The Royal Ballet Yearbook 2011/12 reviewed
There’s no doubt that this is an attractive book; it’s unusual size and striking photograph on the cover (Lauren Cuthbertson and Sergei Polunin from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) will draw you in. What happens when you delve inside ?
The annual Yearbook is a curious mix of looking back over the past year and a tentative glance towards the new season, which always puzzles me. If it’s the 2011/12 year we are looking at, i.e. the new season, why is a large part of the book devoted to nostalgia (note the section on the O2 performances ‘a triumph of nerve and talent’)?
The ‘Welcome from Monica Mason’ highlights what is to come in her ‘very personal’ last season as director including her determination to revive The Prince of the Pagodas after 16 years away from the stage. But Mason also has a penchant for looking back at the highlights of the previous season. There follow 38 pages devoted to it, in text and photographs, 6 pages where Mason is interviewed and mostly looks back over her career as a dancer and director of The Royal Ballet, plus 6 pages on the ‘making of Alice.’ We’ve been there and drunk from the tea cup and we’re more than half way through the book before the 2011/12 season preview appears in photographs.
Strangely, given that the company hasn’t issued its annual leavers/joiners/promotions i.e. company news, here you’ll find some detail – with promotions going to First Artists Emma Maguire and Akane Takada (to Soloist) and Artists James Hay, Dawid Trzensimiech, Sabina Westcombe and Valentino Zucchetti to First Artist. It’s already well known that Alexander Campbell has joined the company as a Soloist from Birmingham Royal Ballet, and that Claudia Dean and Tomáš Mock join as Artists from The Royal Ballet School (fellow RBS graduate Francesca Hayward joined the company last season as did Fumi Keneko from Japan), as does Meaghan Grace Hinkis from ABT 11. Sung Woo Han and Patricia Zhou join the company from the Prix de Lausanne for this new season (they are no longer called apprentices) and Jonathan Howells becomes Ballet Master. Vanessa Fenton, Victoria Hewitt, Bethany Keating and James Butcher left the company during the 2010/11 season.
The late Zoë Dominic, a photographer who snapped almost every Royal Ballet production is given 4 pages where her black and white images are displayed, some of which have never been published before (Ashton rehearsing Svetlana Beriosova for Les Noces in 1966, Ashton rehearsing dancers for Persephone in 1961, De Valois in 1961 with Gerd Larssen, Ashton & de Valois on tour to the former USSR again in 1961, Rudolf Nureyev rehearsing his production of The Nutcracker in 1968 with (among others) Merle Park, Patricia Linton and Geraldine Morris), Anthony Dowell rehearsing in 1974 in Barons Court and Margot Fonteyn rehearsing Le Spectre de la rose in 1961.
Then we are plunged backwards again – to the 1930’s, as we work through the company chronology over 6 pages, which is followed by the usual posed shots of the staff & dancers of the company. The last couple of pages advertise company performances on DVD, books, and finally a mention to Freddy, official sponsor and supplier of dance and sport fashion wear to the company.
The Yearbook is billed as ‘the perfect companion to The Royal Ballet’ but I can’t help thinking that you’ll find more substantive information from the programmes published throughout the year. True, the photographs are sumptuous throughout and the pages thick and glossy, but still it feels insubstantial – really, you’re through the book in 15 minutes.
If you’re a fan of the company then it serves as a record of (mostly) the previous season and if you’ve spent many a happy hour at the Royal Opera House then you too may wish to reminisce on time well spent.