The class of ’48, presented by Helpmann at his most “British”

A dancelines’ reader has asked if anyone can identify Elaine Fifield among the dancers in the second video below.

She is one of the dancers in the first video.

I’m intrigued by these British Council clips for a number of reasons.

They were filmed in 1948, a time when the British Council was intent on promoting British performing and visual arts at home and around the world in the aftermath of the Second World War.

It’s interesting that the presenter in both clips is the Australian, Robert Helpmann in full makeup and speaking in an English accent as clipped as those you might have heard if you were wandering around Chelsea or Mayfair at the time.

The artificiality and stiltedness of others who appear in the film are also a little embarrassing as they lecture to the viewing audience.

What interests me most is how much ballet technique has advanced in the last 70 years.

No professional dancer today gets away with legs bent behind the knee, limited extensions and droopy elbows.

The first clip gives us a rare glimpse of one of the few female British choreographers of the day, Andrée Howard, who died at the age of only 57.

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Elaine Fifield, circa 1951

Robert Helpmann