Although Kevin O’Hare’s appointment as the next director of the Royal Ballet was announced months ago, it is only now that he has spoken about his new role. Up until now he has rightly let Monica Mason do the talking in her final season, but with the publication of the Royal Opera House’s 2012–2012 season, which includes his first ballet season, he decided to talk to The Times’ Debra Craine.
Here are his words:
On his first season
I think it has made a big splash. There is lots of new work going on; I’m excited by it, and I will be building on that. It’s a step forward. You have to think of the future as well, and there will be other big splashes throughout the next couple of years.”
We are a big company of 90 plus dancers and we have to think of them as a whole. Each one matters, you can’t keep putting one person in front of another, and some people find that hard to accept. But I don’t think we have a morale problem; the company seem in great spirits.
“Of course it is sad to see a dancer like Polunin go, but we have always supported him and continue to support him. With his visa application to remain in this country, I wrote the letter with Alistair Spalding at Sadler’s Wells to help that happen. Polunin has to decide what he needs and wants; we are there to listen, to talk and see what happens. He’s a lovely dancer but of course we have lots of lovely dancers.”
On his two new artistic associates, Christopher Wheeldon and Wayne McGregor
They have so many ideas and though they come from very different backgrounds, we all seem to work well together. To have two of the greatest choreographers of their generation working with this company is an opportunity I wouldn’t want to miss out on. And they care about their work; they leave their egos at the door.”
On collaborating with Ratmansky
He really is a beautiful classical choreographer, someone I believe will create something really special for the company. It will be a great experience for the dancers.”
On his own role
It’s an advantage for a director not to be a choreographer. Choreographers need to be so focused on creating. The last thing they need is to be thinking about how a programme is put together, what the budget is, or what our touring plans are.”
On budget cuts
The budget cuts are hard, and there really shouldn’t be any more, but we are being imaginative and finding ways to make things work, for instance with co-productions, and by having big runs of the classics to balance the budget. Though the last thing we want to do is a constant diet of Swan Lake and Nutcracker. That would be fatal for the dancers. There is so much creativity going on at the moment that we have to give these people as many opportunities as possible.”
On creating new full-length narrative ballets
Already you see the first inkling of that with Liam in the Linbury. Narrative is something the Royal Ballet is really good at, so it’s such a shame when choreographers don’t work with stories. I would love to see them create full-length narrative works that could become classics for years to come.
“One of my driving forces is to be more prescriptive with our choreographers and say ‘This is what I feel the company needs at this time and this is where I want you to go.’ Our audiences love narrative; they love to see a story going right through the evening.”
On the classics
The classics are not only popular they are also a vital part of a dancer’s career. They never go out of fashion. There is always something for audiences and dancers to get out of them, and it’s amazing how tough they still are to perform.
“We have got very good versions of the 19th-century classics and I’m more interested in creating new ones. We will have something coming later, a new look to an old classic, something that hasn’t been seen in a while here.”
On using the small Linbury Studio Theatre and large venues
We need to be more strategic about how we show the company off in [the Linbury Studio Theatre]. I want to repeat the 02 experience, perhaps somewhere else in the country. It might be a way for us to perform outside London; with an arena-type venue we might be able to make the numbers work by reaching the biggest audience.”
On the future
I’m building on what Monica has achieved so far. But I also think that the company is in such a strong position that I can push it that little bit further.”
Kevin O’Hare Photo: Sim Canetty-Clark