It was a modest debut—a red tulip in The— Sun Ray Review in Vancouver about 25 years ago. Nothing to predict that she would someday be acclaimed as the star of the Royal Ballet for her delicate lyricism as Natalia in A Month In The Country. No way to tell that little Lynn would have one of the most adventurous careers in international ballet.
Lynn Seymour is 36 now and in her prime, dancing at full physical stretch and grace to abundant plaudits. “You will go a long way before finding a dance actress to beat her,” wrote John Percival in The Times. “Always considered a major talent, Lynn Seymour is now established as one of the world’s finest dancers,” said John Heilpern in The Observer. A Month In the Country is based on Turgenyev’s tragicomedy about a chatelaine who falls in love with a young tutor. Typically, Lynn Seymour is as conscious of theme and narrative as technique. “Natalia has to be elegant while she’s darting all over the stage,” she said earlier this month at Covent Garden, shortly before setting out for New York and Washington, DC, where she will dance until June 6. “I find it difficult, the combinations of steps, the fast, tricky footwork. I try to be a 30-year-old woman who
has nothing but drear in her life. An antiheroine, a bitch.”
Lynn Seymour doesn’t fit the ballerina image—either Royal Doulton or Degas. Offstage she races around in jeans, cheerfully unobsessed with dance or with herself. Her discipline has more to do with hard work than with purist self-scrutiny. And although she is a skilled classicist, she prefers the flexibility of contemporary dance. The vitality of her talent—which has endured several long illnesses, a severe weight problem, three sons, two husbands and what one critic called “a higgledy-piggledy, romantic bohemian life”—is simply that she brings all of that life to her dance. Meanwhile she uses ballet to sustain herself: “I always feel better for a good dance,” she says. “It would be very hard to quit. I would suffer from withdrawal.” Her grace is edged with confidence, thoroughly backed with toughness. Backstage, she looks like a fey, gentle figure in absurd yellow clodhopper shoes. But the friendly naïf conceals a very resolute lady, the professional survivor.
Lynn Sp/ingbett was born in Alberta and moved to Vancouver when she was four. Her mother still lives there, and Seymour considers the city home. She main-
tains Canadian citizenship for herself and the two of her sons who don’t have an English father. She remains inLondon, simply, because of her commitment to the Royal Ballet. She came over to study in 1954 and remembers the loneliness and the bomb craters. “When I wasn’t working, I suffered from acute homesickness. When I was working, I had no pangs about being here. I was absorbed.” Her entire career—with the exception of four years with Deutsche Oper in Berlin—has been with the Royal Ballet, where she is now billed as “guest artist.” She is also a performer and choreographer for the London Contemporary Dance Theatre. She has had a fine training in choreography with men like Kenneth MacMillan, Sir Frederic Ashton, who wrote A Month In The Country, and Alvin Ailey. Next year her interpretation of the Japanese film Rashomon will be performed at the Royal Ballet. But choreography isn’t a substitute for dancing. She discusses it very much as a performer: “Choreography is like the words that an actor has to learn and express. You have to drill the movement into your muscles. It’s important to know your body, but if you don’t use your intellect, too, you’re just a gymnast. You use your intelligence to solve problems, to break down the dance and interpret it.”
She has considered quitting twice— seven years ago, when she had Adrian and Jerszy, and again a year and a half ago. when Demien was born—but she returned both times to support them. “I find the kids actually help me do my work. They keep me from bowing to silly weaknesses. They help me put it into perspective—as a job that needs to be done.” Someone else who helps with perspective is Margot Fonteyn, her close adviser and colleague at Covent Garden. She still has 20 years before she catches up with Fonteyn.
Seymour misses Canada, particularly the grand scale of the West. She would like to do some work there—to finally accept some of the offers from Winnipeg and to return to the National. “I have great respect for the National Ballet. Lots of reasons. For one thing, it would be hard to find a finer ballerina than Karen Kain.” For the moment, though, Canadians who want to see her will have to go to the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, where she is dancing until May 15, to the Kennedy Centre in Washington from May 18 to June 6, or follow her back to London. Those who missed The Sun Ray Review may not want to make the same mistake again. VALERIE MINER
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