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Royal Ballet Principals


 
Viviana Durante
Upcoming performances?
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"Durante" in postings?
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Viviana returned last season after taking the 1996/97 season off; having been at the top of ballet since she was a child it seems she wanted some time to think about life, the universe and everything and also to try some other things. Many doubted that she would return and there was relief that she did so, albeit as a Guest Artist which means fewer performances than her fans would have liked.

A small dancer who knows how to deliver the goods no matter what the piece. In the traditional repertoire she is all innocence and high ideals and in the MacMillan repertoire she is all knowing and tarty (as needed of course!). Occasionally she can look somewhat cool, as if her mind were dwelling on other things. She typifies the subjective nature of dance criticism: although no-one will quibble about Durante's technical ability, her ability to connect emotionally is not consistent. Thus for some tastes, her Giselle and Manon (the latter is superb) are too cool and too detached.

One of the most unfair things to happen to Durante recently was substituting her for an injured Darcey Bussell in Sleeping Beauty last September - the near six-inch difference in their heights led to a distorted Rose Adagio in which the entire cast towered over Durante. But these are dancers that should not be compared, although unfortunately they all too often are.

Viviana's performances in Manon (with Irek Mukhamedov) are excellent - they are widely regarded as the definitive Manon and Des Grieux of their generation. They closed the Royal Ballet's Coliseum season with a standing ovation that reduced Durante to tears. (It's worth noting that Durante reduces Bruce to an incoherent heap of ecstasy.) In general their partnership has proved one of the best over the last few years; they are the most dramatic of dancers and certainly spark off one another. {principals}
 

 
Darcey Bussell
ballet.co Bussell interview
Upcoming performances?
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"Bussell" in postings?
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Bussell website
The media star of the Royal Ballet, Darcey more than deserves her place at the top. A classical princess in the very best sense of the word, she shines in both Petipa and Ashton - catch her as Nikiya in La Bayadere and as Ashton's radiant Cinderella. She is tall by ballerina standards (5'8") and this has caused problems with finding a partner for her (on pointe she is well over 6 foot). However, over the past year and a half she has developed a strong partnership with guest artist Igor Zelensky, which is still shaky in places, but luminous elsewhere. Catch them as Romeo and Juliet - Darcey is one of the first tall ballerinas to dance the MacMillan version and their balcony scene is wonderfully passionate.

She danced Nikiya at the Kirov in St Petersburg in February 1998 at the request of Zelensky, and the pair had to take nine curtain calls after their first night! She guests worldwide, and won over the notoriously finicky New York City Ballet audience in Balanchine performances. She seems capable of embracing nearly all ballet styles and succeeding.

Darcey has an image as the "nice" girl of the Royal Ballet and many people have difficulty with her performances in seamier roles. She and Zelensky danced Manon together for the first time in the summer and were not received with universal approval. That said, her dramatic abilities are strengthening and future performances should be much stronger.

The Independent (26/10/96) included a review of peoples favourite things. Bamber Gascoigne gave details of his favourite ballerina: "I joined the board of the Royal Opera House in September 1988, when Kenneth MacMillan was just starting to notice Darcey Bussell, in the Chorus with Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet. It's been fascinating watching her develop and grow within the company. I don't think it's a requirement for a ballerina to be lovely, but I do find her immensely beautiful.

Her beauty is of such a serene kind. It's crazy to say this about someone whose craft is movement, but she has this amazing quality of stillness; even on a crowded stage, your eye is always drawn to her. When she does move, it always seems so incredibly sure. It's a calm based on incredible physical confidence and control, particularly in the Rose Adagio in Sleeping Beauty, that agonising thing that happens almost as soon as the ballerina comes on. It's such a worrying moment, but it's part of the appeal of ballet - that hire-wire fear. Whenever I've seen her, she's done it with unbelievable ease. She's never disappointed me, but then I'm a bit of a push-over".

Here is some more, this time from Twyla Tharp:"Leon [Wieseltier] got totally hypnotised by celadon. He saw a few pieces at the Freer Gallery and all of a sudden everything was about celadon, about the spirituality of this colour and this glaze. And I got hooked into it, and the second movement of "Mr. Worldly Wise," for the Royal Ballet in London, is dressed in celadon, because Darcey Bussell -- have you seen Darcey dance? She is beautiful in every conceivable way. Physically beautiful, but also genuinely, spiritually beautiful. And she's a phenomenal dancer. Darcey got this role called Mistress Truth-on-Toe, because she's simple, pure, direct. She's so beautiful, you just give her the simplest thing and say, fine, get back, don't get in her way, let her move. That's the beauty of her." {principals}
 

 
Miyako Yoshida
ballet.co interview
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"Yoshida" in postings?
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A real favourite with fans of the Royal and Birmingham Royal Ballet, who deserves to be much more widely known and celebrated than she is. Tiny, elegant and technically very strong. Probably the best of the Royals's Odette/Odiles: those fouettees are dispatched with terrific panache and a number of double turns. Yoshida is not one who over-interprets her roles: she always shows great respect for the choreographer's intentions. And you do get the choreography: every step is there, nothing slurred or fudged, but all presented with scrupulous, loving care. She hasn't always been rated as an actress, but a year partnered by Mukhamedov (while Durante took time out) has paid considerable dividends, and she can be a touching Juliet. See her in the classic roles and the Ashton repertoire. She's also looks at home in Balanchine and did some wonderful performances of Theme & Variations with BRB. What she needs is a consistent partner now that Irek is partnering Durante again.{lh}

Small and technically dazzling she is somebody who can more than look after herself. One of the best things she has done were some divertissement pieces and Don Quixote with Teddy Kumakawa. The combination, in the right pieces, gives rise to irrepressible fireworks and it is a shame that they have not been seen more together. Her Talisman pas de deux with Mukhamedov was also enchanting, while her classical performances with Bruce Sansom, particularly in Swan Lake, are a joy. She has been partnered with Jonathan Cope, an incongruous pairing of two sensitive dancers - Cope is too tall for them to produce a satisfactory line. {principals}
 

 
Leanne Benjamin
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"Benjamin" in postings?
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Leanne is a strong dramatic actress, at her best when portraying real people rather than princesses or fairies. She is most at home in the MacMillan repertoire, and especially in what I always think of as his slut roles (no offence, Leanne!). In the Judas Tree, she was truly a revelation - better than Durante, on whom the role was created. She is popular in roles such as Juliet and Giselle, where she can be very touching. A heart-breaking Giselle, she manages to be totally convincing in both acts. Her small size makes her Juliet look unprecedentedly young, but conversely, it means that she can manage the dizzying lifts and turns with more ease than a taller dancer.

She is also more than capable of taking care of herself. Leanne has the knack of making the most recalcitrant partner behave himself and give a more than creditable performance. Final note is that Leanne was originally a Principal at English National Ballet; not many make such a move. {principals}
 

 
Deborah Bull
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"Bull" in postings?
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For a principal dancer Deborah Bull is becoming increasingly known for doing anything but dance it seems!

Recently made a CBE, she is on the Arts Council, has published two books and also appeared on radio and television, from morning chat shows to co-hosting Dance Night on BBC2. Just recently it's been announced that Bull will be responsible for developing and programming the Studio Upstairs - a third performance space (based on a rehearsal studio) in the redeveloped Royal Opera House. Her name has also been mentioned as a possible Royal Ballet artistic director at some point. Quite a list!

On the dancing side Bull sees herself more as the Salieri than the Mozart. It's typical of her thoughtful and reflective approach. Bull has not been seen so much in the classics, though her Odette/Odile (Swan Lake) pleased many and in all the senior soloist roles she is much admired. But it is in the modern works, particularly by Forsythe, that she commands the greatest attention and respect. As she gets older she becomes more involved in new works it seems and the Studio Upstairs will extend this involvement.

While Bull will inevitably hang up her pointe shoes sometime, after a career that many dancers can only wish for, it's hard to imagine that her experience will be lost to dance and indeed it may well be that her best years, as dance ambassador, programmer, influencer, director and broadcaster are yet to come.

from The Guardian, 12 June 1999
when her CBE was announced in the Queens birthday honours list:

Deborah Bull, who gains a CBE for her services to dance, confounds all the prejudices about prima ballerinas: quick, articulate and outspoken, she has emerged as a passionate spokeswoman in a field where the majority are deemed beautiful but vacant.

A Royal Ballet member since 1981, and principal dancer since 1992, she sprang to the general public's attention when she wiped the floor of the Oxford Union by defending lottery funding of "elitist" arts in 1996.

Lord Gowrie, her debating partner, described it as "the best speech I have heard on the arts in 30 years". She has since written extensively for broadsheets, published two books (the second an account of the recent tumults at the Royal Opera House), and become a member of the Arts Council and board of the South Bank Centre.

The youngest of four daughters of a Derby vicar, Ms Bull, 36, trained at the Royal Ballet School, where she was the only student in her year to take an A-level (French, which she crammed in a year). She has since been awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Derby for "her cogent public advocacy of the place of the arts". {principals}
 

 
Irek Mukhamedov
ballet.co Mukhamedov interview
Upcoming performances?
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"Mukhamedov" in postings?
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A Mukhamedov Website
By reputation the leading male dancer at the Royal Ballet. Ex Bolshoi and a big, powerful and expressive individual on stage. He is also an excellent and dramatic partner who is good in any of the roles be he the hero, the fool, or the villain. Irek guests elsewhere and has also toured his own mini-company from time to time; all well worth seeing.

Possibly his finest hour was/is in "Manon" with Viviana Durante - it's a ballet that suits them to perfection. Generally, Mukhamedov pulls out all the stops for MacMillan ballets - he's also an excellent Romeo.

Irek however seems to have lost his way somewhat over the last couple of years and he has also not been seen on stage so much. He has now been made a guest artist - and he is not happy with this move. Without MacMillan (a hero and friend) the repertoire over the last few seasons has not particularly suited him and this coupled with the inevitable creeping up of age and the sabbatical of Viviana Durante means he has been less happy and perhaps not so motivated. He has also put on weight and his jumps take more effort than formerly. Even so he wows audiences and the return of Durante as a partner certainly boosted his performances this year.

Is he past his peak? Well, yes, he is, but don't be deterred. The effort makes his performances even more compelling viewing, albeit tinged with sadness for audiences who love him. On a more irreverrent note, in an ideal world Irek would become a character artist - although they're not usually roles given to someone of his fame and stature, many in the audience would love to see him as the bullying Ugly Sister in Cinderella or Widow Simone in Fille Mal Gardee. But Irek could walk on stage and read the telephone book and still pull crowds. He has a magnetism and stage presence like no other and we all look forward to his every performance. He also does the most outrageous and entertaining curtain calls - the only person who shows more neck at this time is Farouk Ruzimatov of the Kirov. {principals}
 
 
Tetsuya Kumakawa
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"Kumakawa" in postings?
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Kumakawa website
Teddy plays everything one way - the Teddy way. He is also not a particularly good partner; indeed some would say downright poor, though there are encouraging signs that he is working on this. What he is good at are solos where he pulls out all the stops and you will see nothing finer or higher. For these he can be forgiven much, though even by his own standards he is starting to go OTT at times and it would be nice to see him concentrate on becoming a more rounded dancer. A real crowd pleaser whose occasional partnering with Miyako Yoshida we don't see nearly enough. See them in Don Q and weep with joy.

Teddy gets screams from the Opera House audience when he's danced one of his heart-stopping solos. It's not what he'd want to be remembered solely for, but Teddy dancing a ninety-second extravaganza like the Golden Idol in La Bayadere is an awe-inspiring sight.

At the time of writing, Teddy had just resigned from the Royal Ballet. More details can be found on postings. {principals}
 

 
Jonathan Cope
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"Cope" in postings?
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Probably the best partner in the world? Cope is up there, both as a dancer, but especially as a partner. See him and Sylvie Guillem in anything, but particularly Manon. He's an unassuming dancer, but can be relied upon to make his partner look her best.

He suffered some poor crits particularly early in his career. Now nearly all the critics are behind him. He is never over the top and is always a perfect partner. His dignity in the big roles always shines through; others see this reserve differently. Sylvie Guillem rates him very, very, highly indeed and while Darcey Bussell also cited him as a best friend in an interview. An all round good egg.

You need to catch Cope in the next few years while he is still at the height of his powers; while ballerinas can go into their 40's and beyond, alas this is not normally the case for male dancers. In particular, he's more than worth catching as the Salamander Prince in Prince of the Pagodas, a role he created. Also does a nice line in comedy, particularly in Matthew Hart's Cry Baby Kreisler, in the 1997 Dance Bites tour. {principals}
 

 
Bruce Sansom
Upcoming performances?
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"Sansom" in postings?
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An RB principal for the last 10 years, Sansom's outstanding quality is his wonderfully elegant 'English' line, which makes him a natural for the Ashton repertory. He's created many roles for David Bintley (see him in 'Tombeaux' if you ever get the chance) and also does all the classics. Recently he's been teamed with Leanne Benjamin, which is an interesting personality mix and has worked out rather well. He works well with Yoshida, and is generally a considerate partner. He also looks about 18 - pretty good going for one of the longer-serving members of the company!

Also, rather surprisingly, looks good in the Judas Tree, which is a million miles away from his usual repetoire and image on stage. Danced his heart out as the Foreman's Friend in this ballet, demanding the audience's attention, not easy when Irek Mukhamedov and Leanne Benjamin are dancing the leads. After that, it would be good to see him do "dirtier" roles to see what he would make of them. {principals}
 

 
Stuart Cassidy
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"Cassidy" in postings?
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Joined in 1987 and whizzed through the lower ranks of the company with amazing confidence and maturity. Technically strong, with an appealing 'no-nonsense' manner, he does everything - but doesn't seem to get his share of the limelight. (And maybe one day he'll be allowed to forget his famous debut as Romeo, when he made his entrance in the tomb scene still wearing his sweat pants...)

Always worth watching - a nice sound dancer. Is often partnered with Darcey Bussell and has a very good rapport with her. Catch him as Lescaut in Manon - he judges the drunk solo to perfection. {principals}
 

 
William Trevitt
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"Trevitt" in postings?
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Technically strong, reliable, all-rounder; and in the right part he has an impressive presence and authority. So far, though, there aren't many roles for which he'd be an automatic first choice - he needs his own niche in the company to let him take the next step to the top.

Can surprise you as a dancer - was very good in Push Comes to Shove, but can also be very patchy. For example, he was atrocious in the Third Movement of Symphony in C one afternoon, and danced it to perfection (with a different partner) that night. {principals}
 



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