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RB's new Director announced


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#16 JMcN

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Posted 15 June 2011 - 06:06 AM

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.

#17 Simon G

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Posted 15 June 2011 - 06:25 AM

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.

#18 Mashinka

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Posted 15 June 2011 - 06:31 AM

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.

#19 Simon G

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Posted 15 June 2011 - 11:50 AM

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.

#20 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 15 June 2011 - 12:07 PM

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.

#21 Rock

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Posted 15 June 2011 - 01:19 PM

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.

#22 Simon G

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Posted 15 June 2011 - 01:24 PM

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.

#23 Simon G

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Posted 15 June 2011 - 01:26 PM

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.

#24 Rock

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Posted 15 June 2011 - 02:30 PM

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

#25 Simon G

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Posted 15 June 2011 - 02:56 PM

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.

#26 Rock

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Posted 15 June 2011 - 05:53 PM

Just curious. Who were the candidates who would have been incredible?

#27 Simon G

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Posted 16 June 2011 - 02:25 AM

Just curious. Who were the candidates who would have been incredible?



Well, from the shortlisted candidates, if you wanted to go down the "traditional" route of one AD I agree with Mashinka that Bruce Sansom would have been a very good decision, bringing to the RB much of what Hubbe is bringing to RDB. He has all the attributes of O'Hare only better. One of the best male principals of the RB from the past 25 years and a product of the RBS, he has an innate understanding of the rep and the company and a great knowledge of the Ashton rep which is the cornerstone of the Royal Ballet's greatness. Once his dance career ended he interned at SFB, Rambert as trainee AD - he has a wide and varied experience of programming on an international level and from a contemporary perspective. And this is crucial as the cross bleed of modern ballet into traditional reps is very much a part of the modern ballet landscape, but unlike the RB who are in the throes of this continuing love affair with Wayne McGregor Sansom has actually worked with a wide selection of modern choreographers and companies.

Samsom is also very much his own man, he has some swagger to him and attitude and that's a good thing, he has strong opinions and voices them. In interview he comes across as opinionated, passionate he's not a smiling yes man.

Most crucially through his experience directing within dance schools he has an intense awareness of the crucial nature of nurturing, finding and teaching young talent. The RB is blighted by the policy of importing star principals, ignoring its heritage and the school and letting talent languish within the lower ranks, sometimes for their entire careers.

This isn't the schools fault entirely, the school is not state run or subsidised and the cost of full training is astronomical, putting ballet far out of the reach of families and talented children from working class or even comfortable middle class families. Dance is the prerogative of the affluent often because they're the only ones who can afford to train their children.

For a potentially incredible pairing I think the wild cards of Michael Nunn & William Trevitt working as co directors could have been stellar and I've already spoken about them at length. Their position within the UK ballet world is pretty much unique.

I do agree that a "star" dancer such as Kobborg or Guillem might have been disastrous. But Guillem has a great track record of working with second tier companies, getting them onto world stages and really inspiring them. She also has a great and healthy respect for the classical repertory and has been extremely censorious of the damaging effects on dancers bodies of working in both classical & contemporary mediums within one season.

Another thing I really agree with Mashinka on is that Stretton, for all his shortcomings, was right in his appraisal of certain dancers, there were some pretty poor dancers who coasted. He angered people greatly by immediately sidelining them and it wasn't exactly subtle, but he had a point. For all his shortccomings he immediately identified talented, young dancers who were languishing and brought them to the fore. Putrov & Nunez were greatly underused under Dowell.

You need people for the role who are not afraid to be disliked, hated even but who can get results and the RB does need to be shaken up.

#28 Mashinka

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Posted 16 June 2011 - 03:33 AM

Since my last post on this subject I've had the chance to speak to ballet regulars regarding the appointment and there is dismay all round. Unlike the ROH management the one thing they didn't want was more of the same.

#29 Quiggin

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Posted 16 June 2011 - 11:14 AM

I agree with Simon that certain junctures are important, crucial, in the life of an organization or company and with another period of "treading water" much valuable experience - living history - will be lost and no longer handed down.

There are some blog posts and interviews with Bruce Sansom at the San Francisco Ballet site - where he is ballet master and assistant to Helgi Tomasson - about how he teaches his classes, working on Coppelia etc.

[Guillem] also has a great and healthy respect for the classical repertory and has been extremely censorious of the damaging effects on dancers bodies of working in both classical & contemporary mediums within one season.


This is an interesting topic. In an interview here Sofiane Sylve and Pascal Molat talked about how brutal this can be while at the same time saying they very much liked the opportunity of being able to dance in many different styles. Molat said you don't use the same group of muscles for different ballets often on the same program, say a Forsythe and then a Balanchine, with their different center for gravities and that this can be very pounding on your body.

#30 Bella12

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Posted 17 June 2011 - 04:25 AM

"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+"

Where do you get these figures from, Simon? The maximum price for 'a seat in the Gods' may be £64 for next Autumn's Beauty but there are many seats available at far lower prices.

A full view seat "in the Gods" to see Beauty can be bought for as little as £24. For Jewels the prices range from £9 to £55. For mixed bills these seats range from £6 to £36. Obviously prices are higher lower down in the House but it is only for Beauty and Nutcracker that the top price seats come to £100+.

I would add that, if you don't mind a very slightly restricted view, it's possible to see multiple performances for your £100+. Personally, I never pay more than £15 for a full evening ballet or £6 for a mixed bill.


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