Antony Tudor - Choreographer

World Traveler
Ballet Theatre tour - 1943

Ballet Theatre tour, 1943. From left to right: Nicholos Orloff, Tudor,
Jerome Robbins, Maria Karnilova, and Donald Saddler.
Photograph courtesy of Donald Saddler

As a young man, Tudor aspired to travel the world. Acting was the obvious career path, but he lacked the requisite voice. Dancers lived a similar lifestyle, but he knew his late start would always prevent his becoming a great dancer. Thus, according to Tudor, choreographer was the only viable position left. Anyone who knew Tudor (or saw his amazing work) clearly understood and recognized his passion for choreography, no matter how he came to his profession. Whatever his motivations may have been, Tudor more than accomplished his goal of becoming a world traveler.

Tudorís world travels coincided with his first choreographic attempts. He traveled to Florence, Italy to soak in the atmosphere for
Cross- Garteríd. This began a trend that saw Tudor seeking inspiration in places like Greece, Sweden and Japan. Although little is known about the extent of Tudorís wanderings before moving to the United States, his travels as a guest choreographer are well documented.

Tudor traveled to Sweden for the first time in 1949 and immediately fell in love with the country. He returned on holiday at least once in 1952 and many times professionally after that. While there he staged several famous ballets like
Giselle and his own Gala Performance. Tudor is credited with raising the level of professionalism of the Royal Swedish Ballet and establishing ballet as a serious art form in Sweden. Tudor would return to Sweden in 1961 and eventually took up partial residence from 1962-1964, mounting many of his ballets. He is often listed as Artistic Director during this stay, a title that was apparently news to him (according to personal letters). In 1963 Tudor created his famous anti-war ballet, Echoing of Trumpets in Stockholm. Tudor was honored in 1973 with the Carina Ari Gold Medal, a prestigious award named for the famed ballerina of the Ballet Suedois. Sweden is responsible for providing the only documentary of Antony Tudor thanks to dancers Viola Aberle and Gerd Andersson (whom Tudor created the main role in Trumpets for) who convinced Tudor to let them film him at work.

Tudorís work at Jacobs Pillow in Lee, Massachusetts, holds a special place in his history. Throughout the 1940ís Tudor accepted summer positions at the famed summer dance festival and school where he would be reunited with Alicia Markova, whom he had worked with as a guest artist at Ballet Rambert (the original Juliet in his Romeo and Juliet). At Jacobís Pillow he began work on
Pillar of Fire and later created The Dear Departed featuring Hugh Laing and Diana Adams. He also restaged many of his other ballets in addition to teaching classes.

The entire summer program at Jacobís Pillow in 1951 was delegated to Tudor, who planned and implemented everything. Tudor also choreographed two new works that summer,
Les Mains Gauche and Ronde du Printemps, featuring New York City Ballet dancers. Ronde was a particularly innovative series of pas de deuxís that, unfortunately, is lost today. To get the performances he wanted, Tudor kept dancers, like future répétiteur, Sallie Wilson, from seeing other parts of the ballet in a demand for psychological authenticity. The tactic worked, but at a cost of preserving the ballet (a common problem of the period). In 1952 he also choreographed La Goire for New York City Ballet and Trio Con Brio at Jacobs Pillow, both of which were thought to have been lost but have since been reproduced by New York Theatre Ballet. His final work for Jacobís Pillow was 1953ís Little Improvisations, which is considered a masterpiece.

Tudor in rehearsal - Tokyo 1965

Tudor in Tokyo at rehearsal, 1965.
Courtesy of Kumi Oyama, Star Ballet

Tudor taught at Jacobís Pillow for the last time in 1953 where he worked with the recently founded National Ballet of Canada (whose founder and featured ballerina was another former Rambert dancer and future répétiteur, Celia Franca) who had already staged several of his ballets in Toronto. His importance to the development of the festival remains strong today as the organization hosted a ďPillow TalkĒ in which his contributions to dance were discussed.

After the success of
Offenbach in the Underworld in Philadelphia, Tudor traveled to Japan for the first time in 1954 and restaged it for the Komaki Ballet. Tudor had an affinity for the Asian culture even before he became a Zen Buddhist in the 1960ís, so the connection was a natural one. In Tokyo he taught classes and staged two of his ballets with an exciting new protégé, Yasuki Sasa . He later returned to Japan to teach in the 1960ís and became very involved in the training and development of Japanese ballet dancers.

While on a tour of South America with Ballet Theatre, Tudor was invited to choreograph a piece for Teatro Colon. He created
Pas de Trois in Buenos Ares, Argentina in 1958. Unfortunately, this ballet remains lost today.

Excluding his brief visits to London (in 1946, 1952 and 1963 for various performances and tributes) Tudor didnít return to England for an extended period until 1967 when he accepted an offer to produce a new work for Englandís Royal Ballet. The result was
Shadowplay, which marked the successful return of the native son. He followed that up 1968 with Knight Errant for the Royal Ballet Touring Company and staged Echoing of Trumpets for the London Festival Ballet in 1971.

Adding another continent to his passport Tudor accepted an invitation from another adoring former Ballet Rambert student, Peggy van Praagh, director of the Australian Ballet. In 1969 Tudor choreographed
Divine Horseman and also restaged Pillar of Fire.

Tudor continued his love affair with travel with sojourns to Israel, France, Germany, Holland, Finland, New Zealand and Greece for business and pleasure. It turned out Tudor didnít need to become a famous actor or dancer to see the world. If travel was an indulgence for Tudor, the ballet community was happy to oblige as his influence still crosses international borders to this day.


 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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