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Posted (edited)
Ballet Casting 
 
When it comes to casting  roles in a ballet , are dancers chosen by the director of the ballet company ,  the chorographer , the people in charge  of a choreographers estate or is it a  collaborative decision ?
 
Regards / David 
 
Edited by hephaistion03
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As many of the ballets performed by the RB are of choreographers no longer alive (Petipa, Ashton, MacMillan) it is the AD and management team making casting decisions.  
 

Most choreographers choose their casts, at least the lead roles themselves.  Wheeldon, MacGregor etc.

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Is some of it down to the rights-holders of the ballets?

 

I've heard in the past of, for example, the Balanchine Trust yaying or naying dancers.

 

For Northern Ballet's current revival of Romeo and Juliet, choreographer Massimo Moricone chose the leading dancers in the casts.

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Posted (edited)

If the choreographer is still alive, the choreographer.

 

If he or she is very busy and has several ballets being staged at the same time, and it's not a new ballet, he/she may assign a repetiteur to oversee the staging first and suggest the casting, although many will have final say regarding the casting or even fly in briefly to see the dancers and give the final decision (Christopher Wheeldon has mentioned doing this for a second run of one his story ballets; Alexei Ratmansky likes to fly in and do some coaching, even if only for a very short but packed period of work). 

 

For Balanchine and Robbins, the stagers/repetiteurs who work for the Balanchine Trust or Jerome Robbins Foundation respectively do the casting and the staging. Lady Deborah MacMillan approves the casting for MacMillan's ballets and the staging is done by repetiteurs she has approved. Ashton's ballets have different rights holders so the casting depends on who holds the rights to the  ballet. John Cranko's ballets also have a similar system to the Robbins and Balanchine ballets, with Reid Anderson and other dancers/staff who previously worked for Cranko at Stuttgart Ballet who now work as approved stagers being in charge of casting and staging.

 

For the classics, eg Giselle,  Sleeping Beauty etc the casting depends on whose production it is.

 

Some choreographers and rights holders are able to make casting decisions earlier than others, which does make things easier for both audiences and the ballet company performing the ballet! And some ballets are easier to cast earlier, eg if the work is performed frequently, like Nutcracker or Romeo and Juliet, for example. And often the artistic director will mention or recommend dancers- especially if they are new to the company and the choreographer hasn't met them before- to the choreographer or stager although the final say will rest with choreographer. It varies. And of course, sometimes an artistic director might be a stager or rights holder for a particular ballet himself or herself. 

Edited by Emeralds
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So Kevin O’Hare has no say? 
 

aside from the practicalities surely O’Hare is best placed to know who should be cast in what, as well as partnerships etc. 
 

I’d always presumed casting was his call, with maybe some dancers inputting (but not getting final say?). Then out of respect, or if rights demanded it I imagined a list of dancers would go to the choregrapher/rights holder for not so much approval but just for information.

 

I’m not a ballet insider and I trust choreographers and rights holders to know the ballet best but is this really how it works? 

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He could well have some input for casting with the Royal Ballet but I would guess it would depend on the terms and conditions of the contract in place to perform the work.

 

There are companies other than the Royal Ballet.

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I think O'Hare implied somewhere that he is now entrusted with casting Onegin.  It wasn't in the Ballet Association interview someone linked to the other day.

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16 hours ago, Emeralds said:

Lady Deborah MacMillan approves the casting for MacMillan's ballets


Does Lady MacMillan* still do this in person now that Laura Morera is overseeing MacMillan’s ballets for the estate?  I would think that Laura knows the RB dancers well enough to start deciding the cast now, perhaps with input from K O’H.  
 

* I think etiquette dictates that Lady MacMillan would only be referred to as “Lady *Deborah* MacMillan” had she been a Lady before marriage (eg Lady Helen Windsor became Lady Helen Taylor). 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Anna C said:


Does Lady MacMillan* still do this in person now that Laura Morera is overseeing MacMillan’s ballets for the estate?  I would think that Laura knows the RB dancers well enough to start deciding the cast now, perhaps with input from K O’H.  
 

* I think etiquette dictates that Lady MacMillan would only be referred to as “Lady *Deborah* MacMillan” had she been a Lady before marriage (eg Lady Helen Windsor became Lady Helen Taylor). 

Thanks, @Anna C- you clarifed for me what I didn't have time to elaborate. Was trying to put it all down v quickly for @hephaistion03 as to who oversaw what -  Deborah MacMillan doesn't have to assign every single Juliet, Romeo, Mercutio, etc every single season, in that if the lead dancers, eg Naghdi, Hayward, Ball, (to pluck 3 names out of the blue) danced their role successfully for a few consecutive seasons, nothing would have changed to suggest that they will suddenly be unsuitable to dance it on the next run. Same for the roles of Manon or Des Grieux, for example.

 

But for works that are staged more infrequently like Danses Concertantes, Gloria or Different Drummer, then the decision making process can take longer as all or most of the dancers could well be new to the ballets.

 

I don't know if new dancers for R&J, Manon, etc who are about to  be cast are mentioned to her in advance of the casting being announced; my guess is yes as it's a positive and exciting thing to discuss. I'm sure she would also suggest  new dancers she has spotted in other performances as potential candidates for leading roles. 

 

Together with R&J and Manon, I'd add that classics eg Nutcracker, Giselle and Sleeping Beauty, to answer @JNC's question- as the works are danced frequently, the same successful leads from previous seasons eg Nunez, Osipova, Lamb, Muntagirov, Hirano, etc can be assigned by Kevin O'Hare.

 

That said, I'm sure any potential new dancers in lead and featured roles are discussed with Peter Wright and Monica Mason respectively but these are easy to do in advance. The reason why other estates/rights holders like Balanchine take longer is that they are based abroad and won't be able to see the British companies on a regular basis,  especially when the ballets are not staged frequently.

 

Thanks AnnaC, I was actually trying to change it to Lady MacMillan to indicate she is Kenneth MacMillan's widow but the backspace landed on the wrong place and it didn't get changed. I was in a hurry- had to leave for an appointment yesterday- so  didn't have time to stay to correct it after I noticed it still hadn't changed. You're right- the typo does suggest a different identity  altogether rather than just one additional word in the name.

Edited by Emeralds
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Posted (edited)
On 05/05/2024 at 20:56, JNC said:

I’m not a ballet insider and I trust choreographers and rights holders to know the ballet best but is this really how it works? 

 

Going back to the Ashton ballets, I do wonder why there has not been a strenuous effort to get the entire works under one roof, so to speak, with a dedicated Ashton Trust?  Or maybe there has, but from various comments it doesn't sound like it.  The problem with the method that Ashton chose, leaving the rights of specific ballets to particular artists directly connected with the ballet (which I believe is the case) is that when those individuals die, the rights may be left to people with no knowledge or interest in ballet or the works themselves.  Is there an up to date register somewhere of the owners of his works?  If so, how much direct influence do they have, does anybody know?

 

Edited by Fonty
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12 minutes ago, Fonty said:

 

Going back to the Ashton ballets, I do wonder why there has not been a strenuous effort to get the entire works under one roof, so to speak, with a dedicated Ashton Trust?  Or maybe there has, but from various comments it doesn't sound like it.
 

 

Probably too many vested interests sadly, especially for those inheriting the ballets. And in these trying times, I doubt the RB has the funds to buy them off, and bring them in house, which would be the ideal I'm guessing

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Posted (edited)
19 minutes ago, Fonty said:

 

Going back to the Ashton ballets, I do wonder why there has not been a strenuous effort to get the entire works under one roof, so to speak, with a dedicated Ashton Trust?  Or maybe there has, but from various comments it doesn't sound like it.  The problem with the method that Ashton chose, leaving the rights of specific ballets to particular artists directly connected with the ballet (which I believe is the case) is that when those individuals die, the rights may be left to people with no knowledge or interest in ballet or the works themselves.  Is there an up to date register somewhere of the owners of his works?  If so, how much direct influence do they have, does anybody know?

 

Yes, I've often wondered about the rights issue and what happens when the recipient dies. Given how long ago they were gifted it must have happened to many already. I did wonder if the Ashton Foundation tried to keep track of them; at least to the extent that they knew who is the current holder of individual ballets. However, it could be tricky as presumably they've no legal right to enquire, unlike the Balanchine Foundation who seem to control his works. If people end up with a ballet they've no knowledge of or interest in, it would be good if it could be gifted to the Ashton Foundation but that could mean loss of income to the owner as presumably whoever owns it gets paid when the work is staged and I don't suppose the Foundation could afford it. I don't really know how it works at all but it would make things like cinema broadcasts and streaming a lot easier if the ballet ownership was all together. [Edited We were posting at the same time zxDaveM]

Edited by jmhopton
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Posted (edited)

The Ashton Foundation does know who owns the ballets - see here - but I don't think it's yet generally known what will happen to the ones inherited by Anthony Russell Roberts, who died earlier this year.

 

(As far as I remember, the Foundation bought the rights of Daphnis and Chloe, which Ashton left to Fonteyn and she left to a relative. Expensive, though, and can't have brought them in much in the way of royalties.)

Edited by Jane S
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Thank you all for your clarifications on this subject, especially yours, Emeralds. I knew, of course, about the Balanchine Trust and the Robbins Foundation (though I don't know the differences between a foundation and a trust in practice, do any of you?) and the protection afforded to the Cranko and Ashton ballets, What I hadn't realised was the extent to which living choreographers and stagers in charge of productions can make demands as far as casting of their ballets is concerned, though I would have bet my bottom dollar that Neumeier, for instance, always does so. I had thought all other casting was entirely up to the artistic director.

 

There seems to be a division of opinion as to the extent to which Lady MacMillan has a say in casting of her late husband's ballets....

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15 hours ago, Jane S said:

The Ashton Foundation does know who owns the ballets - see here - but I don't think it's yet generally known what will happen to the ones inherited by Anthony Russell Roberts, who died earlier this year.

 

(As far as I remember, the Foundation bought the rights of Daphnis and Chloe, which Ashton left to Fonteyn and she left to a relative. Expensive, though, and can't have brought them in much in the way of royalties.)

 

i believe Fonteyn left something to her brother, so it may have been Daphnix and Chloe.  I see that Ondine appears to belong to a Rosita Arias de Vallarino, which I assume must be a relative of Fonteyn's husband.  i might be wrong, but I cannot see that person being hugely interested in the casting of the ballet, and it hasn't been performed in years.  Be interesting to know how much say Dowell has had in the casting of the upcoming performances of The Dream as the current owner.  He is a person in a unique position, having known Ashton personally and having danced his ballets on many occasions. 

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7 hours ago, Fonty said:

 

i believe Fonteyn left something to her brother, so it may have been Daphnix and Chloe.

There's a long and interesting article by Brendan McCarthy about the Ashton Foundation in the DanceTabs archive , which confirms your idea - Ashton left the rights in Daphnis and Chloe to Fonteyn, who left them to her brother Felix Fonteyn; at his death they passed to  his widow Phoebe, and on her death to their daughter Lavinia Exham, who presumably gave or sold them to the Ashton Foundation. (I think 'sold' as I'm almost sure I remember the Foundation asking for help to raise the money.) 

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On 13/05/2024 at 02:21, Tattin said:

What I hadn't realised was the extent to which living choreographers and stagers in charge of productions can make demands as far as casting of their ballets is concerned, though I would have bet my bottom dollar that Neumeier, for instance, always does so. I had thought all other casting was entirely up to the artistic director.

 

I remember quite clearly that back in 2015-ish that David McAllister, then AD of AusBallet, in his words "finally acquired" Nijinsky.

 

In 2016 Neumeier and his team came to Australia to teach, stage and cast it. The only three company members cast in the title role were Kevin Jackson (then a principal artist), Jake Mangakahia (soloist, then a corps de ballet dancer), and, as cover, Callum Linnane (then a second-year corps dancer). In the event Mangakahia was unable to perform in Melbourne and Linnane took his place.

 

Neumeier brought Alexandre Riabko out to help teach/demonstrate/coach the role, and I don't know how or why but he was given opening night (very unusual for a guest artist). At the time Deborah Jones in her Limelight review said "Usually the AB insists on casting from the company for opening night, which is laudable, but Neumeier’s control over his work is absolute in all respects."

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I’m intrigued by this discussion as hadn’t really given much thought to this….I’d assumed choreography was similar to music composer/lyricist ‘rights’ 

with permissions sought & royalties paid. But I’d also imagined there was a ‘date of expiry’ meaning older works could just be produced (hence things like Petipa classics with ‘additions’ by more recent choreographers being very often performed as no huge fees for rights to perform to be paid to long deceased main choreographer). 
Is there a definitive ‘rule’ or industry norm or date of expiry of such rights? The thought that they are left in wills to people far removed from the art yet has power over things like casting is somewhat interesting! 

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In UK copyright laws cover all Artistic creations, i.e. music, literature, dance, art, and any I may have missed. It lasts for the lifetime of the creator plus 70 years, So yes it becomes part of a person's estate which can be left in their will to someone else, and so on.  The only exception I know is that An Act of Parliament was passed to give the copyright of Peter Pan to Great Ormond Street Hospital in perpetuity.

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