The play opens with a projected image of Ida Rubinstein’s grave, which morphs into mysterious and exotic visions of Naomi Sorkin, who slowly unwinds and removes one veil after another.  She is at once Cléopâtre, Salomé and Rubinstein, gradually revealing her body, as she prepares to disclose layer upon layer of her past.  Sorkin’s compelling performance exudes magnetic power, as she plays an ageing femme fatale telling her life story to journalist Edward Clement (played by Max Wilson). 

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It was great delight to attend the Royal Ballet School’s recreation of Ninette de Valois’ experimental study The Arts of the Theatre (1925) to the music of Ravel’s La Valse.  It was the culmination of a project resulting from archivist Anna Meadmore’s exciting discovery of Ursula Moreton’s choreographic notations in the School’s collections.

The evening fell into four parts:  an illustrated talk by Meadmore, followed by an initial performance of the work by five dancers from the Upper School.  Then, after a brief pause, Meadmore interviewed each of the young dancers, sensitively eliciting their individual responses to the work, and taking questions from the online audience.  Finally the dancers danced again, giving us all a second chance to watch a work that had not been performed since 1932.

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During the fascinating discussion between Professor Susan Jones and Professor Mark Franko, in celebration of the publication of this book, held for DANSOX members via Zoom in November 2020,[1] Franko says: “I worry that the Occupation chapter is overpowering the book”, because the critical responses received thus far, had only written about that chapter. I will attempt to review more of Franko’s tour de force than this chapter, although it is rich with new archival material which uncovers much about the relationship between Serge Lifar at the Paris Opera and the Nazi Occupation.

Franko runs the major theme of the baroque in neoclassicism in ballet, through the body of Serge Lifar, throughout his book. He dissects the French baroque of the seventeenth century and the German baroque of the eighteenth century, their similarities and differences, their nationalist links and how they are reflected in Lifar’s ballets at different stages of Lifar’s career in Paris (1929-1958).

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Marius Petipa worked for the Russian Imperial Theatres as dancer and ballet master for sixty-three years, from 1847 until his death in 1910. He choreographed over fifty original ballets, creating works with composers who ranged from Pugni, Minkus and Drigo to Tchaikovsky and Glazunov, for some of the greatest dancers of the nineteenth century. His influence on ballet is incalculable, yet Nadine Meisner’s meticulously researched biography is the first coherent, full length, account of his life.

Meisner’s eagerly anticipated book was launched in the UK in June at the DANSOX summer school at St Hilda’s College Oxford, and it does not disappoint. (more…)

Following on from his fascinating presentation for DANSOX in 2015 on The Fascist Legs of Serge Lifar, internationally renowned dance scholar Professor Mark Franko of Temple University USA returns to St Hilda’s College to deliver a guest seminar which will examine how neoclassicism was theorized in French ballet during the 1930s.  Don’t miss this opportunity to hear about the further development of Professor Franko’s thought provoking research.

Date:  Friday 2nd June 5.30-7.00pm

Venue:  Jacqueline du Pré Building, St Hilda’s College, Cowley Place, Oxford OX4 1DY

Tickets:  This event is free and open to all and will be followed by refreshments.  However please book online here

Find out more about Dance Scholarship Oxford (DANSOX) and its ongoing programme here

Read Susanna Reece’s report for Oxford Dance Writers of Professor Franko’s talk on The Fascist Legs of Serge Lifar here

Lidia Ivanova’s death in a boating ‘accident’ in 1924 remains one of ballet history’s unexplained mysteries, but she did not disappear without trace. Elizabeth Kendall’s meticulously researched book does not solve the puzzle of how or why she died, but she does lift this remarkable dancer out of her shadowy existence as a tragic footnote in her contemporaries’ memoirs and place her centre stage.

A friend and rival of Alexandra Danilova at the Imperial Ballet School, Ivanova had early success of one kind or another both on stage and off. Danilova’s memoir notes that Ivanova was expected to inherit the roles of ballerina Elena Smirnova; Tamara Geva’s that Ivanova was rumoured to be on ‘intimate terms with some shady government official’ and that she was said to be ‘close to all the Communist biggies’. (more…)