Memories: Laverne Meyer

Associate Director Western Theatre Ballet; Founder/Director Northern Ballet

I was fortunate in joining Western Theatre Ballet a few months after it was founded by Elizabeth West and Peter Darrell; fortunate in such a visionary Director as Liz was and fortunate to have danced in so many of Peter's early dramatic works, including The Prisoners, Chiaroscuro, A Wedding Present, The Unicorn, the Gorgon and the Manticore and many others.

The Prisoners in the first five years of WTB's existence was danced almost every week and after that never left the repertoire for long. It was, in my view, one of the finest dramatic works of the late 50's and the most successful with both audiences and critics alike. Suzanne Musitz who created 'Madeleine' and Erling Sunde as 'Christophe', both very experienced, were exceptional in their roles and have never in my view been bettered. To dance 'Baudin' with them was a unique performance for one so inexperienced as I was. Later, as Associate Director I taught the ballet to all new casts, including Paula Hinton, and later still to the Irish National Ballet, Northern Ballet and Scottish Ballet.

A Wedding Present was particularly memorable for its subject matter which had never before been used for a ballet in Britain. Working on the long extended Pas de Deux with Peter and Brenda Last in a small room above a pub in Lincoln was very special. I think we finished almost three quarters of it in one afternoon!

Peter's early works Non Stop, Celeste and Celestinha, Impasse, Bal de la Victoire, Jeux, The Enchanted Rose Garden, Mods and Rockers, Sun into Darkness, etc., demonstrated his versatility in dealing with a variety of styles and music, as well as subject matter. His choreography for WTB dancers in the musical The Lilac Domino, in the pantomimes Aladdin, A Wish for Jamie and in his work for Television showed a similar variety of approach.