At our March 2021 meeting it was a pleasure to welcome Royal Ballet First Artists Hannah Grennell and Téo Dubreuil as our guests. Both Hannah and Téo were Junior Associates before graduating into White Lodge and then the Royal Ballet Upper School. They spoke in some detail about their experiences at the School and, in Hannah’s case, the challenges of being a tall student.
On completing the Upper School, Hannah joined Dutch National Ballet and Téo joined English National Ballet. They related some of their highlights in these companies, such as performing in Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella and with choreographer Hans van Manen in Amsterdam, and performing in Suite en Blanc and Derek Deane’s production of Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall.
They then talked about how they came to transfer to the Royal Ballet and some of their highlights since joining, which include Royal Ballet international tours and working with choreographers such as Crystal Pite and Hofesh Shechter. They concluded by talking about the last year and how grateful they were to the Company for organising Zoom classes. Hannah and Téo gave us a very interesting evening.
At our April 2021 meeting it was a privilege to welcome our President Christopher Saunders, Rehearsal Director and Principal Character Artist with the Royal Ballet. Chris gave us a fascinating and entertaining evening talking about the different aspects of his roles. As Rehearsal Director, he is a stepping stone between ballet staff, dancers and the Director.
He meets with Kevin prior to each season to plan who looks after each ballet and attends “Gang” meetings with senior management. Chris spoke in detail about the challenges of staging different ballets, liaising with Philip Mosley over rehearsal schedules and trying to ensure all casts are ready for performances. Chris was offered the post of Ballet Master in 2001 by Ross Stretton, but actually fulfilled the role of repetiteur that season coaching principals. Chris touched on the different challenges of staging works outside the Royal Ballet and of working with guest coaches, such as Pat Neary, before speaking briefly about some of his favourite character roles, including Elgar, Kostchei and Monsieur GM.
Amazingly, it was 17 years since Chris last spoke to the Association. We will leave a much smaller gap before the next time. If you haven’t already watched it, there is an excellent free Insight evening being streamed on the Opera House website, Meet the Young Dancers where Chris coaches eight of the Company’s youngest dancers.
At our first meeting in May 2021, we were delighted to welcome former Royal Ballet Principal Johan Kobborg returning to talk to the Association for the first time since he left the Company in 2013. At the time of the meeting, Johan was rehearsing his and Ethan Stiefel’s production of Giselle with Royal New Zealand Ballet via the internet in the early hours of the morning. He then spoke about his production of Cinderella for NBA in Tokyo, developing a new scenario for the work, rearranging the music, having to quarantine twice in Japan and the challenges of not being able to see the dancers’ expressions in rehearsals as they wore masks.
Johan was then asked about his two and a half seasons as artistic director of the Romanian National Ballet, the extensive repertoire he brought to the Company and the many changes of Theatre Director which eventually resulted in his leaving Bucharest, a city he loves. Before moving on to talk about his career with the Royal Ballet, Johan spoke about his one act production of Romeo and Juliet which premiered in the Arena di Verona in 2019.
Johan explained why and how he joined the Royal Ballet and highlights of his 14 years with the Company, such as Onegin, Nutcracker, Giselle and his production of La Sylphide, as well as his partnership with Alina Cojocaru. Johan regrets that only a small number of works was created on him whilst with the Royal, which partly led to his leaving in 2013. As expected, Johan provided us with a fascinating and very thoughtful account of some aspects of his varied career.