The Royal Ballet. Tour of Australia and New Zealand 1958–1959

With the Royal Ballet preparing for a tour to Brisbane later in 2017, I have been delving into various research materials available in Canberra and Sydney to put together some thoughts about the first tour by the Royal Ballet to Australia and New Zealand, which began in 1958.

The Royal Ballet made its first tour to Australasia in 1958−1959 performing in Australia in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane and in New Zealand in Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland. The promoters were J. C. Williamson Theatres Ltd, who claimed in their introductory notes to programs for the tour that the visit represented ‘the crowning achievement in The Firm’s distinguished contribution to the presentation of Dance in this country.’ Records of the Williamson organisation indicate that there was some initial discussion about the dates and cities to be visited (and in what order), but the eventual schedule was:

11 September−8 November 1958:
10 November 1958−3 January 1959:
7 January−31 January 1959:
3 February−25 February 1959:
4 March−7 March 1959:
9 March−21 March 1959:
23 March−4 April 1959:
6 April−18 April 1959:
Sydney, Empire Theatre
Melbourne, Her Majesty’s Theatre
Adelaide, Theatre Royal
Brisbane, Her Majesty’s Theatre
Dunedin, His Majesty’s
Christchurch, Theatre Royal
Wellington, Grand Opera House
Auckland, His Majesty’s Theatre

 
The company was essentially the touring arm of the Royal Ballet, augmented at various stages by dancers from the main company, including Rowena Jackson, Svetlana Beriosova and Anya Linden; Philip Chatfield, Bryan Ashbridge and David Blair; and Robert Helpmann, who danced some featured roles, including in The Rake’s Progress, Hamlet, Façade and Coppélia. Margot Fonteyn and Michael Somes joined the company in New Zealand.

Bryan Ashbridge, Royal Ballet postcard, 1958
Svetlana Beriosova, Royal Ballet postcard, 1958

Royal Ballet postcards, 1958–1959 Australasian tour: Bryan Ashbridge & Svetlana Beriosova

The company was led initially by Ninette de Valois. She arrived in Sydney on 22 August, ahead of the main contingent of dancers, who arrived on 1 September after what Lynn Seymour describes in her autobiography, Lynn, as a trip that took ‘three flying days, with desperate relief stops in Frankfurt, Rome, Cairo, Karachi, Calcutta, Bangkok and Singapore.’1 De Valois was accommodated in style at the Hotel Australia in Sydney—’should be booked into a nice room at the Australia with bath’ ordered the Williamson organisation.

In addition to de Valois, other administrative and artistic personnel included John Field, listed on the Australian programs as assistant director; and musical director John Lanchbery, who arrived on 30 August on board the P & O liner Stratheden, and who conducted local orchestras in each city. Ballet staff included Henry Legerton as ballet master, and Lorna Mossford as ballet mistress.

While much could be written about the tour, which, with some important exceptions, is most often given just one or two lines in books written and published in Britain, three aspects of the tour stood out as I was looking into the material available here: Lynn Seymour’s debut as Odette/Odile in Swan Lake; the writing of the Sydney-based critic and poet, Roland Robinson; and some black and white film footage shot in Melbourne in 1958.

Lynn Seymour in Swan Lake

Although Seymour says in her autobiography (and the story is repeated in Meredith Daneman’s biography of Margot Fonteyn), that her debut performance as Odette/Odile coincided with her 19th birthday, this can’t be so. Seymour gave her first performance in the full-length Swan Lake in Melbourne on 12 November 1958, but her birth-date is 9 March 1939. The debut was at a Wednesday matinee performance and Seymour was partnered by David Blair for this and for her second performance on 15 November, after which Seymour danced with Donald MacLeary.

De Valois, whose idea it was to have Seymour dance the full-length Swan Lake in Australia, left for home before the debut performance, leaving John Field in charge. Seymour’s biographer, Richard Austin, notes that Field took most of the rehearsals and that Seymour had some coaching from Rowena Jackson. As recorded in her autobiography, Seymour was also given encouragement at times by Helpmann and then in New Zealand by Fonteyn. In Lynn, Seymour also discusses some of the difficulties she faced in the first few performances, including managing the 32 fouettés in Act III, and Austin elaborates on the story. But by the time the company reached New Zealand reviews of Seymour and MacLeary were definitely positive. The reviewer for The Press (Christchurch), for example, was moved to write: ‘Lynn Seymour’s technique is remarkable for its gracefulness; and her poise enabled her to secure some wonderfully statuesque effects. In Donald MacLeary she had a wonderfully accomplished partner, whose every movement revealed his sense of style.’

The images below were taken in Melbourne in 1958. That Seymour is partnered by Blair in this collection of photos indicates that they must have been taken during Seymour’s first or second performance. They must surely be the earliest photos of Seymour in the full-length Swan Lake?

lynn-seymour-and-david-blair-swan-lake-act-ii-1
Lynn Seymour as Odile. The Royal Ballet, Melbourne 1958. Photo: Walter Stringer

 (left) Lynn Seymour and David Blair in Swan Lake Act II (detail);
(right) Lynn Seymour in Swan Lake Act III (detail).
The Royal Ballet, Melbourne 1958. Photos: Walter Stringer. National Library of Australia (PIC Albums: 994)

Roland Robinson’s dance reviews

Roland Robinson (1912–1992) wrote dance reviews for The Sydney Morning Herald for ten years during the 1940s and 1950s, always signing his reviews with just his initials, R.R. He was a poet of distinction and also wrote extensively about Aboriginal myths and legends. In the 1940s he took ballet classes in Sydney with Hélène Kirsova, whom he called his ‘teacher and heroine’, and appeared in a number of productions by the Kirsova Ballet over a three year period. His reviews thus combine a deep knowledge and strong understanding of dance (and not just its technical features but its essential qualities as an art form) with an elegant use of language. His language embodied ‘the lyrical traditions of his native Ireland’ (he was born in County Clare), as one author wrote in an obituary for Robinson.

  • He was not impressed by Les Sylphides, and he would have known this ballet well from the Kirsova Ballet: ‘The presentation of “Les Sylphides” by the Royal Ballet … contained all the components of this ballet save the basic understanding and expression of this marriage of music, dancing, painting an poetry.’
  • He greatly admired Svetlana Beriosova and said of her first performance in Sydney in Swan Lake: ‘Never have I seen anything so beautiful as Svetlana Beriosova, as Odette-Odile, in Le Lac des Cygnes by the Royal Ballet at the Empire Theatre on Saturday night … Australia is honoured by such a ballerina. For the first time we saw the tragic beauty of the full story … Such was the unrivalled classical quality of this ballerina’s performance that one must, in all due homage, say of Beriosova “Thy soul was like a star and dwelt apart”.’
  • He was at two minds about Helpmann in The Rake’s Progress: ‘Robert Helpmann is a master of mime and detailed gesture from the broad theatrical flourish to a stage dominating minute flick of the finger. He is not physically up to form in “The Rake,” but his inborn insight into the mental processes of character, and his faultless make-up compel one to sit up and take notice.’
  • He maintains that, at a reception, he had a discussion with de Valois about technique and expression and, in reviewing the opening performance of Swan Lake in Sydney, he expressed what must have been the essence of that discussion: ‘It is an indication of the native character of the English Royal Ballet that it should begin its first season in Australia with the prescribed, traditional form of the classical ballet “Swan Lake”. Each nation has its own particular character and temperament. If the characters of the Russian and French ballets are of nobility, elegance, and command, coupled with a daring virility and imagination, the American one of athletic daring and revolutionary character, then the character of the English ballet impresses as cold, conservative and unimaginative. The nature of this character was painfully evident throughout the Royal Ballet’s presentation of “Swan Lake” at the Empire Theatre last night. It must be stressed, however, that the dancers of this company have attained a mastery of technique which may not always be found in either the Russian or American schools. Artistically, of course, technique is only justified as a means to the expression of the imagination. The main criticism of the Royal Ballet is that it is disappointingly lacking in this essential imaginative creativeness.’

Robinson wrote what he thought, and there is much more to read from him in back copies of The Sydney Morning Herald. His writing on dance is as fascinating today as it must have been irritating to many in 1958.

Film footage of the Royal Ballet tour

Lasting around 25 minutes, a somewhat grainy, black and white film recording the visit by the Royal Ballet to Melbourne was shot in December 1958. It opens with a segment showing Anya Linden and David Blair sauntering through the gardens in Spring Street, not far from Her Majesty’s Theatre where the company was performing. There they weigh themselves (amid some mirth) on a large, coin-operated public weighing machine. They are then approached by a white-haired gentleman who shows them a book (Arnold Haskell’s In his true centre), which they examine. Then follow extracts from the company repertoire as performed in Melbourne, including excerpts from Swan Lake, Giselle, Veneziana, Pineapple Poll, Don Quixote (pas de deux), A Blue Rose, Façade, Les Patineurs and Coppélia. These dancing segments include a tantalising glimpse of Helpmann tottering across the stage in heeled shoes as Dr Coppélius, a wonderful hornpipe from Blair as Captain Belaye in Pineapple Poll, and an all too brief look at Seymour as Aurora in Coppélia, performing with beautiful fluidity in the arms, neck and upper body.

It is unclear who shot the film, but I wonder if it is perhaps Dr Joseph Ringland Anderson, Melbourne ophthalmologist whose films of the Ballets Russes visits to Australia, 1936−1940, are such a valuable addition to our knowledge of those companies? The Royal Ballet film has a number of backstage scenes, especially moments captured just before curtain up, which are similar to moments that appear frequently on the Ringland Anderson Ballets Russes films. And, as also occurred with the Ballet Russes films, much of the action is filmed from the wings. I wonder too if the white-haired gentleman in the Spring Street gardens with the copy of In his true centre is perhaps Dr Ringland Anderson, who would have been 64 at the time? Time may tell.

Michelle Potter, 4 January 2017

Featured image: Ninette de Valois, autograph and program image, Sydney 1958

de-valois-autograph-6

NOTE

  1. There is a discrepancy with the arrival date in some published sources. I have used the one given in the J.C. Williamson material held in the National Library (MS 5783), which states that 58 company members departed London on ’29 August from London Airport North on flight EM 552 arriving on 1 September by air.’ The date is supported in an article in The Sydney Morning Herald for 2 September 1958: ‘Fifty-eight members of the Royal Ballet arrived in Sydney by Qantas from London last night [1 September] to begin an eight month’s tour of Australia and New Zealand.’

The Royal Ballet will play Brisbane (as the only Australian venue) from 28 June to 9 July 2017 as part of Queensland Performing Arts Centre’s International Series. The repertoire consists of Wayne McGregor’s Woolf Works and Christopher Wheeldon’s A Winter’s Tale. Details at qpac.

Update: the signed photograph of Seymour referred to in the discussion below has been posted at this link.

24 thoughts on “The Royal Ballet. Tour of Australia and New Zealand 1958–1959

  1. Dear Carole,
    Thank you for this comment. What follows is what I wrote to the person who first brought this matter to my attention via the contact box rather than as a comment, and I am assuming that you and she have collaborated?

    In identifying the photos as being of Seymour I have gone with the photographer’s notes. I am fairly sure that both photos and a couple of others he has of Swan Lake would have been taken at the same performance and he identifies them as of Seymour and Blair. Of course this doesn’t necessarily mean he was right so I can’t be 100% sure.

    Walter Stringer was an amateur photographer who photographed, always with permission, from the wings from the days of the Ballets Russes tours to Australia well into the 1970s and beyond. His day job was in a bank. But we in Australia have him to thank for many, many images from many, many companies. He often got the spelling of dancers’ names a little wrong but rarely, in my experience, mis-identified them. But of course he could have made an error on this occasion!

    It is interesting to me that you query the photo of Odile in particular as (with respect to Seymour) the pose seemed not to be especially polished. The attitude is very erect and seems to be held with some anxiety, and the fifth position arms gives me the same feeling. It seemed to go with the fact that it was a first or second performance in a very demanding full-length role. Of course capturing dance is not an easy thing to do and it may just be the particular moment captured that gives me this feeling – a mid-moment as it were. But it doesn’t look like someone with the experience that Linden must have had at the time. She was definitely in Melbourne at the time of Seymour’s debut though, although not for the entire Melbourne run. She left on 16 December

    Before I ask the National Library to change the identification I would like to hear from others (including Seymour and Linden?). I certainly don’t mind being corrected but I need to be absolutely sure of the facts.

    Thank you for taking the time to make this comment.

  2. My wife was a member of the Touring Company for the tour of Australia and New Zealand. On showing her this article, her immediate reaction was that the photos were incorrectly captioned and that the dancer shown is Anya Linden.

  3. The Act III photo certainly doesn’t look like Lynn; for comparison see”Lynn”, photograph opposite p. 118.
    I wonder how the discrepancy arose between the date given in “Lynn” for her first performance of Swan Lake (p. 90) – her 20th birthday, 8 March 1959 in Melbourne (when she was actually in NZ on that day) and the correct date of 12 November 1958 when she really was in Melbourne and only 19 years of age. From a copy of an advertisement it would seem she danced Swan Lake in Auckland, NZ, on Tuesday, 14 April, 1959, Susan Alexander danced on the 15th and Rowena Jackson on the 16th. All were partnered by Donald MacLeary. On return to London Lynn gave her first performance of Swan Lake at Covent Garden on Wednesday, 6th May 1959. From her autobiography it would seem that the performance was well received by Madam and the critics (p. 97) and that she was promoted to Principal (p. 98) at age 20 yr. 2 months.
    Lynn was an exceptional dancer and it is such a pity that there are so few good recordings of her work. I very much enjoy her performance in the 1979 recording for TV of Giselle with Nureyev (Kultur D1300). Perhaps the comment of Arnold Haskell in Balletomania (p. 283) should be noted:
    “—Lynn Seymour, in a class of her own as a great dramatic great dramatic dancer with a range that encompasses pure ballet to Duncan.” I wonder how the history of ballet would have changed if Lynn and Christopher Gable had danced the first performance of MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet on 9th Feb 1965 rather than Fonteyn and Nureyev? Lynn wrote (p. 177):
    “Romeo (and Juliet) broke hearts and shattered my life.”

  4. Thank you to those who have commented on the Swan Lake photos in this post. I think I can now confirm that the photos are indeed of Lynn Seymour. Today I went back to look again at the Stringer album and discovered that one of the 8 photos identified by the photographer as being of Seymour is signed ‘Lynn Seymour’. The signature is quite hard to see (I had to use a magnifying glass to make sure it really did say ‘Lynn Seymour’). But it is definitely there and accords with the signature in my childhood autograph book, which I was able to get from Seymour after a show in Sydney in 1958.

    Those of you who have read my follow-up post on Walter Stringer will know, from the article I have added to that post as a link, that Walter Stringer was a fanatical balletomane. He liked to return to the theatre after he had processed his photos and have the dancers sign them. Seymour has signed the first of the 8 of her. Rowena Jackson has done the same and signed only the first of the several of her in the Stringer album. As I mentioned in the follow-up post, the album has not been digitised but I have ordered a copy of the autographed image and will post it once it arrives (in a week or two).

    So there will be no change to my post and no request to the National Library to change the captions. Stringer’s photos must be regarded as the first of Seymour as Odette/Odile.

  5. To Barry Pearson: Sorry not to have responded to your comments earlier. The issue of the identity of the Swan Lake dancer was somewhat consuming.

    It is good to hear from a New Zealander on the topic of the tour. There is even less about the New Zealand part of the tour in published sources than there is about the Australian leg. New Zealand newspapers reported good houses in every city. The Dominion in Wellington, for example, reported on 21 March 1959 that 500 people had to be turned away from the final performance in Christchurch. The article went on to quote Sir Frank Tait of the Williamson organisation, who allegedly said, ‘We were a little bit dicky you know. We expected fairly good houses but nothing like the clamour for seats there has been.’ There was also the usual fascination newspapers seemed to have in those days with what dancers ate and reports on the social occasions the dancers and other ballet personnel attended.

    As for the story that Seymour danced her first Swan Lake on her birthday, I have no idea how that happened. Lynn was written 25 years or so after the tour so I can only surmise that the date of the first Swan Lake was hazy in her mind.

    My favourite photos in Lynn are those from Anastasia, probably because I had the good fortune to see the RB perform it last year. The photos of Seymour in it show what a fabulous interpretation she must have given.

    Thanks again for your comments.

  6. Whilst the 1958 / 59 tour marked the start of Lynn Seymour’s career, to become one of the Royal Ballet’s greatest ballerinas, it marked the end of Rowena Jackson’s 12 year career. Fittingly she and husband, Philip Chatfield, gave the final performance of the tour in Auckland – Coppelia, on 18 April, 1959. On the same bill Grant and Heaton danced Facade.

    Rowena Jackson, NZ’s only prima ballerina, had her ballet career delayed by the WW2. She had great skill in turns: pirouettes and fouettes, she once turned 160 fouettes before she stopped “because she became bored”! (The Illustrated History of Dance in NZ by Tara Jahn Werner, p 133).

    Rowena and Philip went on to give great service to ballet in NZ. “At the end of a very successful tour in 1959, Rowena and I decided to settle in Auckland …”. (PC in The RNZB at 60, Victoria University Press, 2013, p 71). Philip was Artistic Director of the RNZB from 1975 to 78 and Rowena gave much service to the NZ School of Dance.

    Another significant event of the tour was the arrival of Margot Fonteyn and Michael Somes from Japan. They danced in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland. “Her eager Kiwi fans thought nothing of queuing for 3 days to buy tickets ….” The Royal Ballet enjoyed tumultous receptions throughout their season, dancing classics such as Giselle, Swan Lake, Ashton’s Facade, Les Patineur, Coppelia, Les Sylphide and The Rake’s Progress.

    Fonteyn and Somes danced Giselle in Auckland on the 6 and 7 April 1959. Margot then flew out of NZ on the 8th and travelled to Panama for “a holiday” (Fonteyn by Keith Money, p 186). At mid-night on the 20 April she was arrested by Panamanian authorities on suspicion of being involved, with her husband, in a planned revolution. She spent 24 hours in jail before being released and flying out to New York. Quite a story for a world famous ballerina!

    Footnote: It is quite a day for Carmen in NZ today – 16 February 2017. The RNZ Ballet season of Carmen / L’Arlesienne opens in Christchurch tonight. Also the opera Carmen gets a second performance tonight in Napier, as part of the city’s annual Art Deco Festival. Victoria Lambourn is Carmen, Anna Leese – Michaela, Matthew Reardon – Don Jose, Moses Mackay – Escamillo and Taylor Wallbank is the smuggler Le Remendalo. The first performance on Tuesday was very much appreciated by the full-house audience – many had dressed for the evening in Art Deco style. The 5 day festival attracts some 40,000 visitors to Napier.

  7. Barry, you may be interested in Jennifer Shennan’s review of the Carmen program, which I have just posted at this link.

    I was also interested to find, unexpectedly as so often happens, a program for a New Zealand tour by Rowena Jackson and Bryan Ashbridge made in 1957. Jackson and Ashbridge were supported by Pearl Gaden and Derek Westlake from Ballet Rambert and by the Henry Penn Duo who played musical interludes for the program. I found this item in the Papers of Kristian Fredrikson held by the National Library of Australia. I am assuming that Kristian went to see the show, which is interesting because he would have been 16 or just 17. He had left school in 1956 and in 1957 had begun, or was about to begin, his career as a journalist. I can’t help wondering whether he reviewed the show for The Evening Post, which was where he first worked. His first design commission came five years later in 1962.

  8. I also found a programme of that August, 1957 tour, signed by all the dancers, in a second hand bookshop in Napier in March, 2016. I sent it to the RNZB for their archives.
    Zoe Anderson, in her book The Royal Ballet – 75 Years (p 137), writes: “In September 1958, the touring company set out on a triumphant seven-month tour of Australia and New Zealand. Rowena Jackson and Philip Chatfield led the Company, and most of the Covent Garden principals appeared during the tour. Beriosova gave sensational performances in Sydney, and Helpmann – returning to his native country – was tremendously popular. He coached the younger dancers, particularly the Canadian Lynn Seymour and Donald MacLeary, her regular partner. ‘He regaled us with amazing tales’, remembered Seymour. ‘But it was his presence in rehearsals – suggestions of stagecraft, try this, try that – he unlocked doors, gave us freedom to experiment.’ Seymour was a classical dancer of extraordinary individuality, musical and powerfully expressive.
    Oh, but the way she moved! ‘When Lynn dances’, Nureyev was later to claim, ‘heaven descends into your lap’ (Rudolf Nureyev , interviewed in BBC documentary “When the Dancing Had to Stop) -‘lap’ being the operative word, for there was something visceral about her approach. (Meredith Daneman in Margot Fonteyn, Viking Books, 2004 p 349)

  9. I have been reading some newspaper articles about the tour and the following items might interest readers:
    The touring company gave its final performance in Brisbane on the 25 Feb 1959 and then flew to Christchurch before moving to Dunedin for its first NZ performance on the 4 March. The ODT reporter commented: “the standard of dancing by this company is so high”. Anne Heaton and Donald Britton were praised for their “restrained and beautiful pas de deux – the gem of the Coppelia choreography”. Alexander Grant joined the company in Dunedin and gave an “outstanding performance in Facade”.
    John Field, director of the touring company, defended the ticket prices (in Christchurch 35 to 15 shillings for an evening performance, 30 to 15 for a matinee) by saying that the tour was unlikely to make a profit and, at best, would break even. He cited one reason as the cost of chartering a Constellation aircraft (from Qantas?) to bring the 60 dancers and 40 other staff from London to Sydney and return from Auckland.
    In each centre the tour visited, local dancers were recruited as extras, e.g., 12 court ladies for Swan Lake around 5 ft 7 in tall and 3 pages at 5 ft 2 in! For Coppelia height didn’t seem to matter too much for the 8 extras.
    NZ born prima ballerina Rowena Jackson and her husband, Philip Chatfield, gave the opening performance of Swan Lake in Christchurch before “a full and enthusiastic house” with the reporter writing that “It would be idle to say anything about the technique of the two principals for probably nothing as perfect in its way has ever been seen in Christchurch before”. (The Press 10-3-59) The couple also danced the ballet before the Governor General and his wife, Lord and Lady Cobham, in Auckland on 15 April.
    Margot Fonteyn and Michael Somes joined the tour in Christchurch and gave 8 performances in NZ. Some fans made the 720 km round trip from Dunedin for “to see her (dance) was the unforgettable experience of a lifetime”.
    Under the headline “Nights of Glamour and Enchantment” (NZ Herald 4-4-59) it was noted that “The Royal Ballet, on the last stage of its brief NZ tour, is an event with few parallels in the artistic life of the city in this generation. The Imperial Grand Opera company (in the early 30s ) and the Old Vic company (in the late 40s) were two ensembles which have left lasting memories …… But it is undeniable that the appearance of Dame Margot Fonteyn, the greatest ballerina of the West, will give next Monday and Tuesday nights (performances of Giselle) a glamour and enchantment in the world of dance not experienced in the city since Pavlova was her more than 30 years ago.”
    Margot Fonteyn had been photographed in Wellington (Evening Post 2-4-59) by 80yr old Mr S. P. Andrew. He had also photographed Anna Pavlova on the same Opera House stage 33 yr previously in 1933. His portrait of Pavlova was one of the most outstanding of his career and she had liked it so much that she ordered 800 copies – paid for in cash taken from her large black handbag!

  10. Thanks Barry for some interesting extra information about the tour.

    I also especially like the story of Mr Andrew and his photograph of Pavlova, and her reaction. 800 copies! And that large black handbag! Do we know what photograph it was and if there are copies in New Zealand or Australia.

  11. I will make some inquiries about the Pavlova photograph. I have just realised that Anya Linden, who was in the first part of the 1958 / 59 tour, became Lady Sainsbury and the Linbury Theatre at Covent Garden is named after Anya and her husband.
    And for another dance link, Roy Round photographed both Lynn Seymour and Anya Linden in the 1950s, then later he married Georgina Parkinson and their son, Tobias, married Leanne Benjamin!
    Anya, Georgina and Roy are all mentioned in “Lynn”.

  12. The photograph of Anna Pavolva is in the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ, reference 1/1-019161-F. It is a film negative, taken in 1926 (not 1933 as I inadvertently stated above) and is marked “Andrew Studio N.Z. – Protected”. The description is: Anna Pavlova, during her 1926 tour of New Zealand. She stands in slippers, on the balls of her feet, wearing a length of sheer patterned fabric; pearls around her neck; bracelets and earrings. One arm is placed around her head. The other stretches out. Her hair is styled close to her head, with ringlets at the back. Photograph taken by S P Andrew Ltd of Wellington.
    Looking again at the itinerary of the NZ section of the tour I see that Lynn Seymour’s 20th birthday on Sunday, the 8th March, 1959 coincided with the company moving from Dunedin to Christchurch. On Monday the 9th, Rowena Jackson danced Swan Lake and, presumably, Lynn danced it on the 10th. Perhaps she had intended to say in her book, “Lynn”, that she danced her first NZ Swan Lake on her 20th birthday – it was, almost!!
    Presumably, she had the “unfortunate” coaching session with Margot Fonteyn after this and then went on to dance the “two more Swan Lake performances” (“Lynn”, page 95) in Wellington (date ?) and Auckland (14th April).

  13. Barry, I found the photograph online via the Turnbull website. The one you mention is lovely. And there are a couple of others, also taken by Mr Anderson, that are very nice. They are available for use on non commercial websites, so I will put together a small post about then I think. It may take me a few days, maybe more depending on whether I need to order hi-res copies, and I don’t have access to all my resources at the moment. But it is worth giving some exposure to them I think. Michelle

  14. hi Michelle – i am a serious follower of your site and admirer of your scholarship. i liked this piece on the Royal Ballet tour of Australia in 1958 but after pondering, and much discussion with ex-dancers in the UK, i’m pretty sure the photos of Lynn Seymour here as ‘Lynn Seymour and David Blair in Swan Lake Act II (detail)’ and ‘Lynn Seymour in Swan Lake Act III (detail)’ are in fact of Anya Linden who was also on the 1958 Royal Ballet tour. cheers, Alex

  15. Hi Alex, Thanks for taking the time to comment. I am definitely in the minority re the Lynn Seymour/Anya Linden discussion. But I have seen literally thousands of photographs taken by Walter Stringer and have written about his work on a number of occasions. I also interviewed him for the National Library’s oral history program. He was meticulous about identification (although sometimes made spelling errors with names). He was an amateur (with a day job as a bank teller) but I can’t believe he could take several photos of the one dancer and misname her. He always returned the day after the shoot to get signatures for his prints and, as I said in an earlier comment, why would anyone sign their name to a photograph of another? Having read Seymour’s autobiography I realise there are a number of other issues to consider, but I can’t change the indentification without either Seymour or Sainsbury telling me that Stringer was wrong.

    As I said, I am in the minority and perhaps being difficult. But I do appreciate your interest and maybe one day further information will surface.
    Michelle

  16. hi Michelle – being in a minority can be a good thing! thanks for the background for the identification – which is very compelling – i just have to try to get over my photo visual prejudice! ex-RB ballerinas Alfreda Thorogood and Shirley Grahame, among others, tell me they are certain it is Anya Linden so for me the plot thickens. thanks for your response – much appreciated! Alex

  17. Hello Alex, the photo of Anya Linden as Odile, which you sent, is just beautiful. Thank you for sending it. I’m not sure if you read another post i wrote during the height of the Seymour/Linden discussion. It was about Walter Stringer and has a link to an article I wrote some years ago now. anyway, just in case you haven’t seen it here is the link.

  18. thanks for the link – appreciated – i’ve just made a chai latte and the article will go very nicely with it! a bit of show and tell on my part – among ballet interests, i have a particular focus on the amateur footage shot by Dr Ewan Murray-Will between 1935-40 that comprises the Chesterman Collection – which you’ll know. the visits by the three post Diaghilev Ballets Russes companies (‘(Colonel W. de Basil’s) Monte Carlo Russian Ballet’ (1936-7), ‘Covent Garden Russian Ballet, presented by Educational Ballets Ltd’ (1938-9) and ‘The Original Ballet Russe’ (1939-40)) did so much to establish schools and ballet in this country. thanks again for the link!

  19. Oh yes, I do know the Chesterman material. I worked at the National Film and Sound Archive for a few years and had pleasant dealings with the Chesterman family during the acquisition of the material. The collection is a major one and contains some spectacular material. For anyone reading this who is not aware of the material there are some snippets available online. See this link: https://www.nfsa.gov.au/collection/curated/ballet-russes

  20. Hi again Michelle

    I’ve been trying to identify this between-the-wars dancer shown in two photographs by Max Dupain and described in Joel’s Auction catalogue of 18 May 2017 as ‘Pair of photographs of a dancer from the Ballet Russes’, with no further details of date and so on:

    https://auctions.leonardjoel.com.au/asp/fullCatalogue.asp?salelot=LJ8189++3134+&refno=40463370&saletype=

    I have a third image of the dancer, probably taken at the same time as the other two.

    I was just wondering if you might have an idea of this dancer’s identity?

    Very best

    Alex de Ravin

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