Professor Richard Beacham’s account of the rediscovery and re-generation of Hellerau as the European Centre for the Arts was both romantic and inspiring. Founded by Karl Schmidt and Wolf Dohrn in 1909 as a garden suburb of Dresden, Hellerau was an ideological attempt to create a community that would live and work in social equality and harmony in an idyllic setting. Hellerau became the home of an Institute and Festspielhaus that drew together the ideas and practice of the progressive innovators , and has been cited as the birthplace of modern theatre. Experimental work at Hellerau embodied theories in which architecture was subservient to rhythm, light created space, and the human body became the medium of transmission between dramatist and audience. These works of living art influenced dance, theatre, music and design in ways that are visible not only on stage but also in our urban surroundings today. (more…)

I was thrilled by Dame Monica Mason’s talk at St Hilda’s College on Wednesday and the brief extracts of archive footage of her in performance. I saw her as the Chosen Maiden in the 1982 revival at the Royal Opera House, and I remember the excitement of the occasion, and Kenneth MacMillan coming on stage at the end. Unthinking and ignorant, I had no idea at the time that she had created the role for MacMillan, or of the vital connections between her generation of dancers and the Ballets Russes. Her anecdotes about Lydia Sokolova (who shut her eyes at the first night and “danced her own version”) and Marie Rambert’s sometimes embarrassing enthusiasm were both touching and hilarious, and there was a wonderful moment when she stepped forward to demonstrate what it was like to respond to MacMillan’s suggestions as he choreographed in the studio. (more…)