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Subject: "Voice of the Dance" Archived thread - Read only
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Conferences What's Happening Topic #1777
Reading Topic #1777
Trog Woolley

17-06-01, 11:55 AM (GMT)
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"Voice of the Dance"
   Here is an article that I OCR'ed from Adelaides "The Advertiser" - 11/06/01

Soon to arrive in Australia, the leader ofthe English National Ballet has always attracted attention. ALISON BARCLAY, in London, reports.

AT AGE 17, Angela Rippon decided she would prop up the barre no longer. "I had grown too tall to be a dancer," she says, "so I stopped". Millions would dispute this assessment, especially those who gaped at the sight of Rippon kicking up her magnificent pins on The Morecambe and Wise Show.

That was 1976. Apparently, the Brits are still squirming in delight 25 years later, for they recently rated this slinky interlude their 11th all-time favourite on British television. Why? Partly the perve factor. Rippon, at the time a demure BBC newsreader, was normally hidden from the shoulders down.

Even at 31 years of age, she was already iconic stuff. The first female news reader appointed in Britain, Rippon invariably drew every gaze. Hers was the delectable voice which, in 1981, reported the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer to the world.

Oh, and she could really dance; loved dance, and dance loves her. For 10 years Rippon has served on the board of the English National Ballet, while still working for the BBC. The ENB is the London-based company that dazzled Australian audiences in 1999 when it brought its vast, frothy arena production of Swan Lake.

The ENB returns in July with Romeo and Juliet and, this time, Rippon is chair of the board. Rippon's last foray to Australia was far from the perfonning stage. In 2000, she participated in a British television show called Danger: Celeb at Work on which high-profile Poms do other people's dirty work for a week.

Rippon was assigned as a jillaroo to a Snowy Mountains property, whereupon she rounded up 3000 sheep, brought 136 heifers in from their summer pasture, pacified a tired sheepdog named Dennis and dealt with an unleashed, enraged hereford bull. "It was challenging, let's put it that way. But I got them all back," she says proudly.

"None of them got lost or went lame on me. And I knew I would never again have the chance to experience Australia in this way. so I had to take it; it was fascinating."

She now packs the hefty - and unpaid - duties of her ENB chair position around the erratic demands of her media career. "I may work Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday; I may be away for two weeks on a filming trip;" she says.

"But even when I'm away I'm on the telephone to the company most of the time. There's so much to do - lobbying the Government, lobbying the Arts Council, persuading people to be sponsors, schmoezing people, all of that. Being an ambassador for the company. Sometimes dancers bring their problems to me." The ENB, too, is constantly on the move. Though housed in London, the full compay of 64 tours to Oxford, Bristol, Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool.

Recently it took Swan Lake to Japan, where it, received standing ovations. Rippon says the dancers can't wait to return to Australia. But 2001 will bring upheaval, too. Matz Skoog, now the artistic director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet, is to take the ENB's top job in September, replacing Derek .Deane. According to newspaper reports, Deane quit in exasperation at lack of money - the ENB gets less than half the government funding of the Royal Ballet.

Skoog is a supreme ENB product. He joined the company in 1979, rose to principal in 1981 and left for the Rome Opera Ballet in 1989. "Under Matz's direction we hope to become the company of choice for exciting choreographers and dancers," Rippon says. "We want to make the company so exciting that dancers will want to come to the company because they know they will be given opportunities to do things that are exciting and new - and the audience will know they will retain the integrity of the classical repertoire."

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