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…)

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‘As this is my most varied and exciting score,’ declared Sir Arthur Bliss, ‘I am disappointed that it has fallen into oblivion.’ The celebrated British composer and former Master of the Queen’s Music expressed regret within the pages of his autobiography at the disappearance of Adam Zero from the permanent repertoire of The Sadler’s Wells Ballet. However, had Bliss been alive today, he would have revelled in the discovery that his finest ballet composition had served as the inspiration for a contemporary restaging by Sergei Vanaev at the Stadt Theater Bremerhaven, almost seven decades since the production’s 1946 premiere. As the curtain closes on the final performance of Adam Zero in Germany in June, it seems fitting to reflect on the creative lineage of this heritage work and – more significantly – Vanaev’s choreographic achievement in enlivening Bliss’s neglected score. (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…)

The ultimate ballet film returns to the big screen digitally restored, having been championed by Martin Scorsese, for whom it was a great inspiration after he saw it as a child.  Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s sinister fairy tale, THE RED SHOES fuses glamour, back stage detail and stunning dance sequences into an audacious, intoxicating melodrama about the competing claims of life and art.

Introducing the young Scottish ballerina Moira Shearer whose flaming red hair becomes a dominant visual motif, and featuring legendary dancers and choreographers in performance, THE RED SHOES survived damning reviews and producer betrayal to take its place as a milestone in film history, profoundly shaping public perceptions of ballet.  Possibly Technicolor’s finest hour…

Showing in conjunction with the University of Oxford Department for Continuing Education course, ‘Adaptation: From Page to Screen’, and introduced by course tutor Kiri Walden. (more…)