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Francesca Hayward

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Hello Everyone,

The Royal Ballet is one of my favourite ballet companies. It has so many talented young dancers, one of whom is Francesca Hayward who has recently been promoted to principal dancer.

I noticed that there has not been that much discussion on her performances and I was wondering if any of you have seen her perform live?

 

Edited by LinaLina

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I have see Francesca Hayward perform live.  I saw her debut in Manon around 3 years ago and she was just incandescent.  I'm looking forward to seeing her in that role again in May.

Her bouree entrance in Rhapsody was so beautiful I was moved to tears.

She was sublime as Giselle.

I think she is very special indeed.

 

 

 

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While there are a few members from Great Britain who post here, and sometime our members visit, unfortunately, the Royal Ballet hasn't toured much, and many of us haven't had a chance to see much of the company.  We'd love to hear more about Hayward, because the little we have heard has been great!

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I saw her Giselle in February and  and watching her in Act 2 there came a moment when I suddenly felt that little, and so rare, shiver of recognition; she's The Real Thing. Impossible to describe, unmistakeable when you see it.

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Hayward was promoted to principal at the end of the 2015-16 season. Naghdi was promoted at the end of last season. Hayward made an extraordinary debut in the Collier role in Rhapsody during the 2014 season with James Hay taking the male lead in the ballet. They danced it beautifully. Hay made his role  look like a wonderful piece of choreography by dancing the ballet rather than displaying each of the steps. Hayward also emphasised the flow of the movement and as she can do quick changes of direction as if they are normal and pose no challenges the result was an object lesson in how Ashton 's choreography should be danced. They repeated this approach when it was last revived and I think that a lot of people regret that it is not their account of the ballet which appears on DVD. In the period between her 2014 debut in Rhapsody and her promotion to principal  she made a very successful debut as Alice dancing with Muntagirov as Jack and made the whole confection palatable; an extraordinary debut as Manon dancing opposite Watson and a somewhat less outstanding debut as  Juliet dancing opposite Golding . At least one critic wrote to say that her Juliet showed what a single dancer could do with Juliet on her own but that she  needed another Romeo who was more responsive. It will be interesting to see who she is cast opposite when it comes back next season.

During the 2016-17 season Hayward made her debut as Lise with Sambe as her Colas; danced the Sugar Plum Fairy for the first time and followed that up with her debut as Aurora. In these latter ballets she was partnered by Alexander Campbell. Her debut as SPF was one of the events which was covered in the BBC documentary about staging the Nutcracker which was first shown at Christmas 2016. I think that it can still  be found on the internet. At the end of the 2016-2017 season she made her debut as Titania with Sambe as her Oberon. A session of Leslie Collier coaching them was included in the Insight event about the Ashton Mixed Bill staged at the end of last season. It can be found on the internet . The audience who attended the single performance of Ashton's Dream which Hayward and Sambe gave came out at the end of it grinning like Cheshire cats. An acquaintance of mine who is exceptionally hard to please simply said of her performance  that she is "The best since Sibley" which is the highest praise you can bestow on anyone in that role. Sambe was extraordinary as Oberon as he delivered both Ashton's speed and dynamics and Oberon;s thought process.

Hayward  has recently made her debut as Giselle dancing with Campbell replacing Sambe who was originally cast as Albrecht . While I think that her mad scene is work in progress her second act was extraordinarily satisfying and moving with Campbell managing to be a wonderfully unobtrusive partner. Hayward seems to be searching for a more internalised breakdown than is found in a traditional rendering of the mad scene. It will be interesting to see what it looks like when she has found what she seems to be looking for. In a recent interview Naghdi  said that she had been searching for her mad scene and was pleased to have found it before her debut.

Both Hayward and Naghdi were brilliant in Balanchine's Tarantella when it was staged recently. Naghdi is, I think, a more diamond sharp dancer than Hayward who seems to flow although this could be as much to do with who has been coaching them as anything else. Naghdi and Ball really came to notice when they were cast as Lensky and Olga in performances of Onegin which included Osipova as Tatiana. This joint debut was followed up by an equally outstanding joint debut as Romeo and Juliet. If I had to point to other differences between the two women I would say that  Hayward has speed where Naghdi has admitted that she had to work on her speed when she was cast as Aurora . During the 2016-2017 Naghdi made her debut as SPF and as Aurora with Ball as her partner on both occasions . I have to say that I have never seen such an assured and charming debutant Aurora. Sections of the two dancers being coached by Kevin O'Hare can be found on the internet. Naghdi appeared with Ball as the lead couple in Emeralds when Jewels was staged recently and again they gave a very fine account of the choreography. Their most recent joint debut was a few weeks ago as Giselle and Albrecht and again it was exceptional. Naghdi gave a far more traditional account of the mad scene than Hayward who I felt was searching for something different. Naghdi said  recently that she only worked out how she would play the mad scene very late in the day.

It would seem that management is trying to balance the roles out between its two newest female principals. Naghdi has been cast as Odette/ Odile whereas Hayward has not been cast in  the leading role in the first run of the company's  new Swan Lake.  I assume that she is destined for the Neapolitan Dance and the Pas de Trois in the streamed  performance of the ballet and that she will make her debut as Odette/ Odile when the production is revived. In the meantime there is much to look forward to. Hayward is dancing with Bonelli as her De Grieux in the her current revival of Manon with Naghdi due to make her debut as Mistress in the next few weeks. As  for next season Les Patineurs and Two Pigeons are being revived so there is plenty of scope for hope as far as new roles are concerned . The great thing for most of us is that the two new principals are  not alone there seem to be plenty of talented dancers female and male at every level of the company.

The Hayward, Naghdi debuts as Giselle came within less than twenty four hours of each other. As a long time acquaintance said to me in the not too distant past we would have been extremely grateful if in a single season we had seen one debut of the quality of those Giselles given by Hayward and Naghdi  but now with  the number of talented dancers at all levels in the company we have almost come to take it for granted that debuts will be exceptionally good.

Edited by Ashton Fan

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I applaud all the sentiments expressed by Ashton Fan above ... (happily all the performances noted I have seen) but simply wish to point out that Hayward was blistering as the second soloist in Emeralds - that solo being one of my favourites - and I felt actually made Pita's 'The Wind' a narrative piece rather than the summation of twists and turns (as interesting as they spasmodically were) at its premiere. 

Hayward is a gossamer daredevil; i.e., an infectious gift to be cherished.  

Edited by meunier fan

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It was seeing the BBC's documentary, with Hayward learning to debut as the SPF, that started my resurgent love of ballet, along with seeing her absolutely beautiful dancing as Clara in the cinema screening of the Nutcracker. Her partnership with Campbell in both roles was lovely to watch.

Since then I have been very fortunate to see her this year live at the Royal Ballet, debuting as Giselle, in her reprise as Perdita in Wheeldon's The Winters Tale, and in her futher reprise as Manon on the opening night of its current run.

All major roles, all so different, and all danced and acted so wonderfully. Like Jane Simpson, I have had shivery moments  of delight in seeing her now "owning" the stage,  and realising how great a dancer she is becoming.

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I am really baffled by the obsession of some British ballet goers with regard to Miss Hayward.

The British Vogue cover is showing women who supposedly "influence/change society" but what did Miss Hayward exactly do or achieve to change society for her to be included amongst 14 other women on the cover of Vogue? Perhaps nowadays no justification is needed? Please if anyone has the answer I'd like to know and understand.

Is it because she was born in Kenya? How does that change/influence society?

or because she was born in Kenya AND is one of 8 Principal female dancers at The Royal Ballet?

or because she was born in Kenya AND is one of 8 female Principals AND has participated in a musical called Cats?

or because the Vogue editor is of African origin himself and he suggested to the Duchess to also include Miss Hayward? (The Duchess is not a known ballet goer!)

What am I missing? I really don't get it and I'd like to understand why.  What is Miss Hayward's contribution to our society?

There are so many black women who have done far more for our society, women who live in total poverty yet really contribute and help our society or their own country in Africa; yet they do not get any deserving attention nor are they trust into the limelight or on the cover of Vogue. Their unknown faces wouldn't sell an issue of Vogue. Is it simply because Miss Hayward is mixed race African that she is considered to have contributed to society? but in which way?

I am puzzled.

 

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Posted (edited)

Well, her impact is in the world of dance...especially right now as a ‘crossover’ artist between ballet and film and for some time as someone whose background is not altogether typical for an RB principal. For myself, I’m happy to see the arts in general and ballet in particular included in the Vogue feature. It’s the kind of thing they do...And Hayward surely has charisma which Vogue, in particular, is always happy to spotlight even in its ‘serious’ features.  And uh....it IS a Vogue cover, not the Nobel prize...

Congratulation to Hayward!

Edited by Drew

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Thank you for the explanation Drew.

So her atypical background for a RB principal, combined with crossing over into performing in a musical, has made an impact in the world of dance (a little bit like Copeland at ABT I guess??).                                                                                                                     

Yes, good that fashion magazine Vogue also includes features to highlight the arts in general (and ballet in particular), and the impact her atypical background as a RB principal has had on our society. I wish her continued success.

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9 hours ago, Katia Kapustin said:

There are so many black women who have done far more for our society, women who live in total poverty yet really contribute and help our society or their own country in Africa; yet they do not get any deserving attention nor are they trust into the limelight or on the cover of Vogue...

I am puzzled.

It's our celebrity culture. Some years ago a journalist showed me some photographs she had taken at a women's conference at the UN. It was attended by very remarkable women, who were doing extraordinary things around the world. Gwyneth Paltrow was also there. After the session the delegates swarmed around Paltrow to get her autograph.

I was puzzled.

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I agree, unfortunately this is indeed the world of today :(.  The truly deserving who actually DO contribute to our society -and this also applies to the truly great and exceptional ballerinas - (Copeland is a good example of that marketing/celebrity culture: she is not a great ballerina at all but she is marketable because of her background) aren't in the media's interest and they aren't turned into so-called celebrities. They remain anonymous...

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Posted (edited)

Who knows the precise basis on which Miss Hayward has found herself featured on the front page of Vogue? Appearing in Cats probably has a great deal to do with it but then if the publicity  for the film has the effect of giving her greater name recognition I doubt that Kevin O'Hare will complain about it. i don't expect that he will complain if name recognition translates into more ticket sales and a higher profile for the company's artists and the art form as a whole. Although he talked about  Hayward's film appearance as a once in a lifetime opportunity for her and said how much he had enjoyed appearing in Bugsey Malone when he was young I imagine that he saw it as a way of getting free publicity for her and the company. At the moment the ROH board seem very keen on both resident companies being seen as being accessible and non elitist and her film appearance would fit in with that very well.  Unfortunately the current pricing policy is somewhat out of step with this ideal.

Edited by Ashton Fan

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Much of Darcey Bussell's wider fame came from appearing as a guest on a popular UK comedy programme, so if Francesca Hayward can win some fans outside of the ballet that decide to take a look at her in her day job, so much the better.

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6 hours ago, Katia Kapustin said:

Copeland is a good example of that marketing/celebrity culture: she is not a great ballerina at all but she is marketable because of her background

First, she brought her own market, a market that was not at all penetrated by ABT, if they were trying, and second, most of the "marketing" ABT did was to ride a wave of well-reported controversy for several years about why she wasn't promoted and squeezed every last drop out of it.

Aside from that, I don't think she would claim to be the second coming of Makarova.  However, I've seen her in a number of roles, and she holds her own in a lot of rep with her peers at ABT.  Not in everything, but I could say that about all but a few ABT ballerinas in the last 40+ years, and she's certainly not everyone's cup of tea.

Hayward's artistry was recognized early, and I don't remember, from Links or from here, reading about any similar backlash against Hayward or arguments against her trajectory.

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16 hours ago, Katia Kapustin said:

I am really baffled by the obsession of some British ballet goers with regard to Miss Hayward.

The British Vogue cover is showing women who supposedly "influence/change society" but what did Miss Hayward exactly do or achieve to change society for her to be included amongst 14 other women on the cover of Vogue? Perhaps nowadays no justification is needed? Please if anyone has the answer I'd like to know and understand.

Is it because she was born in Kenya? How does that change/influence society?

or because she was born in Kenya AND is one of 8 Principal female dancers at The Royal Ballet?

or because she was born in Kenya AND is one of 8 female Principals AND has participated in a musical called Cats?

or because the Vogue editor is of African origin himself and he suggested to the Duchess to also include Miss Hayward? (The Duchess is not a known ballet goer!)

What am I missing? I really don't get it and I'd like to understand why.  What is Miss Hayward's contribution to our society?

There are so many black women who have done far more for our society, women who live in total poverty yet really contribute and help our society or their own country in Africa; yet they do not get any deserving attention nor are they trust into the limelight or on the cover of Vogue. Their unknown faces wouldn't sell an issue of Vogue. Is it simply because Miss Hayward is mixed race African that she is considered to have contributed to society? but in which way?

I am puzzled.

 

Maybe because she's a prominent British ballerina with an unusual background and British VOGUE wants to promote British artists? And from what I've seen of her, the hype is justified. She's an amazing ballerina.

Assumptions that she only got on VOGUE because she's Kenyan are reductive -- she's not just the "Kenyan ballerina" and it's sad if anyone thinks that's all she is.

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First of all let's make something abundantly clear, this kind of journalistic exercise is nothing out of the ordinary in Britain, neither the format not the celebrity editor thing, in fact it is becoming more common with even radio stations engaging celebrities to edit their programmes.  The Standard has been particularly enthusiastic with it's features on Londoners you will know, and this years top twenty influencers, and so on, that paper has been doing it for years.  Usually they try to include someone in the arts world, particularly if the publication reviews the arts, but mostly to prove that they aren't complete philistines.  I don't see the Vogue article as anything other than following a common trend.  Okay the head of Vogue is African so wants black and mixed race notables chosen by a royal, fine, its his magazine and his prerogative.  I don't have a problem with that.  Apart from the fact I'm a republican, but that isn't important here.

Francesca Hayward is causing a stir in the ballet world because she is something very special. Ballet thrives on its stars and there is no question that she is going to become a huge one.  I imagine having a prominent role in a film will give her career an even bigger boost.  As for back stories, we generally don't get to hear about them until a dancer achieves star status and even then they may be reticent to talk about things other than their careers.   I can remember just one exception to that when Time Out interviewed a random group of RB dancers.  A corps member told of his early life in a mining village in the north of England, when asked if he faced prejudice for his choice of career he replied no, everyone was pleased for him and proud of him, the general sentiment being that anything was better then going down a pit.  I always remembered that.  Just think if he'd been a star and that story better known, the film Billy Elliott would never have been made.

 

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When each of us is chosen as guest editor of Vogue, each of us will be able to impose our values on the issue and to decide whether to base our selections on a more global point of view than is generally expressed in that forum.

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8 minutes ago, Helene said:

When each of us is chosen as guest editor of Vogue, each of us will be able to impose our values on the issue and to decide whether to base our selections on a more global point of view than is generally expressed in that forum.

You've seen my wardrobe -- the chance of me being named as a guest editor of a high fashion magazine is pretty slim!  So I don't think I'm going to take much time to develop my editorial plan...

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On 7/30/2019 at 2:55 PM, Drew said:

And uh....it IS a Vogue cover, not the Nobel prize...

This. Vogue is a fashion magazine largely devoted to ads pitching four-figure frocks. I'm happy to see a ballet dancer on the cover rather than the usual starlet.

I hear the assistant editors can’t say hello to Megs unless she says hello first. :)

 

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Perhaps Francesca Hayward is on the cover of British Vogue simply because she's very beautiful.  Her unusual background as a highly-regarded principal dancer is a bonus.  She has accomplished a lot in her young life.

There is a bit of a kerfuffle brewing over her role as the white cat in the film Cats.  She is literally in white face makeup,  so much so that her black African background is a total surprise to some film buffs.  When the film is released I'm sure that the studio will push her to participate in publicity junkets.

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Presumably she agreed to the make up as part of the role, she is after all portraying a cat, not a person.  Actually Ms Hayward is relatively fair skinned under stage lighting, her African background must have surprised many.   She's sensational, gorgeous and a true ballerina to her fingertips.  

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It seems to me that if everyone is wearing the cat face paint to match their "fur" colour, there is no reason that Francesca Hayward would not. It seems rather unfair to me that anyone a shade darker than apricot should have to go under extra scrutiny, but I understand that the people taking concern may be in a place where white-washing is a frequent concern. It seems like it's mainly a few social media complaints that will be forgotten soon enough. The news must have been having a slow day.

While I'm glad that she seems to have enjoyed working on the film and that her role in the film has brought some extra publicity to ballet, the Royal Ballet and to the dancer herself, I don't think that I will go see it. Even if a ballerina is involved, fur -covered "animals" with human faces and bodies give me the willies and I'm sure I'd get nightmares from watching "Cats"!😂

But I'd love to see the Romeo and Juliet movie she is starring in. This thread mentions it:

This short film is also interesting. It appears that she is dancing underwater! The theme is depression and it is inspired by the painting on the linked page. which discusses the piece.

https://www.thespace.org/artwork/sink-or-swim

I've watched a few videos of her and I think she's great. She's very expressive and really appears to be immersed in her roles. Upon watching her Clara, I could also feel the joy and wonder that Clara experiences in the Kingdom of Sweets!

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