Philip Hope-Wallace was the music, theatre and dance critic for The Guardian from 1959 until he died, twenty years later. The obituarist in The Times called him “a critic of the arts as wise and searching as anyone in his time … all his work was fuelled by an informed pleasure that his attractively languid personality never concealed… above all, he was consistently readable.”
Of the 53-year-old Margot Fonteyn he wrote:
How does Dame Margot’s Aurora compare with Miss Fonteyn’s Aurora of that wonderful post-war awakening? [She was Aurora when she inaugurated the first ballet season after the war in 1946]. With poignant irony, in the context of this fairy tale, time does not stand still. “She now perhaps needs the eye of affection rather than that of criticism”, wrote K.S.W. [Kathrine Sorley Walker] in the Daily Telegraph in a nicely turned phrase: but she can still stand up to pretty searching gaze I feel. All is done, nothing is shirked, but the dart and dash are a little diminished though there was none of that flagging, that effortfulness which made one say of ‘other dancers’ in their last appearances “Helas, le temps des lilas et des roses…” etc. Above all, Dame Margot gives such a sense of radiant enjoyment of Aurora and she phrases the music so sensitively that each linking movement seems like an extension in flesh of the very sounds you are hearing rise from the pit.
The 28-year-old Ann Jenner had been made a Principal Dancer two years earlier:
Ann Jenner who had been perhaps unfairly and prematurely rushed into the role by Doreen Wells’s absence and was nervous in the Rose Adage – as who would not be, since a failure in the first test of equilibrium can undo you for the rest of the evening? All the same that is what bravura dancing demands: it is unforgiving; you must do it with ease or seeming ease. As in public speaking, an audience will forgive you almost anything but nervousness.
In this matter Antoinette Sibley, perhaps because of some insensitivity on the part of her conductor, made less of Aurora’s solo after the Adage, getting right ahead of the beat. The thing I remember most vividly was her slow turn in perfect balance with her arms arched above her head which seemed to elongate her carriage (not comically, like Alice in Wonderland but magically, like a drawing of a beauty with a slightly exaggerated neck length).
And lastly, Merle Park:
But it is finally Merle Park who gets the Golden Apple: marvellous in speed, gaiety, lightness, flights of jeté en tournant, and a sweet innocence with it all – not so full or warm as Dame Margot’s presence but winning… indeed winning the contest, if that is how you want to look at it. But I’d like to stress how much each performance was pleasing an audience which is pretty good about seeing where they must not break into a reverie but are still rather bad about exacting fifty seconds of applause for each 30 second solo variation. But – love what you can, say I.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.