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"Nerina, Blair, Holden, Grant and Edwards". How that cast still trips off the tongue so beautifully! The original cast of Ashton's La Fille Mal Gardée - a cast that is considered never to have been surpassed, and one of my life's blessings that I saw it! Nadia Nerina was, in fact, the first ballerina I ever saw live, in Swan Lake at Covent Garden on 19th December 1959. Even then, I gasped with the audience at her vivacity, and the height of her jumps in particular.
Nadia Nerina started studying dancing seriously in her native South Africa, and she attributes the strength of her technique to training in the Cecchetti method. When she arrived in England on 1st November 1945, she had never seen a performance by a professional ballet compay. Within four months she was one of the nurses in attendance of the infant Aurora at The Royal Opera House and within six years she was a full ballerina with the Sadler's Wells Ballet. In 1956 she appeared with other ballerinas in Ashton's Birthday Offering, created for the 25th Anniversary of the Company and her variation, with its doubles tours en l'air, was one of the sensations of the evening.
Although Nadia Nerina created several roles for different choreographers, it was Ashton who fully explored Nerina's lovely clean line, immaculate finish and lightness of elevation which made her such an exciting dancer to watch. Nowhere were these qualities used to greater effect than in the lead role of Lise in La Fille Mal Gardée in which her partnership with David Blair was one of the highlights of the Royal Ballet's performances in the 1960s.
Nadia Nerina has danced all the major classical roles and in 1960 her
guest appearance with the Bolshoi Ballet established her as a prima
ballerina of international standing. In conclusion, I can find no better
words than those of a critic of the New York Times: "She is as pretty as
a picture, has great charm and can dance like a million dollars.....we
shall all be fighting to drink champagne out of her slippers!"