In the editorial for last year’s December edition of Brolga, Robin Grove commented that the edition was “shadowed by loss”: the change and tragedy that surrounded Sydney Dance Company that year. This edition, at the end of 2008, is also touched by loss: the death of Meg Denton, a great contributor to Australian dance and to Brolga—remembered here by Alan Brissenden; and the passing of two other great women of dance—Irina Baronova and Valrene Tweedie.
Michelle Potter’s tributes to both Baronova and Tweedie in this edition reflect the bittersweet nature of loss as she offers tribute to their contributions and marvels at their achievements. Her tributes not only mark their passing, but give us a sense of the women some of us knew, and others wish we had.
The evocative power of words to get us a little closer to the ‘being there’ of dance is also illustrated in Annette Gillen’s recollections of her early experiences of watching the Ballets Russes and her own involvement with the Borovansky Ballet. These recollections are reproduced here in a transcript of interview, conducted with Gillen by Lee Christofis.
There, the world of the past is brought into the present through the telling of stories and reminiscences: Gillen as an 11 year old watching ‘the Russians’ from side stage, or accompanying her mother to parties with what she now realises were some of ballet’s most famous names dancing around on the lawn. Gillen’s recollections of working with ‘Boro’ also evoke the dancer’s viewpoint—a viewpoint so rarely articulated. This evocation offers yet another confirmation of the value of oral histories and encouragement to the National Library of Australia (and other institutions) to continue to record the recollections of our artists for posterity.
Between these two articles you will find a piece by Garry Lester and another by Marianne Schultz. Garry offers, with his usual laconic flair, an excellent appraisal of the dance holdings at the National Film and Sound Archives collection. Part ‘travelogue’ (a wander through the vagaries of databases), part appraisal of the collection, and part reflective history of the dance of the dancers he found there—Garry’s article reacquaints us with the value of seeing bodies moving and hearing voices intoning; having access to dance on film is such a gratifying way to experience the history of dance.
But this article also reminds us of the value of a good ‘turn of phrase’ when describing dance, in words. Garry’s evocative descriptions of what he saw in these films are valuable in themselves, for those who have not and may never see these dances (on film or otherwise).
Marianne Schultz’s article takes us to what she has called the ‘cradle of modern dance’ in New Zealand—a few short years immediately following WWII when the outward looking, internationalist Wellington New Dance Group tried to heal and change their world through art. She also challenges the notion that value should only be attributed to historical practices that are locally particular. Some artists are inspired by the world at large and their activities, though practised at ‘home’, should be read and analysed in a wider, more international context.
I have enjoyed guest editing this edition of Brolga. I have been blessed with a group of experienced contributors, including our reviewers Alan Brissenden and Justin Macdonnell. To their reviews of new books on Rudolf Nureyev, George Balanchine and Robert Helpmann, I add my own review of a dance documentary on the Wellington New Dance Group.
Thank you to all contributors for the application of their expertise, evidence of which is here in the pages of Brolga 29. I would also like to thank Alan Brissenden, Brolga editor, for his guidance along the way.