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Subject: "Christopher "Fig" Newton." Archived thread - Read only
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Brendan McCarthymoderator

05-08-01, 04:58 PM (GMT)
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"Christopher "Fig" Newton."
   LAST EDITED ON 05-08-01 AT 06:58 PM (GMT)

A footnote to the Royal Ballet’s final performance of the season. Matvei, the footman in "A Month in the Country", was danced by Christopher Newton. Like Anthony Dowell he too is retiring from the Royal Ballet.

"Fig" Newton, as he is more familiarly known, is the Company's Artistic Co-ordinator. He has been responsible for much of the detail of the management of the Royal Ballet; he drew up dancers' rotas and juggled often-conflicting demands for studio space. More importantly, he has been charged with the preservation of some very important aspects of the Royal Ballet's heritage, notably Nijinska's Les Noces and Anthony Tudor's Shadowplay. Viewers to the BBC2 Masterclasses last December will have seen him work with Anthony Dowell rehearsing members of the company in Shadowplay.

He came to dance early. His mother was a teacher in Leicester. In 1949 he won a Leverhulme scholarship to the Royal Ballet School and joined the company in 1954. Five years later he was promoted to Soloist. He was one of a group of members of the Royal Ballet who toured Bermuda in 1964. Some fascinating pages from the programme (including pictures of a very young Monica Mason, Georgina Parkinson and Merle Park) can be found on the website of the Bermuda Musical and Dramatic Society at http://www.bmds.bm/archive/Show.asp?I=646. This is the page on "Fig" himself.

At a recent Ballet Association evening, he described how during a period of injury he occupied himself by developing an interest in choreology. He had, he said, a "mathematical" intelligence. In the event it adapted easily to the emerging discipline of dance notation. Asked how he came to be known as "Fig", he explained that "Fig Newtons" were an American biscuit, rather like Fig Rolls. Dancers were familiar with Fig Newtons from their tours to the United States - hence the name.

In retirement he hopes to reconstruct Ashton's Sylvia. At the Ashton conference in 1994 Anthony Russell-Roberts mentioned the difficulties in the way of a revival. “Apart from many excellent memories from people”, he said, “all we have as a faithful record is a video with the dancers looking like little white leaves in a snowstorm”. Fig Newton is undaunted. He feels that enough exists of record and memory to make a convincing restoration possible.

Anthony Dowell has spoken a number of times this year about the importance of remembering and of handing on tradition from generation to generation. Fig Newton was a key source of the Royal Ballet's collective memory. He will be greatly missed.

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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: Christopher "Fig" Newton. Ann Williams 05-08-01 1
  RE: Christopher "Fig" Newton. alymer 07-08-01 2

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Ann Williams

05-08-01, 07:23 PM (GMT)
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1. "RE: Christopher "Fig" Newton."
In response to message #0
   What a fascinating piece, Brendan. Thank you! 'Fig' himself will, I am sure, be delighted with it (someone is sure to point it out to him). I loved the photo and the piece from the RB brochure.

You clever old thing.

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07-08-01, 05:25 PM (GMT)
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2. "RE: Christopher "Fig" Newton."
In response to message #0
   >LAST EDITED ON 05-08-01

>In retirement he hopes to reconstruct
>Ashton's Sylvia. At the Ashton
>conference in 1994 Anthony Russell-Roberts
>mentioned the difficulties in the
>way of a revival. “Apart
>from many excellent memories from
>people”, he said, “all
>we have as a faithful
>record is a video with
>the dancers looking like little
>white leaves in a snowstorm”.

I'm constantly hearing this story about Sylvia yet, in Keith Money's book The Art of the Royal Ballet, there are photographs of the touring company's revival of the complete ballet in the 1960s, the comment that Faith Worth was preparing a complete notation and a picture of her rehearsing Melissa Hayden with the script in her hand. Was it lost? Never completed? Does anyone know?
And was no notation made of the one-act version given by the main company in the 67/68 season?
Still, it was Russell-Roberts who reportedly told Ismene Brown that Dante Sonata was completly lost, which turned out not to have been the case.
Anyway, I'd love to see the full length Sylvia - everything I've seen of it makes me want to see the whole.

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