The Sagan Ballet Sizzles at Nine!

There’s more than just variety on Granada’s Chelsea at Nine

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From the TVTimes for week commencing 9 February 1958

I BOARDED a plane for Paris, bound for the French premiere of Françoise Sagan’s “sex and poison” shocker, Le Rendez-Vous Manque — The Broken Date.

What the Ballet-Theatre Francais showed me — and what they’ll show similarly thinking viewers in Granada’s 35-minute Chelsea at Nine excerpt on Tuesday — was that ballet-wise, I’ve been bemused for years by milk-and-water stuff. Their production is fantastic and shocking and daring and as virile as it comes.

From London to Paris I am given the whole story by an American woman who had seen the first night in Monte Carlo a few weeks earlier.

The dancers, in modern clothes, on stage
A high-spirited scene from “The Broken Date” ballet
Noëlle Adam
Noëlle Adam

“It’s this way, honey” — and I’ll shorten the story to necessities. “The man falls for a married woman. They have an affaire. She promises that if she meets him in his room later, it will mean she’s left her husband.

“While he’s hanging around waiting, his friends, high-spirited kids, stage a surprise party — real rock n’ roll stuff. And he gets vamped in a bathroom by a sexy bit of goods. Dunno how it got past the censor.

“His lady is late getting to him, and … Gee, I’d better not tell you the end where he takes the poison. That would spoil it for you.”

Backstage I meet the fabulous 22-year-old Sagan. Holding a big bouquet she’s so quiet, almost mousey, I mistake her for a flower delivery girl! She is tiny. Stilt heels push her up to 5ft 6in. Careless-cut blonde hair. Two deep dimples whenever, as often happens, she smiles. And the minute she speaks there is a supreme confidence about her.

“I write the ballet very quick. The changes take a long time. In Monte Carlo it is seen by very old people. They do not understand the young ones … pfui! Look for scandal, and one will always find it.”

I ask why romance, often illicit, plays a big part in her writings. “Perhaps I am a romantic person,” she murmurs, thinks again, dimples, and adds: “perhaps it is life. I write of real people.”

I speak to Noëlle Adam, who is involved with Vladimir Skouratoff in the bathroom scene. She’s so curvy that even the shapeless raincoat she is wearing looks interesting. Provocatively pretty, the blonde is starring in French movies — and turning down Hollywood ones because she will not sign a seven-year contract.

Eet is not shocking. Zose nudes in movies — zey are shocking,” she counter attacks, her dancing brown eyes flashing a challenge.

Skouratoff wanders in, and her challenge is not accepted. “Not a shocking ballet,” he insists. “Carmen is shocking. Zis is nozzing. Good publicity, zat is all.”

Skouratoff. dark haired, intense and very masculine, was born in Paris of Russian parents. This is his first modern ballet, and part of it gave him a tough time. “Ze rock ‘n’ roll, it is ver’ difficult. Ze body movements are all different.” He leaves, shoulders squared back, every pace a ballet move rather than just a step forward.

The other principal, Toni Lander, is a slender blonde from Denmark. She does not think the ballet shocking, and she does not think the jazz scene is really ballet. In which she agrees with Skouratoff but is at variance with Noëlle Adam.

The bathroom scene was the one that had to be changed after the Monte Carlo opening.

Changed? Says Sagan: “It is longer. The ending is different since he now rejects the vamp.”

Shocking? Admitted choreographer John Taras: “We went as far as possible — without breaking the law.”

Four people talking
Françoise Sagan, Noëlle Adam, Toni Lander and Vladimir Skouratoff at rehearsal

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