Metropolitan Ballet

If he had not been subject to the British draft, his career might have been significantly different; as it was, his time with this company was much shorter than it could have been.

Already the young David was working with many of the significant people in ballet. “Marchant and Perrault were dancing with us when I joined,” he says. “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 Berisova.”

“Our repertoire was a combination of classics and contemporary choreography.” Most significant in David’s memory appears to be Design With Strings, where he partnered Berisova, the daughter of Berisoff, who David had seen in 1941 during the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo’s tour of Canada.

“My first taste of touring in the British Isles in post-war Europe,” David recalls. “Rationing had ended in Canada right after the war — WW2. The British were still living with it. On tour you took your ration book and your clothing book in case you happened to have a few pennies left over.

“We performed for a week in each city, eight performances, matinee on Wednesday and Saturday.

“You stayed in digs, boarding houses, which, if you were lucky, supplied breakfasts and an evening meal in the price. The ration book was given to the landlady when you arrived so she could buy the rations for a week. Just occasionally, said landlady would take more than she needed to from the ration book. You could recoup your loss, but it was a long process and often was not possible. No egg, next week; no meat next week.

“Not being familiar with the British provinces, I had to depend on my fellow dancers to find said digs. I remember very vividly being with a couple of dancers looking for digs, having problems, and walking for hours until something appropriate could be found. That day I learned about bed-bugs. We would knock on a door, one of the dancers would step inside, take a deep breath, then back away. ‘No thank you, we will keep looking.’ ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘Because we smelled bed-bugs’ came the reply.

“I fortunately never did experience bed-bugs, but there was another enemy that could not be smelled — fleas. Yes, little red creatures that plagued all of us.

“After a long tour when I returned to London, there was that dreaded time when having opened the suitcase, would see the fleas hop out. It took a few days to get rid of them. How did I get rid of them? I got into bed at night and waited. When they bit me I grabbed them and flushed them down the toilet.

“This in 1947.”

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