Lynn Seymour, thrillingly expressive ballerina, dies at 83

Lynn Seymour, a Canadian-born ballerina who introduced an exhilarating expressiveness to mid-century dance, originating a parade of singular roles whereas working with choreographers Kenneth MacMillan and Frederick Ashton on the Royal Ballet in London, died March 7, on the eve of her 84th birthday.

Her demise was confirmed by the Royal Ballet, which didn’t say the place or how she died.

To many ballet critics, Ms. Seymour was maybe the best dance-actress of her technology, with a fluid, naturalistic type and uncanny capacity to vanish into an element. “Above all,” dance critic David Vaughan as soon as wrote, “what makes Seymour so uncommon and worthwhile an artist is that each by instinct and intelligence she approaches all dancing in a ‘trendy’ approach, in using the entire physique, the power to convey drama via motion, the sense of dedication.”

Ms. Seymour additionally taught dance, dabbled in choreography and directed firms in Munich and Athens, together with throughout a stint within the late Nineteen Seventies on the Bavarian State Opera Ballet. Onstage, she carried out in classics reminiscent of “Swan Lake” and “The Sleeping Magnificence” — “like a very good lady ought to,” she joked — however was happiest in new roles, which gave her an opportunity to search out or create which means in her steps, moderately than be taught a sequence of established actions.

Raised in a patch of rural Alberta that she described as “wheat, oil and cow nation,” Ms. Seymour studied dance in Vancouver earlier than coming below the wing of Ashton, a classical choreographer and director recognized for his work with the Royal Ballet. He turned to Ms. Seymour to originate roles together with the lovestruck Younger Woman in “The Two Pigeons” (1961), the bored housewife Natalia Petrovna in “A Month within the Nation” (1976) and the fashionable dance pioneer Isadora Duncan, whose earthy, free-flowing method impressed his solo work “5 Brahms Waltzes within the Method of Isadora Duncan” (1975-76).

Ms. Seymour was additionally a muse for MacMillan, who forged the dancer as mysterious, seductive or independent-minded ladies reminiscent of Mary Vetsera in “Mayerling” (1978), about an obvious murder-suicide in Nineteenth-century Vienna, and Anna Anderson, who claimed to be Tsar Nicholas II’s youngest daughter, in “Anastasia,” which premiered as a one-act in 1967 and was later expanded right into a full-length ballet.

“We thought we had been going someplace, breaking new floor on a regular basis,” she informed the Sunday Instances of London in 2017, trying again on her partnership with MacMillan. “Kenneth wished us to provide you with concepts. He stuffed within the scene like a theater director, then gave us loads of accountability find our approach. … One of many good bits of recommendation he gave me was, don’t be afraid to be ugly. The opposite was that you just’ve acquired to search out your gentle, in any other case there’s no level happening.”

For “The Invitation” (1960), one in all her first collaborations with MacMillan, she performed a younger lady who’s seduced and raped onstage. The forged included Christopher Gable, with whom she was later chosen to star in MacMillan’s “Romeo and Juliet” (1965), a manufacturing that featured music from Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev and, with a unique lead forged, turned a box-office sensation.

The manufacturing “broke hearts and shattered my life,” Ms. Seymour recalled.

In her 1984 autobiography, “Lynn,” written with journalist Paul Gardner, she mentioned that in the course of the lead-up to the ballet, she had an abortion in order that she may proceed rehearsing. “We may produce other kids, I reasoned. Juliet was mine,” she wrote, including that the position “was a priceless present from Kenneth, glazed particularly for me. Juliet, the classical heroine of the theater, was the fruits of all my fantasy roles as a dancer.”

However shortly earlier than the premiere, the Royal Ballet’s American impresario, Sol Hurok, pushed for greater stars. Ms. Seymour and Gable had been dropped from the principle forged, and the ballet opened with Rudolf Nureyev and prima ballerina Margot Fonteyn, to whom she was compelled to show the steps.

Relegated to the second forged, Ms. Seymour was devastated. Her marriage to dancer-turned-photographer Colin Jones quickly collapsed. But she additionally discovered a few of the success she had craved, delivering a uncooked, sensual efficiency that enthralled critics and shocked audiences.

“The place different Juliets on the balcony would look longingly as much as the celebrities, she used to writhe like a cat in warmth, brushing her arms, shoulders, neck towards the balcony itself, her entire physique in want of friction,” New York Instances dance critic Alastair Macaulay recalled many years later. “‘That’s not Juliet, that’s a whore,’ I keep in mind some followers saying. I used to be smitten.”

Ms. Seymour returned to the position just a few years later, enjoying Juliet to Mikhail Baryshnikov’s Romeo. She additionally maintained a friendship with the present’s authentic male lead, Nureyev, partnering with him on tasks that included a 1979 movie model of “Giselle.” The Russian dancer was entranced, based on “Nureyev,” a biography by Julie Kavanagh; as soon as, he described Ms. Seymour’s dancing as a sort of inventive aphrodisiac. “Heaven descends into your lap,” he mentioned.

Not all of Ms. Seymour’s fellow dancers had been so enamored by her persona.

“I believe I used to be moderately overseas,” she informed the New York Instances in 1989, trying again on her years on the Royal Ballet. “I used to be primarily form of North American in what to me was a form of overseas state of affairs. It was a tradition shock. I will need to have appeared moderately abrasive and definitely moderately too eager. You needed to be cool there, in any respect prices, which was an artwork I didn’t have an oz. of.”

As she informed it, the act of efficiency itself was not totally pure to her. She felt extra at dwelling within the privateness of the rehearsal room than dealing with “the terrifying flood of shimmering white and blue and gold stage lights” at a venue just like the Royal Opera Home.

“The stage isn’t magic for me,” she wrote in her autobiography. “I all the time felt the viewers was ready to see that first drop of blood.”

Berta Lynn Springbett — by her account, it was MacMillan who advised she change her identify — was born in Wainwright, Alberta, on March 8, 1939. Her father was a dentist, her mom a homemaker. She started learning dance after watching the Powell and Pressburger movie “The Pink Sneakers” (1948) and seeing a efficiency of the ballet “Coppélia,” and at 15 she auditioned for Ashton, who was touring Canada with the Sadler’s Wells Ballet.

Ms. Seymour gained a scholarship to review at what’s now the Royal Ballet Faculty, and in 1956 she joined the Covent Backyard Opera Ballet. She was quickly dancing with the Royal Ballet Touring Firm, and in 1958 she starred in MacMillan’s “The Burrow,” a claustrophobic drama that reminded some critics of “The Diary of Anne Frank.” The subsequent yr, she was named a principal dancer for the Royal Ballet.

Her reference to the corporate was severed for just a few years after the premiere of “Romeo and Juliet,” when she moved to West Berlin to hitch MacMillan on the Deutsche Oper, working as prima ballerina whereas he served as director. After MacMillan was on condition that put up on the Royal Ballet in 1970, Ms. Seymour returned to the corporate as nicely, this time as a visitor artist.

Ms. Seymour labored with a number of choreographers, together with Jerome Robbins (“Dances at a Gathering”), Glen Tetley (“Voluntaries”), John Cranko (“Onegin”) and Alvin Ailey, for whom she performed a troubled rock star in “Flowers” (1971), impressed by the lifetime of Janis Joplin. She introduced her retirement from the stage in 1981.

Partially, she was bodily exhausted, uninterested in the toll that dancing took on her physique. “I’m not a lot use for something the following day — or the day after that,” she informed Britain’s Observer newspaper.

But she discovered it troublesome to give up totally, popping out of retirement for roles that included originating the Depraved Stepmother in Matthew Bourne’s “Cinderella,” which premiered in 1997 on London’s West Finish.

Ms. Seymour’s marriages to Jones, Philip Tempo and Vanya Hackel all led to divorce. Survivors embody twin sons from a relationship with Deutsche Oper dancer Eike Waltz, Jerszy and Adrian Seymour; a son from her second marriage, Demian Tempo; a brother; and 4 grandchildren.

For all of the intricacies of her footwork, Ms. Seymour confessed that a lot of the time she may hardly see what she was doing. She was nearsighted, and mentioned she needed to memorize the format of the stage, shifting from place to put via a way that she referred to as “semi-blind Braille.”

When the Instances of London requested in 1997 why she didn’t simply put on contact lenses throughout performances, she defined that she “tried them as soon as, but it surely was a catastrophe.

“Not solely was I in a position to see the viewers, I couldn’t discover my steadiness as a result of they gave me a false sense of the place the ground was, so I by no means wore them once more. I discovered having the ability to see correctly terribly invasive. I choose to be in my very own world, which is much better — and much safer.”

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