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Monica Mason appointed RB director


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#16 Jane Simpson

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Posted 19 December 2002 - 09:42 AM

Would either Deborah Bull or Bruce Sansom really want to spend 4 years as Assistant Director, with no guarantee of getting the top job at the end of it? I'd have thought they could both more usefully do something else. And does Monica Mason need an assistant anyway?

#17 Alexandra

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Posted 19 December 2002 - 10:14 AM

I don't know the duties of the RB's Assistant Director, but at the RDB it's been, since at least 1930, the person who did the scheduling: which ballets are rehearsed in which studios by which producer, coordinating with the other departments in the theater (so that the opera doesn't sign up for the same studio). S/he also attends meetings with heads of other departments -- costume, production -- and unions. Some have also coached and directed. If I wanted to be the director, I'd take that job for four years with the expectation that if I did it well, I'd have a good shot at the top job. I don't think they can promise it now, can they? Perhaps hint -- but we won't know that.

Would Mason have gotten the AD job if she hadn't been the assistant? I think it could be a very good way for someone relatively young to get to know all the people s/he'll have to work with in the ROH, know how the place works, build contacts with artists, get to know the dancers, etc. I think often assistant directors don't make good directors because they would rather be off somewhere else doing their own thing (and making mistakes on their on the job training) so it may not work out, but if the board wants to insure succession and smooth running in the future, it may be a good idea.

I did a long interview with Bruce Sansom for DanceView (Autumn issue) in which he was very careful not to indicate that he was interested in any particular job, but clearly had a desire to serve that company in some capacity. There were many things he said that impressed me, especially a worry that the RB audience could become bifurcated unless new works and old works were integrated into the repertory (by which I think he means mixed triple bills, not a New Night and an Old Fogeys Night). I think his time in San Francisco introduced him to a lot of new choreographers, and gave him a model for how to encourage and present new choreography. And he certainly has an appreciation of Ashton and MacMillan.

#18 Ari

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Posted 19 December 2002 - 10:42 AM

If Mason is willing to work closely with her Assistant Director, sharing the problems of running a company, I think that four years as AD would be excellent training for anyone who hopes to be a full-fledged director some day, whether at the RB or at any other company.

#19 LMCtech

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Posted 19 December 2002 - 12:37 PM

I totally agree. I don't think there could be better training.

#20 grace

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Posted 21 December 2002 - 06:20 PM

i wonder whether 'they' always appoint an assistant (at RB)? it seems to me (being very vague about this, in my memory), that the concept of having an assistant AD (or even more so, an ASSOCIATE AD) is a relatively modern fashion...is that right, or not? historians please advise!

however, assuming for a moment that there might be one...jane simpson wrote

"Would either Deborah Bull or Bruce Sansom really want to spend 4 years as Assistant Director, with no guarantee of getting the top job at the end of it?"

are you joking?!?

#21 Mel Johnson

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Posted 21 December 2002 - 06:27 PM

To continue the Anglican metaphor I proposed when we were discussing those possible to consecrate:

Now that we've just been given an archbishop, isn't it a bit early to begin searching for a bishop coadjutor?

#22 Alexandra

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Posted 21 December 2002 - 06:36 PM

I don't know what the situation was in the Royal -- I hope someone can clarify. If anyone hung around with expectations it was Ashton, who was appointed Associate Director of the Royal in 1952.

I think there was always someone who scheduled the ballets; in Denmark s/he was called the regisseur. I'm assuming that all the old opera houses used similar administrative models. In Denmark, the appointment also meant extra money snd so would be given to someone who was a good "company man." The regisseur became the Assistant Balletmaster, and then Vice Balletmaster.

I can see Jane's point, would a (relatively) young person want to be an assistant without assurance of becoming AD when s/he could get a job now running a company. As several have noted, the future is so uncertain, in every way. The Royal may be a contemporary dance company or a tap troupe by 2007, for all we know. My comments were more from the House side of the question: realizing that often an Assistant is born to fulfill that role and will be at sea in the big job, I still think that if you want to insure institutional continuity, it's better to train someone from within rather than let them go out into the world and learn bad habits somewhere else. :)

#23 Alexandra

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Posted 21 December 2002 - 06:54 PM

I was posting at the same time as Mel -- didn't mean to leapfrog you. It is interesting, isn't it, that the reaction to Mason has been almost universally:

One -- hooray. The dancers trust her.
Two -- who will be the assistant AD? That's who'll be the next director.

This indicates to me that she's seen as a caretaker figure rather than someone who would shake things up. (To stay within Mel's train of thought, that's what they thought about Pope John XXIII; it's not a sure shot.) Is it a case of old generals fighting the last war? They were criticized for bringing in an Outsider; they'll appoint an Insider. They were criticized because the last director was not only clueless but crude; they'll appoint someone who can calm things down and knows who she has to bow to.

This could mean that if Mason's honeymoon doesn't outlast her first season, which is often the case, the next call will be, "For God's sake, get someone from outside!" Who knows? :)

#24 grace

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Posted 22 December 2002 - 04:37 PM

alexandra: thanks for the info about ashton's position as assistant, going back as far as that.

after i wrote my post, i realised that, regardless of the historical situation (of whether assistants are always appointed), even asking the question is irrelevant now. after all, in the current situation, mentoring a potential director would almost be the object of the exercise. so surely there WILL be one.

alexandra wrote

"would a (relatively) young person want to be an assistant without assurance of becoming AD when s/he could get a job now running a company"

i think this sentiment underestimates the sense of prestige, belonging and loyalty which 'born and bred' RB dancers have for their own company.

since childhood, most have believed that joining this company was the only worthwhile outcome of their focused young lives. eventually leading it, is the ultimate - for the few who aspire that high. a 'higher' position in a lesser company...?: to a member of this 'family', there is no such thing.

there are 'other' things/ different things... (and with eventual maturity can come an understanding that 'other' things CAN be worthwhile, too) ...but there are not 'better' things than progressing within the fold.

i am not saying this applies to all. many develop other tastes, and want to head in other directions...in particular, those who come into the system later (for example, into the upper school from elsewhere, including overseas) are more likely to have diverse aspirations. but some, especially those who have been within the system all their formative years, 'belong' there, because they choose to, and have been raised to. and that culture of belonging is extremely strong - which is understandable when you have seen it at work. in that context, being ASSISTANT here, is far better than being AD anywhere else....


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