Monday, 5 August 2013

Catch-up, Pt 2: Mayerling 2013 – what a way to go!

One of the most extraordinary things I’ve seen this summer was the retirement performance of Johan Kobborg, quitting the stage with a bang (in every sense) in “Mayerling”. 

I hadn’t made any special plans to be at his farewell.  I’d been meaning for ages to see if I could catch him in action next time the Royal Ballet revived this phenomenally dark and powerful piece, as I’d heard he was a really tremendous interpreter of the lead role of Crown Prince Rudolf.  So; they brought it back this summer, and I booked a ticket; then a very short time beforehand – I think it was no more than a week or two – he announced his retirement, and his onstage and off-stage partner Alina Cojocaru announced she too was leaving the company – and this particular performance was to be their last appearance at Covent Garden.

Getting a seat for a beloved dancer’s farewell can be pretty tricky; getting a seat for two of them leaving at once would I imagine be proportionately harder still.  But I had managed it, by sheer random luck.  Even without that, I would be glad I’d been there anyway, since it was a terrific performance and both leads were on absolutely smashing form (as God knows they need to be – on top of this being a very demanding ballet, some of the lifts in Rudolf’s series of big pas de deux look bloody dangerous to me).  The added poignancy of ending with a long, long sequence of increasingly emotional curtain calls just added to an already dramatic atmosphere.  All in all it was a memorable evening.

And as for Mr Kobborg – well, to be able to retire at 40, and go out dancing this role, possibly the toughest thing in the repertoire for a male dancer (physically and I would guess also psychologically) this well, well, that’s an impressive way to go.  Not sliding off quietly into the shadows, half-unnoticed, but going with a full-on, explosively physical, high-drama thump to the guts to everyone in the audience.  I think that’s called stopping while you’re at the top; good on you, man!

I gather there are wheels within wheels in the background to this story (if you’ll forgive the mixed metaphor!).  I suppose that’s inevitable sometimes in any large organisation.  Being as I am easily as much of a balletomane now as I was as a little girl, I hope very much that any problems behind the scenes at the company can be resolved sensibly and without ill-will on anyone’s part, since all I want is to go on getting lashings of top-class ballet in London.  I’m not going to look online to see who’s been washing whose dirty linen in public! 

So long as things don’t reach levels of animosity of Bolshoi proportions I’m fairly hopeful...  I don’t really want to know the nitty-gritty of company politics, I’m afraid; I feel it’s rather like wanting to know the ins-and-outs of an actor’s personal relationships.  There’s a reason why it’s called a “private” life, after all.

Just let them do the work, and do it well; just give them the means to go on doing that.  I don’t mind who’s shagging who, or any other personal matters, for dancers, for singers, for actors, or indeed for the people who invent new flavours for Ben & Jerry’s.  I don’t want to know if there are managerial disagreements, or who is misbehaving or exceeding their remit, or anything, and while I’m sorry for anyone who’s losing out or feels hard-done-by (and I’d much rather they didn’t feel that way, simply because no-one likes to), nonetheless, unless it’s ruining their work  I don’t actually mind if I don’t know about it.  

Is that blinkered of me? - or, perhaps, cold and uncaring?  Perhaps it is.  It’s the work I admire them for, these performers.  Okay, I admit occasionally the eye candy aspect comes into it! – but basically it’s the work I love them for, and it’s the work that I want to see going on, long after any individual performer's career winds down; handed-down in good shape, revivified with each new generation.   

Knowing that people are airing their grievances in public leaves me feeling I'm expected to take sides.  And I can never know the whole story, since the most I’d ever see would be twitter messages and the like.  So I don’t want to be called upon to make that judgement.

I don’t want to see established company principals, most of them real heroes and heroines of mine, departing in umbrage, or sticking around but feeling underused and resentful.  That would be simply awful.  I also don’t want to see talented dancers lower down the company feeling under-used, or over-used and taken for granted, for that matter - that would be awful, too.  I’m human, I can feel sympathy for anyone having a rough time at work.  But for me the bottom line is that I want to be able to go on going into the West End and seeing tremendous performances by great dancers in wonderful rep.   So long as the RB (and not forgetting the also-excellent ENB) can continue to supply that, I’m happy. 

I’ve also missed the goodbyes of Mara Galeazzi and Leanne Benjamin.  Big sighs of regret for both of them, as I shall miss them.  I did at least get to see Ms Benjamin one last time, as she was doing a stint with Carlos Acosta’s latest summer venture at the Coliseum last week, Classical Collection; a lovely mixture of high-classical and high-dramatic excerpts, and a cracking cast giving it their all.  So at least the last thing I saw the wonderful Ms Benjamin in was the almost unbearably-lovely “Pie Jesu” from Macmillan’s “Requiem”.  >Sob< - but again, that’s a good way to go.

And as one chapter closes (& Ms Benjamin's chapter has been not only glorious but also splendidly long!) another is near the beginning; and that is right, that is as it should be.  That same evening of excerpts brought me the chance to see Melissa Hamilton dancing the "Dying Swan"; and I honestly don't think I shall ever forget that sight.  By gum, that lass has IT, and in spadefuls.  Oomph, stage presence, pizzazz, grace, command, call it what you will.  I've been a fan of hers for some years now and last week she bouréed her way still further into my heart, and left me crying like a silly kid into my binoculars.  So, so beautiful...

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