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British schools, foreign-born dancers?


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I agree with so much of your post, leonid. The only thing I would mention is that I don't think RBS's success can be measured by the number of students from the school who join the top six international companies, since the Mariinsky, Bolshoi, POB, and NYCB rarely take anyone who haven't been trained by their schools, and the same is pretty much true of RDB, although they seem to have opened up to more foreign-trained dancers lately. ABT doesn't have a school, but they are taking more dancers from their second company.

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Although there's not complete consensus on this, a lot of critics feel that Balanchine's spirit was kept alive by the Children of Balanchine who transplanted across the US and started companies of their own or were critical in developing dancers who could dance his works.

Was there a similar migration of proponents of British style who feed into companies that maintain the style, even if RBS doesn't? Or if RBS is, but the Royal Ballet doesn't want dancers trained in this style, are there companies that take and nurture these dancers?

Or is the style all but lost today?

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I was trained by 3 dancers mentioned above who danced with the Royal Ballet in the "hey day" so to speak. Rowena Jackson, Philip Chatfield, Brian and Dorothea Ashbridge throughout my career as a pre professional and professional dancer. (I was also privately coached by Rowena Jackson as a small child maybe 9 or 10 and remember those sessions very clearly still today) I feel that the style was very distinct and unique. I am attracted to the style and it reminds me of my training and I really enjoy the "look" of it. However dancers schooled in the Russian tradition or Balanchine work done really well, also fascinates and intrigues me. I saw Ashley Bouder dance a few years back at a gala and found her truly thrilling to watch. As these dancers have gone out into the world however has it been watered down or mixed with other styles to meet the demands of a more athletic finish needed for todays contemporary work? Are low legs are great lines given ANY VALUE in todays ballet market as a young dancer goes out and tries to find a position?

One of the big complaints and debates today about the ballet world is that it is so steeped in tradition that it does not keep up with times.

Has the real "Royal Ballet Style" gone or is it constantly evolving?

Also are one or two dancers joining the company a year because that is what is available? Is what contracts the director is allowed to offer? They can only offer what they have. If they are satisfied with their company and do not have need to fire anyone, they can only offer spots that have been vacated. They do not have an unlimited supply of contracts to hand out they are all on strict budgets.

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What needs protecting, is the ‘English Style’ as propounded by Dame Ninette de Valois based upon the original RAD method and developed through the performance of classic productions of Petipa,Ivanov, the Diaghilev Ballet heritage and especially realised in the choreographic style of Sir Frederick Ashton.

I agree with leonid that a company's "style" can only be maintained if the company continues to perform, in depth, a repertoire for which that style is required.

The "children of Balanchine" companies dance a lot of Balanchine and rely on ballet masters, ballet mistresses, and coaches steeped in the Balanchine style. This doesn't require them to dance ONLY Balanchine. A company which works hard to maintain its distinctive style -- in its schools, company classes, and repertoire -- can still dance lots of other things, even on a regular basis.

If a company has been fortunate enough to inherit a distinct method, style, and look, it seems a shame to give it up or let it fall apart. I have the impression that this has happened in Britain in a haphazard fashion rather than by design. They added this, tried to do that, experimented with this AND that, and eventually lost contact with their base. To maintain something like the "English style" you have to be conscious of it and create policy (not just lip service) to protect it . That means teaching it to your aspiring young dancers and allowing them the chance to perform the relevant choreography on stage on a regular basis.

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One of the big complaints and debates today about the ballet world is that it is so steeped in tradition that it does not keep up with times.

Has the real "Royal Ballet Style" gone or is it constantly evolving?

Whosoever creates a work of art establishes its style.

That means in ballet if the choreographer wants an arabesque to be at a 45 degree angle or a 90 degree angle it is established for all time. Every work of art has its own aesthetics which cannot be changed simply because it was created in an earlier era.

There is a mistaken idea among some people in ballet that it is acceptable for a 180 degree arabesque to be executed in a Petipa ballet. This is not the aesthetic that one of the greatest choreographers sought to be part of his expressive style and it was not sought in academic classical ballet training as such physical acts were for the gymnast in a music hall or the circus. It was not that academic classical ballet dancers could not be trained to achieve such physical acts it was not part of the respect for the aesthetic of the form.

The same respect should be shown for Ashton and for MacMillan’s earlier ballets.

It is the very traditional manner of the symbolic/allegorical story telling of academic classical ballets, that has made them the most popular dance theatrical genre for almost a century. These ballets do not have to; “keep up with the times.” as they are for all time and one imagines that as long as the vast majority of audiences want traditional ballets, they will be performed.

By the same token a company style should not be, “constantly evolving.” That is why ballets are notated and taught by former executants for the next generation of ballet dancers to ensure that the choreographers created intention is preserved. In classical ballet companies, new ballets expand a repertoire, but the old ballets are not thrown away and nor should their style of performance be changed because we have entered a new decade.

Because someone can perform four perfect pirouettes en pointe does not mean they should execute them in a ballet when the choreography and music calls for two.

To do otherwise is an expression of artistic nihilism. That is to say in terms of the art and aesthetics of academic classical ballet, four pirouettes serve no purpose or have an intrinsic value in terms of either the genre or the ballets created aesthetic. Such an act, would have certainly been seen as vulgar by most choreographers.

The Royal Ballet style was the product as stated earlier of de Valois and Ashton combined with the inherited academic classical ballet tradition of the Imperial St.Petersburg Ballet and many dancers from far flung countries found no difficult in assimilating the style. The tragedy today, is unlike in the past the RB School has not in the last decade produce any seriously outstanding student who has become a star performer who might rekindle the manner of Dame Margot Fonteyn, Dame Merle Park, Dame Antoinette Sibley, all examplars of the 'once' company style.

Ballets belong to choreographers not to companies or dancers and the admired ‘style’, belongs not just to a company, but also to the audience that regularly supports the company.

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It just occurred to me that Wayne Eagling was born in California.

He grew up in California, but he was born in Montreal, so he would have qualified as a Commonwealth citizen under the old rules. Richard Cragun, on the other hand, was born in California, which, presumably, is why he didn't join the Royal Ballet upon graduating from the school.

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