Tuesday, November 1, 2011


I saw this snippet of Dame Margot Fonteyn on Youtube the other day, dancing the exquisite Salut d’amour which Sir Frederick Ashton choreographed for her sixtieth birthday gala at Covent Garden. Set to Elgar, the piece evokes several of the most famous roles Ashton created for that great, great artist. At the end of the snippet, Dame Margot pays tribute to the Australian dancer Sir Robert Helpmann. About Helpmann there are many good stories, but one of the best was told by Kenneth Williams, and is worth re-telling. Helpmann danced the role of Oberon in a production of Ashton’s The Dream that toured through the United States. Somewhere along the way the ballet was performed in a huge sports arena, and Bobby Helpmann was assigned to the umpires’ room, which was considered the most commodious, or, at any rate, the least uncomfortable dressing-room accommodation. Before that evening’s performance the stage manager did the rounds, calling “the half” (hour), and, getting no answer from Helpmann, knocked again, then cautiously opened the door. He was genuinely taken aback by what he saw: A large table had been dragged into the middle of the room. On the table was a chair, and Helpmann was standing on that: craning towards the one naked, low-wattage light bulb that dangled forlornly from the ceiling. With the aid of a hand mirror held at an angle in one hand, and a pencil clasped with several more in the other, Helpmann was busily applying his spectacular green and silver eye make-up. “Are you all right, Sir Robert?” asked the stage manager, slightly concerned. “I’m fine,” answered Bobby, in his trademark drawl, “but God knows how those umpires manage.”

1 comment:

  1. cor blimey guv my attention defecit hyperactivity disorder ain't harf givin me gyp .... but even so I LAUGHED OUT LOUD !