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Ann Jenner


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I hope its okay to start a new topic here as I'm not sure where else to post this query.

I have come across a photograph ( link here) of Ann Jenner - a previous principal of the Royal Ballet, as the Grand Duchess Tatiana in Anastasia.  This is a role I have no record that she danced.  I have looked on the Covent Garden Performance database and can find no record. I know she danced in Australia after leaving the Royal Ballet, but although I have found other roles she added to her repertoire,I have never found reference to this one.  Does anyone know any more? 

 

My reason for enquiring is based on a long held admiration for this dancer, who, as has been reported in many articles, did not get the opportunity to really flourish at the Royal Ballet despite receiving many promising reviews.  She also had several injuries which probably hampered her.  The first time I came across her, was through photographs in the Princess ballet annuals which I had as a child.  I then subsequently followed her career, and still enjoy the odd glimpses of her in a few filmed roles such as Fairy Autum in Cinderella, and in Symphonic Variations with Sibley and Penny.  I gather she was a wonderful Lise - but never had the opportunity to see her in this role. Ann married Dale Baker and moved to Australia where she became a principal at Australian Ballet.  She also danced with San Francisco Ballet.  She became a teacher in Australia, and I gather she also choreographed a piece for the Royal Ballet School graduation performance. The Dancing Times featured her in a brief article awhile ago.

If anyone has any memories of this dancer, I would love to hear them.

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I share a birthday with Ann Jenner - International Womens' Day.  Remember her well, she was hugely popular with audiences and there was always disquiet that her career never flourished in the way it should have.  I saw her as Lise and she was superb.  It was a great shame that she left the RB when she did (1977?/78?) as I felt she could have gone on to bigger things had she stayed.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I was at Ann Jenner's Sleeping Beauty in 1973 when she collapsed with appendicitis. I was a JA at the RBS and had loved her in The Firebird when the RB was at the Coliseum and had pestered to be taken. It was indeed dramatic with Brenda Last, not even in the company, taking over the role of Aurora for Acts 2 and 3. Later I really enjoyed her Giselle, my mother thought her much more musical than Makarova who we saw a week later, and, particularly, in Fille with Baryshnikov in 1977. I can still see their speed in the coda of the Essler Pas de deus. She was a terrific dancer.

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I agree. I saw her as Lise in Fille such a light and delicate dancer........with a lovely jump from what I can remember.....and I'm sure she was also in Dances at a Gathering for some performances I saw......I practically went to every performance of this ballet in the 70's.

I now cannot remember though who Baryshnikov partnered in the Fille I saw with him and at the time he really illuminated the role and made the dancing exciting.....it may have been with Jenner will have to consult my oracle ballet going friend of that time!!

 

I wondered why she suddenly disappeared (as with many dancers) so didn't realise she had gone to Australia.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I wondered why she suddenly disappeared (as with many dancers) so didn't realise she had gone to Australia.

She married Dale Baker, an Australian dancer, who had been dancing in the UK. She joined Australian ballet as a Principal and danced in Laszlo Seregi's Spartacus, André Prokovsky’s Anna Karenina as well as productions of Coppelia & Pineapple Poll. She then became a teacher, and I believe is still teaching today.

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If it's not too late to respond to LinMM above, Ann Jenner did dance Lise with Baryshnikov as Colas on his debut in 1977. He danced two further performances of the ballet, both of those being with Lesley Collier.

I always thought that Ann Jenner was a lovely dancer with particular lightness, speed and elevation. In many ways she was a notable victim of the Royal's "graduated casting" policy that was particularly in evidence under de Valois and Ashton, where after a few years of being a notable lilac fairy or prologue fairy in a Nerina or Grey Beauty, you moved on not to Aurora but to being a lilac fairy or prologue fairy in a Fonteyn Beauty!

Her debut as Aurora was shamefully delayed, but when she did eventually return to the role in the 1977 production she was predictably very good indeed. I thought she flourished in the seventies especially in Dances At A Gathering and Anastasia. She was also really effective as Dorabella in Enigma where she was able to show off her speed to great advantage. Really, I enjoyed pretty much everything she did and was sad to see her leave the company. No arguing with love, though, I suppose. 

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Dale Baker and Anne Jenner were in San Francisco for at least a year, as he was dancing with San Francisco Ballet, before they went to Australia.

Do you have any idea of the roles she danced while at San Francisco Ballet? I have been unable to find any references to her dancing during this period, but I know you are right about this.

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Do you have any idea of the roles she danced while at San Francisco Ballet? I have been unable to find any references to her dancing during this period, but I know you are right about this.

Actually she wasn't dancing, he was; this was c1985-86. I'm pretty sure she was teaching in the school. I only recall him briefly in a ballet called Brahms-Haydn Variations by Michael Smuin.

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  • 3 years later...

Thank you for noting this Jenny. Yes it is a lovely photo . Interesting she posted in 2016 she was currently living in London - I wonder whether she was teaching, and if so, which school or company.

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I saw her on tour with the Royal in the U.S. I remember she would dance solos in various full-length works and my friends and I would huddle during intermission and speculate darkly on why we we weren't seeing her in leading roles. We loved her--she had a wonderful presence and I found her dancing really joyful. I remember, too, that when I heard she had left for Australia, I always vaguely held it against Macmillan. (I was very young. I'm now a little more philosophical--mostly--when my favorites aren't cast the way I think they should be. And I don't automatically assume I know better than ballet company directors ;) . Still I do in all seriousness think Jenner was not helped by the 'graduated casting' described by Douglas Allen above.)

 

 

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If I'm not mistaken, Ms Jenner first danced leading roles relatively late in her career during MacMillan's directorship, if anyone should be blamed for ignoring her talent, surely it was the earlier director, Frederick Ashton.

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13 hours ago, MAB said:

If I'm not mistaken, Ms Jenner first danced leading roles relatively late in her career during MacMillan's directorship, if anyone should be blamed for ignoring her talent, surely it was the earlier director, Frederick Ashton.

I wouldn't even try to reconstruct my thoughts at the time...and as I said I'm now less quick to blame directors than my teen self had been -- even when their decisions seem puzzling to me. I still have happy memories of Jenner's dancing. 

 

(When I first posted I failed to notice the posts to which I was responding date back a couple of years ago. I hadn't realized...:wub: )

Edited by DrewCo
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I've been caught out by this too DrewCo!! 

 

I sometimes wish that if an old thread .....especially one more than 2-3 yrs old .....when revived for some reason there could be some sign that flashes up!! 

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Jenner was a wonderful dancer of rare ability. For me, she was the only dancer who came close to Sibley in portraying Dorabella in Ashton's Enigma Variations. There have been many dancers cast in the role over the years,plenty who could reproduce the steps but few have managed to capture the shy hesitancy of the original and dance the role. She is the only dancer to perform the role where I have not regretted the absence of the dancer on whom it was created. Collier was far too ebullient, too obviously a dancer possessed of a strong technique to get to the heart of the character while Marquez just did steps.

 

Jenner's Lise was very strong willed  and one of the most enjoyable that I have ever seen. Her portrayal was very much her own and without distorting the choreography or its musicality she highlighted elements in it which other dancers gloss over. In her first solo in the Fanny Elssler pas de deux she gave the audience a fleeting glimpse of a series of charming nineteenth century ballet lithographs rather than the long standard ballet poses which we usually see in performance today.I recall with great pleasure her appearances in Nureyev's Nutcracker where in act 1 she danced Clara's sister and the Turkish doll with a very mobile face,extraordinary detail,vigorously clean technique, armed with a scimitar; her appearance in the greatest performance of Symphonic Variations I have ever seen and her appearance in the original Royal Ballet cast of Dances at a Gathering.

 

At a time the company definitely fielded first, second, third and fourth casts with their own individual supporting casts she would often appear in the divertisements which accompanied the first cast's performances. She said that when it came to dancing lead roles she often found herself dancing in something like the sixth cast.

 

A dancer's progress is very much dependent on the his or her Artistic Director, their choice of repertory and the type of dancer which they favour .A change of AD can mark the end of a very promising career or mark the beginning of one.  There are factors, other than how closely an individual dancer conforms to the physical type the AD favours, which play a significant part in a dancer's progress and one of the most important in the past has not been a dancer's technical abilities but the company's age profile.It is better not to be too close in age to the dominant senior dancers .Jenner was a member of the company at a time when the RB was awash with talent and I think that was the real problem.

 

Jenner was born in 1944 and  closer in age to the senior female dancers who were in the company at the time when she was moving up the ranks than were either Penney (1946) and Collier(1947). Those senior dancers included Fonteyn (1919),Nerina(1927) Beriosova (1934) Park (1937) Parkinson(1938) Seymour (1939) Sibley (1939) Bergsma (1941) and Mason (1941) all of whom had a prior claim to the roles which had been allocated to them than Jenner had to those roles .The list of dancers is not exhaustive but it indicates the competition which Jenner faced in getting roles.

 

Another problem is that she was in the company at a time when a form of emploi was applied to the allocation of roles, There were dancers who  were seen as classical dancers, there were those who were dramatic dancers and then there were those who were classified as soubrettes. This latter group which was headed by Nerina, included Park, Jenner herself, Connor and Collier. But Collier had the advantage of being three years younger than Jenner and was not therefore in direct competition for roles with the older dancers. As Park was gradually given more classical roles the management's application of emploi was relaxed opening up opportunities to a young technically strong dancer like Collier. Collier's opportunities  improved as she gained access to the roles which Park had outgrown and the possibility opened up that she would get the opportunity of performing the roles which Park was now dancing.These changes were taking place at the point at which Jenner went off to guest in Australia That Collier went on to have a long and distinguished career was a combination of her youth when compared with the group of principal dancers born immediately before the war,her technical skills, and the fact that at least two choreographers working with the company were happy to cast her in roles they had created for other dancers and were happy to make roles for her

 

.I always wonder what would have happened if Jenner had stuck it out for a few more years. She may well have found that like Collier she became virtually indispensable to the company because the company under MacMillan and his successor kept on discovering new dancers most of whom burnt out rather than staying the course.

 

I do not think that Jenner was singled out for neglect by Ashton. I thought that he promoted her to principal.At that time the number of principals meant that hardly anyone danced the entire repertory. I know that Sibley said that the only person who danced everything was Fonteyn and that everyone else was allocated a range of ballets to dance. The roles which a dancer was allocated were those which she was deemed best suited to and that assessment was based on the company's application of its form of emploi. It helps to put Jenner's career development into context by looking at Park who is seven years older than Jenner. I seem to recall that at the point in the seventies when it was first announced that Park was to dance Odette/Odile at Covent Garden the response among many of the older regulars was either "But she's a soubrette !" or "Nureyev wants her because she's small,strong and light".I think that Park first danced Aurora late in her career.

 

We might still see the young dancers who are now beginning to advance through the ranks experiencing the sort of problem that the presence of a large number of older dancers who have a claim to the roles which the aspirants need to dance blocking career development. If dancers like Rojo and Cojocaru were still with the resident company their allocation of performances would be a potential  barrier to the career development of the likes of Hayward and Naghdi. As it is, more by luck than judgement there is a two year age gap between each of  female principal dancers

 

I think that sheJenner said that was usually something like sixth cast in the major roles. I think that when you compare her experience in the company with that of Collier who was born in 1947 you begin to see that not only does a dancer's age and  repertory have an impact on the trajectory of a dancer's career,but  how close they are in age to the senior dancers with whom they are competing for repertory. Jenner was only five years younger than Sibley and Seymour and  and in the absence a choreographer anxious to make ballets on her or an someone acting on her behalf to push her career which de Valois did for a dancer like Whitten then it was perhaps inevitable that she should choose to leave and pursue her career elsewhere.

 

 As with many other careers progress in a ballet company is very much a matter of luck and things over which the individual dancer has no control such as the age profile of the company's senior ranks,but not being susceptible to injury, being in the right place at the right time, being useful and a quick learner and being someone choreographers or a  well placed choreographer want to work with all seem to help.

Edited by FLOSS
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On 08/05/2017 at 13:28, MAB said:

I rather wish there were more threads about dancers of the past.

 

MAB, do feel free to start one (or several).  We do rather tend to concentrate on the present here, despite the presence of a number of very longstanding balletgoers - and come to think of it, we don't have that many threads on individual dancers at all.

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4 hours ago, FLOSS said:

I do not think that Jenner was singled out for neglect by Ashton. I thought that he promoted her to principal.At that time the number of principals meant that hardly anyone danced the entire repertory. help.

 

Seeing as Ms Jenner was promoted to principal in 1970, it is difficult to say for certainty who promoted her as 1970 was the year Ashton left and MacMillan took over.  As far as memory serves me she danced roles such as Firebird and Giselle, the two roles I liked her in most, towards the end of her RB career, Lise too I think.

 

I was led to believe she left the RB for personal reasons, but let's not rake over old gossip.  The fact is there are a lot of dancers that appear under appreciated by their companies, in recent years Diana Cuni, Vassily Scherbakov and Emmanuel  Thibault should have reached ballet's Olympian heights but didn't.  As the saying goes **** happens.

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Lovely to see this thread revived. Floss, your post is packed with interesting observations about the situation at the Royal Ballet with regard to female principals. One aspect that hasn't been mentioned is the amount of injuries that Jenner  incurred at quite critical times in her career. Apart from several sustained periods when she was indisposed, she created Sunday's child in Ashton's Jazz Calendar and was unable to dance the premiere, and famously, had to be substituted half way through her debut (?) performance of Aurora owing to a burst appendix. she didn't get an opportunity to dance the role again for several seasons - twice I think,once on tour .

 

Incidentally. it is possible to see Jenner's interpretation of Dorabella which Floss refers to in her post, as she appears in the filmed version  - Sibley, who was the first cast, was injured. You can view this on You Tube.

 

 

 

 

 

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