Since our last newsletter we have had two very entertaining meetings. In November, it was a delight to welcome Senior Répétiteur and Principal Character Artist Gary Avis as our guest. Gary first spoke about the change of titles from Ballet Masters to Répétiteurs and some of the minor changes to some ballets, such as the new Arabian Dance in The Nutcracker.He then spoke in some detail about his role as Virgil in Wayne McGregor’s Dante Project, including some of his background reading in preparation for the ballet. As well as speaking about the Répétiteur’s role in staging ballets, Gary talked about his repertoire as a Principal Character Artist, which has included Von Rothbart, Dr Coppelius, Edward Elgar, Prince Gremin, Herr Drosselmeyer, Tybalt and Lord Capulet over the last couple of seasons. More recently he co-hosted the Ashton Rediscovered Insight Evening alongside Isabel McMeekan and thanked the Association for our sponsorship, which had enabled the evening to be streamed free on the Royal Opera House You Tube site. Gary then touched on some aspects of his earlier career, including his partnership with Darcey Bussell. A regular at Association’s Annual Dinners and meetings, Gary gave us a fascinating evening.
At our December meeting, following our AGM, it was a great pleasure to welcome Royal Ballet Principal Francesca Hayward as our guest. Whilst Francesca had started this season on the Opening Night in Romeo and Julietwith her real-life partner Cesar Corrales, the season still felt jumbled in her mind. Although she was excited at doing the Opening Night with Cesar, she was working all day, every day with Wayne McGregor. Alongside Matthew Ball, Frankie was one of the few dancers in all acts of the Dante Project,so it was very tiring and demanding and other ballets just happened. The night before had been her first Nutcracker.A bit of a shock! Frankie explained in great detail the creation of her roles in Dante, the roles of those in the studio, such as the Dramaturg and Benesch Notator and her use of an audiobook of The Divine Comedy.Frankie then spoke about her other recent roles, including some aspects of Christopher Wheeldon’s Like Water for Chocolate, which they had started working on a long time ago. Frankie feels incredibly lucky to have Lesley Collier as her coach for most roles. Lesley was the first Sugar Plum she saw on video. Frankie then went on to talk about recent roles and other aspects of her career, including modelling and the film of Cats.Once again, we had a fascinating evening.