He was in his eighty-first year.

Swan Lake Royal Ballet School performance 1960 with Shirley Grahame. — with Shirley Grahame Kershaw. Bryan Lawrence.

With Shirley Grahame.

After retiring, Lawrence and his ballerina wife Janet Karin moved to Canberra where they founded a highly successful ballet school. Their graduates went to on star with companies such as American Ballet Theatre, the Joffrey Ballet, and – of course – The Australian Ballet. Ross Stretton, the late director of both Australia’s national company and The Royal Ballet, also began his training there.

On this day…

Dancers from the London Festival Ballet on the 31st of May, 1952. They are photographed on London’s Southbank.

The company was renamed the English National Ballet in 1989, and is today home to some of the world’s most famous ballet stars, many of them from overseas.

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southbank-centre-7-1444132505-view-0 Cast members of the Festival Ballet, captured mid-leap on London's Southbank, 31 May 1952.

On this day: the death of a prima ballerina

Maya_Plisetskaya_-_1974Plisetskaya performing in Carmen (1974)

As Carmen in 1974.

Soviet ballerina Maya Plisetskaya, one of only a handful of dancers in history to hold the title of Prima Ballerina Assoluta, died on the 2nd of May, 2015.

Born into a prominent family of Lithuanian Jews, Plisetskaya completed her ballet training in Moscow, first performing at the Bolshoi Theatre at the age of eleven.

Maya Plisetskaya Grand Jete Ballet Vintage

Despite being one of the most respected dancers in history, she was treated badly by the anti-Semitic Russian authorities. For the first sixteen years of her career she was banned from leaving the country.

Her father was executed during the Stalinist purges, and her mother, a famous Lithuanian film actress, spent several years in a gulag in Kazakhstan.

Maya Plisetskaya Ballet Vintage

Plisetskaya followed in the footsteps of another great Soviet ballerina: Galina Ulanova, and took over her position as the Bolshoi’s star dancer upon Ulanova’s retirement. Plisetskaya was a member of the Theatre until 1990.

Succumbing to a heart attack, she was eighty-nine at the time of her death.

On this day…

People magazine cover from the 1st of April, 1985. Featured are English actress Jacqueline Bisset and her then partner Alexander Godunov. Godunov was a Soviet ballet star who defected in the late 1970s, becoming a featured actor in Hollywood until his shock death a decade after this picture was taken.

Alexander Godunov People 21st April 1985 Cover

On this day: the premiere of Romeo and Juliet

christopher-gable-and-lynn-seymour-as-kenneth-macmillans-original-romeo-and-juliet-1965

Romeo and Juliet as it was intended to be: Gable and Seymour in the roles created for them, in a 1965 performance.

Kenneth Macmillan’s acclaimed ballet version of Romeo and Juliet premiered at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden on the 9th of February, 1965.

Even though the ballet had been specifically created for Christopher Gable and Lynn Seymour, the intervention of Russian-American tour organiser Sol Hurok meant they were not allowed to dance first cast in the lead roles.

Instead, Gable and Seymour, critically acclaimed dancers who had personal input into the choreography, were forced to teach their roles to Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn, who would also go on to feature in the video recording of the ballet.

In further controversy, choreographer John Cranko, whose earlier production of the ballet is eerily similar to Macmillan’s version in a number of scenes, was said to be horrified by what he saw as plagiarism of his work.

On this day…

The Nutcracker ballet, in a photograph dated the 11th of December, 1966. The Snow Queen and Snow King are played by Jiji Jahrig and Charlie Putman, and the Snowflakes are Sherry Darmopray, Christy Darmopray and Linda Vigil. The picture comes from The Denver Post.

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DEC 5 1966, DEC 11 1966; Charlie Putman and Jiji Jahrig appear as the Snow King and Snow Queen and d