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David Wall


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I have just received the very sad news that David Wall died this afternoon at 3pm. His was a tremendous talent and a very dear personal friend. I am incredibly saddened by his tragic passing at such a comparatively young age and a long illness.

 

R.I.P. "Ginger"

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My wife became aware through former Company colleagues a few weeks ago that David was very seriously ill, but it's still a shock to hear of his untimely death.  RIP.

 

A thought - if anyone has a picture of that most striking statue on the Embankment, it would seem fitting if it could be posted here.

 

 

Edit:  A link to a picture is now at No 14, below.

Edited by Ian Macmillan
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Oh no, how terrible - another one leaving us too young.  My deepest condolences to his wife and all those affected by his death, which will be a goodly number.  I'm too young in ballet-going terms to remember him as a dancer, but I certainly had the pleasure of watching him coaching for a number of years at ENB before he retired.

 

I notice that Ballet.co interviewed him a few years back, and thought I would link to it here:

 

http://www.ballet.co.uk/magazines/yr_05/jun05/interview_wall.htm

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I'm really shocked. He was a fantastic actor dancer, one of the all time greats. I have thought of him recently as I watched all those Mayerlings since he created the role and inhabited it with scary depth. His final performance in Mayerling, when he retired, was amazing, both as a performance and with the devotion of his audience. There was a huge banner and enormous applause. He was a wonderful partner and therefore forged some fabulous partnerships, not least with Lynn Seymour, who created Mary Vetsera with him. He was a lovely warm man, who always recognised and acknowledged you if he had met you, however briefly. He was a devoted family man, doting on his grandchildren. My heart goes out to his widow, Alfreda Thorogood, who was herself one of the finest dancers the two Royal companies ever had.

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The first time I ever went to see the Royal Ballet, back in 1978 as a poor university student and recently arrived from NYC, David Wall happened to be dancing, I think with Lesley Collier.  I fell in love with him that night and after that whenever I could afford to go to the ballet I always made sure it was when he was dancing.  It was thanks to him that my love affair with the Royal Ballet started, an affair that continues to this day.  He had it all, and on top of that was a lovely man.  On that night in 1978 I never would have dreamed that 27 years later I would be sitting with him in a very small room doing an extensive interview with him.  He was so interesting, and so warm.  My daughter, who was 14 at the time, was with me and thought he was wonderful.  I met him a few times after that over the years, and he was always so sweet.  So, in tribute to this great artist, here is a link to the interview.  He had some very interesting things to say about creating Rudolf and Lescaut.  I hope you enjoy it, and I'd like to say here thanks for all the performances, David, and for all the knowledge, support and experience you gave to subsequent generations.  Rest in peace. xx

 

http://www.ballet.co.uk/magazines/yr_05/jun05/interview_wall.htm

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David was a mentor and close friend of Daria Klimentova's these past 20 years. She is of course devastated at this news, and has asked me to tell you all that her performance in Swan Lake tomorrow night will be dedicated to him. It will no doubt be a very emotional performance.

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Apparently, ENB dedicated tonight's performance of Swan Lake to David Wall, but Daria will naturally want to dedicate her own performance tomorrow night to him as well. He was one of the judges at last year's Emerging Dancer Awards. Condolences to his family and friends.

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Looking back through the Forum's Twitter timeline today, there has been a very notable reaction to the news of David Wall's death from dancers, critics and fans.  Supplementing Sim's reports above, I have selected just two - from Daria Klimentova, replying to critic Graham Watts, and from ENB's dancers.

 

@DKlimentova: .@GWDanceWriter -I don't know how I will dance tomorrow but I will be dedicating my performance to David - without him I would not be at ENB

 

@ENBtweets: We dedicate tonight’s performance to David Wall, who passed away this afternoon. His memory will forever live on in all our hearts. RIP x

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What very sad news. He was the first dancer to catch my attention as a young would be dancer and I saw him many times over the years, firstly in Swan Lake with Doreen Wells and lastly in Month with Sandra Conley. Particular memories are of Swan Lake with Monica Mason (several times, always with such honesty), Cinderella (three lovey years on the trot with Antoinette Sibley), a blissful Fille mal gardee (with Laura Connor), Month (again with Sibley, two great dance actors who we able to segue effortlessly from walking to mime to dance) and those two studies of darkness within a charming exterior Lescaut (hilarious with Mason in the Drunk Dance but complicitly sinister in the Pas de Trois with Manon and GM) and, of course, Rudolf. That handsome golden figure collapsing into chaos was an epic journey (complemented, as I recall, by Penney, Park, Mason, Ellis and Whitten). He wasn't an elegant virtuoso, but his technique was perfectly good and as actor and partner he gave so much. A friend who was in Mayerling this time round and I were actually extolling his merits yesterday afternoon catching up after the dramas of last week. If you search the BBC website his Deseert Island Duscs is available on replay and there's a treasonable clip of him with Sbley in the Bedroom Pas de Deux from Manon dimly recorded at the Met on You Tube. He seems to have been hugely loved as a man too.

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Somewhat unusually for a ballet dancer, but clearly marking his significance, David's death has been covered on the BBC Radio 4 News this morning, and there was a item on the Today programme just before 8-30 in which John Humphrys interviewed Deborah Bull about him.

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Thanks for above post.

In the late sixties and early seventies I'm sure a number of people followed him because he was so handsome too!! I agree with what Deborah Bull said on the radio too about his physicality and masculine presence......well I was very young at the time!

I saw him in the first productions of Dancing at a Gathering which I liked him in and of course the drunken role in Manon! And I'm sure in Fille too....when Alexander Grant was still dancing....this may have been with Lesley Collier or even Ann Jenner not sure now.

 

I also liked Alfreda Thorogood who became his wife and during my last year at college (in 1969) had a picture of her on my wall there as one of the dancers I'd like to be like! I think this was the then Sadlers Wells touring company as I didn't got to ROH until 1972.

 

It was really the RBS seventies dancers who I call "my generation" of dancers as the first lot I (and ballet friends) followed and had ones favourites etc !! And David Wall was definitely one of those. We went a lot then as it was only something like 50p to stand!!

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ENB has issued the following statement:

 

David Wall CBE

 

Tamara Rojo, Artistic Director of English National Ballet, said: “David Wall was one of the greatest British dancers of his generation. He had a very special relationship with English National Ballet as a valued and inspirational teacher. I was privileged to have worked with him on Sleeping Beauty, my first production as Artistic Director at English National Ballet, which he staged with his wife Alfreda Thorogood. He will be greatly missed. Our thoughts are with Alfreda and his family.”

 

English National Ballet dedicated last night’s (Tuesday, June 18 2013) performance of Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall to him.

 

David Wall and English National Ballet:

In July 2007 English National Ballet said a sad but very fond farewell to Principal Repetiteur David Wall who retired after the Company’s performances of Swan Lake at the Palace of Versailles. David had been with us since 1995 when he accepted an invitation to join the ballet staff and he was a constant and reassuring presence for the dancers. He took morning class and daily rehearsals but the real focus of his work, and the area in which he excelled, was in coaching and preparing dancers for the leading roles of the classical repertoire, all of which he had danced.

 

David was one of the most talented dancers of his generation and had a long and very successful career with The Royal Ballet. He won the Evening Standard Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance in 1977 and is remembered for the particular energy of his performances. David’s interest in teaching began towards the end of his performing career when he started coaching younger dancers. One of the first roles he danced, the title role in Ninette de Valois’ The Rakes Progress, challenged him to develop his interpretative skills and this informed his later work as both performer and teacher. As ballet master he was naturally empathetic and encouraged English National Ballet’s dancers to find character and motivation in the choreography, always looking for a performance that offered more than just strong technique or sure partnering.

 

David’s own first dance steps were taken at Primary School where Ballroom dancing was compulsory; his teacher guided him towards ballet classes and at age 10 he went to the Royal Ballet School’s White Lodge. He continued through the Senior School and in 1963 was taken into The Royal Ballet touring company where he made rapid progress: David partnered Margot Fonteyn for the first time when he was just 17 and his first leading roles were as the Boy in Kenneth MacMillan’s The Invitation and the Young Man in Ashton’s Les Deux Pigeons, which he danced with his future wife Alfreda Thorogood. While still in the corps de ballet he danced Prince Siegfried and David was soon promoted to become the youngest male principal in The Royal Ballet’s history.

 

In the course of his career David danced with many great ballerinas – he and Doreen Wells became the star couple of the touring company and he continued to partner Margot Fonteyn in performances all around the world. When he transferred to Covent Garden as a principal he danced with Merle Park, Lynn Seymour and Jennifer Penney and proved himself again as one of the country’s leading male dancers in a range of new roles. Fans will have their own special memories of David – Colas in La Fille mal gardee, Albrecht in Giselle or as a passionate Romeo – but it was Kenneth MacMillan who created two especially memorable roles on him, the first when he cast David as Lescaut in Manon. This strong and complex character is at the dark heart of the story and in his portrayal David made full use of the interpretative skills which by now defined his performances.

 

In 1978 MacMillan gave him perhaps the greatest role of his career as Crown Prince Rudolph in Mayerling. In this he partnered Lynn Seymour, MacMillan’s muse and a dramatic dancer with whom David had a remarkable on-stage rapport. Of all the roles he played, Rudolf was probably the most challenging – it was emotionally and physically exhausting for the dancer (comments echoed by others in the role) but his performances were always mesmerising for the audience.

 

David retired from dancing in 1984 (too soon for many) and began to teach. He travelled to New Zealand for a Royal Academy of Dancing summer school and not long after joined the RAD as Associate Director and then Director and General Secretary. He left the RAD in 1991 and was in demand as a freelance teacher and guest repetiteur all around the world, work he continued while with English National Ballet. He has staged Mayerling for the Hungarian Ballet (and also coached The Royal Ballet); Manon for the Royal Danish Ballet and in 2005 he and Alfreda were instrumental in staging MacMillan’s The Sleeping Beauty for English National Ballet.

 

Not all dancers are able to transfer their skills to teaching, nor take to it with such ease and so little regret, but David did and he became a much-loved ballet master. David joined English National Ballet as Ballet Master in 1995 because he found it a creative, hardworking Company with a common sense of purpose and a closeness that reminded him of his early days in the touring company. He said he looked back on his years with us as ‘happy times’ and remembers especially the challenges of staging our large-scale productions at the Royal Albert Hall!

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Somewhat unusually for a ballet dancer, but clearly marking his significance, David's death has been covered on the BBC Radio 4 News this morning, and there was a item on the Today programme just before 8-30 in which John Humphrys interviewed Deborah Bull about him.

 

Yes, I too was very surprised to hear his death being covered on the 8 am news this morning: clearly a tribute to the sort of man he was.  I wish I'd left the radio on after the headlines, now.

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It may be of interest for many of you to know that I have heard from David's wife, and his funeral will be a small,private family service and cremation. They are hoping to arrange a memorial service (presumably in St Paul's Church) later in the year when both of the Royal Ballet companies are in London.

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The private family funeral for David will take place on Monday July 8th,and,as previously stated,a memorial service will be planned for the Autumn. The family have requested no flowers but a donation in David's name can be made to St Christopher's Hospice,479 Bromley Road,Bromley,Kent,BR1 4PQ

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