Lynn Seymour

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Lynn Seymour
Berta Lynn Springbett

(1939-03-08) 8 March 1939 (age 80)
OccupationBallet dancer

Lynn Seymour (born 8 March 1939) is a Canadian-born retired ballerina and choreographer.

Early career[edit]

She was born Berta Lynn Springbett in Wainwright, Alberta, and studied ballet in Vancouver, British Columbia.

In 1953 she was auditioned by Frederick Ashton and given a scholarship to London's Sadler's Wells Ballet School. There she was in a class with Antoinette Sibley and Marcia Haydée.

In 1956 she joined Covent Garden Opera Ballet, then moved to the Touring Royal Ballet in 1957 and a year later to the main company of the Royal Ballet as a soloist dancer, becoming a principal in 1959.

Her first created role was the Adolescent in Kenneth MacMillan's The Burrow (1958), one of many ballets on which she worked with this choreographer.[1] Her lyrical technique, her unconventional style and the very intense dramatic powers were developed through the wide range of roles he made on her including The Girl in The Invitation (1960) and The Fiancé in Le baiser de la fée (1960).

She soon debuted in the classics by dancing Odette-Odile (1958, on tour in Australia), Giselle and Aurora (both 1960) and was the Young Girl in Ashton's comedy ballet The Two Pigeons (1961) in which she began a much praised partnership with Christopher Gable.

International fame and choreography[edit]

The title role in MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet, which was created on her in 1965 although danced by Margot Fonteyn at the première,[2] established her as the leading dance-actress of her generation.[3][4][5]

She was prima ballerina at Berlin Opera Ballet (1966–69) under MacMillan's direction, where she danced the first performance of his Concerto, whose second movement was inspired by her,[6] and created the role of Anna Anderson in the one-act version of Anastasia (1967).

She guested with various companies including London Festival Ballet, London Contemporary Dance Theatre, National Ballet of Canada, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and American Ballet Theatre. She worked with different choreographers from Antony Tudor and Jerome Robbins to Lar Lubovitch and Roland Petit and was often partnered by Rudolf Nureyev[7] (La Sylphide, Raymonda and others). With Nureyev she improved her technique by attending the class of Danish teacher Stanley Williams.[8][9]

From 1971 to 1978 she returned to the Royal Ballet as a guest artist with new MacMillan characters such as the title role in the three act version of Anastasia (1971) and Mary Vetsera in Mayerling (1978, with David Wall as Crown Prince Rudolf). Ashton created for her a very successful solo called Five Brahms waltzes in the manner of Isadora Duncan (1975) and the role of Natalia Petrovna in A Month in the Country (1976, with Anthony Dowell as Beliaev).

She was herself a choreographer,[10][11] creating her first ballet Night Ride (mus. Michael Finnissy) for the Royal Ballet Choreographic Group in 1973. Her other works include Gladly, Sadly, Badly, Madly for LCDT (mus. Carl Davis, 1975), Intimate Letters for Galina Samsova (mus. Janáček, 1978), Wolfie for Rambert Dance Company (mus. Mozart, 1987) and Bastet for Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet (mus. Michael Berkeley, 1988).

Directorship and subsequent career[edit]

She was artistic director of Munich State Ballet (1978–80) where she invited a young William Forsythe (choreographer),[12] then she briefly returned to the Royal Ballet before retiring (1981) and working there subsequently as occasional coach.[13][14]

She appeared as an actress in the Herbert Ross 1987 movie Dancers with Mikhail Baryshnikov and in Wittgenstein by Derek Jarman (1993) playing the part of Ballets Russes's Lydia Lopokova; she came back to the stage with a number of cameo roles: in Gillian Lynne's A Simple Man with Northern Ballet Theatre (1987), in Escape at Sea with Second Stride (1993) [15] and with Adventures in Motion Pictures in Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake (1996) and Cinderella (1997) in which she originated the role of the Stepmother.

In 1989, at the invitation of Peter Schaufuss of the English National Ballet, she came out of retirement to dance for the first time Tatiana in John Cranko's Onegin in London[16] and again the title role of MacMillan's Anastasia in New York.[17]

In 2006-07, she worked in Athens as artistic director of the Greek National Ballet.[18]

She was created a CBE in 1976 [19] and won the Evening Standard Drama Award the following year.[20] Named in honour of her, the Lynn Seymour Award for Expressive Dance is annually held at the Royal Ballet School.[21]

Private life[edit]

Seymour married three times and had three children: twin boys by a Polish dancer whom she did not marry, and a son by her second husband.[22]