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December 18, 2006

A new resident choreographer at the Royal Ballet

Wayne McGregor's appointment has been chronicled at Ballet Talk and Ballet.co with Ballet.co being more positive and Ballet Talk at best ambivalent.

Brendan McCarthy posts his thoughts on the appointment and now Zoë Anderson has a very interesting interview up with Wayne McGregor at the Independent.

I’m firmly among those who are concerned. There’s no reason McGregor shouldn’t work with the company; but a resident choreographer – as McGregor says himself –

. . . develop[s], over a period of time, a programme of work that will have some impact on the way in which the dancers move.

And as Anderson comments:

A resident choreographer is in a position to make fundamental changes. It's not just that the Royal Ballet will dance more works by McGregor. Mason has already used the Ashton repertory to change the way that the Royal Ballet dances. By concentrating on those ballets, she built a shared style, redefining the company's identity.

The company was in a slump for several years, and only brought out of it by rediscovering the Ashton that was at the core of who they are. If McGregor sees his association with the company as more than that of a guest choreographer he could easily endanger that by making works that pull them in a different direction. If you think the company can be a servant of two masters, look at history. Classical style, as Alexandra Tomalonis has said, isn’t something you can take down off the shelf like a cookie jar and leave unattended until needed again. It needs constant maintenance. McGregor is not trained in ballet; his wriggling, eel-like vocabulary with no center or axis, is antithetical to classical training. He isn’t qualified to be a resident choreographer at a major ballet institution. See Alexandra’s humorous take at Danceview Times.

There’s a good chance he doesn’t intend that sort of association; reading the article he has rather grand plans for collaborations and mentoring but no intention of giving up any other of his many committments.

That's a very old-fashioned perception. This is a much more mobile, fluid, multi-modal kind of arrangement. I want to develop a new set of relationships with the building and the organisation, to do things that aren't currently happening.

Actually committing yourself to an institution is so very single modedly Old School, you know.

He goes on to say:

I want to develop more choreographic mentoring, in-house here, to provide more opportunities for young choreographers.
Which should tick off the people at the ROH who already have these programs in place that he says are not happening.

Reading between the lines, one senses McGregor’s talent, if not for choreography (Chroma was a good work, not a great one – and the other stuff I’ve seen of his has been like watching MTV) then certainly for ambitious self-promotion. I would like to see dance regain respect among intellectuals at well, but can't we do it with less pretentiousness?

Posted by Leigh Witchel at December 18, 2006 10:36 PM

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