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Royal Ballet on Tour.

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#1 Lisa O`Brien

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Posted 04 January 2012 - 04:03 PM

I`m going to have a moan here,as i have done on several other sites ,including the ROH Facebook page, and to the ROH themselves. I saw the Royal Ballet at the Palace Theatre, Manchester in 1982. Merle Park in Isadora, followed a few days later by Leslie Collier in Sleeping Beauty. And that,my friends,was that. Not everyone lives near London, so is able to go to the ROH. If the Royal Ballet,as a journalist from the Independent recently said,can tour Japan and the States,can they not manage a trip up the M1 once every couple of years? They are supposed to be our NATIONAL ballet company. I know they are trying to make themselves, and that includes the Royal Opera, more accessible,by showing live performances in cinemas,but it is hardly the substitute for a live performance. And while i`m on the subject of accessibility; they are forever asking for donations for their pointe shoe fund. Well why not allow the public to buy a signed pair of pointe shoes worn by their favourite dancer, like some American companies do? I was recently on the Oregon Ballet Theatre website, and bought a signed pair from a Corps De Ballet dancer with accompanying thankyou card, and the lovliest inscription and thank you message from the Artistic Director. He seemed to be proper chuffed that someone from outside the US was interested in his company, sending me emails to let me know the dancer whose shoes i had chosen would be signing her shoes within the next few days, then emailing me again,telling me they had been posted out to me. [ They were beautifully well wrapped as well]. The Royal Ballet could make a nice little income from selling on their used shoes. Seems to me they are being just a little bit elitist,when they can ill afford to be. What do others think?

Formerly known as thequays.

#2 bangorballetboy


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Posted 04 January 2012 - 04:10 PM

Not sure where the idea that the Royal Ballet is the "national ballet company" comes from. As far as I'm aware, the UK does not have a "national ballet company".

The RB pointe shoes appeal used to offer worn pointe shoes to people who donated a certain amount but they have stopped that now (for various reasons); a signed photo is offered instead. I'm very confused as to how not selling used shoes is elitist.

#3 Janet McNulty

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Posted 04 January 2012 - 05:22 PM

In respect of the RB being the national company - I'm not sure if that is how they see themselves but I believe it is how most members of the public see them. The company seems to be the one in England that has the most kudos associated with it (whether I agree with that or not).

I don't think the company has appeared outside London since the dance bites initiatives which, I think, was in the mid-90s.

I do not particularly think that the company is elitist. I have to say that my opinion on this has changed in the last couple of years. After ranting and raving for years about ticket prices, when you see the price of some musicals touring the regions and what popstars charge for not very comfortable arenas then the ROH prices (albeit expensive) do not seem that bad! What I could take issue with is a lack of matinees, which means that I have chosen to miss many programmes I would like to have seen because I have chosen not to incur the cost of an overnight stay. Additionally, it is not the RB's issue that it is nearly impossible to get reasonably priced fares on convenient trains from the North West to London (well not from Liverpool anyway!).

We do have three terrific companies that tour extensively in England and sometimes Scottish Ballet cross the border too. Northern Ballet also regularly perform in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast and BRB have just announced in the Friends' newsletter that they are due in Cardiff in the Autumn.

If the RB toured extensively, would they saturate the non-London market with performances? I personally had great reservations about the proposal for ROH North because I did believe it would have an adverse impact on the three main touring companies (the proposal would have nearly doubled the number of ballet performances in the North of England). I agree, however, that it would be nice to see them outside London sometimes.

Meanwhile I shall continue with my support of the touring companies who also provide us with world-class ballet performances.

In respect of the signed point shoes - that could be a nice little earner for any of the companies.
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Janet McNulty


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#4 Ian Macmillan

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Posted 04 January 2012 - 06:23 PM

I fear this is something of an intractable issue, one touched upon from time to time in the old Forum. In a perfect world, it would certainly be desirable for the RB to see more of the UK and, as you will know, it was in its erstwhile touring guise that you saw those 1982 performances that you mention. But that era came to an end when SWRB became BRB in 1990 and, with English National, Northern and Scottish Ballets also in existence, all touring to some extent, the issue of how big is the national audience for ballet must have raised its head for the company planners - and it may be instructive that Arts Council England does not appear to require the RB to tour as a prerequisite of its annual grant.

I'm guessing from your username that your immediate concern is with the Manchester/Salford area - my apologies if I'm wrong. So I fancy that you were well aware of the ROH North proposal for a Manchester presence mentioned by Janet that surfaced some 3 to 4 years ago but which, I think, has now been completely shelved. See for example:


The proposal (almost certainly politically inspired?) never appeared to get a warm response from the northern companies, understandably looking to their own interests. And for the RB, I was never able to see how the company could properly cope with its current London rehearsal and performance schedule and add a lengthy Manchester residency without using the summer break period or, going back to where this started, by running a parallel second company.

And if the RB were to head north, there might also be a question over the rep that it took with it. I seem to recall that ENB found little audience away from London for its Roland Petit bill last year, and with BRB now a co-keeper of the most of the RB's full-length works, there might be opposition to any of those being toured.

#5 Janet McNulty

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Posted 04 January 2012 - 06:52 PM

Ian - the ROH-based company did tour to the provinces in the 1980s. Although it was before I was a ballet-watcher, friends recalled seeing them in Liverpool in the early 1980s and I certainly saw them in Manchester and Birmingham in the late 80s or early 90s. A friend of mine who was an avid ballet-watcher could detail oodles of performances up-North featuring dancers based at ROH but I was never clear in my mind as to which company it was as by the time I started watching in mid-80s the two Royal companies seemed much more differentiated.

I never saw the ENB triples mooted for touring and sadly the company's production of Manon did so poorly on tour in the Autumn that the mooted visit to Liverpool the following Spring was pulled before anyone even knew it was a possibility!

You are absolutely spot-on about the RB/BRB cross-over rep (and now the RB/ENB crossover) but I fear works such as Mayerling and some still unique one-acters would not sell well in the philistinic north. BRB and ENB both seem to have stopped doing their mixed programmes up-North. I am lucky that I can travel to Birmingham to see BRB's mixed programmes but London is a much more expensive proposition these days.

Janet McNulty


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(Watching ballet keeps me sane!)

#6 alison


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Posted 06 January 2012 - 07:15 PM

Just found this one: I don't usually look in here.

And if the RB were to head north, there might also be a question over the rep that it took with it. I seem to recall that ENB found little audience away from London for its Roland Petit bill last year, and with BRB now a co-keeper of the most of the RB's full-length works, there might be opposition to any of those being toured.

I'm not sure ENB even considered doing the Petit bill outside London, Ian - they had difficulty enough selling seats for it here.

Thequays - welcome. I see from your profile that you're from Northern Ireland. I think Belfast was probably the last place the Royal Ballet toured - with Manon, and possibly something else, although that was well over a decade ago. I do agree with you that it would be great if other places in the UK could get to see the RB, but there are the practicalities to be considered. They tour abroad because someone, usually a promoter, is prepared to put up the money to cover the costs: if they aren't, the tour doesn't happen. I doubt that a UK-based promoter would be willing to take on the financial risk, especially in the current economic climate. Touring is an incredible drain on finances for all Britain's ballet companies: what with the additional daily allowances, transport and accommodation costs, plus the fact that regional theatres wouldn't get away with charging the sort of prices seen in London, they can't even break even, even if they play to full houses. Plus there is the valid concern that if the RB did tour they might take away audiences from the touring companies, thus making life worse for them.

I agree that live or recorded relays from the Royal Opera House are by no means ideal, but I suspect they're the best option we can hope for at present. To my mind, the best thing which can reasonably be expected would be to have them shown on free-to-air TV - if the BBC wouldn't throw up its hands so much about how terribly difficult it is to fit a live (or recorded, I'm not too fussy) performance of accurately-known length into its so-rigid schedules - with the cinemas as more of a backup for those who are prepared to pay for the full cinematic experience. I'd like to see a situation where each full-length production performed - obviously I'd like triple bills as well, but we must be a bit realistic - in a year was televised and/or made available in the cinema.

Of course, the RB (and RO) isn't by any means the only state-funded arts company which doesn't tour, or hardly tours: I don't think many of the London orchestras tour that much; ENO; quite a few Sadler's Wells productions don't get to tour ...

#7 Anna C

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Posted 07 January 2012 - 10:40 AM

I always assumed that the Royal Ballet was a "home based" company as opposed to a touring company, not least because it does have a "home base" at the ROH. We have a wonderful touring company in ENB and if I lived up North I suspect we would go to see BRB. I don't feel there is a need for RB to tour the UK.

I do think selling signed pointe shoes is a good idea though. My DD would think it a wonderful "treasure". :-)

I did suggest an additional money-making scheme on the ROH's Facebook page recently, which is to start a proper Junior Friends scheme akin to the ENB's "Ballet Buddies" scheme. I pay £20 per year for my DD to be a Ballet Buddy and while her Associate Classes prevent her from doing any of the workshops it does mean that we are able to watch Company Class a couple of times a year, followed last time by a backstage tour. The children get a badge, signed photo, birthday card etc. and can be a ballet buddy until they are 16.

ROH are missing a trick here as there is no similar scheme - it wouldn't be difficult to set up. Every little helps!
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