The Artist’s Way

There were so many wonderful master teachers who helped shape and form my professional life, and whose words will always inspire me.  Gifted artists like Jonathan Watts, Alexandra Danilova, Stanley Williams, Robert Joffrey… the list goes on!  So, in this section from time to time I will share a few stories/anecdotes from them.

Richard Gibson was one such figure.  I was privileged that he set a ballet on me in New York and fortunate to attend his classes at the Joffrey.  He originally studied with Olga Ziceva who fled the Russian revolution to dance with Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe.  Richard followed her example in emphasising the why’s of ballet technique.  He said she was the most caring teacher you could imagine.  Her attention went to every student on every exercise in every class.  She kept her barre simple so that everything was done correctly and could be perfected.  Mastering the torso was her doctrine.

Richard Gibson also experienced an inspiring musical lesson from Margot Fonteyn.  “Margot was in Stuttgart performing Swan Lake.  She came to me one day and, very shyly, asked if she could attend the men’s class.  I said yes but warned her the tempo was going to be slower, and that so much jumping could be taxing on the day of the performance.  Margot did the class better than any of the men through her musicality.  She phrased her preparations, connecting steps and finished in such a way as to make you forget that she actually didn’t have the same elevation as they did.  I saw what could be done with musicality – she made the steps her own.  And she did a fabulous performance that night.”  Richard remembers Margot Fonteyn very fondly.  “She was like a ten year old in class, with no pretensions and always eager for help, yet still meticulous.  In the films made of her it is a shame we cannot see the movement that goes beyond the body.  I will never forget her in Cranko’s Poeme de l’extase and the closing movement was her wrapping her arm around her head.  That was worth anyone else’s 64 fouettes.”

“There’s a preoccupation with technique nowadays”, he laments.  “We’re not producing really interesting dancers like Fonteyn anymore because technique has advanced so much, but at the cost of the heart.  This makes going to ballets predictable and predictable gets boring.  The quality that goes beyond technique is why I am still excited by dance.  Better to have a little less virtuosity and more of an aura that makes it a living art and not a spectacle.  dance is really a combination of things – so much of it is a feeling.”