Carmen’s journey to Australia, via Marseille and South Africa

Following this week’s earlier post on the ballet, Carmen, I’ve been able to speak with Lucette Aldous, the first ballerina to dance the title role in Australia.

Aldous told me that it was she who urged Peggy van Praagh and Robert Helpmann, then co-artistic directors of the Australian Ballet, to take the work into the repertoire in the early 1970s.

Aldous had already danced Carmen in South Africa, with Robert Bestonso, and had learned the role from choreographer, Roland Petit and his wife, Zizi Jeanmaire, in Paris.

In 1971, Aldous told a reporter from The Australian Women’s Weekly that Bestonso was in Australia to produce the ballet in which she would star some time in the Australian Ballet’s current season.

Aldous thought it likely that her partner would be Kelvin Coe, but also hoped to dance Carmen with Alan Alder, who she was later to marry (Australian Women’s Weekly, 14 July, 1971).

Nothing came of this wishful thinking.

Many months later – before Carmen’s actual premiere in Australia in 1973 – Aldous and Gary Norman spent time with Roland Petit’s ballet company in Marseille, rehearsing the roles of Carmen and Don Jose.

In the end, though, Norman did not dance the role at the premiere in Sydney. Instead, she was partnered by Rudi Bryans from Petit’s company.

But Gary Norman did have his moment in the sun. In 1981, when Carmen returned for a further season, he danced with Sheree da Costa, (as seen in the photo, top left). Da Costa was then dancing as Sherri Raiment.

Following the comment (see below) by Vic Carroll reminding me of the AGL Living Flame campaign, I searched for a video of Sheree in that ad. Sadly, it’s not easily found but instead, here she is promoting Rexona in a 1982 TV spot.

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