Posted on October 28, 2021
We mark an important milestone in this month’s issue of Dancing Times – the centenary of the first complete performance in the UK of Marius Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty (or The Sleeping Princess as it was titled by Serge Diaghilev for his Ballets Russes production back in 1921). The work has played such a significant role in the history of ballet in Britain (becoming the signature work of The Royal Ballet) that this seemed the right time to look back a century and find out just how it was viewed by a public who had never seen the ballet before.
In Dance Scene International, we record the reopening of theatres across the country following the pandemic, which includes a huge amount of new work being performed by some of our leading dance companies.
Finally, with this issue, we also say farewell to the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD), which has played host to the Dancing Times since 2016. The RAD will shortly be moving into its wonderful new premises and, from November 1 onwards, the Dancing Times team will all be working from home for the forseeable future. We can still be contacted by letter, email or telephone, of course, but please check our new address and telephone number opposite. I would like to extend our thanks to everyone at the RAD who has made the stay in our office on the third floor such a happy one, particularly Luke Rittner, Gerard Charles and Melanie Murphy – they have all proved to be true friends of the magazine.
“Exactly a century ago, London saw for the first time a work that would play a significant role in the history of ballet in the UK – Marius Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty. Then titled The Sleeping Princess because, according to legend, Serge Diaghilev said there were ‘no beauties’ in his company, the Ballets Russes production generated a huge amount of interest as it was unlike anything that had been danced before by the celebrated Russian company.
“Indeed, Philip J S Richardson, founding editor of Dancing Times, writing as ‘The Sitter Out’, returned to the subject of the ballet time and time again during the months leading up to its premiere, remarking on the unusual project and later discovering, through its display of ‘pure’ classical dancing, that it could be a wonderful example to dance teachers and students, setting out the standards towards which they ought to be aiming. He was particularly conscious of this aspect of the ballet because he had recently helped launch the Royal Academy of Dance, which aimed to establish a professional method of teaching ballet in the UK.
“Elsewhere in this issue, Sarah Woodcock writes about the important contribution the stage designer Léon Bakst made to the production, but here we concentrate on Richardson’s discovery of a true ‘classical ballet’, one that would later become forever associated with the history of The Royal Ballet when Ninette de Valois staged it just 18 years later on her fledgling company, then named the Vic-Wells Ballet, in a modest production led by a 19-year-old Margot Fonteyn.”
“If there were a prize for the most warmly received post-lockdown musical, Anything Goes at the Barbican Theatre would have won it. Reviewers seemed to compete in outdoing each other in adulation – ‘the show of the year’, said the Daily Telegraph; a ‘fizzing tonic for our times’, noted The Guardian; ‘the musical equivalent of sipping one glass of champagne after another’, claimed The Times; and ‘as welcome today as in 1934 when it reached Broadway during the depression’, said Barbara Newman in our own pages (see Dancing Times, September 2021).
“Live audiences fell in love with the show too – and, at the heart of it, Broadway star Sutton Foster, a newcomer to the London stage. Running until November 6, the musical, with its beloved Cole Porter songs and stylish ocean liner setting, boasts a star-studded cast, including Robert Lindsay as Moonface Martin, Felicity Kendal as Evangeline Harcourt and Gary Wilmot as Elisha Whitney. Yet, with her razzle-dazzle smile, warmth, charisma and gloriously effortless hoofing, Foster’s Reno Sweeney – a rich, multilayered interpretation – carried the show. I found myself missing her when she wasn’t on stage and – always a sure sign of an excellent production – looking forward to watching it all over again, which I can now do, as can we all, when it hits our cinema screens for two nights only on November 28 and December 1 in a live recording filmed at the Barbican.”
“When I meet Sabine Naghdi, who has written a book titled Tears of a Ballet Mum, I quickly realise she is the antithesis of the character normally associated with the ballet mother. She is the least pushy, least interfering mother imaginable and yet there can be no doubt she is proud of her daughter, Yasmine, a principal with The Royal Ballet, and all that she has achieved. I’m rather in awe of the mother as well as the daughter.
“The book has come about after several years of people urging her to write it. ‘It had already been talked about when Yasmine was still at The Royal Ballet School [RBS]. Friends, acquaintances and parents often exclaimed, “It must be such a hard journey”. To which I always jokingly replied, “Oh yes, I could write a book about it”.
“‘What ultimately persuaded me was an encounter with a mother and her young daughter, after I had watched Yasmine dance Odette/Odile in Swan Lake at the Royal Opera House, back in 2018. After the performance I went to the stage door and, as I made my way in towards Reception, a mother with a pretty little girl – who was training at White Lodge [The Royal Ballet Lower School] – stopped me and asked if I had any advice. I had such a deep feeling of sympathy for her, and wondered what I could say in just a few sentences that could be helpful and concise enough. Eventually, all I said was: “It’s such a long journey, so much can happen, just enjoy every step of the way, but realise that talent alone is not enough.” She looked puzzled; maybe she had expected to hear a formula for success?”
Sarah Woodcock looks at Léon Bakst’s designs for The Sleeping Princess
Laura Cappelle reviews the Paris Opéra Ballet in Le Rouge et le noir
Cyril W Beaumont gives an impression of rehearsals for The Sleeping Princess at the Alhambra Theatre
Martin Cutler reports on the 2021 International Championships from the Royal Albert Hall
Susan Crow considers how best to educate tomorrow’s ballet dancers
James Whitehead shares some tips on the slow foxtrot
Alastair Macaulay looks at the Poussin and the Dance exhibition at The National Gallery
Phil Meacham looks at foot control in both ballroom and Latin
Barbara Newman sees Frozen at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane
Simon Selmon considers the benefits of being back on the dance floor
Igor Stupnikov attends the Mikhailovsky Ballet’s The Little Humpbacked Horse
Pete Meager on the Equality Fun Competition at the Rivoli Ballroom
Leigh Witchel contributes his first Notes from New York
Jack Reavely remembers a famous dance school
Margaret Willis interviews our Dancer of the Month, Ballet Black’s Alexander Fadayiro
Gerald Dowler reviews the book Dancing for Stalin by Christina Ezrahi
Dane Hurst leaves Phoenix Dance Theatre, Acosta Danza on tour in the UK, New Adventures announces Overture artists, Aakash Odedra Company’s Winter Funk, Carte Blanche cabaret, Strictly Come Dancing, Ballet Icons Gala, Boys will be Boys photographic exhibition, McNicol Ballet Collective; reviews of live performances from Birmingham International Dance Festival, Motionhouse, Scottish Ballet, English National Ballet, Northern Ballet, New Adventures, James Cousins Company, Birmingham Royal Ballet, The Royal Ballet, Phoenix Dance Theatre, Dutch National Ballet, Zürich Ballet, Staatsballett Berlin, New York City Ballet; Colin Jones remembered in Obituaries; new DVDs; new things to try in Products; Woking Dance Space, Safeguarding at The Royal Ballet School, balletLORENT’s Young Creatives programme, Fullbright-Trinity Laban Postgraduate Scholar, Anita Young at bbodance, Xzibit; calendar dates for performances in the UK and abroad; where to learn to dance in the UK; we look back to November 1981