Jane Simpson

Death of Ross Stretton

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Ross Stretton, former director of the Australian Ballet and of the Royal Ballet, died in Melbourne today of melanoma. He had been ill for some time. He was 53.

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What a talented young man he was.

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ABC News has an obit:

Former Australian Ballet director Stretton dies

A brief obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Ross Stretton dies

One of Australia's best known ballet figures, Ross Stretton, has died in Melbourne from complications following a long battle with cancer. He was 53.

Stretton, who was dancer and a former artistic director of the Australian Ballet, was hospitalised a number of times this year with complications stemming from his treatment for melanoma.

Stretton will be remembered for his brief, stormy tenure as Director of the Royal Ballet, but he was also a star dancer with the Australian Ballet and a principal with ABT. He's shown in the Frederick Wiseman film, "Ballet," during his tenure as ballet master with ABT (and reportedy a very good one).

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When he was an assistant to Kevin McKenzie at ABT, he was the nicest man you could have met. I was saddened when he resigned from the Royal Ballet. I am devastated to learn of his death. This has been an especially tough 8 months for me . Mr. Stretton's death from cancer just

reminds me of the terrible losses my family and I have endured so far this year. I also had my own fight with bone cancer. May Mr. Stretton rest in peace. I am thinking of his loved ones now. And praying for them.

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A warm and tremendous friend was Ross. Giving artist with a wonderful sense of humor and the ablity to make others better. Perhaps fondest memories are of class at Maggie's and breakfast afterwards.....

Does anyone have an address where condolences may be sent? Please pm or email me -

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I remember seeing Ross Stretton during his time in the Australian Ballet in the late 70s & 80s, and particularly his extraordinary and heroic dancing in their production of Spartacus. Such sad, sad news.

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How sad. So young, too. May he rest in peace.

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That is such sad news. I remember him fondly from his days with ABT; he was immediately recognizable and a joy to watch. I followed his stormy post-ABT career with a sense of frustration for him.

Giannina

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I saw him dance only once -- as the cavalier in Ballet Imperial I guess Baryshnikov's first season as director -- what a beautiful company that was, and he was creme de la creme. It was a glorious performance -- noble, elegant, easy -- double cabrioles so delicate, like eyelashes batting.

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He got Gelsey through some pretty scary Sleeping Beauty Act III pdds in the last months of her ABT career.

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Is anyone but me a bit stunned by the obituary in the Telegraph? (It's in today's Links.) I've seen kinder obits of drug kingpins. Is an obituary the place to detail, blow by blow, its subject's greatest failure?

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Whoever wrote that obituary in the Telegraph doesn't even have the guts to put their name to the piece. Yes, I agree it's disgraceful.

As a Londoner I had mixed feelings about Ross Stretton as I wasn't too happy about some of his rep decisions, though it was a stroke of genius on his part to acquire "Eugene Onegin" for the company. On the other hand he was quick to note the company's shortcomings and start to tackle the serious drop in dancing standards which are sadly still all too prevalent today.

To say that he didn't have the backing of the dancers is only true in part, as he did win support from a number of them. The allegations of improper behaviour with female dancers were probably not true, and the anonymous obit. writer is way out of line repeating these calumnies.

From what I have heard from an RB insider, Ross Stretton was more sinned against than sinning and it will be interesting to know if now that he has sadly passed away, more information about what was the ugliest period in the Royal Ballet's history will come to light.

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This sounds like a classic "two sides to every story" issue, which isn't surprising since people are rarely like characters in Hollywood movies. Both good people and bad people can be treated well or badly -- although we're rarely satisfied by the extent to which bad people are treated badly -- and even dictators have people who truly like love them without fear or a hidden agenda, while very giving people have hangers on who are ready to sell them to the highest bidder. It's to be seen how much of either side is published or spoken about in interviews.

Anna Kisselgoff's obituary in the New York Times speaks to some of the political forces that were in the air during his tenure at Australian Ballet and Royal Ballet, as well as the resistance to his goals at Australian Ballet when he was there, compared to the post-tenure praise of his work. (This article is cited in 17 June Links.)

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Alexandra wrote:

I've seen kinder obits of drug kingpins.

Yes, Pol Pot got more sympathy. I think obituaries should be candid and not shirk the bad stuff, but this was a bit much.

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Whoever wrote that obituary in the Telegraph doesn't even have the guts to put their name to the piece.

Just to put the record straight, Obituaries in the Daily Telegraph, like those in The Times, are never signed. They are supposed to be an objective record of the subject's life and achievements - warts and all.

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Thank you for making the point about the byline, Alymer. The negative side of the no-byline policy, however, is that it can make an unpleasant obituary look more like a drive by shooting. I agree with you about warts-and-all -- but it did seem to me as if the Telegraph piece was a trifle over the top.

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I agree with you about warts-and-all -- but it did seem to me as if the Telegraph piece was a trifle over the top.

I missed the "and-all" part in the Telegraph obit.

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Among some of us here (a species known as "Guardian readers" & suspected of eating müsli and wearing sandals), the Daily Telegraph is known as the "Daily Torygraph." The obit of Mr Stretton seems overly exercised by some of those old Tory principles, and particularly snide about Stretton's non-Britishness (I think I detect a whiff of old imperial contempt for colonials ...) and his importation of 'foreign dancers' and imported ballets. As I'm sure many of you already know, the Royal Ballet is not just a ballet company - it's seen by many of its faithful audiences as a specifically British cultural institution, and implicitly expected to reflect this Britishness in the ethnic makeup of its dancers and repertoires. Of course, this is not overt policy, but the cultural (ideological in the broadest sense?) context in whioch the RB operates. But the ethnicity or nationality of the RB causes passionate debate (see ballet.co.uk for some of those debates). I'm not saying either side is right or wrong - just doing my cultural historian's observation thing - but I think that that kind of context would make it tricky for anyone who comes from the perceived 'outside' to try to innovate.

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I saw the Telegraph obit less over-the-top than under-the-bottom.

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I'm so sorry to hear this news. Ross was a very sweet, kind friend in our Joffrey days together.

I danced with his wife in A Wedding Bouquet.

I went to ABT's Fokine program today.

What a day of nostalgia.

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From what I have heard from an RB insider, Ross Stretton was more sinned against than sinning and it will be interesting to know if now that he has sadly passed away, more information about what was the ugliest period in the Royal Ballet's history will come to light.

I realize that I'm almost a week late with this. I am so sorry to hear of

his death. My deepest sympathy to his family. Mashinka you made an

excellent point here. In Kirkland's second book, she mentioned that she

passed none other than Lynn Seymour in a Covent Garden hallway.

Seymour advised her to, "Watch yourself around here." I also hope that in

death he will be vindicated. Afterall he was the RB's A.D. whether some liked it

or not. As such, he is apart of the RB's history, however short his tenure. In

the Pantheon that is British ballet there are a few critics who are at times a little excessive in their opinions. You've heard of professional Balanchine mourners? Well, the vitriol in this "eulogy" is the English version.

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There are echoes of Stretton's experience at the Royal Ballet in Riccardo Muti's recent forced resignation from Teatro alla Scala. Some 700-plus employees of La Scala (talk about padded payroll in some of these state theaters !!!) voted to demand the resignation. Only 3 voted for Muti.

The story's in the July, 2005, Opera News. (Sorry, I could not get a Link.)

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