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Royal Ballet Tradition

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i've just finally seen the 'ballet boyz' series from ch.4 (if that's the correct source), and learned there of a tradition i'd not previous heard. this concerns the 'tradition' of having a retiring male dancer, or at least one who is leaving the co, to perform a woman's role. i forget the dancer's name who was filmed in such an event, but he was shown being made-up and costumed to take the place of the lilac fairy in the apotheosis tableau of 'the sleeping beauty.'

thus, a few questions:

how long has this been a royal ballet tradition (if indeed it actually is one)?

does it hold true, therefore, that when a woman is leaving the ranks that she appear in a male role?

have there been any extraordinarily theatrical 'solutions' to making such 'final' appearances?

or, what other information is there to explain this notion?

w/thanks and apologies to the royal dancer in question, i can't right now replay my tape and make note of his name.

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Well, unless this is a 'new' tradition, it's one I never heard of or witnessed during my 13 years in London including 5 working at Covent Garden. However, there used to be a traditional Friends' Christmas show, and all things went on there. That was the venue for the famous Wayne Sleep impersonation of Olga Korbut. Of course that doesn't mean that some male dancer actually did perform a female role during an actual performance - lots of things would go on on the last night of the season (and even at other times - such as when Michael Coleman and Gary Sherwood, who were performing the soft shoe dance from 'Facade', put blue bands (team colour) around their hats and wore big "Chelsea" buttons to celebrate their favourite team's participation in a football cup final).

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I wasn't aware of it as a tradition before the programme either. But since then, in a performance earlier this year I did notice that in a performance of Fille, the flute boy in the second act had suddenly changed, and looked well, rather slight. This was just for a very brief appearance. It turned out to be a final performance for one of the corps (Leana Palmer I think). Hence her appearance briefly as a boy...

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