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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!