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Société Auguste Vestris - London, 1st July 2002 The professional class...
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30 mai 2010, sixième soirée : Liubov Egorova

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Liubov Nikolaïevna Egorova
London, 1st July 2002 The professional class...
’To Her, I owe my Life’
« Je lui dois ma vie »
« C’était un Maître »
’She was a Master’
« Un lyrisme subjuguant »
Liubov Nikolaïevan Egiorova
Princess Nikita Troubetzkoy

Liubov Nikolaïevna Egorova
Liubov Nikolaïevna Egorova
Présentation Soirée Egorova
Introduction to the Nuit Blanche celebrating Liubov Egorova

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London, 1st July 2002 The professional class...
by Maina Gielgud

30 May 2010

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London, 1st July 2002

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Liubov Egorova telle que
Maina Gielgud l’a connue
Collection de l’artiste

The professional class would begin, I think, at around ten-thirty or eleven o’clock in the morning, rue de la Rochefoucauld, in the house of Prince Trubetskoi, her husband. Unusually for that time in Paris (or indeed London or New York), there were no pillars in the ballet room, although it was quite small. Madame Marie was Egorova’s Russian pianist, and she was always there. We were about fifteen students, mostly regulars, but there were also POB people, notably Claude Bessy, Ethery Pagava, or Wilfried Piollet. And there were some wonderful dancers who never seemed to get into a company, one girl I remember called Jacqueline, who had red curly hair, and a Mother !

Egorova used to make us do grande pirouette every day, always after the adage - hops in second, and from there, turns in second, attitude and pulling in. Many of the girls did these on pointe, and no-one there had any difficulty with any type of pirouette ! But the beautiful redhead could do FIVE in all positions. Egorova’s barre was simple, well built up rhythmically, and it was very similar from one class to another. It was very much pre-Vaganova, no shifting around. Now one might as well be a centipede !

With Egorova, we just stood on one leg, then turned around and did the exercise on the other. She also did not spend time teaching enchaînements at the barre. We kept the arm à la seconde at all times, there were few if any ports de bras at the barre.

Egorova never got up from her chair, save for to show the adage. It was always long and very beautiful. She would let Madame Marie play, and then she would choreograph to that. It always finished in a pose, very stylised. No straight lines, one used all the available space, with temps lié, and of course, there was épaulement in every step.

Egorova was very gentle. She never shouted or screamed, and never touched people. She wore a blue serge suit, with thick brown stockings, she had a bunion, and wore black character shoes. She always had on immaculate white gloves, as she had a skin problem. Her silver hair, that still had some brown in it, was parted and done up into a bun. Fine, very beautiful papery skin, and she wore some foundation.

It was after the adage that she would give grande pirouette. Then we would make a little circle round her, and she would show the enchaînements. But she proceeded differently for the allegro work in the centre than she had done with the adage. She would first show the steps with her hands, and then tell Madame Marie to play. There were only one or two exercises after the grande pirouette before we jumped. There was a definite build-up before getting to the batterie.

She’d choreograph simple jump enchaînements first, different ones every day. I don’t remember her giving separate exercises for the men. And she would give a manège in most classes, a great help, as otherwise it can so often become a hurdle when you’ve got to do it on stage. And fouettés. And always grand battement at the very end. I’d bring my poodle to class, and he’d recognise the tune, and get up when grand battement started, because he knew it was nearly time to go.

Once or twice a week, in the afternoon, I’d take private classes to learn repertoire with Egorova. From The Sleeping Beauty, she taught me both of Aurora’s soli, First and Third Acts, as well as the Fairy soli from the Prologue, also the White Swan solo and Les Sylphides. I shared some of those private classes with Wilfried Piollet. From what I remember, the versions of The Sleeping Beauty variations I learnt with Egorova, were very similar to the Sergeev version which he had notated, and then brought out of Russia with him, and later taught in England.

In terms of musicality and emphasis, one major difference between teaching in my childhood and adolescence, and the present, is that there is far more emphasis on making the preparatory steps beautiful in themselves, so glissade and pas de bourrée often take on equal value to the step they are preparing for, both visually and rythmically. I remember the sense of the enchaînement being much more clearly presented - what you wanted the public to see, and the dynamic of the movement. A kind of stagecraft, and I think that this permitted dancers to draw away attention from their weaker points quite often too, while bringing out their strengths.

Then there was the way you presented the choreography, the character. How you walked onto the stage. How to marry that entrance with the dance, and not have it look separate.

Egorova was very positive, very constructive, and encouraging. She always called us "ma petite". She had no chip on her shoulder !

Preobrajenskaya, Karsavina and Egorova all used the head expressively. It was a very individual use of the neck too, and beautiful, and one tried to emulate their dancing of the upper body. I should stress that the use of the arms and hands was without any chichi - very pure. Squareness in terms of hips and shoulders was a requisite.

All the Russians insisted on the heels going down, and the use of maximum demi-plié. And there was much use of ecarté and effacé, and a lot of steps, like gargouillade and révoltade, that one very rarely sees now. Nor were they so finicky about all the little preparatory steps, which today, take up so much effort and energy.

Q/ Did you ever get bored ?

A/ NEVER ! Those classes, and studying those roles could not be boring. Egorova had known Petipa ! She had such respect and love for dance, and for the roles. It never seemed to me that the purpose was to execute the steps perfectly. I can’t remember any of those Russian people saying that you use steps with which to create characters, tell a story - it was obvious.

There was not the same pernickety thing as today, when one can almost see the dancers on stage thinking: "I’m going to get into such trouble if I’m not in perfect fifth." I suppose one got less feedback after performances, but when one got it, it related more to the performing aspect - in the next rehearsal one could talk about sorting out the technical glitches.

Maina Gielgud is Ballet Master, English National Ballet, Former head of the Australian Ballet and the Royal Danish Ballet

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