This collection of essays, articles and interviews, accompanied by a DVD, is enlightening, entertaining and scholarly. Robert Helpmann joined the Vic Wells Ballet in 1933, and was a major influence in the development of ballet in England, but despite being the subject of three biographies (by Elizabeth Salter, Anna Bemrose, and Kathrine Sorley Walker), by the early years of this century his fame was fading and his choreographic work Miracle in the Gorbals (1944) was almost lost.

The story of this ballet’s miraculous recovery threads through the book, and draws together memories, commentary, film footage and analysis. (more…)

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s triple bill with ballets by Kenneth MacMillan, Gillian Lynne after Robert Helpmann, and David Bintley, is a subtle commemoration of the centenary of the First World War. The approach to the subject is oblique compared with the English National Ballet’s innovative programme Lest We Forget, premiered at the Barbican earlier this year, but it works.

Kenneth MacMillan’s La Fin du Jour evokes the heady days of the years between the wars, the dancers wearing in pastel coloured costumes, their fashionable sportiness reminiscent of some of the later Diaghilev ballets. They are Bright Young Things but they move like puppets on strings in their cream coloured box, from which we glimpse a garden through a door at the back of the stage. The two principal women dancers (Arancha Baselga and Karla Doorbar) morph from swimmers into aviators as their male attendants sweep them through the air, or turn them on point, slowly spinning them like skaters, feet held high behind their heads, weather vanes revolving in the wind. At the end one of them symbolically closes the door to the garden. An idyll is over and war is coming. (more…)