sun 19/05/2024

Rare footage of ballet legend Anna Pavlova in BFI season | Arts News

Rare footage of ballet legend Anna Pavlova in BFI season

anna pavlova dying swanThe legendary ballerina Anna Pavlova is to be celebrated in a season of rare footage of her life and career at the BFI in August. A longtime Londoner who was buried near her Highgate home in 1931, the dancer is the subject of a book, Anna Pavlova: Twentieth-Century Ballerina by the distinguished historian and V&A museum curator Jane Pritchard, who also curates the film season.

Pavlova had many of her solos recorded on film, and also had a major acting role in the 1916 film, The Dumb Girl of Portici, which showed her extraordinary dramatic acting artistry. Her crucial influence on British ballet's birth and development is also shown in film, documentary and live discussion.

Screenings taking place in Anna Pavlova on Screen BFI season:

  • 11 August, NFT1 (3.50pm) The Dumb Girl of Portici (USA, 1916). Pavlova plays the dumb Fenella in Lois Weber’s adaptation of Auber’s opera Masaniello. The plot, based on the Neapolitan uprising against Spanish oppressors in 1647, concerns Fenella, a poor Italian girl, who falls in love and is then betrayed by a Spanish nobleman disguised as a fisherman. Their affair triggers a revolution and national catastrophe. With live piano accompaniment. Introduced by Jane Pritchard.
  • 15 August, NFT3 (6pm) & 25 August, NFT2 (3.20pm) Pavlova: A Woman for All Time (UK-USSR, 1983). This Anglo-Soviet co-production shows a dramatised interpretation of the life of Anna Pavlova from her childhood in the countryside outside St Petersburg through to her death in The Hague half a century later. Its knowledge of dance is sometimes questionable, but there are interesting cameos by choreographer Piotr Gusev as Marius Petipa, Bruce Forsyth as Alfred Butt and Roy Kinnear as Pavlova’s gardener. Galina Beliaeva stars as Pavlova and James Fox as Victor Dandré. The 15 August showing is introduced by Jane Pritchard.
  • 17 August, NFT2 (6.10pm) & 31 August, NFT2 (6.20pm), The Immortal Swan (UK, 1935). This programme combines documentary material on Pavlova with extracts of later stagings of some of the ballets she danced: the Vision scene from The Sleeping Beauty (with Antoinette Sibley and Anthony Dowell), Giselle and Don Quixote (with Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov). The opening section of The Magic of Dance 2: The Ebb and Flow includes material on Pavlova and Ivy House, while The Immortal Swan looks at her life on tour and some of her most important solos. The 17 August showing is introduced by Jane Pritchard.
  • 18 August, NFT2 (6pm), Omnibus: Anna Pavlova (BBC, 1970) / The Dying Swan (Russia, 1917). Margaret Dale’s Omnibus documentary gives some of Pavlova’s company and those who saw her dance the opportunity to recall their own experiences of the great ballerina and the challenges of the old, silent footage of Pavlova dancing are revealed. Omnibus will be preceded by Evgeni Bauer’s 1917 feature film, The Dying Swan, featuring then Bolshoi ballerina Vera Karalli (with Pavlova in London in 1920) and has a new score added by Joby Talbot. Introduced by Jane Pritchard.
  • 23 August, NFT1 (6.15pm), Preview + Q&A: Madam and the Dying Swan (UK, 2012).  A new documentary set against a background of the development of British ballet, showing the passing on of Pavlova's Swan solo, via Ninette de Valois, who notated it at the Palace Theatre in 1913, to former Royal Ballet ballerina Marguerite Porter, who then teaches it to today's Royal Ballet ballerina Marianela Nuñez. Includes an extract from Anna Pavlova (1924). Followed by a Q&A with filmmakers Candida Brady and Titus Ogilvy and dancer Marguerite Porter, hosted by Jane Pritchard.
  • 24 August, NFT2 (6pm), Pavlova and Her Contemporaries on Screen. From early in the 20th century, serious attempts were made to record some of the greatest ballet dancers and their repertoire. This programme places Pavlova alongside her contemporaries: including not only film footage of Pavlova, but also Tamara Karsavina, Maria Baldina and Theodore Kossloff. It will also include film by two pioneers of dance on screen: Peter Elfelt recording the Royal Danish Ballet and Alexander Shiryaev filming in Russia. With live piano accompaniment. Presented by Jane Pritchard

Full details and booking for all the events at the BFI Southbank, London

The book Anna Pavlova: Twentieth-Century Ballerina by Jane Pritchard with Caroline Hamilton is published by Booth-Clibborn Editions, price £25

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