Jane Simpson

RB's new Director announced

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The Royal Ballet has announced that Kevin O'Hare, currently the company's Administrative Director, will succeed Monica Mason as Director of the Royal Ballet.

Press release

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I was told last year it would be Wayne McGregor, my personal hope was that it would be Alexei Ratmansky, most thought it would be Bruce Sansom: this is a surprise.

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I was told last year it would be Wayne McGregor, my personal hope was that it would be Alexei Ratmansky, most thought it would be Bruce Sansom: this is a surprise.

I don't think Ratmansky would make sense as he doesn't have any connection to RB's heritage but I expect him to succceed Kevin McKenzie as ABT's artistic director. I thought Bruce Sansom was the front runner, so Kevin O'Hare is a surprise to me. The press release also mentioned Wheeldon will be part of RB's articstic team, any further detail on that? Will Wheeldon join RB as resident choreograher in additon to Wayne McGregor?

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The press release also mentioned Wheeldon will be part of RB's articstic team, any further detail on that? Will Wheeldon join RB as resident choreograher in additon to Wayne McGregor?

There's no more information so far - it will be interesting to see if McGregor retains his current title and responsiblities, and if so how Wheeldon fits in. But I'd guess we won't hear about the details just yet.

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Congratulations to Kevin O'Hare on his appointment as Director of the Royal Ballet.

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Well at least he's a dancer! I was afraid we were talking some sort of corporate executive... And it frees the choreographers from administrative duties...which is no small accomplishment.

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Well at least he's a dancer! I was afraid we were talking some sort of corporate executive... And it frees the choreographers from administrative duties...which is no small accomplishment.

Well, actually, I think that's exactly what they do have in O'Hare. A pleasent, unremarkable, efficient administrator who will do exactly what the board made up of executives tell him to do.

This isn't artistic direction, this is flaccid status quo being preserved.

Kevin O'Hare seems like a nice man. Who is happy to keep the huge onus on three act money spinners danced indifferently, an influx of foreign stars, the odd political promotion of a mediocre RBS product, the egregious wobblings of Mcgregor with a couple of nods to classicism with Wheeldon every other season.

The RB hasn't had a clear artistic goal or purpose in decades, what Mason has done is give some stability in what has been a fairly staid and artistically directionless tenure. What she has done is make the RB a nice place to go, with astronomical prices, which the corporate crowd is happy to pay because it's a "nice" night out, in a "nice" place to go and isn't ballet... "nice".

ADs, good ADs are bastards, they're uncompromising, they have clear vision, they revolutionise companies, their appointment causes excitement and most importantly they make the companies they head places to be, they rejuvenate and galvanise. This appointment is just terrible, Sansom could have been interesting, Nunn & Trevitt would have been extremely interesting, Ratmansky would never have stayed, though he would have been brilliant. O'Hare is just a man in a grey suit doing what the men in grey suits tell him to do.

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ADs, good ADs are bastards

And so are bad ones.

Being a ruthless jackass isn't a mark of artistic genius.

It only signifies the intention to wield power.

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Bravo Leigh. How can anyone know so much about Kevin O'Hare before he's even done anything? Let's give the guy a chance.

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Hear Hear, Leigh and Rock!

I've got many happy memories of Kevin O'Hare as a dancer and as company manager of BRB for three years.

I cried for the first time watching ballet at one of Kevin's performances (in my early ballet watching days) - it was a big tent performance of Giselle with Samira Saidi as Giselle and Kevin dancing Albrecht. He is still my definitive Edward II and one of my most favourite Oberons. He was also terrific as both Beenstock and Prosser in Hobson's Choice.

He and his brother Michael (now ballet master at BRB), along with Joseph Cipolla, were synonymous with BRB for many years until their retirements.

I can also remember him organising a charity gala that was really good fun during his time as a dancer.

As company manager my experience of him was as a member of the public and I think he was a terrific public-facing ambassador for the company.

I do not know him personally but looking back at his education and career who can doubt that the best of the traditions of the Royal Ballet will be in safe and generous hands alongside any plans he may have to move the company forward.

All the BRB fans I know are thrilled by his appointment.

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ADs, good ADs are bastards

And so are bad ones.

Being a ruthless jackass isn't a mark of artistic genius.

It only signifies the intention to wield power.

That's true Leigh, but the point is that I'm not talking about a ruthless intention to wield power, nor do I think that being power crazed is the mark of a good or bad AD, nor even the mark of a bastard, moreover being a bastard isn't necessarily a bad thing.

But one thing a great AD isn't, and the RB needs a great AD, it hasn't had one in forty years, but great ADs aren't nice men in admin roles who've bizarrely been elevated to top dog position when other better qualified and more exciting candidates were rejected.

Rock asks how can one know so much about him before he's done anything? And that's just it, one doesn't know anything about him except that everyone thinks he's a "good bloke", he's very good at organising a spread sheet and there's a certain partisan zeal (and understandably) from the old BRB audience who are delighted that one of their favourite dancers who went into middle management is now bizarrely AD.

If you look at O'Hare's "outline" of what he intends doing for the RB, it's basically a carbon copy of Mason, who while she has given a certain stability to the RB by turning it into a carbon copy of the ABT model, erosion of company style, stagnation of promoting home talent in favour of starry imports, political home promotions, overwhelming onus on three act moneyspinning classics, reduced performances, increased prices etc Basically turning the RB into a business model rather than a force of artistic direction. Okay, I get that times are hard, but there's no way that the RB can be classed as a world-class company anymore when it had phenomenal home grown talent dancing, choreographing. Though to their credit ABT know in Ratmansky that they have an artistic force who's the real deal.

I've no doubt that O'Hare's fans of which there are many are delighted, and that's cool, I'm not attacking him as a person nor am I attacking his BRB fans. But this is a truly depressing appointment because you know what you're going to get a caretaker, not an AD, who will carry on the same old same old for another 10/15 years. Nice man, doing what he's told, putting his spreadsheets and board meetings and directives before artistic direction. He's not an AD he's an administator, so let him administrate.

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I understand perfectly what Simon G. is saying, the RB is in a state of stagnation and drastic measures need to be taken to put things right. I would welcome an iconoclast at this point but I imagine non boat rocking was high on the agenda of the selection committee. I predict further years of mediocrity and boredom ahead.

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As Rock said earlier "Let's give the guy a chance"!

It's all very well saying that an iconoclast would be welcome (paraphrasing) but I'm equally sure that any Director needs good administrative skills and perhaps the incoming incumbent has spent his time building on these skills while biding his time to lead the company in new directions firmly from the front.

No-one knows how he will perform in the role. The time to discuss that must surely be a couple of years in the future when he has got a season or two of his own under his belt.

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As Rock said earlier "Let's give the guy a chance"!

It's all very well saying that an iconoclast would be welcome (paraphrasing) but I'm equally sure that any Director needs good administrative skills and perhaps the incoming incumbent has spent his time building on these skills while biding his time to lead the company in new directions firmly from the front.

No-one knows how he will perform in the role. The time to discuss that must surely be a couple of years in the future when he has got a season or two of his own under his belt.

I really have to disagree. Great ADs aren't administrators. The biggest mistake of the post Stretton era was extending Mason's contract from caretaker, which was necessary in the immediate aftermath, to AD lasting 11 years. In that time RB has lost all sense of direction, not just as a producing theatre, but in terms of its identity and purpose. Under Mason seat prices soared, the onus on three act classics became the dominant force, audiences dwindled in terms of ballet fans and the corporate sector was pursued at every other expense. The style of the RB became a homogenised mulch and the starry brought in principals hid the poor state of the school, the increasingly ragged corps, the almost zero chance of promotion and a company that looked, much of the time, as if it were phoning in their performances.

When Dowell got it right he really got it right, The Stravinsky Triple Bill, being a case in point, he also saw the benefit that one or two permanent guests could bring to the general level of technique, he also actively nurtured talent from within the ranks, which made the defections in the late 90s such a bitter blow for him. I'm certainly not saying he was brilliant, he wasn't, but he still saw that the identity of a company was intrinsic to its artistic purpose and direction.

We know what's happening in the coming seasons, another couple of McGregors, maybe another Wheeldon, 80% classics. There are going to be problems as the lions share of the princ.ipals are really reaching retirement, several have gone on too long. And then what's he going to do? He's answerable to the board, and the board aren't going to sanction rapid promotion to unknowns of talent from the lower ranks to three act evening length works where ticket prices now top $200 for a single seat. The RB isn't an artistic vehicle it's a star vehicle or a business vehicle

Saying that "an iconoclast would be welcome" isn't the point. What is an "iconoclast" anyway? What is needed is a strong, forceful, dynamic person capable of pushing a tired institution into a definite and thrilling direction. Look at Hubbe at RDB, Boal at PNB, even Eagling at ENB has dragged an incredibly beleaguered financially company, into a coherent, exciting body of dancers who when challenged really bring out the dancing goods.

Mashinka is right, the RB is mediocre, sure it has some great stars, and great dancers who are never given opportunities, but as an artistic institution it's mediocre and pretty directionless, or rather all directions lead to the boardroom. Where O'Hare, I'm sure looks very nice on a spreadsheet.

Only one ballet professional, Peter Wright was on the selection panel hiring the next AD. With this appointment it really shows.

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I can't comment on the current state of the RB as I very rarely go to London due to the overall costs. I may well find myself going more now that one of my favourite dancers is moving across.

I still your points, if still valid, would be better raised once we have seen how the Director designate manages in his first couple of seasons.

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I can't comment on the current state of the RB as I very rarely go to London due to the overall costs. I may well find myself going more now that one of my favourite dancers is moving across.

I still your points, if still valid, would be better raised once we have seen how the Director designate manages in his first couple of seasons.

But this is the problem, it's a company you don't know and given that a cheap seat in the Gods is now in the region of £70, a seat for a 3 acter easily in the £100+ which will be going up given the 15% cut in funding to the ROH would you want to travel to London for a single performance?

No one is being harsh, no one is dissing O'Hare or being rude or offensive or derogatory, but this hiring is deeply problematical, not least because you can see the spectre of a boardroom spreadsheet looming behind every decision to come. He was a good basic dancer, then a good administrator a great AD needs an artisitc direction which is dynamic and exciting.

You say give him a couple of seasons, well we know what those seasons are going to bring. It's been outlined already, more McGregor, more Wheeldon, more three acters and more outside hiring. That's not artistic direction, that's the same old same old.

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Only one ballet professional, Peter Wright was on the selection panel hiring the next AD. With this appointment it really shows.

One? That can't be wise.

Simon G. raises the question of those aging dancers and that is certainly a problem that will have to be tackled soon because although a couple of dancers could be usefully promoted from within the ranks, I imagine some will have to be imported. I mean just how do you replace Carlos Acosta? Monica Mason has had particularly poor judgement when it came to dancers as frankly offloading a megastar such as Sylvie Guillem wasn't a good move and with only a couple of exceptions the dancers drafted in have been dull and technically limited. Mr O'Hare could perhaps make a start be re-employing Ivan Putrov.

One of the reasons Ross Stretton's tenure was so disastrous was that he recognized the weakness in the personnel and was taking steps to tackle the problem, thereby earning their hostility and the rest being history. The purge of rubbish dancers that I've been dreaming of for so long is unlikely to happen with that example existing as a warning to future directors.

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I can't comment on the current state of the RB as I very rarely go to London due to the overall costs. I may well find myself going more now that one of my favourite dancers is moving across.

I still your points, if still valid, would be better raised once we have seen how the Director designate manages in his first couple of seasons.

Why bother going to ballet anymore? A question that is rife among these boards as people passionate about ballet and their home companies, some of whom have been watching the Royal, NYCB, Mariinsky etc for decades continually ask themselves as they've seen the state of ballet and the art they love greatly deteriorate, as companies they love have been shadows of what they once were.

I never damned Campbell with faint praise. I think he's a very good dancer, with a great deal of charm, technically able, BUT one thing which has saddened many avid RB goers over the years is the lack of promotion to some very very good dancers by the ADs in charge, while many lesser dancers have been promoted. Pennefather, Makhateli and to a lesser extent Watson's climbs to principal status despite the fact that they have poor classical techniques being cases in point. The languishing of Xander Parish at the lowest level of corps for six years before becoming the first British dancer to ever be offered a contract with the Mariinksy where he has now been promoted to junior soloist/coryphee and dancers principal roles being another.

Campbell may very well rue this change when he finds that the abundance of performance opportunities BRB offered him dwindle in the face of fewer performances, smaller roles and far more principals and first soloists clamouring for those parts he once considered his right to dance at BRB.

You hope I "eat my words" regarding O'Hare? But I won't, because it's painfully obvious what he's there for and also what's in store with this tenureship. Mashinka wanted Sansom, who would have been an equally adept choice in terms of dance admin background, he was also a far better and more accomplished artist than O'Hare and to top it off he's got a definite edge to him. An edge which I dare say when push came to shove the board choosing the new AD thought perhaps they may be able to control, that he was nowere near as malleable as the charming, well liked and rather anodyne O'Hare.

Or if they'd wanted to really shake things up a diumverate of Nunn/Trevitt might have been sensational, for no other reason than with their cutting edge approach to classicism, their media savvy and contacts and their relations with artists, real classicists of stunning talent such as Michael Clark, Maliphant, Guillem coupled with their huge shared histories in the RB and classical ballet could have possibly been sensational. But they wouldn't have been safe.

This appointment is safe, it's unremarkable and it's shocking in how completely unchallenging to ballet as an art it is. And believe me the RB needs to be challenged, and the fact that I find so much about the present state of the company mediocre, banal and poor won't stop me from going to ballet, because I love ballet deeply. I love dance passionately and whatever else I may think or feel I still always hope that something will get better.

And so when I pay £70 to sit in the gods to watch Alice, it doesn't fill me with schadenfreude or waves of joy to see something so poor, mediocre and flimsy it makes me sad, but I'll still go back and watch a triple bill with two works I don't want to see in order to watch Scenes De Ballet, because I love Ashton. Though judging by the way he's treated by the RB I wonder if they do.

I also feel the prices at the RB are exorbitent, obscene and will only get much worse in the face of the recent cuts in funding. Like I said unless you have £70 odd to spare to sit in the top amphitheatre, added to train travel, possible overnight stay if you miss your last train, food, etc you might want to rethink those frequent trips to London to see Campbell. If you want to sit closer to the stage especially for a 3 act, you'll now need around £110+ for a good seat. This is is the kind of thing I'm talking about when I express dismay at the state of the ROH, the direction and the future of the RB.

Fine I'll stop damning with faint praise. O'Hare is the wrong man for the job. No ballet company and the RB was once one of the greatest in the world, that cares about being at the cutting edge of dance would make an appointment such as O'Hare. He's a puppet for upper management and whatever management consultant was brought in to advise on how to get more money out of the corporate crowd. He's a smiling yes man who will be happy to carry on a tradition of mediocrity.

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Now to throw in my part of the argument :D

I'd argue that the director-as-iconoclast model is not the only one that works - particularly if it's no longer a choreographer driven company. There's no question of what that style has produced but it has its flaws (Bournonville threw out most of Galeotti's ballet, for instance.) When you get a mediocre iconoclast, you're really in trouble.

I'd prefer an artist - but I'd also prefer an artist who respects the institution. In the absence of one, I'll take someone who keeps the place treading water until an artist comes along.

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Simon G may be supposing that Peter Wright was against O'Hare's appointment and the others were for it. Given Mr. Wright's background with O'Hare I'd assume the opposite to be the case. Did Mr. Wright actually hire O'Hare at the BRB? Was he director then? He certainly worked with O'Hare both as a dancer and as company manager in Birmingham and knew Kevin, and his brother, very well. There's every chance he was O'Hare's biggest supporter when it came to the RB position.

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I'd prefer an artist - but I'd also prefer an artist who respects the institution. In the absence of one, I'll take someone who keeps the place treading water until an artist comes along.

Leigh,

That's the crux of this issue and one that's been discussed at length in the media regarding this appointment. The RB has been treading water for a decade or more and that this was a chance for several artists who'd spent the intervening years since leaving RB to establish themselves within the wider world of dance to take the reins.

Mashinka mentioned Sansom who it would appear was the closest contender to O'Hare. Sansom is a forthright, artistically minded individual with a huge scope and range of ballet from being a great exponent of Ashton at the RB as principal to assistant directing and administration around the world and leading artistic initiatives and programmes within the wider world of dance. He's also got an edge, a real edge which isn't about being an iconoclaust in the Nureyev mould, it's about being someone who could bring something new, refreshing and more catholic in approach.

The real wildcards would have been Nunn/Trevitt who've done more than any other individuals within the UK to establish ballet in a wider media. They actually managed to get programmes about contemporary ballet and their company on terrestrial prime teatime television on Channel 4. Moreover the respect they've garnered as principals and leaders of their own company within the UK is huge. The list of choreographers they've brought in to choreograph for them is deeply impressive and their initiatives to establish a younger, fresher appeal to contemporary ballet at major venues around the UK and abroad is the kind of remit the ROH states it wishes for its own endeavours.

They even managed to get Michael Clark to choreograph for them, a coup which could have directly impacted on a tenure as AD at the RB, as Clark is probably the only dance artist working within ballet who has a huge, broad cross spectrum and fanbase outside of ballet who come to watch his work wherever he presents it. A fanbase that the likes of McGregor can only dream about.

It's not that there aren't better much better candidates out there for this prime position. You'll see the same dismay at this appointment throughout the media, the same names being trotted out as better ADs. What is dismaying is how out of touch the board of the ROH and the panel were to ballet.

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Simon G may be supposing that Peter Wright was against O'Hare's appointment and the others were for it. Given Mr. Wright's background with O'Hare I'd assume the opposite to be the case. Did Mr. Wright actually hire O'Hare at the BRB? Was he director then? He certainly worked with O'Hare both as a dancer and as company manager in Birmingham and knew Kevin, and his brother, very well. There's every chance he was O'Hare's biggest supporter when it came to the RB position.

I was suggesting nothing of the sort. I was saying that a board and panel comprised of professionals to find an artistic director for one of the major world companies should have had more than one dance professional on it. Moreover, since as you say Wright and O'Hare have such a long history perhaps it would have been better to include a wider ballet demographic to avoid the suggestion of favouritism and bias against other better qualified candidates.

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Do you suppose O'Hare wasn't the first person offered the position?

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Do you suppose O'Hare wasn't the first person offered the position?

How on earth should I know I wasn't there? You like O'Hare, fine, well he's got the job. And I'm sure ten years down the line under him the company will be pretty much as it is now, which is why they hired him. I don't think that's anything to look forward to or be proud of, though he'd better start casting his net to attract or find ready-made star principals because those in the RB are coming to the end of their shelf lives and the RB seems adamant in its policy to not promote talent within the ranks or from the school.

And the company will be foreign principals, homogenised generic ballet, indifferent unmotivated corps dancing 80% warhorses, a McGregor or two every year, a Wheeldon every year, ticket prices increasing (though that 15% cut this year is a bit of a red herring as over the next three years the funding will increase to the levels it's currently at before the cut). The tickets are currently the most expensive for any lyric theatre in the world, and I don't mind paying top dollar for something worth the price, sadly what's on stage isn't worth £107 for a good seat for a three acter, or £70 to sit in the gods.

There's no reason for the RB to be so mediocre, but to not be mediocre takes guts and a risk of failure, they'd rather a mediocre AD to preserve a mediocre status quo. And that's all this issue is, there were candidates who could potentially have been incredible, there hasn't been an incredible AD at the helm for thirty years. The fact that now when they had a real chance to change this trend they didn't is what's so depressing, disheartening and really really doesn't bode well for the future of the Royal Ballet as any kind of valid, artistically vital ballet company, which it once most definitely was.

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