& Critics

Mephisto Valse II

Wladimir Skouratoff, telling me about the work he had done for the French television, which we have been able to retrieve from the INA*, said to me often he would have wanted also to recover a film he made in 1951 with Ludmila Tcherina and Edmond Audran. Apart from the choreography by Serge Lifar, with whom he had often worked, he was impressed by the fact that the mise en scène was made by Ray Ventura. Neither I knew that this well-known artist from the Music Hall’s world had treated such an issue.

In spite of my many researches on the net, I had to give up before the evidence: no sign of Mephisto Valse. Until the day, after at least two unsuccessful years, when I was terrified to discover that a copy of this film had just been sold at the internet, passing below my nose only a few days later!

Thanks to Amalia Contursi’s perspicacity and persistence we have been able to obtain a copy of this film, which after its numeration, has become legible on our modern system and enabled us to value this testimony over a time when dance was filmed only in few occasions. And, if only for that reason, Mephisto Valse becomes an irreplaceable document on Dance’s History.

I am glad in the first place that Wladimir Skouratoff has been able to recover this film, even when an artist is never satisfied with his work, and on this occasion he has been very disappointed by himself. I’ve had to persuade him he was, also on this film, the magnificent dancer we have always known he was. Even if the film takes are a long way from being excellent, we can appreciate well enough the height of his leaps, the softness of his receptions, the speed of his batteries. He’s incredible handsome. Serge Lifar didn’t made of Faust the main rôle, nevertheless one can glimpse, on his few appearances, the dramatic intensity and the poetry he has always given to his performances.

The accuracy of his expression on his rôle’s characterisation is such he imposes it to the audience, in spite of the few moments he appears on the scene. Leaps have always been his great specialty. One can easily see it on this film, even when the camera’s position as regards to him doesn’t make justice to the exceptional height of his leaps.

Fortunately, one can appreciate the feline flexibility on his tumbles. I have been astonished also by the execution’s speed, that verges on the impossible’s limits.

He has everything one expects from a dancer: secure technique, elegance, the gift of characterisation, sweetness and passion. He could perform classic, modern, romantic, danse de caractère.

I’ve told him once, after seing with him one of the films from the INA, that his dancing was timeless; I meant by that it wasn’t attached to a determined time. If he would have to dance nowadays the same way he did before, he would have been welcomed as one of the best contemporary dancers, without anything to change on his dancing. And I keep saying it.

Elisabeth van Moere

* INA from France. (Legal deposit center of French Radio-Television)