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Royal Ballet and guest artists etc


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There's been a bit of a debate on twitter about the Royal Ballet and guest artists, specifically Marcelo Gomes coming to dance Oberon, wondering what folks here think ?

Personally, as opportunities to see Herman are few and far between I'm happily looking forward to it although I'm worried that the RB doesn't have anyone else who is ready to dance Oberon - in my opinion there isn't anyone. Which leads me on to worry that the company is not currently in a position to put on ballets like Rhapsody, much as I love McRae he can't dance them all.

Anyway, I'm sure there are plenty of folks who disagree with me !

Edited by annamk
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As such an infrequent visitor to the Royal Ballet I can't really comment on the current guest artist situation.

 

I do believe that companies should have an appropriate amount of cover. I think probably there should be a minimum of three dancers prepared for each major role to cater for the possibility of injuries. Of course, even the best laid plans can come unstuck. A few years ago we went to Paris to see Lady of the Camelias. I don't know who we should have seen dancing but we got Jiri Bubenicek, who wasn't even listed in the programme. To this day it is one of the most memorable performances I have EVER seen. Similarly I was fortunate to see Artyom Maksakov guesting as Heathcliff with NB. I would seriously like to see that young man dancing again!

 

On a more general note, I have mixed feelings about guest artists. I used to be opposed to the idea as, with the companies I follow, I want to see the dancers I like. However, speaking to various dancers over the years, they appreciate the occasional glimpse of a different perspective and don't seem half as bothered about the concept of guesting as I do! Therefore, the occasional treat of a guest artist I now welcome but I would not like companies to use guests as a matter of course.

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Well, I'd love to see *Herman* ... :)

 

When I started watching the RB, back at the very end of the 80s, it was not that uncommon to have guest artists appearing at the Royal. I'm not sure of the reasons behind that policy, although I know it was held that the standard of the company was not that high at the time. But those were regular guest artists, and I think it was thought that having them around regularly, doing class and rehearsing, would be encouraging to the dancers in the company. Nowadays, with so many principals not getting enough opportunities to dance as it is, I think it's far less justifiable. The case of basically "parachuting" someone in, as is necessary with Gomez, doesn't, I think, have as much benefit for the company anyway, although obviously there are times when it may be necessary, as when Yvonne Borree had to be brought in to cover for "Dances at a Gathering" a few years back.

 

In this particular case, I think it's been made worse by the fact that, owing to the dancers' forthcoming break, the performances are very close together, and it would therefore be very difficult for anyone else to get up to speed in the role in the short time available - I imagine that Oberon is the last thing anyone would want to take on without sufficient rehearsal. But I think what bothers me more is the indication - once again - that there didn't appear to be any contingency plans in place in case one of the originally scheduled dancers got injured. I can't remember how far before his scheduled performances Steven McRae got injured last time around, but there was certainly time to rehearse Ivan Putrov in the role. He's no longer with the company, of course, and of the other two Oberons then, Edward Watson is in the other half of this double bill and can't do both, and Johan Kobborg was absent during the rehearsal period, I think - and I have no idea whether he'd still be able to do the role, anyway. If there are dancers further down the ranks who might ultimately be able to take on the role, I suspect they haven't as yet been brought on far enough for it to be a viable proposition. I suppose it was felt that a big name was required to replace Polunin, which is why they went for Gomez rather than a replacement closer at hand. I just hope they don't have any visa issues ...

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Steven McRae was injured months before The Dream last time, I think Johan and Alina were the 1st cast and I have a feeling Ed didn't dance in the last run but the one before that ? in 2004. I reckon the RB would have made sure there was no visa issue before announcing the casting. Going back to the issue of a cover - isn't the point of a cover that they are more or less up to speed so that they can step in if necessary ? I think the problem is deeper for the RB and it's a shortage of experienced but still relatively young virtuoso (I think that's the right term) male dancers.

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Steven McRae was injured months before The Dream last time,

 

Right, thanks. I couldn't remember.

 

I have a feeling Ed didn't dance in the last run but the one before that ?

 

He danced in the 2005 one - just before he got promoted - and in the last one. 2008? 2009? Was that with Dances at a Gathering? (first run - he was Green in the second).

 

Going back to the issue of a cover - isn't the point of a cover that they are more or less up to speed so that they can step in if necessary ? I think the problem is deeper for the RB and it's a shortage of experienced but still relatively young virtuoso (I think that's the right term) male dancers.

 

Yes, I agree, except about the virtuoso part - I don't think that's quite what's needed (and they certainly wouldn't have cast Watson, or probably Kobborg either, if it were). But what it does require - and hasn't always got - is speed.

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Maybe it is time for Royal Ballet to regroup and sort itself out if all the rumours are true that there is "trouble at mill". 1 principal leaving should not be causing quite so much of a problem, dancers come and go elsewhere without such a hiccup. Really it shows poor succession planning especially as some of the top RB dancers are not exactly spring chickens any more. I am sure Gomez will be a fine replacement, I've seen him a few times and makes a change from the same old same old. Hopefully it will do the dancers good to have a guest dancer as well.

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Right, thanks. I couldn't remember.

 

 

 

He danced in the 2005 one - just before he got promoted - and in the last one. 2008? 2009? Was that with Dances at a Gathering? (first run - he was Green in the second).

 

 

 

Yes, I agree, except about the virtuoso part - I don't think that's quite what's needed (and they certainly wouldn't have cast Watson, or probably Kobborg either, if it were). But what it does require - and hasn't always got - is speed.

 

Oh I WOULD describe Kobborg as a virtuoso dancer, not quite so sure about Watson, but I put both in the not spring chicken camp for the purpose of Oberon. Also I wouldn't say Polunin has speed but he does have virtuosity. Maybe we're splitting hairs here and I hold my hand up and say I'm not an expert.

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In the 'old days' having a guest dancer in a major company was usually for a treat for the audience and the dancers. Now, it has become much more commonplace so we are all a lot more blase about it. However, when it gets to the point where companies are having to bring in 'outsiders' just for cover, that is not good news. It isn't only the RB; there has been lots of chatter recently about how ABT is having to constantly bring in male guests. Is this perhaps a sign that we really need to worry about what will happen in the next generation? Maybe dancers at the 'lower levels' should be given more chances to learn these larger roles? And then actually perform then instead of just being emergency cover as a last resort?

 

For example, Brian Maloney got one performance of Colas with Yuhui Choe two or three years ago; Sergei was supposed to be doing it with her in the upcoming run. Now would be a wonderful opportunity to let him do it again, and show that we do have very good dancers who can do these roles if given more of a chance to dance. That is just one example amongst quite a few.

Edited by Sim
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"......there has been lots of chatter recently about how ABT is having to constantly bring in male guests."

 

Earlier today I saw that our (sorry, Balletco's) Eric Taub tweeted on these lines, possibly tongue in cheek: "Who is Vadim Muntagirov, and why does ABT need him?" I know the answer to the first part but ...........

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In the 'old days' having a guest dancer in a major company was usually for a treat for the audience and the dancers. Now, it has become much more commonplace so we are all a lot more blase about it. However, when it gets to the point where companies are having to bring in 'outsiders' just for cover, that is not good news. It isn't only the RB; there has been lots of chatter recently about how ABT is having to constantly bring in male guests. Is this perhaps a sign that we really need to worry about what will happen in the next generation? Maybe dancers at the 'lower levels' should be given more chances to learn these larger roles? And then actually perform then instead of just being emergency cover as a last resort?

 

For example, Brian Maloney got one performance of Colas with Yuhui Choe two or three years ago; Sergei was supposed to be doing it with her in the upcoming run. Now would be a wonderful opportunity to let him do it again, and show that we do have very good dancers who can do these roles if given more of a chance to dance. That is just one example amongst quite a few.

 

Maybe it's quite hard for. Company to work out if someone in the "lower levels" is really ready. I remember when Kobhorg was injured in 2007 McRae stepped in to his Romeos and the rest is history but Zachary Faruque, another promising young dancer, was given one of his Solors's which whilst it wasn't a disaster it didn't go terribly well and shortly after that he left the company to pursue a career outside dance. Of course it's possible the two things are unconnected or I remember the timing wrongly.

 

As for Brian, it's great to see him back on stage but I have a hankering to see Alexander (one of these days I'm actually going to write Alistair) Campbell as Colas. Did he dance it at BRB ?

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No, Alex didn't do Fille at BRB but he did do Romeo, Mercutio, Puck, Bluebird and Florimund in the cross-over rep (and (yes, I know I am biased) did them wonderfully well).

 

I know what you mean about a dancer getting an opportunity too early. I remember a dancer many years ago at Northern Ballet who got an opportunity where it didn't go awfully well and it seemed to really knock his confidence. I know I have seen some wonderful debuts over the years in midweek schools' matinees. I think the wildly enthusiastic children can give a newbie in a role a real confidence boost.

 

It must be a balancing act for companies to give someone an opportunity that may not go well when you have got a paying audience. I know I have seen debuts where I have been thrilled that someone has got a chance but perhaps needs more time to grow but, as I go a lot I can see other performances. Perhaps for others it' a once a year performance and they would remain unsatisfied.

 

I hope you can make sense of this ramble but suffice to say I do not envy the role of an Artistic Director!

 

Funnily enough, I tend to refer to the political pundit as Alex Campbell these days! (edited to add this facetiousness!)

Edited by JMcN
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I think that is the whole point Janet.....you are right. If you only give someone one go at something, how are they supposed to grow and improve? Even if they aren't great on their first attempt I think any good AD can see the potential and let them have some more performances. I don't think anyone would be put on a big stage in a main role if the AD didn't think they'd make a good crack at it or think they were ready. I have seen quite a few at Principal level whose debuts weren't by any means auspicious, and in some cases grew into the roles and in some cases didn't. I agree, it is a very difficult balancing act for anyone in charge of casting!

 

Anna....yes, there were apparently other reasons for Zach's departure. A shame because he did have potential. I was at that performance of Solor and although it wasn't one of those amazing debuts I think, had he stayed, he might have grown into a couple of the good roles very well.

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I can think of several young dancers in the lower ranks of the company who would be capable of giving the role of Oberon a fair go. Just to mention one, Benjamin Ella was preparing the role for his graduate performance but never got to do it because of injury. Of course there are other factors in this case, firstly the lack of adequate preparation time and secondly the fact that Cojocaru, as an established ballerina, no doubt has plenty of say in choosing her partners. For all I know she may have danced with Gomes when guesting with ABT.

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Cojocaru has never danced with Gomes and (for the moment) is not dancing with him in the coming ABT NY season.

 

As far as I know, the dancer understudying Oberon after Sergei departure was Alexander Campbell: a quite odd physical match with Cojocaru, IMO.

 

Gomes is a great artist and is known as great partner and I'm really looking forward his performance with Cojocaru and Zucchetti.

From bad things sometimes come good ones: I'm sorry for Polunin defection, but I'm really happy to have the opportunity to see live for the first time one of my favorite ballet dancer.

Edited by annamicro
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I can think of several young dancers in the lower ranks of the company who would be capable of giving the role of Oberon a fair go. Just to mention one, Benjamin Ella was preparing the role for his graduate performance but never got to do it because of injury. Of course there are other factors in this case, firstly the lack of adequate preparation time and secondly the fact that Cojocaru, as an established ballerina, no doubt has plenty of say in choosing her partners. For all I know she may have danced with Gomes when guesting with ABT.

 

Gosh Benjamin Ella as Oberon ? I know he joined the RB as someone with potential and was then unlucky with injury but to be honest I can barely recall seeing him dancing since he joined, was it 2 years ago. I would like to see him stand out in some minor roles before I was convinced he could give Oberon a fair go.

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For example, Brian Maloney got one performance of Colas with Yuhui Choe two or three years ago; Sergei was supposed to be doing it with her in the upcoming run. Now would be a wonderful opportunity to let him do it again, and show that we do have very good dancers who can do these roles if given more of a chance to dance. That is just one example amongst quite a few.

 

I, for one, am hoping very much that Brian will again get to dance Colas with Yuhui this season...

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Yes, I meant to mention that earlier: he makes some useful points. I know there has been criticism of ABT bringing in so many guest stars recently - some people feel, at the expense of bringing on their own up-and-coming dancers - but I'd imagine that regular ABT-goers must be suffering something of a shell-shock at the moment. After all, ABT have for so long had a reputation for having so many good male dancers, and to lose - temporarily or permanently - a significant proportion of them in such a short space of time must really come as a shock to the system, especially when the realisation strikes home that really good male dancers don't just grow on trees. I just wish I could shake the feeling that rather too many ABT-watchers will end up spending the next few years bemoaning the absence of Jose/Ethan/Angel ... as Basilio/Siegfried/Romeo or whatever and not really seeing properly what their successors are making of the roles.

 

Anyway, sorry, this was supposed to be a thread about the Royal Ballet, wasn't it? I suppose I can understand that there might be reasons why it might be felt better to get an experienced Oberon, and a big name, to replace Polunin rather than go for someone not experienced in the role from inside the company, but it's on quite a different level from the Royal Ballet loaning Alexander Campbell back to BRB to cover for a shortage of leads in Hobson's Choice ...

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