Audrey Wilson Williams " Shirin "
aka Olga Valevska
Colonel W. De Basil's Monte Carlo Russian Ballet
- Reference Location:
- Dr Ewan Murray-Will's album of photographs of the Ballets Russes in Australia
- National Library of Australia
After eleven days at sea, the Kaiser-i-Hind arrived in Marseilles on July 29th.1932, Baba was met by Kitty Davy and her brother Herbert, who had come from China via Russia. The next day, much to Quentin Tod's surprise, Baba arrived earlier than scheduled by train in Santa Margherita, located along the Italian Riviera coast. Between the towns of Santa Margherita and Paraggi, Tod had rented a separate villa for Baba and the mandali named Fiorenza, which Baba liked very much.
Prior to Baba's arrival, Margaret Craske, Mabel Ryan and Audrey Williams had arrived on July 25th; Delia DeLeon, Minta Toledano, Stephanie Haggard and Kim Tolhurst arrived July 28th. Audrey Williams was a talented eighteen-year-old dance pupil of Margaret Craske's whom Baba had specifically cabled to come and be with him in Italy. Margaret had previously mentioned Audrey to Baba during the train journey from London to Southampton as he was leaving for America the previous May. At that time, Baba told Margaret about Audrey, "Yes, she is the one you ought to have brought to me! She is the one I must see." Another reason for her presence was that Baba wished the total number of those with him at Santa Margherita to equal twelve.
Lord Meher ; Bhau Kalchuri - Vol.5 Page 1682
Although new, Audrey Williams was soon swept into the Divine Beloved's orbit of love. "My first impression of Meher Baba was of great kindness, and a willingness to please and make people happy," she remembered. "There later was a hypnotic effect in that, although he never commanded, you felt bound to do his wishes. He told me to go to bed at ten o'clock every night, which I would do automatically. "
The gopis had been pining for their Krishna,
and when they met Baba, the sweet echoes of the Song
reverberated throughout the Italian countryside.
The Italian people came to know of Baba and would come to the house to sit quietly in his presence. When the gondoliers came to know of him, they were eager to take Baba out in their boats.
Lord Meher ; Bhau Kalchuri - Vol.5 Page 1684
Chanji wrote the English ladies again in London:
October 15th, 1932
The world wants a Sweetheart, and would love to have One who is real and true; they are very rare and not easily traced. And when such a One is found, millions run after the Sweet Beloved – all come in touch and contact with him. But few – very, very few find a place in the Beloved's heart and come in close contact with him. And even out of these, there are fewer still who are closest to his heart and are able to find that real thing which the world thirsts for – love.
You, Kimco, were the luckiest to find the sweetest Beloved in the world come and knock at your very doors. He was graciously pleased to bestow the best on you – his unbounded love. You all so splendidly responded, he gave you the softest corner in his very loving heart. You all loved him with all your hearts and loved to live or die for him, with the result that you have ever been in his mind and heart, in spite of all his multifarious activities and movements here.
How can one tell you that, although he is very busy every second and without rest, he has always the sweet name of his Kimco at heart. That is the only name and foreign subject so frequently discussed and enjoyed by him and all of us. How very particular he is to see that every week letters be sent to you from here by airmail. And when he doesn't receive letters from you for two to three weeks, he feels so sad. For Baba to hear that Shirin [ Audrey Williams ] and Mumtaz [ Zillah Cluse ] are becoming colder and less responsive, rather indifferent to him, has added much to his grief. What grief it causes Baba, you have no idea!
However, Shalimar [ Minta Toledano ] writes every week how terribly she misses Baba and finds life "lifeless" without him. Leyla's [ Delia DeLeon's ] faithfulness and love flow through her weekly letters; Zuleka [ Margaret Craske ] and Phiroze [ Mabel Ryan ] have nothing else but love to offer to Baba in words that delight him ever so much; Saroja's [ Kitty Davy's ] love is ever selfless as it ought to be. Full of love and enthusiasm, they all want and wait to see Baba with them in January.
Lord Meher ; Bhau Kalchuri - Vol5 Page 1723
Actually, Baba had informed Gadekar in advance that he would be travelling to France on the Strathnavar, but he had instructed Gadekar not to tell anyone. So when Gadekar's wife, Gunatai, and their two children saw him off in Bombay, they were delighted to find Baba and the mandali on board. To Gunatai, Baba remarked, "Do not worry. I am with your husband."
Another fortunate fellow traveller was the young dancer Audrey Williams, an acquaintance of Margaret Craske's, who had not seen Baba since 1933 in Europe.
Audrey had joined the dance company called De Basil Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo and was returning there from Australia. Being in Baba's presence again, she recalled, "With him, one still had this feeling of eternal happiness." This was to be her last meeting with Baba.
The ship docked at Aden at three in the afternoon on August 4th. At one point, Baba observed, "Suffering is the keynote to spiritual life. Sadgurus and the Avatar never avoid suffering, either their own or their circle's, by doing miracles. They suffer themselves and let their circle suffer too."
Lord Meher ; Bhau Kalchuri - Vol6 Page 2198
First Australasian Tour
Colonel W. De Basil's Monte Carlo Russian Ballet
Sometimes abbreviated to Monte Carlo Russian Ballet
Summary - October 1936 - July 1937. Touring to Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, New Zealand, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide
Personnel Dancers - as listed in Cast lists
Helene Antonova, Valentina Blinova, Irina Bondireva, Nathalie Branitzka, Mona Dimidova, Mira Dimina (Madeleine Parker), Helene Ducrailova, Nina Golovina, Margot Guerard (Mary Garina), Vanda (or Wanda) Grossen, Xenia Kalinowska, Helene Kirsova, Marija (or Moussia) Korjinska, Vera Lipska, Tatiana Mouravieva, Nina Natova, Helene Polouchina, Nina Raievska, Lilia (or Lelia) Roussova, Anna Severska, Anna Skarpa (or Anna Skarova), Elisabeth Souvorova (Betty Scorer), Tamara Tchinarova, Maria Valevska, Olga Valevska, Irina Vassilieva, Sonia Woizikowska, Nina Youchkevitch
Savva Andreieff, Thomas Armour, Jean Aykoff, Valentine Baline, Birger Bartholin, Jashf Crandall (Joseph Crandall), Joseph (or Jash or Jashf) Dolotine, Alexis Frank, Valentin Froman, Roland Guerard, Jean (or Jan) Hoyer, Milos Ristic, Ivan (or Vania or Jean) Rykoff, Valery Shaevsky, Thadee Slavinsky, Arnold Spirka, Dmitri Tovaroff, Serge Unger (or Serge Ungern), Serge Vladimiroff, Marjan Winter, Igor Yousskevitch, Leon Woizikowsky.
Dancers appearing briefly (Source: Walker, 1982)
London ballet world 1937-1939
Bate also worked with Ballet "Les Trois Arts" on productions at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith. With the coming of the Second World War Bate became an organiser of "blackout entertainments." Peggy collaborated with him as assistant manager, publicity director and assistant conductor. They pursued a policy of encouraging new works in the ballet medium an example of which is Elisabeth Lutyens' Midas premièred on 25 November 1939. Lutyens was another of Bate's assistants. She was not particularly impressed with the troupe referring to it as a "fairly crook" ballet company.
During 1938/39 Bate had written the ballet Perseus Op. 26 "after the traditional Greek myth" for "Les Trois Arts." The ballet was in seven scenes: Prelude; [curtain up] The Vision of Athene; 1. Perseus in the house of Polydectes; 2. Perseus prays to the gods and is given the magic Sword, Shield and Sandals; 3. Perseus visits the grey sisters; 4. Perseus in the garden of the Hesperides; 5. Perseus slays Medusa, the Gorgon; 6. Andromeda chained to the rock - Perseus rescues Andromeda - Perseus and Andromeda depart in triumph; 7. Feast at the Court of Polydectes - Perseus stops the feast and turns the guests to stone - Perseus is vindicated and dances with Andromeda - Perseus departs with Andromeda.
It was produced at the Lyric by John Regan with décor by Toni del Renzio. The first performance was on 18 November 1939. The orchestra was conducted by Emanuel Yourovsky. The dancers were Lisa Brionda, Celia Franca, Olga Valevska, Joan Innes, Maria Sanina, Anna Lendrum, Sylvia Rye, Jack Spurgeon, John Regan, Leo Kersley, Alexis Rassine, Igor Barczinsky and Toni Repetto. There were further performances on 20, 22, 23, 24 November and 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16 December. Bate made a full orchestral suite from the ballet [2-2-2-2 2-2-2-0 timp perc strings, 28', Schott]. The ballet was also available for piano, flute, string quartet and double bass.
Frank Howes, the Times critic, wrote of the first performance of Perseus: "The music is neo-classic in style and relies for dramatic effect upon its rhythmic tensions. The general impression is that here is a composer who will soon make a distinctive mark."
Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo was a ballet company created by members of the Ballets Russes de Monte-Carlo in 1938 after Léonide Massine and René Blum had a falling-out with the co-founder Wassily de Basil (usually referred to as Colonel W. de Basil). De Basil then renamed his rival company The Original Ballet Russe.
 The company
British dancers Frederic Franklin and Jo Savino were among those who joined the new company. Franklin danced with them from 1938-1952. In the 1940s, American Maria Tallchief danced with the company.
Blum was arrested on December 12, 1941 in his Parisian home, among the first Jews to be arrested in Paris by the French police after France was defeated and occupied by the German Nazis. He was held in the Beaune-la-Rolande camp, then in the Drancy deportation camp. On September 23, 1942, he was shipped to the Auschwitz concentration camp where he was later killed by the Nazis.
The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo toured chiefly in the United States after World War II began. The company introduced audiences to ballet in cities and towns across the country where people had never seen classical dance. In 1968, the company went bankrupt. Before then, many of its dancers had moved on to other careers; a number started their own studios and many taught dance.
The company's principal dancers performed with other companies, and founded dance schools and companies of their own across the United States and Europe. They taught the Russian ballet traditions to generations of Americans and Europeans.
Among the most notable was George Balanchine's founding of the School of American Ballet and New York City Ballet, for which he created works for 40 years. Alexandra Danilova taught for 30 years in his School of American Ballet. Maria Tallchief, who was one of Balanchine's wives, danced with the New York City Ballet for years.
Roya Curie, a protégé of David Lichine and premier dancer with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo International, established a school in upstate New York in 1950. Other examples were Frederic Franklin, who was a director of the Washington Ballet. He still advises Dance Theatre of Harlem, as well as performing. Jo Savino formed the St. Paul Ballet in Minnesota.
Many dancers of the corps de ballet also taught and passed on the Russian traditions, establishing ballet studios across the United States. For example, in the late 1940s, Marian and Illaria Ladre set up their Ballet Academy in Seattle, where they taught students who went on to dance and teach in their turn. Students who had professional dance careers included James De Bolt of the Joffrey Ballet and Ann Reinking, a Broadway dancer who worked with Bob Fosse and was featured in the film All That Jazz.
In 1994 Mrs. Illaria Ladre was among the first American dancers, choreographers and writers honored by receiving the newly
established Vaslav Nijinsky Medal,
sponsored by the Polish Artists Agency in Warsaw, for work carrying on the tradition of Nijinsky. Other awardees were Gerald Arpino, Ann Barzel, Oleg
Briansky, Vladimir Dokoudovsky (1919–1998), Peter Ostwald, Richard Philp, Jennie Schulman, Mr.
Turnbaugh, Anatole Vilzak and George Zoritch.
A feature documentary about the company, featuring interviews with many of the dancers, was released in 2005, with the title Ballets Russes.
A Thousand Encores: Ballets Russes in Australia was a documentary screened on ABC Television on 3 November 2009, about the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo's three visits to Australia between 1936 and 1940. The documentary claims that there is more footage of the Ballet Russes in Australia than anywhere else in the world. Some film was in colour, a rarity for that time.
SHIPS TRAVELLED ON
Departed Europe 11th December 1936 and arrived at Bombay 24th December 1936.
Audrey travelling companions were Kitty, Margaret, Delia, Will & Mary Backett and Tom Sharpley.
Departed Bombay 31st July 1937 and arrived in Marseilles 13th August 1937.