It would be an understatement to say I was surprised to be the only journalist at this morning's Rambert press conference following the announcement of Christoper Bruce's retirement - I was downright shocked. I had assumed that Bruce's unexpected retirement was of such significance in the UK dance world that there would be a good showing and that I would be just another face in the crowd. As it was, there in the vast Floral Hall of the Royal Opera House was Bruce himself, Prudence (Prue) Skene (Rambert's Chairman), Sue Wyatt (Rambert Executive Director) and Catriona Macrae-Gibson (Press Officer) - and me. I gathered that there had indeed been one other official journalist there before my arrival. Still.
I did the best I could under the circumstances (that is: no prepared questions). Bruce confirmed in his quiet voice that he would be staying on 'for at least another year', and would be very much hands-on in that time. He indicated that he would stay on longer if required.He felt that 'eight years was long enough in the job' and wanted to get on with his many other interests - gardening, drawing, writing etc and well as learning at least one musical instrument. Above all, he wanted to spend more time with his family - he complained that in his 35 years of marriage he and his wife had probably only spent 50% of that time together. He has two young grandsons and wants also to see more of them.
I asked the obvious question: Any idea of who the successor was going to be? I got the obvious answer: No - going to be a long process etc....(interestingly, it emerged that there had been only six AD's in the company's 75-year history). I mentioned that Brendan McCarthy had already suggested some names on Ballet.Co (http://www.danze.co.uk/dcforum/happening/2330.html)
and Prue Skene laughingly suggested that the list should be passed to her. She did say, though, that the new AD 'would not necessarily be a choreographer'. It seemed quite evident to me that Bruce's decision to retire had taken the company quite unawares and that they were more than a little daunted at the task ahead of them.
I asked - as delicately as I could - if the bad press notices for the company's recent run at Sadlers Wells had anything to do with Bruce's decision. He laughed and said that when his dance-drama 'Cruel Garden' opened in 1977 it had received 'some of the worst press notices I've ever seen' yet it had survived and was now a well-respected piece. He added that, conversely, he had often had good notices for work that he considered underserving, so adverse criticism did not particularly worry him. I believe him.
His immediate future plans include a visit to the US in the New Year to stage 'Ghost Dances' for Ballet West in Salt Lake City and he will be doing further work for Houston Ballet.
The company's own immediate plans look enticing - their Spring tour, which opens in Truro in February includes a revival of Lindsay Kemp's 'The Parades Gone By' and there will be works by Mats Ek, Siobhan Davies, Richard Alston, Wayne McGregor, Jiri Kylian and Bruce himself.
I asked finally how the dancers had taken the news. 'They're a little sad' he said 'but they wish me well and they know they'll have me around for a while yet'.