Helene

Leanne Benjamin's Retirement

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What a wonderful interviewee Leanne Benjamin is: when you admire a dancer from afar for years it is always nice to discover that they are in fact a highly articulate and intelligent individual.

When Leanne Benjamin first steps out onstage tomorrow night it will be in the cameo role of the young Mary Vetsera, a role that most dancers allow younger/smaller dancers to perform. She is unique in being able to play not just a teenager but also a twelve year old girl without the audience having to employ suspension of disbelief. Youthfulness has always been something Ms Benjamin has effortlessly projected, I watched her Mayerling last week from the front row of the stalls and believe me even at that close proximity I would never have thought her a woman in her late forties. Her dancing has a vigour that more and more appears lacking in other leading dancers, she has an innate energy that when matched with her impeccable technique and acting skills gives her performances a kind of ‘wow factor’.

Her repertoire has always been wide ranging, encompassing classical, modern and dramatic works equally, and choreographers just love her as her tough work ethic means she never gives their works less than 100%. Her last created role was in Ratmansky’s 24 Preludes and it was clear that the choreographer was eager to exploit her exceptional musicality and display the more lyrical qualities she possesses in a beautiful duet with Cojocaru, a perfect match in height and form and then gifting her a brilliantly dramatic solo full of inner tension and angst – two very different moods in one work: no wonder so many creators viewed her as a muse.

At various stages of her career I felt Leanne was too far down in the pecking order; rarely first cast and ignored in most of the big publicity campaigns, but her fan base has doggedly supported her and in recent years her talent has been accorded the recognition it has always deserved. Tomorrow’s farewell will be difficult for me personally, almost like saying goodbye to a friend and I daresay I’ll shed a tear or two, but as always on these occasions I’ll console myself with my memories of having followed the career of one of the very few ballerinas deserving of the epithet ‘great’.

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A beautiful tribute Mashinka.

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I read the interview - and it's clear that her "lights out" approach to rehearsals is what caused conflict with Sergei Polunin. He has expressed in multiple interviews that he didn't want to practice in that dogged manner - he wanted time and space away, and to save himself for performances. Two different approaches, both seem to result in good on stage performances.

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Polunin's lack of courtesy was picked up on by a number of people when a film of him rehearsing with Cuthbertson was broadcast. Don't think he danced anything major with Benjamin though. It was another major dancer in the RB he was supposed to have had conflict with, at least according to rumours.

Re the interview: 2nd from top photo is not Gloria as captioned it is Requiem, also by MacMillan.

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When Leanne Benjamin first steps out onstage tomorrow night it will be in the cameo role of the young Mary Vetsera, a role that most dancers allow younger/smaller dancers to perform. She is unique in being able to play not just a teenager but also a twelve year old girl without the audience having to employ suspension of disbelief.

I agree that Leanne makes a very convincing twelve year old, however, amongst the dancers currently playing the role of Mary Vetsera, she is not unique. They have all played the role of the twelve year old Mary. In fact, in the performances I’ve seen over the last 11 seasons, (during 5 of which Mayerling has been performed) all the dancers playing Mary have played their younger selves. Perhaps this was not the case in earlier seasons?

Edited to add that I've just checked the Royal Opera House Performance database and it would appear that, until Viviana Durante and Leanne Benjamin played Mary in 1992, the twelve year old Mary was played by a younger or smaller dancer. That year the two of them were the only ones to play the twelve year old Mary but they clearly started a trend which has continued from the 2002 run onwards.

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Have just checked my cast sheets for the current run, of the two other dancers I saw, Galeazzi and Cojocaru, neither danced Mary as a child but Leanne Benjamin did.

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Have just checked my cast sheets for the current run, of the two other dancers I saw, Galeazzi and Cojocaru, neither danced Mary as a child but Leanne Benjamin did.

How very strange. I have the cast sheet for Alina Cojocaru’s performance on June 5 in front of me. It states "Mary Vetsera as a child: Alina Cojocaru". Maybe you are looking at Princess Valerie as a child? She was played by Gemma Pitchley-Gale.

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Also I saw Galeazzi as Vetsera on 30th April and she certainly danced the child as well - - but she was standing in for Cojocaru that night so maybe it was different at her scheduled performances?

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Galeazzi danced the child at all her performances as did Melissa Hamilton. I don't have the cast sheets to hand but can vouch for that as I was lucky enough to be at all the performances of the recent run of Mayerlings.

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Gary Avis tweeted about being part of Benjamin's last performance:

Hugs with Leanne Benjamin after her last ever Manon with Royal Ballet
sad.png
( what an enormous loss!
#
sad
#
RBontour13
pic.twitter.com/ikRQCTitBX

https://twitter.com/balletboy09/status/350399631273906176

@bangorballetboy love being on stage with La Benj in her last #Manon with RB I'm plying her with cloak/jewels #RBontour13

https://twitter.com/balletboy09/status/350337255824564225

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