From the Music Hall to Ballet Royalty: A British Tale


“It’s absolute nonsense to say that the English temperament is just not fitted to dancing,” Edouard Espinosa, a London dance instructor, mentioned in 1916. It was solely a scarcity of expert educating, he added, that prevented the emergence of “good dancers.” Espinosa was talking to a reporter from Girl’s Pictorial a few furor that he had triggered within the dance world with this concept: Dance instructors, he insisted, ought to adhere to requirements and be examined on their work.

4 years later, in 1920, a educating group that will turn out to be the Royal Academy of Dance (R.A.D.) was based by Espinosa and a number of other others, together with the Danish-born Adeline Genée and the Russian ballerina Tamara Karsavina. At the moment, the academy is without doubt one of the main ballet coaching applications on this planet, with college students in 92 international locations following syllabuses and taking its exams ruled by the group. And because the exhibition “On Point: Royal Academy of Dance at 100,” on the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, reveals, its historical past is synonymous with the historical past of ballet in Britain.

“Numerous British dance’s legacy began with the R.A.D.,” mentioned Darcey Bussell, a former Royal Ballet ballerina who has been the president of the academy since 2012. “It’s necessary that dance coaching and educating are saved entwined with the skilled world, and the R.A.D. has achieved that from the beginning.”

There wasn’t but a nationwide ballet firm in Britain when the Royal Academy was shaped. However there was loads of ballet, mentioned Jane Pritchard, the curator of dance, theater and efficiency on the Victoria and Albert museum. She curated the exhibition with Eleanor Fitzpatrick, the archives and data supervisor on the Royal Academy of Dance. “The Ballets Russes have been there, Pavlova was performing in London, and there have been wonderful émigré lecturers arriving,” Ms. Pritchard mentioned. “So the R.A.D. got here into existence at simply the fitting second, taking one of the best of the Italian, French and Russian colleges and bringing it collectively to create a British model, which it then despatched out into the world once more.”

The exhibition, which runs by means of September 2021, had its scheduled Could opening delayed by Covid-19 restrictions. It opened on Dec. 2, however was shut down once more when Britain reimposed restrictions in mid-December. Whereas we look ahead to the museum to reopen, here’s a tour of a few of the exhibition’s pictures, designs and objects, which contact on a few of the most necessary figures in Twentieth-century ballet historical past.

Adeline Genée (1878-1970), who spent a lot of her profession in England, reigned for a decade because the prima ballerina on the Empire Theater, the place she appeared in selection applications. She was each revered as a classical dancer and vastly common with the general public; Florenz Ziegfeld billed her as “The World’s Biggest Dancer” when she carried out in the US in 1907. Genée grew to become the primary president of the Royal Academy of Dance, and her connections to royalty and her recognition with the general public made her a wonderful figurehead.

The 1915 {photograph} reveals Genée in her personal brief ballet, “A Dream of Butterflies and Roses,” in a fancy dress by Wilhelm, the resident designer on the Empire Theater and an necessary determine on the theatrical scene. “It’s a very good instance of the sort of costume and the sort of ballets that have been being proven on the time,” Ms. Fitzpatrick mentioned. “Ballet was nonetheless a part of music-hall leisure.”

This 1922 poster of weekly variety-show choices on the London Coliseum suggests how ballet was seen across the time that the Royal Academy of Dance was based. “It was a part of a much bigger normal image, and this reveals it visually,” Ms. Pritchard mentioned. “Sybil Thorndike was an awesome British actress and would have given a brief efficiency of a play or monologue; Grock was a really well-known clown. Many of the Coliseum payments had some type of dance aspect, nevertheless it wasn’t at all times ballet.”

Leaping Joan was one among three characters danced by Tamara Karsavina in “Nursery Rhymes,” which she choreographed, to music by Schubert, for a night on the Coliseum Theater in London in 1921. Unusually for ballet on the time in London, it was a stand-alone present quite than a part of a spread program. Karsavina and her firm carried out it twice a day for 2 weeks.

“Folks affiliate Karsavina with the Ballets Russes, however she additionally had her personal group of dancers, which carried out commonly on the Coliseum,” Ms. Pritchard mentioned. “She was actually an unbiased artist in a method we predict could be very fashionable, working with a serious firm but additionally having an unbiased existence.”

She additionally tried to advertise British artists; the costume design was by Claud Lovat Fraser, a superb theater designer who died in his early 30s. “I believe Lovat Fraser is the British equal of Bakst,” Ms. Pritchard mentioned. “His drawings are so animated and exact, and he makes use of colour splendidly to create a way of character.”

In 1954, the Whip and Carrot Membership, an affiliation of excessive jumpers, approached the Royal Academy of Dance with an uncommon request. Its members had learn that in each Russia and America, athletes had benefited from taking ballet lessons, and so they requested the Academy to formulate classes that will enhance their elevation.

The end result was a course that ran for a number of years, with lessons for top jumpers and hurdlers and, later, “steeplechasers, discus and javelin-throwers,” in line with a Pathé film clip, on present within the exhibition. In 1955, a booklet was produced, displaying 13 workout routines designed to assist leaping, drawn by the cartoonist Cyril Kenneth Hen, recognized professionally as Fougasse and famous for government propaganda posters (“Careless speak prices lives”) produced throughout World Struggle II.

“I like the {photograph} of Margot Fonteyn wanting on in her fur coat!” Ms. Pritchard mentioned.

Karsavina, vp of the Royal Academy of Dance till 1955, developed a lecturers’ coaching course syllabus in addition to different sections of the superior exams. As a dancer, she created the title function in Mikhail Fokine’s “The Firebird,” with music by Stravinsky, when the Ballets Russes first carried out the ballet on the Paris Opera in 1910. Right here she is proven teaching Margot Fonteyn, when the Royal Ballet first staged the ballet, in 1954, the 12 months that Fonteyn took over from Genée as president of the Royal Academy of Dance.

“Karsavina had firsthand information of what the choreographer and composer needed, and is passing it on,” Ms. Fitzpatrick mentioned. (“I by no means was one to rely,” Karsavina says in a film clip about learning “The Firebird”; “Stravinsky was very variety.”) “There’s a great sense of handing issues from one era to the following.”

This relaxed second from a 1963 rehearsal reveals the benefit and rapport between Fonteyn and the youthful Rudolf Nureyev, who had defected from Russia two years earlier. They have been rehearsing for the annual Royal Academy of Dance gala, which Fonteyn established to lift funds for the group. Her fame enabled her to deliver collectively worldwide visitors, British dancers and even modern dance choreographers like Paul Taylor.

“The gala was additionally a chance for Fonteyn and Nureyev to strive issues that they maybe wouldn’t have danced with the Royal Ballet,” Ms. Pritchard mentioned. “Right here, they have been in rehearsal for ‘La Sylphide,’ as a result of Nureyev was passionate in regards to the Bournonville choreography. They actually appear like two dancers who’re proud of each other.”

Stanislas Idzikowski, referred to as Idzi to his college students, was a Polish dancer who had moved to London in his teenagers and danced with Anna Pavlova’s firm earlier than becoming a member of the Ballets Russes, the place he inherited a lot of Vaslav Nijinsky’s roles. An in depth buddy of Karsavina, he later grew to become a much-loved instructor and labored intently with the Royal Academy of Dance. At all times formally clad in a three-piece go well with with a stiff collared shirt and chic sneakers, he was, Fonteyn wrote in her autobiography, “diminutive, dapper and exact.”

On this 1952 {photograph}, he’s educating fifth-year women who have been most likely hoping to go on to skilled careers. Idzikowski was additionally concerned with the Royal Academy of Dance’s Manufacturing Membership, began in 1932 to permit college students over 14 to work with choreographers; Frederick Ashton and Robert Helpmann have been among the many early volunteers, and later a younger John Cranko created his first work there.

This 1972 {photograph} of younger women about to start a sequence referred to as the “occasion polka” was taken by Fonteyn’s brother, Felix, who additionally filmed the demonstration being given by a gaggle of main college college students for Fonteyn and different lecturers. The footage, which had been saved within the Royal Academy of Dance’s archives in canisters marked “Kids’s Syllabus,” was only recently discovered by Ms. Fitzgerald.

The movie presents a uncommon glimpse of Fonteyn in her offstage function on the Royal Academy of Dance, Ms. Fitzgerald mentioned, and it displays an necessary change that the ballerina made throughout her presidency. “Folks actually take into consideration Fonteyn as a dancer, however she was very concerned with educating and syllabus improvement,” Ms. Fitzgerald mentioned. Earlier syllabuses, she defined, had included mime, drama and historical past, however when a panel, together with Fonteyn, revised this system in 1968, they did away with a lot of this.

“They needed to streamline all the pieces and make it extra gratifying for the youngsters, and simply give attention to the motion,” Ms. Fitzgerald mentioned. “The occasion polka is an effective instance of that, with an awesome sense for the youngsters of whirling across the room, and actually dancing.”



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