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
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
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.