THE New York Negro Ballet Company created a stir in September 1957 when it arrived in Glasgow for a week-long run at the King’s Theatre.

“First time in Britain,” ran the wording on the advertisement in the entertainments guide in the Evening Times. “America’s Most Novel and Exotic Company.”

The paper’s critic, R.E.A., was among those present on the first night. “It is different,” began the review, “not only as American entertainment, but as ballet.

“The choreographic art the company has devised is something that seems to owe as much to the African ancestry of the dancers as to the European ballet tradition they have assimilated, and, while the coalescence may not be complete, the result is something vital.”

In Harlot’s House, based on Oscar Wilde’s poem, and Raisin’ Cane, R.E.A. added, the choreographers “are so well-served by this agile, flashing-limbed miming company that the stories unfold themselves as clearly as they would by the spoken word”.

On the other hand, the Glasgow Herald’s critic, J.D., took the view that the company had been none too well served by its choreographers.

“The dancers themselves have talent ... but the material they have been provided with falls short of the ideal. Much of it was confusing in its jumble of styles, and sometimes it seemed to be filling in so many bars of music without any real objective in view.”

The company was at its best in the brightly dressed Mardi Gras, “with a sparkling brilliance in their dancing to match the theme” and in Raisin’ Cain, “where they showed a fine aptitude for miming”.

The photograph shows two of the dancers, Elizabeth Thompson and Eugene Sagan, in a scene from Mardi Gras.

An online book search engine, incidentally, has details of a small card signed by 19 members of the company while on tour in Glasgow and London in 1957.

The explanatory text says the company, founded in 1954 with money from New England philanthropists and directed by the visionary dancer Ward Flemyng, was historically significant but short-lived, disbanding shortly after this tour.

Read more: Herald Diary