Whilst live performances did restart briefly in October for Birmingham Royal Ballet and at the start of November for the Royal Ballet, another lockdown in England has curtailed them. However, since March much dance has been made available online, including the streaming of live and recorded performance, virtual classes and many more informal creations by dancers around the world.
The start of the 2019-20 season saw the launch of our redesigned website with blogs based on our newsletters created by committee member Yurika Yamagata and, since the pandemic started, our newsletters have been expanded to contain articles from the companies and schools.
During the season we were saddened to hear of the deaths of long-term Association members Anne Faulder, Michael Gainsbury and, since the start of the new season, Michael Hobday, as well as Balanchine repetiteur Elyse Borne, Prima Ballerina Assoluta and Director of Ballet Nacional de Cuba Alicia Alonso, founder and Director of London City Ballet Harold King, dance photographer Anthony Crickmay, Argentine Ballet Russe and Festival Ballet ballerina Irina Borowska, former Royal Ballet Principal Anne Heaton, former Bolshoi star Nikolai Fadeyechev, former Royal Ballet dancer Jelko Yuresha, and French ballet star Zizi Jeanmaire.
We congratulate David Bintley, who was knighted for services to dance, and Ashley Wheater, Artistic Director of Joffrey Ballet, who received a CBE in the New Year’s Honours List as well as our Founder Patron Sir Anthony Dowell who received the Prix Benois de la Danse 2020 at the Positano Premia la Danza Léonide Massine Awards. We also congratulate Royal Ballet Guest Artist David Hallberg on his appointment as Artistic Director of Australian Ballet and the Royal Ballet’s Helen Crawford, Oilvia Cowley, Demelza Parrish and Gemma Pitchley-Gale on the births of their babies.
Last season saw Principal Thiago Soares, Principal Character Artist Alastair Marriott, Character Artist and Ballet Master Jonathan Howells, Soloist Tristan Dyer and First ArtistÉrico Montes leave The Royal Ballet and the Company announced that Principal Edward Watson joined the roster of Royal Ballet Coaches as Repetiteur for the 2020/21 season and will give his final main stage performances in Wayne McGregor’s The Dante Project. During the season, First Soloist Helen Crawford retired from dancing and became Ballet Mistress.
All the 2019-20 Aud Jebsen Young Dancers, Madison Bailey, Liam Boswell, Brayden Gallucci, Bomin Kim and Ginevra Zambon joined the Royal as Artists at the start of this season and Denilson Almeida, Daichi Ikarashi, James Large, Hanna Park, Maddison Pritchard and Marianna Tsembenhoi joined the Aud Jebsen Young Dancers Programme. Marco Masciari joined as Prix de Lausanne dancer. We especially wish to congratulate Liam, Ginevra, Denilson and Hanna as they were recipients of the Ballet Association Awards whilst at the Royal Ballet School.
No other promotions were announced at the end of the last season, although during the season Reece Clarke was promoted to First Soloist. Birmingham Royal Ballet announced at the end of the season that Principal Delia Matthews, First Soloist Maureya Lebowitz and First Artist Aitor Galende had left the Company. Earlier in the season Soloist James Barton had left. Lucy Waine, Sofia Liñares and Shuailun Wu from the Royal Ballet School, Matilde Rodrigues and, from January 2021, Javier Rojas join as Artists. Last season’s Apprentices Ryan Felix from Elmhurst Ballet School and Tessa Hogge also joined as Artists and Darel José Pérez joins as an Apprentice. And, of course, in January 2020 Carlos Acosta formally took over as Director.
We continue to support new choreography and made a donation of £500 towards the Royal Ballet’s International Draft Works. For a ninth year, we sponsored the Award for Best Classical choreography at the Critic’s Circle National Dance Awards. It was won by Alexei Ratmansky for his Shostakovich Trilogy for San Francisco Ballet. Winners of other awards included Gary Avis, Marcelino Sambé, Francesca Hayward and our President Marion Tait, who received the De Valois Award for Outstanding Achievement.
In October 2019, the Royal Ballet presented the Merce Cunningham Centennial Programme in the Linbury Theatre. We had given our third biennial donation of £5,000 towards this programme which included Cunningham’s Cross Currents, Ashton’s Monotones II and Pam Tanowitz’s new work, Everyone Keeps Me. The cheque had been presented to Kevin O’Hare at the previous season’s Annual Dinner. We hope to next make a donation towards a work during the 2021-22 season. By way of thanks, since Kevin became Director of The Royal Ballet, the Association has been invited to a studio rehearsal.
We were unable to arrange this for the 2020-21 season because of Covid. The Spring and early Summer also normally sees an array of other popular annual events. Unfortunately, all of these had to be cancelled. However, earlier in the season on a wet November afternoon 2019, 15 members joined guide Rachel Kolsky for an Association Walk in the Footsteps of the Ballet Russe.
Our Annual joint visit to the Royal Ballet School with London Ballet Circle was unable to take place. I am delighted to say that almost all who had booked places through the Association donated their payments and I was able to send a cheque for £890 to the School. In early July 2020, our RBS Awards were presented via a virtual assembly to First Year Upper School student Isabella Boyd from the USA and Second Year students Julie Petanova and Alejandro Valera from the Czech Republic and Spain respectively. We will get to meet them via a Zoom webinar meeting in January 2021 along with teacher Zhan Atymtayev.
Our annual visit to Birmingham Royal Ballet and Elmhurst Ballet School was also cancelled, but, in our absence, our President and the School’s Artistic Director Robert Parker presented the Association’s annual Elmhurst award to Italian student Nicola Marchionni. This award, and our three RBS awards, are given each year in recognition of the contribution to dance of Sylvia Tyler and Joan Seaman through their founding and development of the Association.
Our guests at meetings during the 2019-20 season were Francesca Hayward, Cathy Marston, Sophie Allnatt, Aiden O’Brien, Marcelino Sambé, Isabella Gasparini, Romany Pajdak, Laura Morera, Jessica Clarke, Hanna Park, Denilson Almeida, Dame Monica Mason, Helen Crawford and Melissa Hamilton. Our meetings for the second half of the season, March onwards, were cancelled, but we have started this season with Zoom webinars with Kevin O’Hare, Annette Buvoli, Harry Churches, Sir David Bintley, Itziar Mendizabal, Jonathan Cope and, tonight, Yasmine Naghdi.
Once again, despite the break in meetings, this is an impressive list of speakers. In recognition that some of our members are unable to access Zoom meetings, since May 2020 we have included short articles in our newsletters written, so far, by Kevin O’Hare, Jonathan Cope, Christopher Powney, Christopher Saunders, Marion Tait, Gary Avis, Jeanetta Laurence, David Pickering, Yasmine Naghdi, Mayara Magri, and Beatriz Stix-Brunell. We are extremely grateful to all those who have attended meetings or written articles.
It was with regret that we had to postpone our Annual Dinner in May 2020. We postponed, rather than cancelled, as we had already paid 50% of the booking to the hotel, as the contract required. The hotel agreed to carry forward our payment to a revised date within twelve months. We still hope that this may be possible.
As always, I must express my thanks to our Committee for their work throughout the year: Membership Secretary and Joint Deputy Chair Liz Atkins; Treasurer Melanie Shipton; Events Secretary Ann Maclennan; Reporting Secretary Liz Bouttell; Joint Deputy Chair Ann Dawson, Rachel Holland and Linda Gainsbury, who help write reports; Zoom webinar host Paul Pan; Yurika Yamagata, who updates our website; Chiara Gorodesky, who looks after Facebook; Roger Handley and Jacqui Sporle. Our thanks also to our web-designer Mark Clarke and to Kenneth Leadbeater who audits our accounts. And, finally, thanks to all members, without whom there wouldn’t be an Association.
Chairman of The Ballet Association