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Gala for Sir Anthony Dowell

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This was my first Gala and I'm still in a state of shock (so please add to this posting, fellow fans, and correct my mistakes).

(I'm also still in shock that I managed to be there at all. Like so many others, I applied for a ticket, but didn't get one. So in a fit of insanity - or so I thought at the time - I went down to London yesterday to queue for returns, expecting to find that 10,000 other ballet fans had had the same idea. To my amazement, I was second in the queue, but the word was that there was a waiting list of 100..200...700 depending on who you'd been talking to. There was NO chance of returns. NONE. But the queue didn't budge and eventually....we got in. Amazing.)

Inside, there were tons of flowers. The programmes were being sold by girls from The Royal Ballet Upper School (wearing pink tutus and mostly standing in taking-a-call ballet postures). They looked sweet and told me they had standing room for the performance.

As for the Gala itself, Anthony Dowell narrated throughout and was both interesting and audible (important for those of us in the upper Amphi). The dances were from roles for which he was famous.

I'm not going to go into detail about everything that happened last night, however, or it would take about six months to write it all down. Perhaps other fans will help me out here. I'll just mention the highlights (for me!).

The first half of the programme was:

- a piece for all the boys at the Royal Ballet School - great to see the students dance (and dance SO WELL!).

-'Scherzo' from the 'Dream' (Ethan Stiefel, Giacomo Ciriaci, Jane Burn, Mara Galeazzi, Laura Morera and Jenny Tattersall.)

- The black swan pdd from Swan Lake with Yoshida and Johan Kobborg.

- 'Monotones' with Zenaida Yanowsky, Maurice Vodegel-Matzen, Alastair Marriott.

- First highlight for me was the 'Awakening pas de deux' from 'Sleeping Beauty' - some Ashton choreography I'd never seen before (but would like to see again). The Kirov play this music during the interval before the Awakening scene. It was beautifully danced by Belinda Hatley and Igor Zelensky.

- The 'Troyte' solo from 'Enigma Variations' came next, well danced by Edward Watson.

Dowell told us about one of his early performances. He had a tricky entrance through some scenery and the music was supposed to start when he got on stage. One day they had a famous guest conductor (my brain is failing - was it Klemperer?? Help me someone.)...and the music started while Dowell was still in the wings. 'I don't think I've ever run so fast,' he said, and it took him some time to catch up with the music.

- Another highlight was the 'Thais' pdd (Leanne Benjamin and Roberto Bolle). Roberto looked absolutely stunning....and his dancing was brilliant too. Leanne, too, did a good job.

Talking about his first performance in the role, Dowell said they hadn't had as much rehearsal time as they'd have liked, especially since the costumes were a bit tricky, so he and Antoinette were extremely relieved that it had gone well. But when Ashton came out for his applause at the end, he held up his hands for quiet. 'Would you like to see it again?' he asked. That, said Dowell, was his only experience of an encore.

- And the first half ended with the third act pdd from Manon with Viviana Durante (greeted ecstatically by her fans) and Jonathan Cope (looking great).

The interval. Floral Hall was a mob scene. Forget finding anyone you knew or getting a drink. But wonderful to see everyone in 'black tie'.

Part Two

- Once again we began with the Royal Ballet School, this time performing excerpts from 'Souvenirs', an interesting and amusing ballet choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon. Wonderful to see so much young talent.

- Act II pdd from 'Giselle' with Viviana Durante and Kumakawa.

- 'A Month in the Country' with Alina Cojocaru and Jonathan Cope.

- Another highlight was the good old Don Quixote pdd with Carlos Acosta and Tamara Rojo. Acosta was brilliant (intricate and complicated jumps, great height...) Wasn't sure about Tamara at first, but her fouettes...! Usually I count, but this time I lost track. I think, however, that there were at least three triples amongst them.

- Adam Cooper and Sarah Wildor in 'Varii Capricci' - looking great together.

- Luke Heydon in Kulygin's solo from 'Winter Dreams'.

- Final highlight: Well, we thought the evening was almost over, but the lights dimmed and then we saw a short pdd for Sibley and Dowell. Not sure what it was called, or who did the choreography. (The story was simply the accidental meeting of two ex-lovers on a park bench, who discover that they are each reading the same poem.) I found this extremely moving - and I COULD NOT believe how great they both looked together and how well they danced.

- The programme ended with the Finale from 'Symphony in C' (Yoshida, Yanowsky, Benjamin, Bull, Cope, Acosta, Kumakawa, Persson.) At the end the back curtain went up and we saw all the students from the Royal Ballet School (of course half the proceeds of the evening were going toward the new building for the Royal Ballet School upper school, which will be on the other side of Floral Street, just opposite the stage door at Covent Garden. Someone told us later that the Gala had raised 700,000 for the new building. And later it was announced that one of the new studios would be named for Sibley and Dowell.)

- And then we had FLOWERS. Lots of them. And also a 'flower shower' from above. Great to see Darcey Bussell come out with a huge bouquet for Dowell. (Darcey looked terrific.) Then two rather chubby footmen appeared bearing more enormous bouquets...one of the footmen lost 'his' wig....and everyone laughed as they recognized Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders. (Unless I was hallucinating and it was someone else! Well, I was at the back of the Amphi!) And finally Dowell himself appeared again, bearing yet another enormous bouquet which he presented to Antoinette Sibley.

What a night. Sigh.

- Wendy

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Thank you, Wendy, for the report of the Gala. Wish I could have been there. Sob!

A few notes: the Ashton awakening pdd from "Beauty" was choreographed for a production in the late 60s. It was the production in which the tutus were knee length (except Fonteyn's - she took a pair of scissors to her skirt). That pdd was one of the few moments I really liked, and I always wished they had retained it afterwards. I was at that "Thais" premiere and remember the fact of the encore well. As for the "Enigma Variations" incident, I think the conductor to whom Dowell was referring was most probably Sir Adrian Boult. If I remember my facts correctly I believe Sir Adrian personally knew Elgar. I do know that he did conduct "The Enigma Variations" for the Royal Ballet at one time, because one of my fellow notation students did a project on "non-verbal communication", and sat in the orchestra pit notating Boult's expressions and gestures whilst conducting!

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Many thanks, Jane and Felursus, for the corrections, additions and comments. (All fascinating.) I was trying like mad to remember every single thing I heard and saw....but there was obviously tons more than my poor overloaded brain could possibly hold.

Incidentally, I understand a film about Dowell was shown on British Television which may eventually make its way across the Atlantic. Someone was describing it over on ballet.co - and apparently Dowell tells the Thais anecdote on that, too, but with comments from Antoinette Sibley.

Am still hoping to hear from others who were there, at least for a rave about their own favourite dancers. Trouble is...a LOT of fans didn't get tickets.

- Wendy

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Thank you so much for the review Wendy! I wish I'd been able to get a ticket, but it's still fun to hear about it second hand.

Have you considered psoting your review up on the ballet.co page, or maybe putting up a link to this page instead? If the guys over there haven't found their way here yet already, I'm sure they'r love to read it. There are a few sketches of who performed what, but no detailed reviews yet.

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A London friend of mine also attended the dinner after the performance, having paid 750 pounds. The tables in the Floral Hall were all reserved for corporate entertainment by a bank. Most of the guests dined on the level of the Amphitheatre restaurant, including Dowell himself. My friend was seated at the same table as David Bintley. Apparently the Royal Ballet principals who participated in the gala came to the dinner as well, but were seated at different tables.

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The following quotation from the Daily Telegraph is a tribute from a great ballerina.

In the farewell gala programme for Sir Anthony Dowell’s departure as artistic director of the Royal Ballet, Sylvie Guillem, the ballerina he called “Mademoiselle Non”, puts her side

“As you know, I dislike not to have the last word,” she says. "Therefore here are some ‘Yes’s’.

Yes, I admire and respect you.

Yes, sometimes you were right.

Yes, I appreciate your sense of humour.

Yes, I said ‘No’ many times.

Yes, Rudolf Nureyev was right when he said you were the finest dancer in all the world.

Yes, I love you.

Yes, I like gardening and not because you said I bury all my enemies in the garden."

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Thank you for putting up a post on the site about the Anthony Dowell Gala. As a student at The Royal Ballet School I was in volved on the two pieces that the school performed( in the all boys piece I was in the latter half when 6 boys come into a V shape I was the lead boy who started off the double ronde de jambe sequence. For those who went)

It was a brilliant gala with fantastic dancing. Here are some of my highlights:

Yoshida and Kobborg - Black Swan Pas de Deux the best I have seen them dance with such energy an inspiration to many a young dancer.

The Pas de Deux for Antoinette Sibley and Anthony Dowell. This was a very moving and poingent piece.

I thought the evening was wonderful and truely magical.

My brother also queued for 9 hours and I believe he met someone who posts on this site.

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Thank you all so, so, so much for writing about this! Wendy, I am so happy that you wee able to attend--

It is the one gala that I am very unhappy about missing--I hope all the people who were there on corporate expense accounts appreciated the love and talent in that house.

I was also very happy to hear that the RBS will benefit from the proceeds...

Thank you again--

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Thanks for the thanks, Juliet and Sylvia. I was glad I got in, too...so glad I was jumping up and down and knocking over the furniture!

Every time I have another look at what's being said over at ballet.co, I discover another mistake I made. Now someone's talking about the RBS girls in blue tutus(oops, I thought they were pink - must be going colour blind!)

Kevin, thanks for that amazing piece of information about the dinner afterwards. Really makes you think, as they say. And thanks also to Colwill for posting that quotation of Sylvie Guillem's from the programme. Thought what she had to say was very, very interesting.

James, your brother (an extremely charming and intelligent young man!) DID meet someone from this site: ME! I really, really enjoyed meeting him - and was also delighted to meet your Mother. I WISH I'd known where to look for you on stage but thought the boys in that section looked GREAT. I was so pleased to hear things have been going well for you (touch wood!)! What was it like back stage? I bet the atmosphere was amazing.

- Wendy

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Wendy as you guessed the atmosphere back stage was electric. For student dancers aspiring to be like the dancers you saw on stage it was wonderful to be able to watch them from the side of the stage was wonderful and then for them to come off stage and stand next to you. At one point I had Ethan Stiefel on my right and Igor Zelensky on my left was a definite highlight for me.

Everybody was very friendly and excited to be involved in a gala for Sir Anthony Dowell. :) It was one of the best performances that I have been involoved in while a student at the Upper School.

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Wow! I can only repeat what so many others have said, I am so envious! Sounds like it was a ballet-lovers' dream.

I couldn't help wondering where Irek Mukhemedov was.... is he injured or not performing much with the RB anymore? I would have thought that since he was brought over by Dowell and was one his brigtest stars that he would have been there.... Just curious if anyone knows the inside scoop!

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Did Makarova not participate in the gala? No-one has mentioned her. I know Dowell's partnership with Sibley must take pride of place in Royal Ballet Fan hearts, but after Sibley's (partial) retirement he and Makarova developed a quite remarkable partnership...Did Dowell (or anyone else) at least speak about that?

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Hi Wendy,

FINALLY I have had time to check the web - thank you so much for sharing your memories. Reading your review made me feel almost as if I was there... Sob.

Thanks also to everyone else for contributing to a comprehensive picture - such a shame this gala obviously was not filmed... Will ever regret this!

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Great to hear from you, Sonja; I thought you'd gone a bit quiet lately

Re Makarova - good point, Drew. I'm not sure that she was mentioned, now I come to think about it.

Ok, just had a look at my programme and there's a section on Dowell's time in the U.S.A., which includes a photo of him partnering Makarova in 'Les Sylphides' and mentions Makarova several times.

Towards the front of the programme there are tributes or memories written by all sorts of people who knew and admired Dowell and it occurs to me that some of you might be interested in hearing the names of those who contributed. (Don't know that we should make too much of the names that DON'T appear; perhaps they only chose the best or the most interesting! Others might have been busy...lost their forms...forgot to post them. But who knows.)

They are as follows (and listed in the order in which they were printed): John Tooley, Darcey Bussell, Anthony Russell-Roberts, Jeanetta Laurence, Viviana Durante, Sarah Wildor, Gelsey Kirkland, Wayne Sleep, Donald Macleary, Maina Gielgud, Deborah Bull, Beryl Grey, John Sainsbury, Anya (Linden) Sainsbury, Jenny Penney, Carole Stephen-Lane (nee Dowell), Clement Crisp, Derek Jacobi, Cynthia Harvey (a poem!), Georgina Parkinson, David Bintley, Susan Hampshire, John Lanchbery, Maria Bjornson, Deborah MacMillan, Yolanda Sonnabend, Peter Wright, Philip Gammon, 'A Fan', Panton Corbett, Peter S. Diggins, Roy Round, Vivien Duffield, Monica Mason, Michael M. Kaiser, Jay Jolley, 'The dogs - Suki, Daisy and Barney', Sylvia Guillem, Maria Almeida and Jonathan Cope.

Oh, and at the very beginning to the programme there's a letter from Princess Margaret (with photo). She was unable to attend the Gala, but was represented by her daughter.

- Wendy

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Wendy, thanks so much for informing us about the list of tributes at the back of the souvenir programme. I suppose your copy of the programme will be a valuable collectors' item, since there won't be any more copies on sale after the Gala.

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There are some copies of the programme available - I've just ordered one by phone from the Royal Opera House shop. £10 plus p&p. It will make up a bit for missing the gala.

[ 05-29-2001: Message edited by: Helena ]

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Thanks everyone. Helen, I'm very glad to know it's possible to buy more programmes, as I'm sure a lot of people would like one. Thanks for posting that.

Kevin - for a minute there I thought I was going to become fabulously wealthy and could go to the ballet as often as I wanted. Oh well, back to the lottery.

- Wendy

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