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John Percival RIP


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Most sad to hear of the death of John Percival on Wednesday. A colossus of dance criticism he had been unwell for some time. Our thoughts are with Judith Cruickshank, his wife.

 

Back in 2002 Judith interviewed John for Balletco - at great length. Its a wonderful read from somebody who helped make dance criticism what we know today and influenced so many:

http://www.ballet.co.uk/magazines/yr_02/dec02/cruickshank_int_percival.htm

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Sad news.

 

John Percival was part of my growing up and education. In the mid-1970s before I saw much dance I recall reading John Percival's reviews in The Times - always an informed and informative counterpoint to the reviews in The Guradian by Mary Clarke and Clement Crisp in The FT.

 

His insights were valuable and will be missed.

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John Percival, Clive Barnes and Horst Koegler were all born in 1927 - this feels a bit like the end of an era. Imagine all the dancers and performances they have seen, all the beginnings and bloomings of careers we only know from old videos nowadays...

John Percival wrote the only biography about John Cranko, so he will be fondly remembered at Stuttgart.

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Ahead of a longer appreciation for DanceTabs, I will just say that John - as critic, mentor and friend - was a major influence in my ballet-related life and one to whom I shall always owe a now un-repayable debt of gratitiude.

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Putting together some of the tributes which have slowly filtered in:

 

Ismene Brown for The Arts Desk: http://www.theartsdesk.com/arts-news/dance-critic-john-percival-rip

 

Jane Simpson for DanceTabs: http://www.dancetabs.com/2012/06/john-percival-1927-2012-a-personal-appreciation/

 

Judith Cruickshank for The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2012/jun/27/john-percival-obituary

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Like Jane, I'd have to say that John Percival was very influential on my dancegoing and dance appreciation, and likewise I'm not sure to what extent it was that we naturally felt the same and to what extent I was being influenced by his writing. Certainly he was one of those pretty rare people where, if I found his opinion differed greatly from mine, I'd find myself re-examining my own thoughts on a performance. I always looked forward to his reviews in The Times, popping into reception at work - sometimes even before beginning my working day - to see what he'd thought about a recent performance, and, of course, I read the much-missed Dance and Dancers avidly, finding it far more to my liking back then than the Dancing Times.

 

People have commented on his commitment to watching dance: I have an abiding memory of him hauling himself up the old stairs to the Stalls Circle at the Royal Opera House for an evening performance while still on crutches after a hip operation, having already seen the matinee earlier that day. If my memory isn't playing tricks on me, it was for the respective Juliet debuts of Sarah Wildor and Darcey Bussell.

 

It's rare for many critics these days to have the length and breadth of dance-going experience that John Percival had, and I think we, as audiences, are often all the poorer for it (and should treasure those who still remain). My deepest sympathies go out to his family and all who mourn him.

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