Alastair Macaulay gives a Creative Artist Talk on the legendary Lynn Seymour
Last month, we welcomed historian and performing arts critic Alastair Macaulay to deliver a Creative Artist Talk to our Upper School students. Our Creative Artist Programme is designed to help students become versatile artists, equipping them with the tools to develop their careers within and beyond ballet.
Alastair Macaulay is a renowned critic and historian known for his roles as chief dance critic to the New York Times between 2007 and 2018, founding editor of the Dance Theatre Journal, guest dance critic of The New Yorker, chief theatre critic of the Financial Times, and chief dance critic of the Times Literary Supplement. He has also written for The Guardian, Dancing Times, The Daily Telegraph and Dance Magazine. Alongside his work as a critic, Alastair has taught dance history at a number of esteemed institutions, including Juilliard and the 92nd St Y, as well as authoring numerous books, including a biography of Margot Fonteyn and a book of interviews on Matthew Bourne and his Adventures in Dance.
As one of the most talked about writers in the dance world, Alastair kindly delivered a captivating talk on the life of a legendary figure in The Royal Ballet School and The Royal Ballet, Lynn Seymour. Our students were lucky enough to absorb his abounding knowledge of our art form and rich insights into her life as a dancer.
A radically original dancer
Labelled by Alastair as the ‘most original dancer in the history of The Royal Ballet,’ Lynn Seymour was one of our most celebrated ballerinas, known for her dramatic gifts and her unmatched storytelling ability. In an obituary, Kevin O’Hare, Director of The Royal Ballet, acknowledged the presence of her ‘startling and spontaneous dramatic gifts that infused her every performance.’ Christopher Powney, Artistic Director & CEO of The Royal Ballet School, noted her ability to ‘invite an audience in to feel a performance at the deepest level.’
Throughout her celebrated career, Lynn performed major roles for Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan while performing with Covent Garden Opera Ballet, The Royal Ballet Touring Company, The Royal Ballet, and Berlin Opera Ballet. Our captivated students watched on as Alastair showed videos of Lynn performing in several renowned roles in which she brought astounding artistry and poignant character portrayal, including her performances in The Two Pigeons, A Month in the Country, The Invitation, Mayerling and Romeo and Juliet.
Lynn Seymour’s legacy
According to Alastair and many others, Lynn enriched the ‘expressive possibilities of the whole body.’ He recalled watching her enchanting performance of Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty:
It was the most powerful thing I had ever seen, and for many years ever did see, in nineteenth-century ballet.
During the Creative Artist Talk, Alastair delved into the intricacies of artistry, lyricism and characterisation through each of Lynn’s performances in her illustrious career. It was inspiring to hear first-hand his knowledge of our art form’s history, and his encouragement to be ‘expressive within the confines of classical ballet,’ like Lynn was.
Her performance capabilities inspired much of the ballet industry, including The Royal Ballet School’s Lynn Seymour Award for Expressive Dance. Each year, the School honours Lynn’s legacy through the award, with Upper School students preparing and performing a solo of their choice. The award is not about the students’ technical vocabulary, it places emphasis on channelling expression, emotion and meaning through their performances.
Alastair shared a parting anecdote from Lynn to the students to never forget the magic of rehearsing in the studio:
The thing she always said is, ‘although I love performing, what I love even more is rehearsing.’
Thank you, Alastair, for sharing your wealth of knowledge and insights into the life of Lynn Seymour with our students. Her artistry and legacy have and will continue, to serve as a deep inspiration for all current and future students of The Royal Ballet School and the art form more broadly.