One of the big complaints and debates today about the ballet world is that it is so steeped in tradition that it does not keep up with times.
Has the real "Royal Ballet Style" gone or is it constantly evolving?
Whosoever creates a work of art establishes its style.
That means in ballet if the choreographer wants an arabesque to be at a 45 degree angle or a 90 degree angle it is established for all time. Every work of art has its own aesthetics which cannot be changed simply because it was created in an earlier era.
There is a mistaken idea among some people in ballet that it is acceptable for a 180 degree arabesque to be executed in a Petipa ballet. This is not the aesthetic that one of the greatest choreographers sought to be part of his expressive style and it was not sought in academic classical ballet training as such physical acts were for the gymnast in a music hall or the circus. It was not that academic classical ballet dancers could not be trained to achieve such physical acts it was not part of the respect for the aesthetic of the form.
The same respect should be shown for Ashton and for MacMillan’s earlier ballets.
It is the very traditional manner of the symbolic/allegorical story telling of academic classical ballets, that has made them the most popular dance theatrical genre for almost a century. These ballets do not have to; “keep up with the times.” as they are for all time and one imagines that as long as the vast majority of audiences want traditional ballets, they will be performed.
By the same token a company style should not be, “constantly evolving.” That is why ballets are notated and taught by former executants for the next generation of ballet dancers to ensure that the choreographers created intention is preserved. In classical ballet companies, new ballets expand a repertoire, but the old ballets are not thrown away and nor should their style of performance be changed because we have entered a new decade.
Because someone can perform four perfect pirouettes en pointe does not mean they should execute them in a ballet when the choreography and music calls for two.
To do otherwise is an expression of artistic nihilism. That is to say in terms of the art and aesthetics of academic classical ballet, four pirouettes serve no purpose or have an intrinsic value in terms of either the genre or the ballets created aesthetic. Such an act, would have certainly been seen as vulgar by most choreographers.
The Royal Ballet style was the product as stated earlier of de Valois and Ashton combined with the inherited academic classical ballet tradition of the Imperial St.Petersburg Ballet and many dancers from far flung countries found no difficult in assimilating the style. The tragedy today, is unlike in the past the RB School has not in the last decade produce any seriously outstanding student who has become a star performer who might rekindle the manner of Dame Margot Fonteyn, Dame Merle Park, Dame Antoinette Sibley, all examplars of the 'once' company style.
Ballets belong to choreographers not to companies or dancers and the admired ‘style’, belongs not just to a company, but also to the audience that regularly supports the company.