Dancing Times has opened up the last 20 years of its archives to all until 7 April.
The monthly magazine has its think pieces, reviews, articles about technique, dance's past and present, but I always head first to the interviews. Here are some tidbits I've come across, and I've only just scratched the surface. Read while you can via this link.
When interviewing Monica Mason in 2006, Gerald Dowler asked her in what ways the company had changed:
We have some dancers throughout the ranks who are capable of great virtuosity, who excel at the flashy stuff and this company was never famous for that. Ashton liked certain things: Wayne Sleep was a virtuoso and Fred choreographed for him; Dowell had a real ability to dazzle with his speed, but never at the expense of line or musicality. They were never as “flash” as some today; we have several people who can do multiple fouettés, which we would only have dreamt of doing; when Rudolf arrived, although he was never virtuosic in that way, he did things we couldn't do and influenced us; Sylvie arriving and putting her legs in extraordinary places meant that others said “I can do that and maybe I'll be allowed to”. You can't keep the doors locked and the curtains drawn – if people said that everything was exactly as it was in 1952 it would be terrible!
In 2007, Roberto Bolle talked about rehearsing with Darcey Bussell for the last time:
I am very sad that she is retiring – as we rehearse now I am thinking that it will be the last time, and I am very sad. We have a beautiful relationship both as dancers and as people. That has helped because the atmosphere between us is great and we know each other very well. I will miss her, and it's a shame because she is in such good shape – I have never seen a ballerina retire in such good shape! I have tried to persuade her but there is nothing we can do.
The same year, Nadine Meisner interviewed Alexei Ratmansky in Milan when the Bolshoi was performing in the city:
Out of the 20 ballets created on the company during his directorship so far, only three are by him… “I don't think the Bolshoi should be the company of one choreographer. Also, as a choreographer I have a group of dancers I like to use, but as a director I have to find ballets that use the rest of the company.”
That means nurturing in-house choreographers. “It's a difficult task because for decades only one star [Yuri Grigorovich] dominated the repertoire and this really affected other choreographers' minds. But now that the Maryinsky and the Bolshoi and other theatres are widening their repertoires, sooner or later new choreographic talents will appear and flourish. A choreographer finds stimulation from his experience as a dancer and a spectator, I think. And from this he can evolve his own style. So the more he sees and experiences, the more interesting his style will be.”
There is a revealing interview with Tamara Rojo by Gerald Dowler in the January 2008 issue:
It is a mark of Tamara Rojo's unstoppable drive that when interviewed after a long day's rehearsals, she is as engaged and emphatic as she would be if fully rested. There is a clear dynamism about the woman, which first led her to leave her native Spain…
…Rojo gives the impression that she will be at The Royal Ballet for just as long as she feels she needs to be – she is in far too much of a hurry to achieve her goals. What could they be? “Maybe to direct a company; I have ideas and opinions which I think I have with good reason”.
You have been with The Royal Ballet for ten years and are in demand all over the world. Why have you stayed?
AC: It is a good home, although guesting with many different companies in the world means coming back enriched by the experience: through working with different dancers, teachers, productions one can learn and develop as an artist. This place is special because of the people I stand next to at the barre every morning; they are the soul of this place.
And in 2013, she joined Rojo at ENB.
Also in 2009, Dowler asked Federico Bonelli about his affinity with the repertoire at The Royal Ballet:
The repertoire here is one of the greatest plus points about the company – Ashton, MacMillan, the classics and new work; it works! The company has taught me the importance of telling a story on stage, which has added another dimension; theatre in the UK is very much about narrative. My brother back in Italy is an actor, and it has been great for me to develop that side, and to evolve as an artist.
The cover for Dancing Times' 100th Anniversary Edition in 2010 featured The Royal Ballet's Lauren Cuthbertson as Sylvia, her comeback role after many months away after undiagnosed glandular fever. Zoë Anderson – who had just become the magazine's Assistant Editor – asked her if there was pressure in being the company's only British female principal (Francesca Hayward and Yasmine Naghdi have since joined her):
It's a mixture of things. I think it's treasured, in some ways. To be honest, it feels like it doesn't matter. You have to accept that it's a very international company, it always has been. It is lovely to highlight that there's somebody who's been through our system – that you can get to this level, it can be achieved. Otherwise, what's it all for? I'm really proud to say I've gone all the way through. But I don't think it's seen to be a great thing to be a British principal. I don't know whether those days have gone – everything is so international now.
The following year, Anderson interviewed Dame Beryl Grey:
Characteristically, [Ninette] De Valois soon decided that her new dancer's original name, Beryl Groom, wouldn't do. “The first week, I was doing class, and she walked in and said ‘Groom! I'm changing your name to Grey, unless you can think of a better name. Right, it's Grey.' You can imagine, little me, with all these older dancers, going puce. I didn't dare say anything. Later, she had this bee in her bonnet, she wanted me to be called Iris. I hate the name Iris! Fortunately Evelyn Leith, the press officer, didn't like it either. I said, ‘Miss Leith, please, I don't want to be called Iris Grey! ‘So she battled it out, and I remained Beryl Grey.”
In 2011, Gerald Dowler asked Mara Galeazzi, former principal at The Royal Ballet, about the young Italian teenager arriving in rainy London:
I wasn't bothered by the cold and the rain, because I was so excited to be here. Because I had lived in a boarding school since the age of ten, I knew I had the independence, even if I ended up crying every morning – I was a mummy's girl too! But I wasn't scared – I took a vocabulary book and learned words every day, and the people in the company all helped me out; they were amazing. I learned English in three months living with a lovely English lady who was very particular about my language. It was a shock, but I loved the experience, and the fighting to succeed.
When Akram Khan turned 40 in 2014, Paul Arrowsmith talked to him about how he discussed his ideas with the cast:
They need to understand the impulses of a piece so they have an emotional engagement. Dancers need to understand the psychology of what they are embodying. That influences how they move. If dancers feel it, then audiences feel it. Everybody can believe – any of those figures could be me.
Zoë Anderson interviewed Marianela Nuñez in 2016 and asked her whether she watched videos of her performances:
I do. I look at it and – ” she groans – “but I look at it to perfect myself. I face it, and I can take it. It's like medicine: it doesn't taste good, but you know it's good for you! Obviously, we have people looking at us, advising us, you take that and you process it, but when you really see it, you think, ‘Oh, OK, I get it now.' It's an extra help.”
Dowler talked to Matthew Ball in 2018, asking him if it was liberating to ‘carry' a show:
In a way, very much so. Some may feel constrained, but I feel that having the responsibility allows me to set the tone and gives me the freedom to play with the part. In the corps, you have to be in time with everyone else, but as the lead, it is very different. As Rudolf, you know you have a number of counts to crawl over to the chair and inject yourself with morphine, but how you do that is left to you – if you need to be told, maybe you are not in the right job! That freedom is what makes the whole thing live, just like the synergy between you and your partner, as well as the connection with the audience. Being the lead allows you to be responsive and spontaneous.
With over 200 copies to browse through, there are a similar number of interviews, thousands of reviews, and many authoritative articles. A search feature will let you quickly find what you are looking for. Thank you Dancing Times.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.