Sunday, 23 February 2014
I thoroughly enjoyed this BBC4 documentary Dancing in the Blitz (broadcasts 5th March) with its interviews with old dancers, reminiscing about how WW2 was the making of British ballet. I knew that the Vic-Wells ballet company was stranded in Holland when the Nazis invaded but how fascinating to hear Julia Farron, the last survivor of that tour, telling the story. Her father was in the Air Ministry and hadn't wanted her to go and, not only that, but her mother went to chaperone the youngest dancers who were under 16. The early performances were such a success that the Dutch threw tulips and daffodils onto the stage ... but on the night of May 10, 1940, Margot Fonteyn was up on the roof of the hotel in her lilac dressing gown, watching airborne troops dropping by parachute. Back home, the corps de ballet was so disciplined that when doodlebugs flew over the theatre, sylphides simply froze - and started dancing again as soon as the orchestra crawled out from under their seats.
I'm still glued to BBC's ballet season this afternoon and was completely entranced by Good Swan, Bad Swan, (9th March) which was like a Swan Lake masterclass with gorgeous Tamara Rojo who makes you realise why you will never, ever, ever tire of seeing Swan Lake. I must have been about 10 the first time I saw it, and I was firmly in the Odette camp ... now, well, I can completely see how Tamara finds wicked Odile such fun to dance. Fascinating to see her and Alina Cojocaru watching footage of Galina Ulanova, and how interpretation of the role has changed over the years with the physicality of the dancers. As for Pierina Legnani performing the famous 32 fouettés on a chalk ring drawn round a rouble ... you can only sigh and wish you were there. Might have to watch this one again!