I’m only a ballet and dance lover and I’m reading with much interested all your opinions as experts in this art. I even recognize that when I first read Alexandra’s post I thought it was true but then I realized she was sarcastic about the decision taken by Mrs. Monica Mason.
Dear Carolina M,
Almost everybody that contributes to this forum is like you a ballet and dance lover and
the beauty of ballet talk. is that everyone can contribute a view.
I cannot agree that Alexandra’s post was sarcastic, but I do believe it was satirical and given the seriousness of the discussion I think it is an apposite response.
Firstly the Royal Ballet is a classical ballet company that has performed new works in its history created by choreographers who had a history of working in or studying classical ballet. New ballets in the RB repertory in the past that would be considered to have been fairly ground breaking, were created by choreographers who knew how classical ballet dancer’s bodies worked and that their works would fit in the overall RB canon.
Wayne McGregor has no such background in classical ballet.
Modern dancers cannot in general, perform classical ballet at a level that would be acceptable in a Petipa ballet. Likewise I am never really convinced when classical ballet dancers appear in overtly modern dance works. Skills may be present in such cross-over performances and perhaps also personality, inspiration and star quality. I am however, generally left with the feeling that I have witnessed a 'stunt' to attract popular media coverage, rather than a wider dance audience, or an artistic theatrical experience.
Many 'great works' of the classical and neo-classical repertoire remain 'modern' because they speak as loudly to today's audience as they did to audiences in the past.
'Chroma', whatever you may think of this work (I thought it poor on several levels) was undoubtedly a stunt. The publicity and marketing confirm this and the announcement of Mr. McGregor's appointment as 'Resident Choreographer' two days after the works premiere, confirms this. The whole affair smacks of the current 'celebrity making event' that has infected the media in outrageous proportions and to which once respectable bodies are now ready to stoop.
'Chroma' was given at a subsidised performance (especially low prices were introduced) which mean that the standard repertory of the Royal Ballet, the Petipa classics, and the standard repertory of 19th century opera enabled this. I do not see such sibsidising practice as wrong, if it is truly necessary to introduce new works that will enhance the repertoire and it is the repertoire that is the important matter in this 'McGregorgate Affair'.
On the same bill as 'Chroma' was a new work by Christopher Wheeldon that was as entirely 'modern' as McGregor's but used the training and the skills of the company that suited the dance genre they belonged to. Balanchine’s 'The Four Temperaments' completed the bill and confirmed that there is no such thing as a 'modern' work meaning contemporaneous to the actual day, as Balanchine’s work is convincingly as modern as both McGregor's and Wheeldon's works might be called , yet was created 60 years ago.
The question is are new 'stunt' works equal to necessary works, that will expand the repertory of a classical ballet company and give audiences and dancers new challenges. I would say not at the expense of the plenty of appropriate works from the historic RB archive of ballets and elsewhere, that can make the real contribution to the repertoire that an inappropriate 'stunt' work cannot. The answer to my question therefore is no. That is of course if you believe in the ethos and value the history of the Royal Ballet.
I have sat through very many uneven full length works and failed works by Kenneth MacMillan that drove me to despair as the Royal Ballet lost its uniqueness of style established by the works of Ashton, DeValois, Cranko and indeed MacMillan who had earlier contributed so much. From the 1970's the RB went into a performing and aesthetic decline, during which time the Ashton repertoire and the 19th century ballets lost style and detail.
Of course the Royal Ballet has changed over the years as the Royal Ballet School, especially in recent years, has lost its way and no longer produces dancers of the calibre of Bussell and Cope that alone Sibley or Dowell. Without the import of some excellent dancers from other traditions, the Royal Ballet could not exist, but this has to some degree added to the gap in the performing tradition of the RB’s core repertoire which undoubtedly will improve as dancers frow further into roles.
These are matters which reflect upon the Board of the Royal Opera House who in the last 36 years have as far as the Royal Ballet are concerned made only one appropriate major appointment and that is Monica Mason as Artistic Director.
Unlike previous incumbents, Miss Mason is identified with and has shown that she identifies with, the defined ‘uniqueness’ that once separated the Royal Ballet from other classical ballet companies.
The alternative to appointing Wayne McGregor(by the ROH Board), is to recognize and begin to develop choreographic talent at the Royal Ballet School and give opportunities for public performances. To allow choreographic development for a wide range of RB dancers through opportunities such as the groups that Leslie Edwards once led. To also search out across the world for new choreographers that will enhance the RB repertoire in a way that sustains its difference in a classical ballet world where many companies are dancing identical repertoires.
I personally cannot see how Mr. McGregor can make the necessary sustainable contribution to the RB ballet, having seen his ‘populist’ work (with some members of the audience) at the Royal Opera House and Sadlers Wells and denounce his appointment as Resident Choreographer as wrong-headed and sending out the wrong message to the RB’s expensive seat core audience.
The Royal Ballet is required to improve its audience attendance, especially for 'triple bills'. Does 'Chroma' presage future 'stunt' works with their attending publicity and subsidies. Will critics hoping to achieve the vulgarity of 'celebrity' status by association, support such events. I hope not and I doubt it.