Antony Tudor - Choreographer


Antony Tudor with Marie Rambert in London

Antony Tudor with Marie Rambert in London

Tudor continued to study dance and perform as a way to learn choreography from the inside out. His secret desire to become a choreographer came to light when he left his job at the Meat Market to become secretary of Rambertís Ballet Club and insisted his contract include a provision for him to create ballets. Marie Rambert agreed and Tudorís career as a choreographer began.

In 1931 Tudor created his first ballet,
Cross-Garter'd, which used the familiar characters from a play he had acted in, Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. He put a lot of pressure on himself to do well as he wanted to secure a second opportunity to choreograph. He accomplished that goal easily and his path towards becoming a choreographer was cleared.

From 1931 to 1935 Tudor choreographed at least 11 works, including his first real success,
Lysistrata in 1932. His reputation grew during this time, and although his ballets were sometimes considered shocking (Adam and Eve, 1932) they were given tremendous depth by featuring complex characters portrayed by dancers with a clarity and sharpness unique to Tudor. His other notable ballets at this time were The Planets (1934) and The Descent of Hebe (1935), which continued his ascent.

In 1936 Tudor created
Jardin aux Lilacs (Lilac Garden). This ballet was heralded a sensation, and permanently crowned Tudor as one of the most exciting choreographers of the time. Tudor broke the traditional ballet mode by putting dancers on stage in ďcivilianĒ clothing. Up until this time, dancers were usually sylphs, wilis, princesses, swans or other fanciful characters. His use of Edwardian period of dress was unheard of at the time. (Ironically, this ballet almost didn't make the stage, as Rambert was not exactly thrilled with this departure from tradition. In a famously told story, Tudor and others convinced Rambert the ballet had to be performed at least once to not harm Tudorís future career, and after the ballet she could announce it would not be performed again. Sixteen curtain calls later, Rambert never made the announcement.)

Tudor, an avid film buff, was the first to use cinematic techniques in ballet. He used flashbacks, freezes and other cinematic devices to develop character in ways never done before. He also used every day upper body movements to complement traditional footwork

Lilac Garden changed the life of Antony Tudor and the world of ballet forever. Although his previous ballets were notable in their own right, Lilac Garden created a new, worldwide fervor. Lilac Garden went on to become one of Tudorís signature ballets and is performed frequently to this day.

In 1937 Tudor followed up with
Dark Elegies which, according to Sally Bliss, Trustee of the Antony Tudor Ballet Trust, ďbecame his greatest work. The rest of the ballet world was still primarily a place for fanciful creatures and worlds, while Dark Elegies presented the all too real grief of a parent for a lost child.Ē

Tudor continued working in a variety of mediums, including opera, musical theater, films and a new outlet: television. Although he never completely severed ties with Rambert, Tudor was increasingly frustrated with his lack of autonomy. In 1937 he created a partnership with American Agnes de Mille and the short-lived Dance Theater was born. Although they had some critical success, the company was never financially viable, perhaps due to their contrasting styles. Around this time Tudor started teaching and soon developed a cult-like following among dancers, even earning the nickname "The Jesus of British Grove.Ē British Grove was where Tudor took up residence, held classes while working on new ballets and honed his legendary sarcasm. Throughout this period in time, Tudor still dreamt of having his own company, a dream that would soon come true.
Toynbee Hall - London

TOYNBEE HALL, LONDON - Rendering - 1938

In 1938, he choreographed the shocking and witty
Judgment of Paris, later included in the premiere of that dream, The London Ballet at Toynbee Hall. This new company, formed after the failed venture with his friend, Agnes de Mille, would clearly bear Tudorís stamp. The London Ballet was located in a working class section of East London, similar to the neighborhood of Tudorís childhood. Tudor had long rejected the notion of ballet as an elitist venture, and reveled in the opportunity to bring dance to ordinary people. The London Ballet accomplished this goal.

Gala Performance was also created for the premiere, and once again showed off Tudorís sardonic wit. Throughout the first season, The London Ballet presented a range of the Tudor repertory as well as a new ballet, Soirée Musicale. Tudor had "presented a complete, unique world of real people seen through the eyes of one person: a vision as valid and individual as that of a great painter or writer or playwright who presents to the public a world which is clearly recognizable, but uniquely his". The season, as close to a one man show ever attempted in the history of British Ballet, was a great success and spurred Tudor to secure a bigger stage for the following season. A 10 week commitment to work with (American) Ballet Theater in New York changed all this and unexpectedly led Tudor to spend many years abroad.


 Adapted with permission from Undimmed Lustre by Murial Topaz


 The Antony Tudor Ballet Trust, P.O.Box 783, Ocean Beach, NY 11770
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