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Timely recollections of Anna Pavlova, by her associates

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Katharine Kanter

Inscrit le: 19 Jan 2004
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MessagePosté le: Ven Aoû 27, 2004 9:53 pm    Sujet du message: Timely recollections of Anna Pavlova, by her associates Répondre en citant


To add to the “Feuilleton de l’été” to which M. Haydn has kindly devoted rather a substantial amount of his time, some excerpts from an article that appeared in an English magazine in 1974, just sent to me by someone determined to tidy out the papers in their flat. From a Copyright standpoint, I have no qualms about reproducing these quotes, because the magazine is now defunct.

Some may wish to poke fun at the strong statements made by the individuals whose remarks we report below (all of whom are now dead, but who were, not long ago, household names in the theatre world), nor can one properly imagine anything like this appearing on the “cultural” pages of the newspaper ‘Liberation’. To anyone who has thought about these things, however, it will be quite clear, that they were not making it all up.


Danced with Pavlova’s company between 1912 and 1916 under the stage name Vera Fredova. She taught at the Royal Ballet School for something like forty years, and amongst her pupils was the great Lynn Seymour. Here in Paris, there lives, and teaches, one of her students, Yvonne Cartier.

“It wasn’t that she minded if you were slow – she didn’t mind that at all – or were rather a bad dancer; if she thought your whole heart and soul were being put into what you were doing, she would take a lot of trouble with you.

“She had no time for laziness or careless work that might in any way be considered disrespectful of the performance. She expected an artist to have the same complete self-discipline that she herself had, no matter how small the place and how uninteresting perhaps the audience. Of course she was a trail-blazer. Half the places we went to had never seen ballet, let alone a dancer like Pavlova.

“As for her genius as an artist – well, I certainly don’t think it’s been exaggerated during the years. This is something I always find difficult to discuss properly. You might say the same thing about some great singer. If you heard Jenny Lind today, you would probably be disappointed. The mannerisms, the technique of the day might seem alien to us and even artificial. But the quality of the artist, the things that made them what they were in the epoch in which they lived – this is the same.

“That quality we’re discussing now, is, I think, the immortal part of Pavlova.

“What I’ll remember for ever is the standard which Pavlova set for me, the standard of beauty, the standard of interpretation, this undeviating devotion to her job. Dancing never came second to anything. One always followed faithfully that same discipline which she herself shewed in the theatre. Spiritually, it was an ideal which you felt you could never allow yourself to desecrate. I think anyone who worked with her was left with that legacy.”


Danced in Pavlova’s company, taught at the Royal Ballet School, and directed the Royal Ballet of Sweden from 1952 to 1963) where she revived works from the 18th and 19th Century.

Mary Skeaping also translated into English for the first time, Gennaro Magri’s Theoretical and Practical Treatise on Dancing (Naples, 1779).

In the 1950s at the Paris Opera archives, Skeaping found the original score for Giselle, and thus restored missing sections from the ballet. She learnt the ballet's mime from Tamara Karsavina, for her productions. For the first time in fifteen years, Skeaping’s production of ‘Giselle’ is being revived by English National Ballet, on these dates,

15th-19th March 2005 at the Mayflower, Southampton
22nd-26th March 2005 (but not on the Good Friday) at the Bristol Hippodrome

“She danced in every performance, and always it seemed she was dancing that particular item for the first time. There was this freshness in everything she danced.

“Dancing with Pavlova had a lasting effect on my life, on my knowledge of what is a real dancer and what is a dedicated person and what is a real artiste. It gave me a standard of artistic performance and dedication which has never been equalled. I’m sure it’s got nothing to do with nostalgia.”


Born in Finland.

Student of Nicholas Legat, Liubov Egorova, Olga Preobazhenskaya and Vera Trefilova. Danced at the Paris Opera from 1924 to 1926, and with Pavlova’s company from 1926 to Pavlova’s death in 1931. Taught in London after the War. Amongst her pupils was Roger Tully, who has been teaching in London for forty years.

“One saw in the way she lived and in the way she looked upon things, that a certain discipline was going on inside her – not outward but inner discipline – and it all stemmed from an element of self-respect.

“You were magnetised by her presence. To see her on stage you knew immediately you were looking at some being from which you expected a great deal (…) an aura that made you hold your breath. It was an uncanny feeling you had. You knew that truth was truth, and people straight away loved her for this truth.

“Fortunately she left behind a most marvellous memory, a wonderful being who blessed the art of dancing with the true spirit of self-dedication and achievement.

“(…) through my memories of her I have since tried to impart the true feeling and understanding of the dance to all my pupils. This has been my mission. To me she was much more than a genius – she was a deeply religious genius. It didn’t mean that she had to go to Church, but rather that she was profoundly religious in herself, that she believed in truth.

“(…) her lip-love to that art, an abundant love to which she never limited herself.

“To me she was this living light, presenting to the world this beauty of the classical dance. There are so many kinds of dancing, but the classical style demands so much purity, so much technique, knowledge, and complete communication – if one can use that word – with God. When one achieves all that, one is Pavlova.”


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