I am currently working as researcher and historian for The Hammond Performing Arts School in Chester, UK. In 2017 the school is set to celebrate 100 years since it’s founder Miss Irene Hammond came to Chester. My role is to research the history of the school and Hoole Bank House (where the school is now housed). I am also trying to gather as many memories from past students as possible.
When I began the school knew little about it’s rich history. My research has so far taken me to all manner of sources from Newspaper archives and the Chester regional records office to the archives of the RAD.
The 1950s saw an explosion of all things ballet in popular culture.
One of the most prominent artists was Carlotta Edwards (1894 – 1977). Edwards was the daughter of the French painter Ferdinand Pourrier. Her ballet scenes once graced the bedrooms of little girls (and big) all over England but were very popular in Australia and New Zealand. Edwards appears to have based most of her pictures on photographs of popular British dancers.
Edwards paintings were released as framed prints as well as on trays, place-mats, puzzles, clocks and many other novelty items.
English manufactures, Win-El-Ware, launched a range of coasters and place-mats featuring Edwards designs.
These coasters show six scenes from the Sadler’s Wells Ballet/Royal Ballet: Giselle, Swan Lake, Les Sylphides, Symphonie Fantastique en Couleur and Don Quixote.
The six place-mats show five Sadler’s Wells Ballet/Royal Ballet ballerinas:
Margot Fonteyn in Giselle and Firebird
Nadia Nerina in La Fille Mal Gardée
Alicia Markova most likely in Don Quixote
Beryl Grey most likely in The Lady and the Fool
Svetlana Beriosova in an unknown ballet
A gorgeous tray featuring a scene from the ballet Giselle.
In 2011 I had the great opportunity to work with designer Richard Hudson on a reinterpretation of The Golden Cockerel for The Royal Danish Ballet. My role was to research the original productions from 1914 and 1937, produced by the Ballets Russes and Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo. Hudson and choreographer Alexei Ratmansky then used the research to create new designs and choreography based on the original designs by Natalia Goncharova and choreography by Mikhail Fokine.
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to study some of the original costumes as part of my research. They really were quite beautiful! The costumes for the 1937 production were made by Barbara Karinska in London (she later moved to NYC were she became an important collaborator with George Balanchine).
The new ballet opened in Copenhagen in September 2012 and was an amazing riot of colour. Excitingly this year American Ballet Theatre will be re-staging this production – with some alterations by Ratmansky.
In the wake of The Red Shoes film the 1950s saw all things to do with ballet become the height of vogue. Wallpaper and curtains, to clocks, scarves and compacts were all embellished with ballet motifs!
Beswick ballet teacup and saucer
In 1956 Beswick pottery launched a range of ballet themed china . At first named Ballet the range was later renamed Pavlova and was in production until 1961. Ballet is a very cute pattern and perfect for any balletomane. This china is quite hard to find these days but pieces do turn up on ebay and etsy.
I have recently started a shop on etsy specialising in ballet books, china and collectables from the 1930s – 1960s. I have quite a few beswick pieces for sale.
Sono Osato, b.1919, was not only the first dancer of Japanese descent to join the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, but was also the first American. She joined the company at just fourteen and would go to become a widely acclaimed dancer, dancing with ABT and on Broadway.
Now 96, Sono is one of the last surviving members of the Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo. Sono danced in the premier of Le Coq d’Or in 1937, a ballet which has been recently recreated at Alexei Ratmansky for ABT and opens at the MET in June this year. https://www.metopera.org/Season/2016-ABT/the-golden-cockerel/