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About the Change


After 6 years of war everybody was keen to enjoy the peace even if there was still much adversity. Sadler's Wells Ballet put on a new production of Sleeping Beauty and Fonteyn stamped her authority on the company and public. Three years later it was this production that made the company's name in the US and internationally. pointe_left.gif - 0.5 K


Dancing Times costs 1/- (5p)
An evening's dancing at the Hammersmith Palais on a Saturday night cost 3/6 (17.5p)
The 1945/46 Arts Council subsidy for the Royal Opera House was £25,000

Event of the Year

On the 20th February there was a gala reopening of the Opera House with the King, Queen, both Princesses, Prime Minister (Attlee) and many other VIPs. It was a new production of Sleeping Beauty with Fonteyn dancing Aurora. According to Richardson in the Dancing Times “It was a great occasion and it marked the first appearance of a British company in ballet on a grand scale”.

Dancer of the Year

Margot Fonteyn's Princess Aurora was completely satisfying and in any company would justify the title Ballerina assoluta being conferred upon her. There was none of the hard brilliance and 'steel-like' pointes which so often become the dominating feature of such performances. There was beauty in every movement and every movement was permeated with charm, happiness and that rare quality, tender lyricism.”

Richardson in the Dancing Times.
It was to be 33 years before the Royal Ballet made Fonteyn prima ballerina assoluta.

Ballet of the Year

Symphonic Variations by Frederick Ashton. “It was a turning -point in the history of British Ballet, and Ashton's coming-of-age as a choreographer, twenty years after his first tentative steps. With it he asserted his claim to be considered Petipa's rightful heir, as Balanchine had in Apollo

David Vaughan in ‘Frederick Ashton and His Ballets’.

January    Issue no 3 of Ballet magazine emerges. The previous issue - number 2 - had emerged in September 1939. Paper shortages meant that the post war edition could only be 8 pages long and cost 6d (2.5p). Ballet's editor was the young Richard Buckle and he tells readers of his wish to get up to 60 pages and sell at 2/- (10p).
February    20 Feb: The new Sleeping Beauty for Sadler's Well Ballet is premiered. Designs by Oliver Messel. Gillian Lynne was among the fairies and Gerd Larson was there as well - both having joined a couple of years before. The first season at CG was extended several time and went on to 131 performances - of which 78 were Sleeping Beauty. (more details at the top of the page)
March    2 Mar: Moira Shearer dances her first Aurora.

12 Mar: Balanchine and Danilova produce Raymonda for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, who premiere it in New York.
April    8 Apr: Sadler's Wells Opera (later Theatre) Ballet give their first performance - it's the second company which is now known as Birmingham Royal Ballet. They did a triple bill including Casse-Noisette Act III (now better known as the Nutcracker - and also for being 2 acts long!)

9 Apr: Les Ballet des Champs-Elysees opened at the Adelphi. Roland Petit was ballet master and principal choreographer. Of the early performances an unnamed English dancer said “I feel excited and invigorated. Never before have I seen dancing infused with such happiness” (according to Cyril Beaumont in Ballet).

24 Apr: The premier of Symphonic Variations. It was the first Ashton ballet to be choreographed behind closed doors and a product of deep thought and much revision. It has its roots in mysticism - of which Ashton had been reading much. It was even a marriage in part.

At the time it was not necessarily seen as the great piece it is today.... One critic said of it “prim and dull... this plotless ballet, dancing in a vacuum and nature abhors it”. In America it was dismissed as watered down Balanchine when first shown.

May    Dancing Times has a piece entitled ‘The Public is Usually Right’ by Arnold L Haskell.

Here is the opening paragraph... “The ballet public has been called hysterical and undiscriminating and in general is not rated very high for its intelligence. In spite of a weekly mailbag containing a number of letters that would interest a psychiatrist I think that our balletgoers are sadly underrated and that they compare more than favourably with the ordinary theatre-going public.”

Also in Dancing Times is news that Maxine Nina Aslanoff (pictured) had passed her RAD Primary Children's Examination with Honours. She is the great-great-grandchild of Marius Petipa (and the man who gave us Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty...)

July    1 Jul - 3 Aug: Ballet Rambert's first season at Sadler's Wells. Includes the first performance of a full length Giselle - based on Sergeyev/Maryinsky version but including Romantic Ballet details courtesy of Cyril Beaumont.

Sally Gilmour

Sally Gilmour took the lead: Beaumont said of her performance “unequalled by any English dancer of her generation for its lyric qualities its poetry, its pathos. Other interpreters... may excel in technical abilities, but not one of them equals her in expression”

Rather later Richard Buckle claimed in the Observer (August 1953) that the production “proves Madame Rambert to have a deeper understanding of this masterpiece of Romantic Ballet than anyone else alive.”

October    15 Oct: Balanchine does Act II grave scene of Giselle for Ballet Theatre.

The October edition of Ballet contains the following advertisement:

It was a time when people worried about archives and dance research...
November    12 Nov: Ashton's Les Sirenes is premiered at Covent Garden. It's not a success despite Helpmann actually singing! It seems to have been a desperate piece about the seaside, air balloons, Egyptian Kings, mermaids and an opera singer...

20 Nov: Balanchine's The Four Temperaments gets its premiere for the ballet society at the Central High School of Needle Trades in New York. NYCB actually got it as a production 5 years later in 1951.

Next Month

The year we'll be looking at will be 1984. Do write to us if you have any particular memories of that year

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