Sixty Years Ago: British Ballet in Australia

10th September 1958: New Zealand-born ballerina Rowena Jackson stars in a (British) Royal Ballet performance of Swan Lake at the Empire Theatre in Sydney, Australia.

R.I.P. Errol Pickford

Errol Pickford as Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet © Leslie Spatt Royal Ballet Royal Opera House

As Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. X

The weekend brought news of the death of Australian-born star of Britain’s Royal Ballet, Errol Pickford. After years in London he moved back to Perth to dance with the West Australian Ballet.

He was only fifty-one at the time of his death.

Errol Pickford as The Bluebird in The Sleeping Beauty © Leslie Spatt Royal Ballet Royal Opera House

As the Bluebird in The Sleeping Beauty.

Pickford was known for his powerful dancing, and was famous for his performances in The Sleeping Beauty and Don Quixote.

On this day: the premiere of Foyer de Danse

foyer-de-danse Alicia Markova, seen here at left in Frederick Ashton_s Foyer de Danse at the fledgling British company Ballet Club (1932).

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Foyer de Danse, a ballet by English choreographer Frederick Ashton, had its premiere on the 9th of October, 1932.

This footage (begins 24 seconds in) from the 1932 production features Ashton alongside English prima ballerina Alicia Markova (born Lilian Alice Marks):

Ashton would go on to become one of ballet’s best-known choreographers. His productions of ballets such as Cinderella and La fille mal gardée are still seen onstage at the Royal Opera House on a regular basis.

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: 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.