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The Royal Ballet bids a fond farewell to Dame Monica Mason


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In an emotional and joyous celebration of her 54 years at the Royal (10 at the helm), sees Dame Monica Mason bow out on a high.

 

 

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A bouquet from Sir Anthony, for Dame Monica

© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

 

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Dame Monica Mason

© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

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Set on Flickr - Farewell to Monica!

Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

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thanks all - there are a couple of other galleries around (Silke did one, along with the BalletBag ladies), so think we got it all covered between us.

 

I thought it was a marvelously presented evening with the film clips and talking heads reminisces - and lets not forget the dancing was damned fine too!! It captured the joy of the last 54 years, whilst conveying the sense of - yes, its a wrench to leave but going out with a forward looking bang, and handing on to the next person at the helm with the past looked after, and a 'this is what we can do if minds put to it" sensibility. Upward and onwards!

Edited by zxDaveM
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Dave's wonderful photos on Flickr give the essence of Dame Monica's appearance on stage and there is now a video on the ROH news page of her speech.

To fill in some of the blanks for those who couldn't attend, here are my recollections - a bit hazy because I tend to wallow in the emotions of events like this.

There was a note on the cast sheet asking the audience to remain seated after “Actaeon” and a film screen duly descended onto the bare stage. David Attenborough appeared, said that Dame Monica had named his TV wildlife programmes as one of her “Desert Island Discs” choices, then to the sound of South African jazz (experts, please correct or expand), he told of her migration to London and subsequent career, incorporating photos, tributes from colleagues and (my favourite) a grainy black-and-white clip of her dancing a Shades variation from “La Bayadère”, the one with the cabrioles (again, experts please correct if necessary).

Dame Monica remained in her seat for most of this, visibly amused and moved by it, leaving during the last minute to join the company and staff now assembled on stage. The rest you can see in Dave's photos and the ROH clips. It ended for most of us just after 11 pm and we left the ROH to the uplifting sound of South African jazz playing over the loudspeakers.

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It ended for most of us just after 11 pm and we left the ROH to the uplifting sound of South African jazz playing over the loudspeakers.

 

I think some of that was Paul Simon's 'Graceland' (currently back in the charts) - or maybe some of the music that inspired that wonderful album.

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It was indeed 'Graceland', and the song was 'Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes'. A classic album from the 80s that woke much of the Western world up to the joys of South African music, ably assisted by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, an a capello group from one of the townships. Paul Simon played the entire album in Hyde Park a couple of weeks ago and got 5 stars pretty much across the board. I still play it regularly as it never ages, and it was really apt, joyous music to play in the film which was re-capping the career of Dame Monica.

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It was indeed 'Graceland', and the song was 'Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes'. A classic album from the 80s that woke much of the Western world up to the joys of South African music, ably assisted by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, an a capello group from one of the townships. Paul Simon played the entire album in Hyde Park a couple of weeks ago and got 5 stars pretty much across the board. I still play it regularly as it never ages, and it was really apt, joyous music to play in the film which was re-capping the career of Dame Monica.

 

And there was a TV programme on it only the other week, wasn't there?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Barring the outbreak of WWIII overnight, tomorrow's lead Link will be as below. Critic Judith Flanders has penned a piece for the Times Literary Supplement (TLS) outlining her perception of the state of the Royal Ballet as Monica Mason departs. It was launched via Twitter earlier today, and I quote in part: "Racism? Sexism? We got 'em."

 

http://www.judithflanders.co.uk/monica-mason-retires-from-the-royal-ballet-a-lovely-woman-hiding-an-ugly-open-secret/

 

Discuss ..........

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I read it earlier today. As with the previous set of accusations, I want to ask: are there large numbers of black dancers coming through the RBS who are missing out on being employed by the RB? I'm certainly not aware of it, although I don't follow the RBS closely.

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I also read this article earlier today. There are very few black dancers employed by any of the UK companies and so it is not really fair of Judith Flanders to single out the Royal Ballet for "failing" to employ more black dancers. There are also very few black players in UK orchestras. I do not know why this is. I suspect that it is down to a combination of reasons. I don't like Ms Flanders' insinuation of deliberation racism on the part of Monica Mason. Her justification for this assertion is flimsy, in my opinion. I would be interested in reading a properly conducted study into professional participation in the arts by different ethnic (and social) groups. However, this article is nothing more than supposition and accusation. It's a poor piece.

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It's very hard to comment when one has not been the subject of racism or sexism oneself. I would be interested to know what people from non-white backgrounds think about this. Why, for example, Cassa Pancho felt it necessary to found Ballet Black and its associated school.

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I've not completely forgotten the Judith Flanders piece. As regards the racism issue, I suspect that she was a little selective as to ethnicity, in that she would have been unable to use a similar headcount statistic had she considered dancers with Far Eastern origin - but that does not seem to have fitted the argument she wanted to make.

 

On the Feminist front, I'll admit to having been surprised - put out, might be better - some 5 or 6 years ago when no main stage commission arose out of Cathy Marston's ROH2 residency years. But that's all in the past, and Cathy has prospered in so many ways in Bern that I'm now sure it was all for the best. Beyond that, I guess we're in the realms of what Monica considered 'suitable,' and it was her call. But it does seem an odd charge to level against one of the very few female Directors of a major international ballet company.

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I've just read this piece and am rather surprised by such a savage attack being made on someone who has given as much to ballet as Dame Monica has, and at the timing of this attack. Like Alison and Aileen I would like to know if there are facts to back up these claims, IMO tossing around accusations of racism and sexism like this is poor journalism. I think Dame Monica's comment that "Choreography is not a gender issue – it is an issue of talent” hits the nail on the head.

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