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 fashion and uncanny capacity to vanish into an element. “Above all,” dance critic David Vaughan as soon as wrote, “what makes Seymour so rare and valuable an artist is that both by intuition and intelligence she approaches all dancing in a ‘modern’ way, in the use of the whole body, the ability to convey drama through movement, the sense of commitment.”

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 reminiscent of “Swan Lake” and “The Sleeping Beauty” — “like a good girl should,” she joked — however was happiest in new roles, which gave her an opportunity to seek out or create which means in her steps, quite than study a collection of established actions.

Raised in a patch of rural Alberta that she described as “wheat, oil and cow country,” 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 Young Girl in “The Two Pigeons” (1961), the bored housewife Natalia Petrovna in “A Month in the Country” (1976) and the trendy dance pioneer Isadora Duncan, whose earthy, free-flowing approach impressed his solo work “Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan” (1975-76).

Ms. Seymour was additionally a muse for MacMillan, who solid 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.

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“We thought we were going somewhere, breaking new ground all the time,” she instructed the Sunday Times of London in 2017, trying again on her partnership with MacMillan. “Kenneth wanted us to come up with ideas. He filled in the scene like a theater director, then gave us a lot of responsibility in finding our way. … One of the good bits of advice he gave me was, don’t be afraid to be ugly. The other was that you’ve got to find your light, otherwise there’s no point going on.”

For “The Invitation” (1960), one among 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 could have other children, I reasoned. Juliet was mine,” she wrote, including that the position “was a priceless gift from Kenneth, glazed especially for me. Juliet, the classical heroine of the theater, was the culmination of all my fantasy roles as a dancer.”

But shortly earlier than the premiere, the Royal Ballet’s American impresario, Sol Hurok, pushed for larger stars. Ms. Seymour and Gable have been dropped from the primary 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. Yet she additionally discovered a few of the success she had craved, delivering a uncooked, sensual efficiency that enthralled critics and shocked audiences.

“Where other Juliets on the balcony would look longingly up to the stars, she used to writhe like a cat in heat, brushing her arms, shoulders, neck against the balcony itself, her whole body in need of friction,” New York Times dance critic Alastair Macaulay recalled a long time later. “‘That’s not Juliet, that’s a whore,’ I remember some fans saying. I was smitten.”

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Ms. Seymour returned to the position a number 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 initiatives that included a 1979 movie model of “Giselle.” The Russian dancer was entranced, in line with “Nureyev,” a biography by Julie Kavanagh; as soon as, he described Ms. Seymour’s dancing as a form of inventive aphrodisiac. “Heaven descends into your lap,” he stated.

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

“I think I was rather foreign,” she instructed the New York Times in 1989, trying again on her years on the Royal Ballet. “I was essentially sort of North American in what to me was a sort of foreign situation. It was a culture shock. I must have seemed rather abrasive and certainly rather too keen. You had to be cool there, at all costs, which was an art I didn’t have an ounce of.”

As she instructed 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 going through “the terrifying flood of shimmering white and blue and gold stage lights” at a venue just like the Royal Opera House.

“The stage is not magic for me,” she wrote in her autobiography. “I always felt the audience was waiting to see that first drop of blood.”

Berta Lynn Springbett — by her account, it was MacMillan who prompt 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 Red Shoes” (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 check at what’s now the Royal Ballet School, and in 1956 she joined the Covent Garden Opera Ballet. She was quickly dancing with the Royal Ballet Touring Company, 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 12 months, she was named a principal dancer for the Royal Ballet.

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Her reference to the corporate was severed for a number 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 submit on the Royal Ballet in 1970, Ms. Seymour returned to the corporate as properly, 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.

In half, she was bodily exhausted, bored with the toll that dancing took on her physique. “I’m not much use for anything the next day — or the day after that,” she instructed Britain’s Observer newspaper.

Yet she discovered it troublesome to stop solely, popping out of retirement for roles that included originating the Wicked Stepmother in Matthew Bourne’s “Cinderella,” which premiered in 1997 on London’s West End.

Ms. Seymour’s marriages to Jones, Philip Pace and Vanya Hackel all resulted in 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 Pace; 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 position via a way that she referred to as “semi-blind Braille.”

When the Times of London requested in 1997 why she didn’t simply put on contact lenses throughout performances, she defined that she “tried them once, but it was a disaster.

“Not only was I able to see the audience, I couldn’t find my balance because they gave me a false sense of where the floor was, so I never wore them again. I found being able to see properly terribly invasive. I prefer to be in my own world, which is far better — and far safer.”

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