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Subject: "Treasure Trove, Estelle Herf and the magazine Ballet Today" Archived thread - Read only
 
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Conferences What's Happening Topic #2088
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Helen

14-09-01, 07:37 AM (GMT)
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"Treasure Trove, Estelle Herf and the magazine Ballet Today"
 
   I was recently digging through a relation's attic when to my astonishment I found a pile of ballet magazines - Dance and Dancers and Ballet Today - and newspaper cuttings, mostly from the 1960s, but some from the 1950s. I had stored them there years ago and assumed they had been thrown out. So I am now happily ploughing through the very first reviews of MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet, The Dream, Monotones (mostly raves for this), Marguerite and Armand, and all Nureyev's early appearances. Critics seemed very worried by the length of his hair! Plenty about the new young wonderboy Anthony Dowell as well. Words like swinging and kinky abound - not, I hasten to add, with reference to Anthony D.

It also struck me how many dancers who at the time were the backbone of ballet are now almost completely forgotten, even by me. It seems very ungrateful. And it was alarming to read that the RBS performance in 1964 was the entire Sleeping Beauty!

How high the standard of criticism was then, in the heyday of Clive Barnes, Peter Williams and John Percival. Their writings were much more detailed and infinitely wittier than most of today's reviews. They were not afraid to be seriously scathing - a bit like Clement Crisp. The older ones among you will remember Tom Pepys' gossipy Curtain Up in D and D, and Peter Cazalet's cartoon series No Offence.

I pounced on Ballet Today with special affection. This now defunct magazine, always enjoyable, was published privately and edited by Estelle Herf. Can anyone tell me anything about her?


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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: Treasure Trove, Estelle Herf and the magazine Ballet Tod... Ann Williams 14-09-01 1
  RE: Treasure Trove, Estelle Herf and the magazine Ballet Tod... Caz 14-09-01 2
     RE: Treasure Trove, Estelle Herf and the magazine Ballet Tod... Pete 14-09-01 3
  RE: Treasure Trove, Estelle Herf and the magazine Ballet Tod... David L 15-09-01 4
     RE: Treasure Trove, Estelle Herf and the magazine Ballet Tod... Jim 15-09-01 5
         RE: Treasure Trove, Estelle Herf and the magazine Ballet Tod... Helen 15-09-01 6
             RE: Treasure Trove, Estelle Herf and the magazine Ballet Tod... Jane S 15-09-01 7

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Ann Williams

14-09-01, 11:57 AM (GMT)
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1. "RE: Treasure Trove, Estelle Herf and the magazine Ballet Today"
In response to message #0
 
   Helen
What a wonderful find! These magazines sound absolutely yummy. I am sure many of us would love to know what the earliest reviews of R&J, Monotones, Marguerite & Armand etc. were like. Do you think you could do a more detailed posting on this when you have the time? It would be something to look forward to.


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Caz

14-09-01, 03:04 PM (GMT)
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2. "RE: Treasure Trove, Estelle Herf and the magazine Ballet Today"
In response to message #0
 
   What a great find!

I don't have much in the way of old magazines, but I do have a huge collection of ballet-related books from the 1940s-70s (all well before my time), including most of the run of 'Ballet annual'. These cover fascinating stories and reviews of the original productions of many ballets and also contain articles on dancers and companies that were very well known at the time but are scarcely heard of today. I'd love to have seen some of these dancers of the past when Fonteyn was just one great ballerina amongst many.


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Pete

14-09-01, 10:37 PM (GMT)
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3. "RE: Treasure Trove, Estelle Herf and the magazine Ballet Today"
In response to message #2
 
   I love magazines, books & programmes from this period -dancers portrayed as filmstars, must have been a real 'golden era' for ballet!

I have several magazines from the 50's including the first issue of Dance & Dancers with Helpmann, Grant and Ashton on the cover as the Ugly Sisters! Look after them Helen, they are a treasure -great fun and not at all stuffy. Modern day magazines have a lot to learn from them!


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David L

15-09-01, 10:37 AM (GMT)
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4. "RE: Treasure Trove, Estelle Herf and the magazine Ballet Today"
In response to message #0
 
   LAST EDITED ON 15-09-01 AT 11:09 AM (GMT)

'Ballet Today' was founded in 1946 by P W (Bill) Manchester. When she emigrated to the USA in 1951 or 52 the magazine was taken over (=sold to?) by Peter Craig-Raymond, a rather shadowy figure in the English dance world in the 1950s, and a few years later the ownership and editorship fell into the hands of Estelle Herf.

I knew her from the late 1960s onwards, when she used to deliver the magazines in person to Dance Books. She was by then of a certain age, glamorously dressed but rather heavily made up and with dyed black hair, with a much older and less glamorous husband in tow.

The magazine always rather played second fiddle, originally to Richard Buckle's 'Ballet' and later to 'Dance & Dancers' and the 'Dancing Times'. I suspect that money was always tight, for although the magazine gave their first publishing opportunities to many young dance writers from around the world, it apparently paid very little, or in some cases nothing at all, and the writers tended to move on once they were established. Even so, there is a lot of good material in there, particularly in the earlier issues, and old copies are well worth looking out for.

In the 1970s, Mrs. Herf was taken up by several dancers of not quite the first rank, who she wined and dined and devoted a disproportionate amount of space to in her magazine ('X and Y triumph in North Borneo', etc). The magazine slowly faded away, the sales declined drastically, and when it closed Mrs. Herf's dancer friends dropped her like a hot brick. She was deeply hurt, and quickly retired from the dance scene. I believe she died sometime in the early 1990s: perhaps someone can confim this?

David Leonard


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Jim

15-09-01, 11:03 AM (GMT)
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5. "RE: Treasure Trove, Estelle Herf and the magazine Ballet Today"
In response to message #4
 
   I loved Dance and Dancers and it broke my heart when it went out of print. I think I was considered a little eccentric as a teenager by subscribing to it along with Angling Times and British Birds. I even had a "letter to the editor" published! I remember vividly studying the reviews of the first performances of La fille mal gardée (Nerina, Blair, Holden, Grant and Edwards - Ah! What nostalgia) and Ondine. And the new filming techniques of Paul Czinner (sp?). I think John Percival was the best reviewer ever!


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Helen

15-09-01, 11:54 AM (GMT)
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6. "RE: Treasure Trove, Estelle Herf and the magazine Ballet Today"
In response to message #5
 
   David - thank you very much for all the information. I knew someone would know. I must say your description is very much how I imagined Estelle Herf! I agree Ballet Today was not perhaps of the quality of the other magazines, but it always had the attraction of apparently being a labour of love.

I had forgotten Richard Buckle's Ballet - I used to read that as well, but don't have any old copies. Well, at least nowadays we have Dance Now! I assure you I always read and enjoy it.

Ann - I'll try to post something about the early reviews some time, but there are a lot of them, and it might be rather hard to summarise them.


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Jane S

15-09-01, 01:41 PM (GMT)
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7. "RE: Treasure Trove, Estelle Herf and the magazine Ballet Today"
In response to message #6
 
   I used to subscribe to Ballet Today but I notice I stopped a year or so before it folded. I remember lots of photos of Mrs Herf drinking cocktails with glamorous dancers on terraces in Monte Carlo.

Its main disadvantage for me was that the chief British critic was Fernau Hall, who I disagreed with more often and more violently than any other critic before or since - I remember literally throwing a copy across the room in a rage at something he said, quite early in my ballet-going career! But there was a lot of coverage of international events, and some good photographs.


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