Lilac Garden Workshop at Principia College by John Gardner and Amanda McKerrow

January 18, 2011 Leave a comment

John Gardner at Principia College - Tudor Workshop

This year we spent our holiday season in a quite unique and stimulating way. The day after Christmas we traveled to Principia College for a week long Tudor workshop that was to serve as a pilot program for the official launch of the Antony Tudor curriculum that will take place in June 2011 in Kansas City, Missouri.

The idea for the workshop was put forward to Amanda Mckerrow by the Dance Department Chair at Principia College, Hilary Harper Wlicoxen. Principia had done Little Improvisations a year earlier with much success, and Hilary was hopeful that they could follow up with another Tudor piece. This was to prove challenging due to many factors, most importantly the lack of male dancers. Hilary thought that a good solution would be to excerpt a solo from one of the Tudor ballets. She had a lovely dancer at Principia by the name of Kanoe Wagner who had performed Little Improvisations. Hilary thought Kanoe would make a lovely Caroline from Lilac Garden, and Amanda suggested that the solo she dances to the violin cadenza would be a good choice. Amanda shared this idea with Sally Bliss, and she too agreed that it was right for Kanoe, and it was a wonderful opportunity to bring Tudor back to Principia. However, there were some concerns. One of them being; how does one excerpt a character from a story, and give it the full depth of understanding it requires, if one has never performed the work, or been involved in the process of character development with the choreographer or the cast as a whole? This question opened up much discussion, which led to the idea of a one week Lilac Garden workshop at Principia College. It was important for us to allow this workshop to develop as naturally as possible, and that would mean tailoring some of the specifics to fit the given situation. First of all, the only time we were all available was the week between Christmas and New Years day. While this wasn’t the most ideal time, Hilary thought we could find enough students if she opened it up to community. As it turned out we had fifteen dancers attend, four of them being men, who we were delighted to have, and their contribution was invaluable. The workshop was to include a two hour ballet technique class each day given by John Gardner. Amanda would then work on setting Caroline’s solo and other scenes that are vital to her characterization and the story. The other interdisciplinary classes, Music with Jim Hegarty and Literature with Heidi Snow, added another dimension to the experience, and were certainly informative and helpful. It was wonderful for the students to hear about Trude de Garmo Harper’s personal experiences with Mr. Tudor, which helped bring the man to life. However, it was Meg Eginton’s acting for the dancer classes that really accelerated their character development and enhanced the entire process. Meg attended all of the Lilac Garden rehearsals and designed her classes to directly support what was being done in the studio.

 We have always enjoyed working with college and university dancers. Their minds are so focused on learning and they are completely engaged in every aspect of the process. This workshop at Principia was no different in that respect .The dancers all threw themselves into the work with a refreshing curiosity that gained momentum as the week progressed. It was this curiosity of mind that was essential to the success of this workshop in an educational sense, and we found that the more the dancers learned, the more hungry they became to express themselves artistically. We are all thrilled with the outcome of this workshop and truly believe that the Tudor curriculum has the potential to play a most valuable and important role in higher education by providing a tool for the understanding of how to clearly inhabit a given character through dance, and also by teaching the value of being sensitive and mindful of our artistic selves as interpreters and creators of art in the highest. This is the legacy of Tudor, and its continuance insures the integrity and inspiration for the future generations of dancers and choreographers who will explore and carry this art form forward.

We spent time with and met some wonderful and lovely people along the way, and we are thankful for that. We want to especially thank Hilary and Sally for their efforts in making this workshop possible. We want to thank everyone who helped bring this endeavor to life, and that joyfully includes the dancers!

John & Amanda

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Categories: Repetiteur

Kathleen Moore-Tovar: Antony Tudor Reflections

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Kathleen Moore-Tovar (Photo by Valerie Ford)

I knew two Mr. Tudors. The first one was the one who chose me to work with Ethan Brown to dance the last pas de deux in Leaves are Fading and to dance the 4th song in Dark Elegies. This man of elegant bearing had eyes that sparkled with wit and mischievousness. Though there was always serious work happening in the studio as he tried to get us to simplify our movement, to dance the steps just as they were, adding nothing, he would tease and joke too. For example, early on in rehearsing Leaves he said to Ethan, “I bet she’s a screamer.” Though my face turned as scarlet as my hair, I replied, “Ethan wouldn’t know.” and Ethan said something to the effect of, “I’d like to find out!” and we all had a laugh. Then we got back to working on making the last embrace in the duet have more of a passionate gasp. 

In Dark Elegies, there wasn’t the lightness of mood in the room as during Leaves rehearsals, the dance has too strong a subject, but there was still the constant work on lack of ornament in the body, and always, always, the focus on the music. Another aspect of working with Mr. Tudor was apparent during Elegies, the way he directed us as we toiled on the piece, created in the cast a great sense of community that allowed the work to be the powerful statement that he intended.  I am sure his process was intentional; a method used to create individuals deeply invested in the dance and each other so as to better attain the intent of his vision. This ballet remains my favorite work of his that I have danced.

The second Mr. Tudor was the man who picked me out of the corps de ballet to revive the role of Hagar in his masterpiece Pillar of Fire. Almost from the first day this was a torturous period in my career. He sat ram-rod straight at the front of the room, severe and never satisfied. He spoke little, having Sallie Wilson and Hugh Laing do much of the work, which created even more distance from him. He questioned me and never was my answer correct. He would have me spend almost an hour on one step, where again I would fail. I was often reduced to tears that I tried to shed only on my five minute break in a hall closet, refusing to give him the “pleasure” of seeing me cry. Throughout, Michael Owen was my support as well as my character’s support. Again I believe the whole process was intentional; Mr. Tudor tried to make me feel Hagar, find the truth of her with every fiber in my being. To this day, when I hear the Schoenberg music, my stomach tightens in response and I feel insecure and without options (despite the redemptive ending!). Since he died shortly before our premiere, I still wonder if he would have been satisfied with our performances, though I did have the honor of having Oliver Smith come backstage and tell me I had done well… so maybe?

Without a doubt Mr. Tudor positively influenced my approach to all future work I had at ABT and with The White Oak Dance Project. Though times with him were mostly difficult, whether physically or emotionally, I am thankful that I was given the opportunity to work with him relatively early in my career. Since he died when I was only 24 years old, I have fewer memories to remember him by than many others, but two I treasure are these: The first is merely a snapshot, perhaps the first time I saw him up close…he was sitting on one of the simple wooden benches that line the halls on the 2nd floor at ABT’s 890 studios. His hands were loosely clasped in his lap, his spine was erect but not stiff, his chiseled looking bald head was tilted in thought. He radiated the stature, grace and easy command of a high priest. There was power there. My second memory comes from that magical yet nervous time in the theatre…I was on the stage at the Metropolitan Opera House around 6:15 pm, with the big, golden, silk curtain open and house lights illuminating the red velvet chairs so soon to be full of a discriminating audience. With my hair slicked back into a sleek low bun for my upcoming premiere of Leaves but with no stage makeup on yet, I was going through every moment of the piece, my blood full of butterflies. Mr. Tudor quietly crossed from downstage left to right, looking straight ahead. At quarter, before his exit, he turned slightly towards me, ran his hand across his head as if running it through his hair, and with a slight smile he said, “Looking like me tonight?” and then he continued on.

Nancy Zeckendorf: Eulogy For Antony Tudor, 1987

November 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Back row (L-R) Anthony Bliss, Sally Brayley Bliss, Rev. Grant Spalding, Seated: Antony Tudor, Mrs. "Kick" Erlanger holding Mark B. Bliss, Nancy Zeckendorf (Right) at Godson's Christening in 1968

Nancy Zeckendorf:  Dancer, Dear Tudor Friend and Philanthropist, Presenting her Eulogy for Antony Tudor:

I first met Tudor at Juilliard and studied with him there and at the old Met.  He was then Director of The Met Opera Ballet, where we also worked together.   He was my teacher, my favorite choreographer, my mentor, my inspiration, my conscience, but he was also my friend; and, in our later years a mutual trust seemed to have allowed me the role of go between and helper. 

Last August I received a letter from Tudor asking me to accompany him to The Kennedy Center for the Honors Award.  He went on in the letter to lament “even I will probably have to go through the tortures of a black tie, and probably tight shoes; and it will play hell with my old man routine.” 

But he dutifully went out to Syms and purchased the most elegant tuxedo.  He hadn’t worn one in years and he even managed to find a pair of comfortable shoes.  He wanted to take the trip by train and so we boarded Amtrak with a bag of freshly baked bran muffins for his special diet.  He polished off a few of these and then proceeded to eat anything and everything in sight for the next three days.  He even ordered a martini for lunch on the big day.  And I eyed him warily.  After all, I was supposed to take care of him; but he was fine and rejected the idea of a nap in favor of a trip to his favorite museum, The Freer, to pick up his Japanese postcards he loved so much. 

Every time we left the hotel during those three days he was surrounded by friendly faces asking him to please sign their books, or could they take his picture.  He was really quite surprised and rather pleased.  I don’t think that happened much in his life. 

The night of the awards presentation at the Kennedy Center was the most moving, enthralling experience of my life.  The moment for Tudor finally came.  Agnes DeMille brought down the house with her speech and Margot Fonteyn brought us all to tears when she said, “It is very fitting that he should receive this most prestigious Kennedy Center Honor because his extraordinary talent has enriched the whole art of dancing.” 

She held out her hand to Tudor, “Dear Antony, we the dancers and the public salute you and thank you for all you’ve given us.”  There were tears in Tudor’s eyes as he gave Margot and all of us his Buddha bow.  

It was the proudest moment of my life to have been there to see him so warmly and wonderfully applauded and cheered by that remarkable audience.  I know I speak for all of us here when I say it was an honor to be a part of his life.

Chris Palmer: Tudor’s Great Nephew

October 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Susan Bates and Christopher Palmer, Tudor's Great Niece and Nephew, courtesy Chris Palmer

Thanks to the new Tudor website, we learned that the NZ School of Dance was to perform an open rehearsal of Continuo and Lilac Garden in New Zealand. 

 This was a perfect opportunity for my mother, Tudor’s niece Connaught Palmer (nee Cook) to finally see some of the great Tudor works at her back door.  Mum has recently recovered from a hip replacement and the two and a half hour drive from Whangarei to Auckland with an additional one and a half hour flight from Auckland to Wellington is now within her travel capabilities.   (Wellington is NZ’s capital, located at the bottom of the North Island).  Whangarei, where the majority of the Cook relatives reside, is at the very top of the North Island.

Adria Rolnik and Tara McBride from The Tudor Trust kindly provided us additional contact information for the NZ School of Dance (Garry Trinder).  Garry kindly invited us to the performance and provided all the necessary details to help us arrange our short visit to Wellington.

Mum was an aspiring ballerina in her early years and had frequent correspondence

 with her Uncle Antony over the years.  While she was in the city she also planned to visit with her ballet teacher whom resides in the hills overlooking the Wellington Harbour port, Lola Short-Jenkin.  Lola is now 83 years old, and Lola’s ballet teacher also in Wellington is now 93 – but now not teaching!

We were informed Senior Repetiteur Donald Mahler from The Tudor Trust was coming to New Zealand to help the students “learn and understand each of the chosen Tudor ballets.”   This was a real coup for NZ School of Dance to obtain a man of Mahler’s calibre.  We were also not going to miss this fantastic opportunity. 

Garry Trinder and his team at the NZ School of Dance made us feel very welcome when we arrived.  Prior to the

Rehearsing Lilac Garden - NZ School of Dance; L-R, Emmi Coupe, Helio Lima, courtesy Donald Mahler

performance I secretly had concern about the capacity of the NZ School to perform such works.   I knew the complexity of performing Tudor ballets even to an unqualified, unprofessional critic such as myself! I had particular concern with Lilac Garden.  Donald Mahler only had a matter of weeks to get these young students to understand the personalities of the chosen characters let alone master the choreography….however, to great surprise my concern was proved unfounded and the performance of Lilac Garden was superb!

Donald engaged these young artists whom unselfishly committed themselves to devoted learning from a true sculptor and master artist.  He moulded these young respectful bodies and minds in a few short weeks into a truly memorable and yet again emotional performance. Without props or costumes they performed this work to a level of maturity and commitment well advance of their true years. It was obvious to us all they had taken and realised their opportunity to work with a master craftsman on the ballet masterpiece.

The performance of Lilac Garden was simply astounding and made us very proud to be Kiwi’s. Tears welled during and after the performance. We had all witnessed something special this day! Donald and the students and NZ School of Dance can be very satisfied.

Connaught Palmer, Tudor's niece with Donald Mahler, courtesy Donald Mahler

We thanked Donald Mahler, Garry Trinder and the young dancers from the School, and my mother presented the School a framed picture of Antony and her father and mother Bob & Mollie Cook taken in New Zealand. The School planned to place this on their wall in the dance studio. This was a very special day and memory for us all particularly my mother and we thank those involved for making this happen.

Last week we gratefully received the Tudor Centennial book and DVD.   I must confess that I read the book from top to bottom the very next morning! I found the book beautifully presented as one would expect from those representing The Tudor Trust on the Centennial project.  We have learned new information from the book about our Uncle, Great Uncle, and it is certainly the type of book we will pick up and read time and again. I particularly enjoyed the story from Joan Myers Brown “his sense of humour only touched upon his kindness.” I am so very proud that our family member was one to openly reject inequality, challenge perspective and perception, and seek and inspire the thirst for perfection including honesty with oneself. The DVD Centennial Celebration is a fitting tribute to a man who gave so much of himself to the world of ballet and others. 

From my perspective (and I do clearly have natural bias), Tudor’s work is so incredibly beautiful, thought provoking,

Connaught Cook Palmer & her ballet teacher Lola Short-Jenkin in Lola's home, Wellington NZ

 provocative – still necessary in 2010.  It is clearly evident from the Centennial DVD compilation that he lives on in so

In kind Tudor, perhaps underestimated his impact on the world, perhaps it took time for others to “understand” what he was about and what he was creating.  While his mortal form has long since passed I’m confident after watching the DVD his thinking has not!

Donald Mahler: Full Circle

September 15, 2010 1 comment

Donald Mahler, Senior Repetiteur Antony Tudor Ballet Trust

It is strange how, if one has lived long enough, some stories which had begun in the past and having made a full circle reveal certain truths not clear at the beginning. This particular story took 54 years to play out. 

In 1956, I left New York and my life there to journey to Toronto where having been helped by Mr. Tudor, I joined the National Ballet of Canada. Coincidently, it was on the very same day Sally Brayley Bliss also joined the company. This was the beginning of five years of joy allied with many tribulations. 

Having studied with Margaret Craske at the Metropolitan Opera Ballet School, I now had to take classes with our Ballet Mistress, Betty Oliphant. She professed to teach the Cecchetti method but, her idea of it was largely at variance with what I had learned previously with Miss Craske who after all had written or co-authored the books from which Betty had gleaned whatever knowledge she had. The problem was that she made the work extremely dry, taking out of it most of the dance quality which was actually the point of the Cecchetti “method.” This did not make me a “happy camper!” 

Just at this moment into all of our lives came a wonderful, vivacious lady – a person of enormous knowledge and full of exciting and encouraging energy. This was Peggy van Praagh.

Peggy van Praagh, Courtesy National Library of Australia

She had been a lead dancer with the Rambert Ballet in the 1930’s when Tudor was creating his first great works. She created the roles of “An Episode in his Past” in Lilac Garden, the solo in the first song in Dark Elegies and the Russian Ballerina in Gala Performance among others. In addition she had studied principally and intensively with Margaret Craske at her studio in London and was an authority on Cecchetti.

So, here was Peggy in Toronto, teaching and rehearsing us and inspiring us as well. Although she knew Gala Performance from her Rambert days, that version was different from that which Tudor had staged for Ballet Theatre. Peggy was to go to the Royal Swedish Ballet the next year to put it on for them and was obliged to learn this revised version. Tudor sent her to Toronto to relearn the ballet, as his most recent version for Ballet Theatre was in rehearsal then. Killing several birds with one stone, she also took the opportunity at the same time to teach us and rehearse Ashton’s “Les Rendezvous.

What a wonderful time we had. Everyone adored her. She, however, was somewhat in conflict with Celia and Betty. She was told not to encourage us to jump so high, turn so many pirouettes and generally not to be so encouraging and popular! She told me she had been treated similarly by England’s Royal Ballet and Ninette de Valois. Explaining how, often in her life, she had to “bite the bullet” and accept such things and go on with her work she and I grew to sympathize with one another. She was far wiser and more experienced in the ways of the world than I, and helped me with advice which got me over many a rough spot.

Celia had also danced some of the same roles as Peggy at The Rambert Ballet, although not as a creator. Peggy had technique and artistry and Celia had artistry but suffered from technical weaknesses. As dancers following in Celia’s footsteps we were inclined to follow her lead. In works which had great technical demands, this could lead to an over emphasis on the drama and less on the accuracy of the dancing. In Gala Performance we were dancing on the edge and too often “over the top.” This was the situation at that time with what Peggy saw of Gala Performance.

I think it must have been very hard for her to accept the “new” version, so different was it to what she knew from her time with Tudor in London. After our rehearsal period was over, the company went down to Washington, D.C. for performances at an open air theater in Rock Creek Park. Along with us came Gala Performance and Peggy. On the day of the first performance of Gala one of the four boys in the Russian Ballerina movement fell down hurting himself and had to be replaced by the dancer playing the Conductor (a very small mime role). Reaching down into the bottom of the barrel, I was told that I had to go on as the Conductor. Being new in the company and not having even been an understudy I protested that although I had seen the ballet I really did not know the part. Nevertheless I was ordered on, only being told that someone would tell me when to go on and when to come off. So, I did it, not knowing at all what I was going to do. I made my hair wild as though I had been in an explosion, put some red makeup on the end of my nose as though I had had too much to drink and on I went. I do not know now what I did except to pretend to mimic the music, flailing my arms about in time with it.

The next day, having seen the performance, Peggy came up to me and said “Tudor has ruined Gala and you (me!) were the only funny thing in the whole performance!” Later on Celia came to me and said rather scathingly that Peggy told her I was the only funny thing in the performance… this did not do me any good as Celia had danced the Russian Ballerina role! At the end of the engagement I, Sally Bliss and several of the dancers drove back with Peggy to New York in an open convertible after which, I never saw Peggy again.

Kirsty Martin & Adam Bull in Australian Ballet's performance of Gala Performance

Now, fifty-four years later! Sally phoned me and said that The Australian Ballet wanted to do Gala on a program paying tribute to Dame Peggy van Praagh for the 100th Anniversary of her birthday. She had founded the company many years before, and was greatly revered. Sally Bliss said that as Sallie Wilson had staged it sometime before they could perform it, but only if a representative of The Tudor Trust came over to check and coach it. Who did she send, but me! I was truly thrilled! 

How extraordinary that this part of my life came around, full circle. Peggy again! They were fascinated by my story of our time together and howled with laughter about my “prowess” as the conductor. What a wonderful company, beautifully trained and simply a joy to work with. I think that the performance was very fine, being danced with a classical purity revealing the true humor inherent in Mr. Tudor’s choreography. I was assisted by the Company’s Ballet Mistress Wendy Walker, who had years ago been in American Ballet Theatre and who now actually staged the piece. 

Now here is the point of this long, long epistle. Tudor did not ruin Gala as Peggy said. What she had seen those years ago was that Celia, as much as I admired her, because of her technical insecurity had overdone the humor and turned it into a farce rather than the brilliant satire that it is!! It is a great ballet but so difficult to strike the right balance in staging it!   

Kirsty Martin in Australian Ballet's performance of Gala Performance

I learned so much from working with those wonderful dancers down under. To act or not to act? That is another question…for another time.

Kirk Peterson on The Royal Ballet School’s Performance of Lilac Garden

August 16, 2010 Leave a comment

During one of my residences at The Royal Ballet School in London, Gailene Stock, Director of The Royal Ballet School, asked me if I thought that the senior students in the Upper School of The Royal Ballet could tackle Antony Tudor’s “Lilac Garden.  As a professional dancer, Gailene had had a rather extraordinary experience with Mr.Tudor when he cast her as Hagar in his masterpiece “Pillar of Fire” and (Gailene) was in his “The Divine Horsemen” with the Australian Ballet.

Kirk Peterson

Working with Mr. Tudor was a career altering experience for Gailene and an event that affected her extraordinarily and remained with her for her entire career.  Having developed an enormous respect for Mr. Tudor and a deeply felt love for his work, she wanted her charges at The Royal Ballet School to experience the work of this great 20th century master.

“Lilac Garden”, although only 15 to 17 minutes long, depending on the conductor and violinist, is not a ballet Mr. Tudor gave his permission for anyone to perform lightly.  Having worked with The Royal Ballet senior students for a number of years now, I was familiar with each year’s student’s capabilities and I felt that, although perhaps a bit of a stretch for them emotionally, they were capable of essaying this unique challenge and felt that it could be an incredible learning experience for them.  After further conversations with Sally Bliss, she agreed to my being able to set “Lilac Garden” for Gailene Stock and the senior students of The Royal Ballet School and she agreed with me that this could be an amazing learning experience for them.

Royal Ballet School, 2010 End of Year Performance of Lilac Garden. Photo by Johan Persson

Indeed in rehearsals this turned out to be the case and it is a testament to Gailene’s leadership that the students were incredibly focused and approached the challenge like seasoned professionals.   Introducing new dancers to Mr. Tudor’s work is always a great responsibility and they accepted this challenge with open minds.

Just before my trip to London, an Icelandic volcano decided to erupt and created a vast Northern European ash cloud that wreaked havoc with all air travel to that area and I ended up having to wait a full week before I could get to London, consequently compressing my rehearsal period to two rather than three weeks.

If the students had not been so focused and prepared for an intensely compressed learning experience, I doubt that it could have actually been accomplished with the kind of detail required of Mr. Tudor’s works.  And I was also given extra rehearsal time as a result of this unexpected volcanic interruption. Yet, focused they were and they did a remarkable job of honing in on my insistent and perpetual fine-tuning.

Luckily for me I had worked intimately with Sallie Wilson and Donald Mahler on “Lilac Garden” and of course for seven years on and off with Mr. Tudor himself and was able to rapidly impart much of that accumulated knowledge in a concentrated manner.  I left London feeling a bit anxious about my not having more time with the dancers, but felt confident leaving it in the hands of Gary Norman and Petal Miller- Ashmole who were my assistants during this intense rehearsal period.

Although the dancers were scheduled to perform “Lilac Garden” in the smaller Linbury Theatre at Covent Garden on June 30th, July 1st and July 3rd, they were not going to perform it with full sets and music until their Annual Matinee performance at the Royal Opera House on July 11th, 2010.  I must thank Brian Sciarra for his invaluable help in offering his lighting plot for these performances as he so masterfully created them for us when Donald Mahler staged “Lilac Garden” for the ABT Studio Company when I was Artistic Director there.

I was brought back to London for an extra week of rehearsals leading up to the end of year performances because of the generous sponsorship of Ricki Gail Conway and was able to complete most of the coaching required of so subtle and demanding a work.

“Lilac Garden” is a ballet who’s integrity as a ballet can disappear as rapidly as alight mist in the sun without attention to its subtle musicality and to period awareness of its specific motivations and in my return, I was able to point them

Royal Ballet School, 2010 End of Year Performance of Lilac Garden. Photo by Johan Persson

more thoroughly in that direction.

I find that many dancers today rarely focus on choreographic details necessary for the execution of heritage works, but this was not the case with these dancers.

At the end of my first visit, the dancers performed an in-house dress rehearsal at the newly refurbished White Lodge Lower School before an invited audience which included many of their teachers and young colleagues and supported by Sarasin and Partners at the charming new Margot Fonteyne Theatre.  An added excitement for the young cast was the unexpected attendance of Anthony Dowell who had danced the Lover in “Lilac Garden” with Antoinette Sibley when Mr. Tudor himself had staged it for The Royal Ballet in 1968.  Although this was Mr. Tudor’s only personal visit for “Lilac Garden” to The Royal Ballet, Sallie Wilson had later staged it with Sylvie Guillem as Caroline, an event that Sallie had later discussed with Donald Mahler and I in some detail.

But this was the first time The Royal Ballet School attempted to grapple with the subtleties of such an interesting, emotionally charged ballet.  And I believe that they had a very rewarding time being introduced to the work of a great 20th century choreographic master, yet another defining aspect of their superb Royal Ballet School education.

Of course there was much else for them to perform and this was their graduation celebration and the year end performance for the entire school. One could sense the electricity in the air.  Numerous people, both from the School and others, expressed to me the joy of being able to see this wonderful ballet again and were looking forward with great anticipation to the performance, especially with live music and sets.   This of course served to make me feel even more responsible to the memory and work of Mr. Tudor.

The time finally came for The Opera House performance.  The conductor, Paul Murphy, had come to a number of the previous week’s rehearsals along with the wonderful violinist, Sergey Levitin, and a symbiotic relationship began to develop which added the necessary coordination needed for the subtle musicality to blossom from the essential artistic marriage of dancer and musician.

In the Grand Tier, I sat between Gailene Stock, the Marchioness of Douro (The Royal Ballet School’s Chairman) and around us were Jay Jolly, Sir Anthony Dowell, Anya Linden (The Lady Sainsbury), Alexander Grant, Wayne Sleep and numerous other supporters of this exciting annual event where the future can be seen to great advantage on The Royal Opera House stage, one of the great performance venues in the world.

Royal Ballet School, 2010 End of Year Performance of Lilac Garden. Photo by Johan Persson

I am so very happy to say that this performance of “Lilac Garden”, still an inexplicable rarity in London, the place of its birth, went extremely well, and that the four leads did quite a wonderful job bringing this extraordinary ballet back to the London stage.  In particular I must say that Her Lover, danced by William Bracewell and Caroline, danced by Angela Wood were particularly suited to these roles.  What a wonderful way to experience simultaneously a close to and a beginning of the next phase of their lives in the ballet world.

I was both happy and sad to leave London once again.  Happy to have seen “Lilac Garden” on The Royal Opera House stage and to have been involved once again with The Royal Ballet School’s Annual Matinee, yet sad to leave London, one of my favorite cities in the world and having to say goodbye to many old and new friends.

I must also express gratitude to International Dance Supplies and the Leche Trust along with Ricki Gail Conway for making all of this possible.

In closing I can only hope that Mr.Tudor would have been pleased with the results.  I certainly felt honored to also have been able to bring this glorious ballet back to The Royal Opera House stage.  But then he most certainly would not have let anyone know his true feelings.  We can only live in speculation.

Sally Brayley Bliss: State of the Trust

July 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Sally Brayley Bliss Accepting Visionary Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award

So much has been happening with The Trust that it’s time to update everyone.I’ll go back to mid-March with Colorado Ballet’s excellent performance of Tudor’s Echoing of Trumpets. This great ballet does not get performed often. Some people worry about the subject: war. To me, it is a timeless work and very apropos. It is with great respect that I applaud Gil Boggs, Director of Colorado Ballet for presenting Echoing of Trumpets. Donald Mahler did an exceptional restaging of the work. The dancers really rose to the occasion and danced with a rare sensitivity, intelligence; and, brought such life to the work. Bravo to Gil Boggs, his staff, and dancers for their great performances.

I returned to St. Louis and continued working on Little Improvisations with COCA (Center Of Creative Arts), a very good performing arts school which has developed a much improved dance program. They did a fine job with Little Improvisations. There were 3 casts of girls and one boy who danced all performances. I was so proud of these young dancers (see pictures). This wasCOCA’s first time to work on a master choreographer’s ballet. For me, the fulfillment of seeing these young dancers develop from their first rehearsal through their performances was amazing. Again, having intelligence, while learning and dancing a Tudor ballet, is of vital importance. These dancers were totally there.

COCA Dancers in Little Improvisations. Photo by Cyndy Maasen

A perfect segue into my next report: two marathon meetings on my daunting idea to create a Tudor curriculum for university, college and conservatory dance programs. As I’ve travelled from universities to colleges through the years, I realized how perfect Tudor’s ballets (not all), his classes, his production classes, his use of music, and his use of gesture, and, the drama of his works, are a natural for dance programs. So here we are, and a lot of Tudor dancers agree, it might work. A year from now we would like to launch with the CORPS (Council of Organized Researchers for Pedagogical Study) Conference, June 22-25, 2011, Kansas/ City, MO headed by University of Missouri, Kansas, Dance Chair, and President of this organization, Paula Weber. This school will implement the program and test the Tudor Curriculum. They will learn & perform Dark Elegies as part of the pilot program.

The Curriculum Committee is myself, Sally Brayley Bliss, Trustee, The Antony Tudor Ballet Trust; Hilary Harper-Wilcoxen, Chair, Dance Program, Principia College, Ilsa, IL; Christine Knoblauch-O’Neal, Ballet Faculty, Washington University; James Jordan, Repetiteur, Tudor Trust & Ballet Master, Kansas City Ballet; and, Amanda McKerrow, Repetiteur, Tudor Trust. As we develop we will add university/college/conservatory dance faculty and Chairs. This is a taste of what is in the future. As we move along we will keep updating you.

COCA Dancers in Little Improvisations. Photo by Cyndy Maasen

A few other items to report: I was honored to be given St. Louis’s Grand Center Visionary Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts. I was thrilled to be included among so many distinguish artists and supporters of the Arts.

I am on the board of the “National Society of Arts and Letters,” and will be heading up a committee of former dancers in their choreography competition in February of 2010.

I was also on an adjudication committee for Grand Center’s September 25thDancing in the Streets” here in St. Louis. It will be its fourth year and plethora of dance companies and schools will perform on four different stages in the Arts area called Grand Center. It lasts all day into the evening. Thousands of people turn out, not only from St. Louis but from other states, towns and cities. It’s a grand event. Most importantly, it introduces dance to a non-dance audience and, hopefully, develops tastes of new audiences for the future.

I’m now in Prince Edward Island, Canada, my summer home for over 40 years. It’s beautiful (As you may have seen on Regis & Kelly recently!) I’m working on all the projects you have just read about. I’ll keep you all updated as best I can.

Sally Brayley Bliss