Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
penelopesimpson

Filling in the Gaps

Recommended Posts

Posted (edited)

I would find it both interesting and helpful to my ballet knowledge if people could fill me in on the Ross Stretton years.  I’m not asking for gossip or speculation but just some basic facts, e.g. who was he, why appointed, what did he do that was so controversial and what were the results.  I think all I know is that he was Australian, had only a short tenure and some dancers left.  Have a vague feeling it was in the time of Adam Cooper....

Edited by penelopesimpson

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

Many thanks Alison

 

Just read it.  Sounds exhausting.  One wonders why he was appointed when he had clearly stated where his interests lay.  At least Onegin has survived.

Edited by penelopesimpson

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If anyone has Sir Peter Wright’s autobiography to hand, there’s a bit about the appointment there: he says that Michael Kaiser, who was then in charge of ROH, knew him from when they were both at ABT so he obviously thought well of him.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, alison said:

I think the Wikipedia article gives a fairly comprehensive run-down:

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ross_Stretton

The Wikipedia article (at least so far as the Royal Ballet section is concerned) is so anodyne and sanitised as to be unhelpful. What is not included is far more relevant for Stretton's dismissal (the "resignation" was simply a device to avoid embarrassment). I assume Wikipedia's reluctance to include more than it does is due to so many of the allegations not being published. The whole 13 months of Stretton's time as Director was a disastrous period in the Royal Ballet's history and seriously affected the lives and careers of many dancers.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

I would be interested to hear more, Douglas, if it is okay.  I’m not particularly interested in the prurient stuff, but I would like to know which dancers were affected by his policy if ...what exactly.

Edited by penelopesimpson

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Before this thread goes any further, let me just offer a caution to one and all to remember the law of libel and that Mr Stretton is now dead and in no position to defend himself.  Facts, where they can be corroborated, are one thing - allegations under pseudonyms are likely to lead to the rapid closure of the thread.

  • Like 8

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
10 hours ago, Ian Macmillan said:

Before this thread goes any further, let me just offer a caution to one and all to remember the law of libel and that Mr Stretton is now dead and in no position to defend himself.  Facts, where they can be corroborated, are one thing - allegations under pseudonyms are likely to lead to the rapid closure of the thread.

 

Thank you for the reminder. However the way you phrased it has made things rather confusing. To explain:

 

* The law of libel (which you cite) is clear. It says that one cannot libel the dead. As you point out, Mr Stratton is dead and so he cannot be libelled. I am legally free to say anything I want about Ross Stratton, whether true or not, malicious or not, likely or not to cause him (or rather his posthumous reputation) serious harm. And this is the case whether or not I use a pseudonym.

 

* If however one makes remarks about the living - such as for example some of Stratton’s colleagues or employers - there is a possibility that one may libel them, which could in turn cause problems both for the writer and for the forum which publishes them. 

 

* And then there are the separate rules of this discussion forum itself, self-imposed rules which (it can be argued) are arbitrary, inconsistent, even perhaps somewhat unnecessary. However they are the rules we accept when joining the forum and are no doubt one reason why this place is (usually) a civilised way to spend time.

 

* For example, the diffuse and contestable values of fairness and niceness (not enshrined in any legal framework of which I am aware) are taken seriously on this forum. Hence your arguing that Mr Stratton is “in no position to defend himself” which, though a null comment when seen from the perspective of the law of libel to which you refer, is an appeal to the entirely separate values of this forum, as (usually sensibly) adjudicated by the moderators.

 

* On the other hand, the ethic of “free speech” (within the law) is also taken seriously on this forum, so one should not hold back from (for example) calling Mr Stratton an abuser of his professional power if that is how one understands the situation to have been. 

 

* The rules of Wikipedia are different again, neither the same as the law of libel nor the rules of this forum. It’s rather complicated but broadly Wikipedia is heavily dependent on statements drawn from what its community judge to be authoritative secondary sources (eg an article in The Guardian is taken seriously by Wikipedia, whereas what some person told another person is not). 

 

* Finally, just in case my attempt at clarity might be thought to be some kind a criticism of the moderators of this forum (or of the rules of the forum itself), it isn’t. The volunteers who look after us here do a magnificent job (unpaid) which takes up a lot of their time. They are always to be thanked, even when one can’t always agree on everything. 

 

Edited by Geoff
  • Like 7

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Geoff:  I have clearly been taken to task yet somehow feel you have made my point more forcefully.

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I very much applaud the fact that, if one seeks to say something highly and personally contentious on here, one should not shelter behind a pseudonym.

  • Like 6

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
On 23/08/2019 at 11:46, alison said:

I think the Wikipedia article gives a fairly comprehensive run-down:

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ross_Stretton

 

I've read some of the Telegraph articles that Wikipedia links to & have a query that I hope won't break any rules as it's not directly about Ross Stretton. This article https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/dance/3574976/Stars-feel-the-strain.html discussing dancer injuries names Jonathan Cope, Inaki Urlezaga and Johan Persson as having injuries then says " This leaves only one dependably fit resident male, Kobborg, while the rising junior man, Nathan Coppen, is also fighting injury." Likewise only 5 female dancers are mentioned in the article in a way that implies they were principals: Darcey Bussell, Alina Cojocara, Miyako Yoshida, Jane Burn and Belinda Hatley. Does that mean that back in 2002 the RB only had 5 male and 5 female principals? If so then I can't imagine how the company managed, given they were running out of men this past season with 9 male principals. Another sentence in the article that made me boggle at my computer screen was "Astonishingly, Cojocaru and Kobborg between them account for a third of all this season's 157 performances, home and abroad." as that seems an incredibly unbalanced workload, even if they did have to sub for other injured dancers. While I haven't worked it out, I'd be surprised if any of the current principals appeared in anything remotely near that propoprtion of performances last season.

Edited by Dawnstar

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Ian Macmillan said:

Geoff:  I have clearly been taken to task yet somehow feel you have made my point more forcefully.

 

Thanks Ian. Not sure how convincing my post was however, given that (among lesser typos) I mispelled Ross Stretton’s name throughout! Apologies. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Dawnstar said:

 

I've read some of the Telegraph articles that Wikipedia links to & have a query that I hope won't break any rules as it's not directly about Ross Stretton. This article https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/dance/3574976/Stars-feel-the-strain.html discussing dancer injuries names Jonathan Cope, Inaki Urlezaga and Johan Persson as having injuries then says " This leaves only one dependably fit resident male, Kobborg, while the rising junior man, Nathan Coppen, is also fighting injury." Likewise only 5 female dancers are mentioned in the article in a way that implies they were principals: Darcey Bussell, Alina Cojocara, Miyako Yoshida, Jane Burn and Belinda Hatley. Does that mean that back in 2002 the RB only had 5 male and 5 female principals? If so then I can't imagine how the company managed, given they were running out of men this past season with 9 male principals. Another sentence in the article that made me boggle at my computer screen was "Astonishingly, Cojocaru and Kobborg between them account for a third of all this season's 157 performances, home and abroad." as that seems an incredibly unbalanced workload, even if they did have to sub for other injured dancers. While I haven't worked it out, I'd be surprised if any of the current principals appeared in anything remotely near that propoprtion of performances last season.

 

Burn and Hatley were not principals, but Rojo, Benjamin and Yanowsky were there, and also Sylvie Guillem.

 

The male side was still recovering from when (3 years earlier?... it's all a bit of a blur by now)  Kumakawa had left to set up a company in Japan, taking with him Cassidy, Trevitt and Nunn; and Bruce Sansom had also retired. (None of which was anything to do with Ross Stretton) Imagine the RB now if there was much less talent in the lower ranks and Bonelli retired and, say, Mcrae left and took Ball, Sambe and Bracewell with him. The company relied on guests - Acosta, leRiche, Bolle, Murru, Stiefel and Tewsley all appeared that season, as well as Adam Cooper who had left a few years earlier.

 

 

Edited by Jane S
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Cojocaru accounted for approximately one-third of all scheduled performances, as I recall.  That in itself was a bone of contention, for a number of reasons.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Jane S said:

 

Burn and Hatley were not principals, but Rojo, Benjamin and Yanowsky were there, and also Sylvie Guillem.

 

The male side was still recovering from when (3 years earlier?... it's all a bit of a blur by now)  Kumakawa had left to set up a company in Japan, taking with him Cassidy, Trevitt and Nunn; and Bruce Sansom had also retired. (None of which was anything to do with Ross Stretton) Imagine the RB now if there was much less talent in the lower ranks and Bonelli retired and, say, Mcrae left and took Ball, Sambe and Bracewell with him. The company relied on guests - Acosta, leRiche, Bolle, Murru, Stiefel and Tewsley all appeared that season, as well as Adam Cooper who had left a few years earlier.

 

 

It occurred to me to look at programmes from the first year I saw opera at the ROH, 2004, and my goodness were there a lot of male guest artists, eleven male guest principals in the one season. Given there are six male principals on the roster at first glance I was surprised quite that many guests were needed, given the RB last season effectively functioned with 7 male principals (Watson not dancing & Kish doing character roles) plus only 4 guest artists (3 unplanned). However I then looked at the first soloists and there were only 3 male first soloists so they wouldn't have had many of them to fill the principal gaps. By 2008 (when I first saw some of the RB dancers, albeit in an opera double bill) they were up to 8 male principals & 5 male first soloists with only 2 guest artists. Presumably someone worked out that that is approximately the optimum number of leading men they need, as this coming season will again have those numbers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I remember the Stretton year quite well and it featured strongly on the old forum.  I'm carefully choosing my words but as far as I can remember, at lot of the ballet.co members were not very happy with his choice of repertoire: Bayley's Beyond Bach, Tudor's The Leaves are Falling and a rather threadbare version of DQ (maybe the Nureyev version?) were not very popular.  A lot of people took issue with his casting choices too: as mentioned before, Cojocaru was first cast in practically everything and Sarah Wildor was ignored despite being one of the best interpreters of Ashton at that time.  In a public masterclass, Kobborg bluntly stated that the company either needed to hire more dancers or reduce the number of different styles of choreography that was expected of them.  The regular dance critics were equally unhappy with what they saw onstage.

 

In the end he was taken out to lunch, never to return.  It was, IMHO, an undeserved exit when the fault really lay with the ROH selection committee who simply chose an unsuitable person for the job, leaving him in an untenable position.

 

Tragically he died of cancer a few years later and I wonder if the stress of working for the ROH contributed to his early death.

 

Linda

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 minutes ago, loveclassics said:

Tragically he died of cancer a few years later and I wonder if the stress of working for the ROH contributed to his early death.

 

I saw an interview with Monica Mason (on YouTube I think) where she speculated whether it may to a degree have been the other way round. I'm quoting from memory, but there were words to the effect that she had got on well with him personally but later wondered whether he may have been exhibiting early symptoms of the disease that killed him not so much later.

 

Judith Mackrell suggests something similar about the taped interviews he gave the following year: https://www.theguardian.com/stage/theatreblog/2008/jun/20/whatistobegainedfromtherossstrettontape

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Dawnstar said:

 

It occurred to me to look at programmes from the first year I saw opera at the ROH, 2004, and my goodness were there a lot of male guest artists, eleven male guest principals in the one season.

 

Wow.  I suspect that would have been because they were more often than not brought in each to cover a particular role, rather than dancing multiple roles within the company?  Adam Cooper, Ethan Stiefel, Angel Corella ... my mind goes blank on the others, for the time being - did Campbell Mackenzie and Johan Persson count among them?  Monica Mason rectified the situation soon after her arrival by bringing in, I think it was, Bonelli, Slava Samodurov, Soares and ... or was that Persson?  There were a number of up-and-coming dancers who weren't quite ready to assume those leading roles, and possibly ended up being held back a little as a result of the influx of newcomers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Persson had gone by then, I think, and as Alison says, many of the guests were brought in for specific roles - Anthony Dowell and Wayne Sleep did the Ugly Sisters in Cinderella, for instance. Others are accounted for by Sylvie Guillem's habit of bringing in anyone she wanted to partner her, and the quest for tall partners for Bussell (Robert Bolle) and Yanowsky (Kenneth Greve). And William Tuckett, for a time at least, gets a credit as guest principal dancer at the same time as being listed as a principal character dancer. But even so there were a lot!

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, alison said:

 

Wow.  I suspect that would have been because they were more often than not brought in each to cover a particular role, rather than dancing multiple roles within the company?  Adam Cooper, Ethan Stiefel, Angel Corella ... my mind goes blank on the others, for the time being - did Campbell Mackenzie and Johan Persson count among them?  Monica Mason rectified the situation soon after her arrival by bringing in, I think it was, Bonelli, Slava Samodurov, Soares and ... or was that Persson?  There were a number of up-and-coming dancers who weren't quite ready to assume those leading roles, and possibly ended up being held back a little as a result of the influx of newcomers.

 

The eleven guest men were Acosta, Bolle, Cooper, Dowell, Drew, Le Riche, Mukhamedov, Nunn, Sleep, Thomas and Trevitt. Drew is under the principal character artists section whereas Dowell & Sleep are under principals, although they presumably would also have been dancing character roles so not sure why they were't listed as such with Drew. Bonelli is listed among the principal and Soares among the soloists. I can't find Stiefel, Corella, Mackenzie, Persson or Samodurov listed so they must have been there in seasons other than 2003/4.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I thought that Bonelli and Samodurov joined the RB together from Dutch National in about 2005?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I suppose the Michael Kaiser connection might have explained Ross Stretton's appointment, but I vaguely remember an interview of Stretton's where he said something about not valuing the legacy repertoire very highly, but the company needing to be more open to new ideas. Which is all very well for some companies, but it did sound as though he wasn't going to pay much attention to the Ashton ballets, especially given the way Sarah Wildor was pretty much sidelined. I wondered at the time if the American Michael Kaiser himself might not have understood the importance of Ashton's repertoire to the company, because in most cases a Director candidate who was so cavalier about a company's founding choreographer should have raised some red flags. I also remember getting the impression from interviews with dancers that he favoured a particular dancer type - young, flexible, compact - and that other dancers felt as though they were being ignored as a result.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
21 hours ago, capybara said:

I thought that Bonelli and Samodurov joined the RB together from Dutch National in about 2005?

 

Together, but a bit earlier.

 

Interesting couple of things from a Ballet Association interview with Monica Mason in 2003 (hope the quote is not too long for forum rules - in any case the whole piece is worth reading in the context of this thread):

 

"Wayne Eagling, Director of the Dutch National Ballet, had rung Monica, “I’m retiring. I have two principal men, Vyacheslav Samodurov and Federico Bonelli, who also want to move on.” “How many other people have you rung?” asked Monica. “No-one else yet,” said Wayne. They sent Monica photos and videos first, then they came over and did class with the company. Then Monica went to Amsterdam and they both were dancing in the matinée performance. Monica engaged both of them as Principals.

Monica did not want the current male Principals to feel threatened, but was concerned that some of them could get overloaded. The company had become so used to dancers rising up through the ranks. Now the company had lots of male guests all the time, but she needed to build up the strength of the company male Principals again. “I hope you will see the value of them,” she told us. “Please make them welcome, when they come.” "

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Did Samodurov have a long career with the RB or did he move on elsewhere? Although I only started watching the RB live last season, I had previously heard of many of the recent top dancers through reading reviews etc., but I don't recall Samodurov. (Maybe this should be in the under-appreciated dancers thread instead!)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Jane S said:

 

 

Interesting couple of things from a Ballet Association interview with Monica Mason in 2003

 

Thanks for sharing Jane, I always find it interesting when people share articles etc. 

 

One thing that jumped out at me was when it was noted seasons are planned 3 years in advance! I thought surely that can't be right...? I know the Opera has to be planned this far in advance due to the need to secure world leading stars etc, but surely there is more flexility around ballet?

 

I also found it interesting to read this article alongside the one shared in the ROH autumn bookings thread, also from the ballet association but this time interviewing Kevin O'Hare in 2012 around the start of his directorship. Interesting how he and Mason share a lot of the similar philosophies (makes sense as they worked together), although O'Hare seems to emphasise more of promotion on talent (whereas with Mason it's clear that she would prefer dancers to work their way through the ranks). 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, Dawnstar said:

Did Samodurov have a long career with the RB or did he move on elsewhere? Although I only started watching the RB live last season, I had previously heard of many of the recent top dancers through reading reviews etc., but I don't recall Samodurov. (Maybe this should be in the under-appreciated dancers thread instead!)

 

He is now director of the ballet company of the Ural opera in Ekaterinburg.

Interestingly he has choreographed his own version of La Fille mal gardee for the company,  and for the Bolshoi he made  a new Ondine to the same music as used by Ashton.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 27/08/2019 at 04:19, stucha said:

 

He is now director of the ballet company of the Ural opera in Ekaterinburg.

Interestingly he has choreographed his own version of La Fille mal gardee for the company,  and for the Bolshoi he made  a new Ondine to the same music as used by Ashton.

Indeed, Slava is now Director of the Ural Ballet in Ekaterinburg.  However, their version of Fille (I attended the premiere) was in fact by the now sadly deceased Sergei Vikharev.  Slava's first full length ballet for the Ural company was choreographed when he became Director for the 2011/2012 season, and was Amore Buffo (balletic "version" of L'Elisir d'Amore).  More recently, Slava paid homage to Petipa as part of the bicentenary Petipa celebrations, with his 2 act ballet, Order of the King.  

 

With regard to an earlier posting regarding when both Slava Samodurov and Federico Bonelli joined the RB, it was in 2003 (I believe Soares also joined at the same time).  I would definitely agree that Samodurov should join the list of "underused" dancers during his time with the Royal Ballet.  In fact, it was during a period when he was not cast for anything, that Monica sent him to NY to guest with ABT in R&J as their Romeos were all indisposed - very sadly, at his first rehearsal over there, he injured his knee so badly that this ended his balletic career.  On the flip side, he has now boosted the profile of the Ural Ballet and shown his talents as both a Director and choreographer. 

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...