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’.