THE audience at the first night of the Sadler’s Wells ballet company’s Edinburgh Festival season in August 1951 could barely contain its excitement. Its repeated rounds of applause during Swan Lake, however, received a cool reception from some critics.

“Doubtless,” the Glasgow Herald’s critic observed, “the large audience found reason for enthusiasm, but it might have been more discreet to have refrained from the bursts of applause which interrupted dances, broke before the ends of scenes, and greeted the first appearance on the stage of Moira Shearer. These drowned the music and were probably upsetting to the dancers still performing on the stage.”

Dunfermline-born Shearer (pictured, main image, with Alexis Rassine), was one of many luminous names contained in the season’s programme notes, alongside Ninette de Valois, Frederick Ashton, Constant Lambert and Margot Fonteyn.

Shearer had already been one of the best-known, best-loved ballerinas for her work in Ashton productions and classic works when she appeared in the Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger ballet film, The Red Shoes, in 1948. It made her an international star, and is still one of the most popular ballet films of all time.

The Herald’s critic noted of Shearer’s dual performance as Odette and Odile in Swan Lake: “Last night she showed charm and grace, and an effortless technique of very considerable accomplishment, but her interpretation of Odette was scarcely as moving as one has known it.

“As Odile Miss Shearer was more effective. There was glitter and brilliance here, but hardly enough of the hardness which would have sharpened the contrast with the melting qualities of Odette.”

Read more: Herald Diary