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Ross Stretton resigns

Jane Simpson

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I like the hero/Protas analogy :) One wouldn't want to say that relatives or advocates should have no standing, because one would want great art to have an advocate. On the other hand, one doesn't want someone with a vested interest in one body of work to have undue influence.

I agree, too, dirac, with what you wrote about how to handle the sexual allegations. I put up my comment in the post above because I'd quoted that bit from the newspaper article not to spark discussion of whether or not IT happened and who was involved or not involved, but because the sentence about ballet master behavior could be discussed in the abstract.

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That problem was the persistent rumours coming from the dancers and spreading out into the wider ballet world that Stretton was involved in inappropriate relationships with members of his company.

God forbid an artistic director should treat the gals in his company like his own private harem. I can't help but wonder what kind of reception Balanchine's antics would receive today.

"He, he made me ... wear perfume!" she gasped, sobbing.

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Actually, I do recall a couple of former dancers actually using the term "harem" in relation to Balanchine, although I don't think they meant he was marauding his way through the corps. While it's true his intentions were (usually) honorable, I think that under today's standards much of his behavior would not be acceptable today, and rightly so, IMO. I remember Melissa Hayden remarking in I Remember Balanchine that during some rehearsals, "He couldn't keep his hands off" or words to that effect.

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Hm....are we getting off subject? Or is it just me?

Whatever the reasons for his leaving (and it may be as simple as it wasn't a good fit), it is being handled poorly. Covent Garden needs a new crisis management team. And if they don't have one, they should get one.

I personally think Guillem as the head of the Royal could be just as disastrous as Stretton. Maybe there is a Director of Development somewhere who could step up to the plate.

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While I'd agree that this was handled badly, and a lot of the flack that Stretton is getting would be directed more accurately at the people who hired him, characterizing the situation as a "bad fit" would seem to be something of an understatement, given the circumstances. :D

Hiring Guillem would be the equivalent of survivors of the Titanic disaster scurrying aboard the Lusitania, I fear.

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Dirac, I love your comparisons! :D

Actually, I was a bit puzzled when reading that article by Ismene Brown, many of her points were interesting, but it ends with (listing some potential candidates to replace Stretton):

"The stars should include Mikhail Baryshnikov, 54, a giant of both classical ballet and modern dance, and the Royal Ballet's French ballerina and Nureyev protégée, Sylvie Guillem. Both would frighten the hell out of the board, but most ballet-lovers will feel that excellence is what is needed now at the Royal Ballet, however bumpy the ride, and not more fumbling mediocrity."

Well, excellence at what? Both are or were excellent dancers, but it has little to do with the direction of a company; Guillem has zero experience of such a job, and Baryschnikov's experience at ABT doesn't seem to have been totally positive... Moreover, as far as I know Baryschnikov has nothing to do with the traditional repertory of the Royal Ballet- and Guillem's interviews when she produced her version of "Giselle" for the Finnish Ballet and La Scala (calling the traditional version "outdated", "silly", etc.) are worrying...

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Exactly, Estelle. And I would think that the board has had the hell scared out of it already at this point.

I think for symbolic reasons a Brit at the helm is a good idea, but more important is an understanding and respect for the what the Royal stood for in the past and will again, we hope.

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I've just heard from an ex-RB friend that it's believed Monica's "guardianship" could last up to six years. I wouldn't compain too much if that happened - I wonder if we would get a revival of "Valley of Shadows"?

I wouldn't necessarily demand a British citizen as director, but it should be someone who was educated at the Royal Ballet School.

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Jane, it's my understanding that there's a mandatory retirement age of 65, and I think six years would put Mason passed that. I'd be surprised if any board kept an Acting in for more than a year. If they want her to direct the company, they would appoint her, I think.

I think there's going to be a lot of speculation about who's going to get the job, and when, and some of it will be speculation and some of it hopes, and some of it disinformation :D

There's an article in today's Guardian, by Judith Makrell, that sums up the artistic situation and puts things in perspective.

Dance of Destruction

There was a lack of adventure and personality in the programming. Stretton showed no signs of commissioning work from less famous choreographers or of reviving strange and interesting old pieces. Nor did he seem to be brokering the kinds of collaboration between British dance-makers, composers and artists which have historically given the Royal Ballet its identity. Stretton's brief tenure at the Royal has in retrospect the feel of a corporate appointment - an era of coasting rather than creativity.
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Department of Clarifications:

I write this with my journalist's hat on. :D I made some calls over the past few days to try to sort out some of the rumors -- and published gossip. I spoke with someone in London yesterday, on background so I can only say "reliable source close to the situation," who was absolutely certain that Stretton resigned, and had NOT been fired. That, in fact, the statement that the Board released, and Stretton's statement, was really what happened.

This will be part of a news story in Ballet Alert, but that won't be out for another 4 weeks, and since there has been so much speculation, and so many versions and rumors printed in the papers, I thought it fair to post this here, now.

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An interview witih Royal Ballet stalwart, David Drew, giving the dancers' side of Ross Stretton's directorship, is on Ballet.co:

David Drew, RB Principal on the Ross Stretton Sacking

A small sample:

‘Good riddance to the egomaniac who turned the Royal Ballet into a panto’  


Ross Stretton conned us, basically and it very quickly became obvious that he was out of his depth. He promised us 3 newly created works a year, we had only one. And bringing in that Australian production of Don Quixote to open his first season was an insult to the Royal Ballet. The designs looked like a 50s pantomime. The whole world is doing the ballets he bought in while ignoring our own repertoire of Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan. Under Stretton we were beginning to look like American Ballet Theatre and Australian Ballet rolled into one, but we are immensely proud of our own identity that has taken years of incredibly hard work to establish.

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Thanks, Estelle. Interesting. Sitting in on rehearsals? Re-designing costumes herself? Hmmm. I also note that Monica Mason seems to be devoting considerable time to fussing over her. Probably a smart move, in the circumstances. I do not mean to sound too negative, I'm sure Lady MacMillan's intentions are good, but she does seem to be rather throwing her weight around.

The item about Guillem and her phial of blood reminds me of a story about Cosima Wagner, another assertive widow. Apparently a soprano wished to change the manner of her entrance – she wanted to raise her arms above her head. Cosima took the position that if the Master had wanted her character to do that, he would have so specified. I'll do it anyway, the singer insisted. On the first night, she tried, but was unable to get her arms above her waist – Cosima had sewn the sleeves to the gown.

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I was very put off by her manner in that interview. My first reaction was "Who made her God?" Correct me if I'm wrong, but was she ever a dancer or choreographer? I think not. My respect for the loss of her husband but I think she ehould leave the running of the place to the professionals, I don't care how much she is watching out for the works of her late husband.

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No, Lady M was neither a dancer nor a choreographer. According to Kenneth MacMillan's biographer she was a waitress at the time of their marriage.

The set changes that she authorized for the last scene of Romeo and Juliet are a disaster and her taste has been questioned on other occasions too. Most worrying however was her threat to the RB to withhold access to the MacMillan ballets unless Ross Stretton resigned.

On Tuesday night she saw fit to take a curtain call at the revival of Mayerling.

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Originally posted by Mashinka

No, Lady M was neither a dancer nor a choreographer.  According to Kenneth MacMillan's biographer she was a waitress at the time of their marriage.

She may have been working as a waitress, but she was, and is, an artist (painter) - fairly well known I believe.

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I don't think it matters whether she was a waitress, a painter, or both simultaneously. They're both perfectly fine avocations, with the former having the edge in respectability and responsibility, I would say. The point is that the power and visibility she now enjoys are based upon the unhappy fact of her widowhood and not much else. As long as she knows what she's doing, this is perfectly okay. On the basis of what I'm reading, I'm not sure.

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Thank you, my point exactly.

It seems there may have been grumblings in some circles about the amount of influence she seems to be exerting. We are perhaps fortuneate that Balanchine did not leave a widow when he died to interfere with the running of his company. I think it is hard enough the run a ballet company without trying to please people who are not employed by it, nor on its board. I am starting to feel more empathetis towards Stretton if he had to deal with this kind of interferance during his tenure.

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