RBS at Holland Park
I always enjoy watching RBS at Holland Park and did so again this year. Of course, the extent of the enjoyment depends on the repertory, the overall standard of dancing and the number of outstanding prospects amongst the students. This year the longest item was Raymonda Act III for the Upper School with a number of shorter but mostly interesting pieces danced by the younger students from White Lodge. So I was happy enough with the choice of ballets but I have to report that I felt the standard of dancing was far from great.
After many years of getting it wrong as often as getting it right, I have come to realise that it is very difficult to judge potential in a young dancer. One who looks wonderful at fifteen, say, can grow too much or not enough, have a serious injury or just lose interest. Therefore, I tend to concentrate on the Upper School when trying to pick winners. Unfortunately, RBS have made this impossible this year. For reasons which, no doubt, she found compelling, the director of the school decided to decamp to Japan taking most of the graduate class with her. Thus, we never saw the most mature and experienced students who are those most likely to be given contracts by the major companies. Instead we had the junior members of the Upper School dancing as the corps in Raymonda Act III with artists of the Royal Ballet, i.e. non-students, brought in to dance the principal roles. While I suppose one shouldn’t grumble too much at having to watch dancers of the calibre of Marianella Nunez, Mayuko Maeda, Kenta Kura and Ivan Putrov, in my opinion they should have no place in the RBS season. If the school has nobody able to dance the parts of Raymonda and Jean de Brienne, they should choose a different ballet. As for the corps, I regret to say that never before have I seen the school produce such untidy, ill-prepared and under-rehearsed ensemble work. One further point: is it acceptable that less than a handful of boys in the first two years of the Upper School can do a double tour en l’air?
A more satisfactory outcome of the rearrangements due to “dispersed numbers” in Japan was that the lower school had to fill in and do much more than usual. Naturally, the smaller children were mainly seen in folk dances and the like, but the top class at White Lodge had a lot to do in much more demanding pieces, where it was possible to judge the abilities of individuals. I thought they, boys and girls, were quite impressive and look forward to seeing how they develop over the next few years. However, I do have a couple of worries about the boys. They were a lively, elegant and enthusiastic group but, on the whole, not very tall. I hope that soon they can put on a few more inches and, also, that somebody can teach them to improve their virtuoso steps, particularly the turns. On checking through past programmes, it seemed to me that 1992 was the last time White Lodge produced an outstanding year (it included Christina Arestis, Matthew Dibble, Robert Parker and Edward Watson). It is more than time they did it again.