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Sunday, 12 October 2014





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Government Gazette

The importance of repertory

by Gwen Herat

Ballet is a living legacy that depends on what dancers can contribute to its form. They need not control themselves within a framework which was regular before the development of pure classical with the introduction of a syllabus.

Today, the dance steps and movements are so advanced that choreographers tend to let their dancers evolve what comes naturally to them because they cause the spirit of dancing from within their hearts.

This appeals to the audiences who come to enjoy classical ballet except a few who swear by the set-rules arising from painful syllabus. Yet, with many years apart, choreographers who change from time to time, have the difficulty in recalling those excellent steps and movements. This is where the repertory held in companies, come to their help.

Sarah Lamb and Frederick Bonelli in perfect partnership under ballet master, Christopher Saunders.

The importance of repertory has never been so important as today. It is like going through a dictionary to trace words and those words have to be right. So, is in ballet.


However, today's choreographers are lucky as they have technology to allow to access unprecedented recordings of past performances and rehearsals.

They have selected material to work upon, original scores, recordings, original casts to help them as a guideline form different repertories retained by companies.

There were very passionate choreographers who wanted to pass down their knowledge in the years to come so that the newer ones will benefit. To cite one instance; Frederick Ashton who was responsible for the Frederick Ashton Foundation which today perpetuates his legacy.

This establishment programs through shadow schemes the Ashton repetiteurs of the future.

Most of today's teaching staff have either been trained or danced in the Royal Ballet that had greats like Ninette de Valois, Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan.

The repetiteurs of the Royal Ballet develops instincts and new understanding the styles of choreographers to let new casts interpretative freedom within boundaries but without restrictions.

Yet another essential skill in the repertory is teaching techniques to individual dancers based on their temperaments.

Experience as a dancer and appreciation of the pressure that dancers are under great stress. In these circumstances, one cannot find two dancers alike because a strong relationship between a dancer and a teacher is imperative.

They do not let personalities swing their opinion in one direction. A teacher will hesitate to reprimand one and in the process create emotional environment.


Artistes are highly-strung, emotional and sensitive people. They all have to be handled subtly in repertory that they find uncomfortable and the teacher or choreographer has to bear this in mind.

Choreographers have different ways of handling their dancers no matter whether they are principal dancers or amateurs. While some possess the ability to feel expression, others have tempo-based musicality but the ones who possess both are the lucky ones.

No matter how great or small an artist is, she has to possess a great amount of musicality. And in this wonderful people, there is so much emotion brimming over.

The freedom to move about, flex their bodies to their sense of rhythm and who wish to change their steps, are the future greats.

Look at the way Rudolf dance and direct his ballets. So much emotion, feeling that dancers apart from dancing, live their roles. It was an accepted fact that Rudolf Nureyev falls in love with his leading dancer in all the ballets he dance. By doing this, he would stir high emotion in her but back-stage he is such a nasty guy and often rude to her.

Repertory is all about preserving the ideals and with the changing world, keeping a track on former ballets, shows us how ballet has changed by strides. For example, bodies have changed, dancers have changed and so are the personalities.

All are encouraged by their companies to bring in something different to what they have done few years ago. By virtue of this; what the choreographers expects is passion and feeling along with high-rise points-work, greater elevation and suppleness of limbs. Tom work too is very vital, especially in the corpse-de-ballet from which the future great ballerinas emerge.


The importance of too much interpretation across to a dancer is not right because she may wish to do it her way and many dancers are splendid at their whim and fancy. They find themselves at ease with new works because together with the choreographer, they move into a creative process and also get the feeling of being part of the buildup to a new ballet. It gives them confidence too. Ballet is a game of body and mind. Both must move simultaneously and not apart for greater achievement.

Rehearsing repertory that has been held in companies for a length of time can be hugely demanding with busy schedules and exhausting as dancers who need individual attention.


A strong relationship between dancer and teacher is imperative to both who begin to understand each other as time go and work out towards a healthy relationship where the teacher reprimands the student who will not react negatively but only too happy to be corrected.

Once that bond is built, there will be the freedom to express themselves to each other. And literally as a dancer when she barely has the time to change her shoes, the teacher will be in the wing of the stage to assist her.

Two very experienced dancers who came up that way are Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev (he with a twenty-year generation gap) who only had to touch each other or look at each for inspiration when dancing with each other on stage. All their ballets are held in repertory in companies around the world.

So great was their perfect partnership.


LANKAPUVATH - National News Agency of Sri Lank
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