An image of negative film being held over light showing images of dancers

Lynne Wake delivers a Creative Artist talk

We were delighted to have Lynne Wake deliver our latest Creative Artist talk over Zoom to staff and students at Upper School. Lynne is a former student of The Royal Ballet School and danced with the Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet (now Birmingham Royal Ballet) for eight years before becoming a film maker. Her film New Wave Ballet about the works of Sir Kenneth MacMillan was presented to the audience of her talk.

Sir Kenneth MacMillan: the early works

The film focusses on the early works of the celebrated choreographer Sir Kenneth MacMillan and is based around interviews of some of the dancers that he worked with, such as Lynn Seymour and Donald MacLeary. Lynne spoke of the importance of MacMillan’s early pieces:

I think as a body of work when you look at all these ballets together you can see the foundation that Kenneth Macmillan was laying ready to make his first great masterpieces.

The filmmaking process

Lynne talked about the process of making her film:

The question was how to show the ballets… ideally I was looking for films showing my interviewees dancing the roles they talked about. Unbelievably such films exist in a collection of films by the filmmaker Edmée Wood… This collection included several of MacMillan’s early works, but they were available only in very poor copies…

Using the negatives, she was able to set music to the images and include sequences of the lost ballets in her film. Lynne spoke about her experience of developing the film footage and how she had to sync music to the picture:

As you can imagine it was all kind of hard work, painstaking, but amazingly thrilling when you’d see, when you’d get the sync right and you’d feel that out was emerging this ballet from the past…it felt like it was the history of ballet coming to life again.

The image above is of a section from the negative of a film of the early MacMillan ballet The House of Birds (1955). The dancers in the picture are Doreen Wells and Christopher Gable.

Questions from our staff and students

Some of our audience members wanted to know more:

Where is the film being shown?

It’s hard to get ballet taken seriously…I think it’s hard to get it seen to a wider public… Sometimes when I’m watching it I’m thinking is it too serious? But I don’t think it is, it’s a serious subject. I think he was tackling serious subjects in his ballets, I think he was a serious man so it has to be serious.

How did the film come to be made and how did you decide the format?

I first made the film in 2002 out of the interviews, that was before I’d seen the Edmée Wood films… I had to make the film for the 10th anniversary of Kenneth Macmillan’s death so I did the interviews first and saw that the films were no good so what I did was show the ballets through montages of stills and designs and music. It was in 2017 when the Opera House asked me to show the film and I said I’ve got these films so I’ll put them in.

Thank you, Lynne, for sharing your work and experience with us.