Metropolitan Ballet (1947-48)

Back in Britain, 46-48, Victor Gsovsky was teaching classes when I joined the Metropolitan Ballet, who when he was sober, gave an excellent class

My time with the Metropolitan ended with Celia Franca teaching company classes. Little did we know at that time how long our association would last.

Touring in the provinces with the Metropolitan Ballet was in itself a full time effort.

The company was a small but fascinating group. Marchand and Perrault were dancing with us when I joined. Marchand was to be seen later in Moulin Rouge the film about Toulouse Lautrec, Paul Gnatt from Denmark, eventually a very young Eric Bruhn, Sonia Arova, Celia Franca, ballet mistress and dancer, John Taras , the choreographer of Design with Strings, Alexandre Kalioujny and the 15 year old Svetlana Beriosova.

Our repertoire was a combination of classics and contemporary choreography.

The busy touring schedule ended for me, with a tour of Sweden and Norway. In Sweden we had the dubious pleasure of having the impresario run off with the money. The owners of the company came to our rescue, but we had a week of catch as catch can. One must experience these things.

Eating in Sweden, after the rationing of England was an experience in itself. Sweden had it all. We did receive some ration coupons when we arrived, but the portions allowed were far ahead of what Britain offered. We made ourselves quite ill.

The theatre in Stockholm was strange to say the least. It was called Cirkuss, and that is what it was. Like the LAUTREC paintings of the circus, with the performers in the middle and the audience around them. For us, the centre was filled with seats, one wall became the stage. The moment we walked in, we knew that the animals had been in there last week.

Stockholm is called the Venice of the north, and indeed being familiar with Venice, it has those canals and atmosphere of Venice. Not the same smells though.

Up the hill from the Cirkuss Theatre was SKANSEN, a zoo. I saw something there that made my flesh creep. There were the usual zoo animals, but one section was devoted to RATS, from all over the world. One cage had Paris sewer rats. They were the size of a Beaver, with teeth to match. I thought back to the stories I had read about the French Revolution, and stories about torture using sewer rats. UGH!! I have seen rats in many parts of the world since, but none to match the French sewer rat..

After the gluttony of Sweden, we moved to Norway–Oslo. Sweden had been neutral, Norway had been occupied.

Oslo had not really been damaged by the war, they just did not have anything. Little food, no clothes, no amenities.

We could eat, fish, then fish, and cream cakes to keep the morale up, and drink beer. The coffee was made from acorns, a favourite German trick. I once had a whale steak, which tasted like liver, with the texture of beef.

Oslo was filled with stores, department stores, but there was nothing in the windows. We saw the full results of the war. It was sad.

One incident annoyed me. We were invited to the home of the British representative in Oslo, for a party, We thought we were back in Sweden, they had everything. Food , drink, you name it, they had it, and just outside, the people had nothing. It was not to be the last time I saw things like that.

When we left Sweden finally, I knew that I was on my way back to Canada. My passage on the Ascania had been booked, from Winnipeg.

I would be leaving this group of people that I had become so fond of. I would be leaving behind my beloved Design with Strings. Svetlana Beriosova and I had danced this ballet all over the British Isles and there in Scandinavia. We were known for this ballet, and admired for our performances. We even got a good review for our performances in the 40’s in the 70’s, when the

Royal Ballet adopted this ballet as a part of their repertoire.