Lynn Seymour, thrillingly expressive ballerina, dies at 83

Lynn Seymour, a Canadian-born ballerina who introduced an exciting 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 potential to vanish into a component. “Above all,” dance critic David Vaughan as soon as wrote, “what makes Seymour so uncommon and useful an artist is that each by instinct and intelligence she approaches all dancing in a ‘fashionable’ method, in the usage of the entire physique, the power to convey drama by motion, the sense of dedication.”

Ms. Seymour additionally taught dance, dabbled in choreography and directed corporations 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 corresponding to “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 seek out or create which means in her steps, reasonably 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 beneath 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 Lady in “The Two Pigeons” (1961), the bored housewife Natalia Petrovna in “A Month within the Nation” (1976) and the trendy 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 solid the dancer as mysterious, seductive or independent-minded ladies corresponding to 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 have been going someplace, breaking new floor on a regular basis,” she informed the Sunday Occasions 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 method. … 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 obtained to seek out your gentle, in any other case there’s no level occurring.”

For “The Invitation” (1960), one in all her first collaborations with MacMillan, she performed a younger girl who’s seduced and raped onstage. The solid 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 distinct lead solid, grew to become 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 stated 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 youngsters, I reasoned. Juliet was mine,” she wrote, including that the position “was a priceless reward from Kenneth, glazed particularly for me. Juliet, the classical heroine of the theater, was the end result 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 have been dropped from the principle solid, and the ballet opened with Rudolf Nureyev and prima ballerina Margot Fonteyn, to whom she was pressured to show the steps.

Relegated to the second solid, Ms. Seymour was devastated. Her marriage to dancer-turned-photographer Colin Jones quickly collapsed. But she additionally discovered among 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 celebs, she used to writhe like a cat in warmth, brushing her arms, shoulders, neck towards the balcony itself, her complete physique in want of friction,” New York Occasions 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 a couple of years later, taking part in 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, in accordance with “Nureyev,” a biography by Julie Kavanagh; as soon as, he described Ms. Seymour’s dancing as a type of creative aphrodisiac. “Heaven descends into your lap,” he stated.

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

“I feel I used to be reasonably overseas,” she informed the New York Occasions 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 scenario. It was a tradition shock. I will need to have appeared reasonably abrasive and definitely reasonably 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 solely pure to her. She felt extra at residence 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 is just not magic for me,” she wrote in her autobiography. “I at all times felt the viewers was ready to see that first drop of blood.”

Berta Lynn Springbett — by her account, it was MacMillan who prompt she change her title — 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 Crimson 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 received a scholarship to review at what’s now the Royal Ballet College, 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 a couple of 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 publish 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 bunch 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.

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

But she discovered it tough to give up solely, 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 embrace 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 stated she needed to memorize the format of the stage, shifting from place to put by a way that she referred to as “semi-blind Braille.”

When the Occasions 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 capable of 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 desire to be in my very own world, which is much better — and much safer.”

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