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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Life in the Royal Ballet

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As this link http://dancers.invisionzone.com/index.php?showtopic=52797 seemed to be generating some interest, I thought I'd start a thread in the appropriate forum.


One thing that surprised me about the article was Zenaida Yanowsky's mention that soloists at the RB are expected to do corps roles--I believe in most US companies that have a hierarchy, dancers are typically not expected to take roles below their rank (although they can do roles above).

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This is true at the Royal Ballet. Last year, Melissa Hamilton filled in as a Star in the corps for Cinderella when there were no others available to help out. DD was in the Corps (as a Royal Ballet Student) as a star with her, Yasmine was also in that night as a star. If I remember correctly, Melissa was asked to fill in only about an hour before curtain. This also happens from time to time. DD actually filled in for Yasmine one night with 45 minutes notice as the poor dear had become violently ill and had a terrible fever. DD had never done her spot and it was on the opposite side of the stage and in a different line. The pianist was no where to be found before curtain so the ballet mistress actually hummed the music so that dd could learn the different spot! It's great practice for a student to be "thrown in" and it keeps the soloists on top of the repertoire.

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Emergency situations are, of course, always the exception in the performing arts. :) But I was referring to dancers being cast in these roles from the beginning. I wonder if this sort of practice is unique to the Royal Ballet or whether it is a US/Europe difference. Does the Royal just have a relatively small corps de ballet compared to other companies?

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I think the smaller companies where every dancer counts often have the practise of using people where they are needed. I know that a former male student of mine, who dances in our local company, will be dancing in the corps one minute for example in Romeo and Juliet and then will have to jump in and do one of the three mandolin soloists the next. Even the dancers alternating Juliet have to fill in as one of her friends when they're not being Juliet! I am quite surprised to hear though that that also happens in the RB - I would have thought that they had enough company members to avoid that.

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I can't speak to the exact number in the corps of RB as dd is no longer in London. The company does seem to use 3-4 students consistently throughout their graduate year on an annual basis. They use more to fill in the ranks of large corps ballets (Swans in Swan Lake, Willis in Giselle). The students are taught corps roles by one of the ballet mistresses and then she chooses the ones that will cover the corps roles. The school then gives permission for those students to cover and perform if they don't have prior obligations with the school. Students go in when someone is injured if they have learned the role. At least in dd's experience, she was on stage with the company a lot! When flu season compounds injuries (as was the case that I referenced above), the company draws from the company members who are well and able, it seems.


Edited to add response to actual question :)


Hans, sorry but I also can't answer to the statement made by Zenaida Yanowsky"(It’s much harder work in the corps, and the soloists have the hardest job because they do the work of the corps, but they’ll also dance a principal role if the opportunity comes up, in addition to their own roles.). The point of view that we have is that of an RB student who had the job of covering the corps in the event of injury or illness. As I said, dd saw that soloists did fill in the corps in the case of illness to but I don't know if they are actually cast in corps roles. (The statement does sound as if that's the case).

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