Metropolitan Ballet Archive

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The archive consists of photographs, correspondence and press cuttings, as well as a few miscellaneous items such as one design, some music, programmes and notes.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Metropolitan Ballet 1947-1949 was one of a number of touring dance companies founded in Britain following the 1939-45 War. Privately funded by Cecilia Blatch, the wife of a solicitor in Lymington, Hampshire, who was described on the programmes as ‘secretary’ and later ‘director-general’. She claimed to have spent £300,000 on it in two and a half years. It began by combining two small companies in January 1947: Letty Littlewood’s Anglo-Russian Ballet and Leon Hepner’s Fortune Ballet both of which had begun operating under the auspices of ENSA. Hepner brough Victor Gsovsky to London who in turn introduced stars including Colette Marchand, Serge Perrault and Henry Danton to the company. He remained for the first season after which the make-up of the company changed but still included rising international star dancers among them Svetlana Beriosova, Sonia Arova, , and Danes Paul [Poul] Gnatt, Erik Bruhn, and Frank Schaufuss were added to bring quality and glamour. The company introduced John Lanchbery to ballet and the critic (later editor of Dance and Dancers) Peter Williams contributed to the designs and synopses. In addition to Gsovsky, ballet masters included Celia Franca and Nicholas Beriosoff and artistic direction for much of its existence was by George Kirsta. The first performance by the Metropolitan Ballet was at the Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne on 27 January 1947, the last was the television screening of Salome in December 1949.

The repertoire of the Metropolitan Ballet included a number of ballets danced by the Anglo Russian and Fortune companies including Dances of Galanta and Pygmalion by Victor Gsovsky; Picnic and Chaucer-based The Marchaund’s Tale by Letty Littlewood;and new creations including Design for Strings by John Taras; Fanciulla della Rose (The Innocent of the Roses) and The Lovers’ Gallery by Frank Staff; Ballamento by Andrée Howard as well as stagings of established ballets Les Sylphides, Polovtsian dances from Prince Igor, Le Spectre de la rose and single acts from Swan Lake and Coppélia. The company was seen on BBC TV and undertook European touring with assistance from the British Council indeed the British Council stepped in to briefly rescue the company after the Blatch’s funding had run out after the prestigious performances with Léonide Massine, Alexandra Danilova and Frederic Franklin at the Empress Hall in summer 1949. It was nevertheless force to close in December 1949.

For a brief history of the Metropolitan Ballet see John Percival ‘Backward Glances: The Metropolitan Ballet’ Dance and Dancers February 1960 pp.20-22, 34 and March 1960 and Kathrine Sorley Walker The Metropolitan Ballet Dance Now Winter 1998-9 pp.29-39 and Spring 1999 pp.23-30

Arrangement

The collection has been arranged in to the following series, which retain the original order as accurately as possible:

  • THM/327/1 - Photographs
  • THM/327/2 - Correspondence and other papers
  • THM/327/3 - Music for Design with Strings
  • THM/327/4 - Design for the Metropolitan Ballet by Leonard Rosoman
  • THM/327/5 - Publicity and marketing materials

Conditions Governing Access

This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Blythe House Archive and Library Study Room by appointment only. Full details of access arrangements may be found here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/.

Access to some of the material may be restricted. These are noted in the catalogue where relevant.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Harriet Kimbell, 2003

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Joanna Norledge, Department of Theatre and Performance Assistant Archivist, January 2012.

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/.

Appraisal Information

This collection was appraised in line with the collection management policy.

Custodial History

The collection contains the surviving company records held by Cecilia Blatch's family. Harriet Kimbell and her aunt donated the collection to the Department of Theatre and Performance in 2003.

Accruals

No further accurals expected.