In the northern summer, Australian dancers on the move

When the holiday season begins in the northern hemisphere, dance companies begin to announce promotions, joiners and leavers and this year, there is more than the usual amount of news about Australian dancers in Britain and the United States.

Luke Ingham, formerly with the Australian Ballet, is to leave Houston Ballet to join the San Francisco Ballet as a soloist.

This raises the question of whether Ingham’s partner, Danielle Rowe, formerly an Australian Ballet principal, now a principal with Houston Ballet, will also join the SF Ballet.

In England, Jenna Roberts has been promoted to the rank of principal with Birmingham Royal Ballet, and Alexander Campbell,
has been promoted to first soloist at the Royal Ballet.

Also at BRB, Gaylene Cummerfield has retired, Jenna Roberts’ sister, Callie, has been promoted to first artist and Lachlan Monaghan has joined the company after graduating from the Royal Ballet School.

Aaron Smyth, who only recently joined the Royal Ballet, has left the company but there is no news yet of his next destination.

Smyth was one of seven Australians at the Royal Ballet, including principals Leanne Benjamin and Steven McCrae, and a relative newcomer, Claudia Dean.

In recent years, Dean was one of the very few Australian graduates of the Royal Ballet School to move directly from the school to the Royal Ballet.

But then again, under the artistic directorship of Monica Mason, the Royal Ballet had very few contracts for any graduates from the Royal Ballet School.

This year and last she offered more than the usual – three in each year. Some years it’s been none.

As Mason prepares to retire next month, she has featured in a fashion spread in UK Vogue and most recently in an article in The Telegraph, by Rupert Christiansen who wrote that “her relationship with the Royal Ballet School, an institution whose prime purpose is to provide the company with a steady stream of appropriately trained striplings, has not been happy…

“She visibly bridles when asked whether the school has been giving the company what she requires.

“‘It is essential that the director of the company and the director of the school link up and talk constructively,’ she replies. ‘But there can be differences of opinion, and there are.’

“Ideally, she would have liked all dancers entering the company to have spent at least a year in the school, ‘just so they can get to understand the way we work’, but this hasn’t been possible’.”

It will be interesting to see whether her successor, Kevin O’Hare, has a more fruitful relationship with the Royal Ballet School’s upper school.

Meanwhile, Mason had one comment about an Australian dancer who went a very long way in his career at the Royal Ballet.

She deeply regretted that the company couldn’t honour the centenary of one of its early stars, Robert Helpmann, by reviving his production of Hamlet. Due to the expense involved, it was not to be.

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Alexander Campbell as Mercutio in Romeo & Juliet, Royal Ballet, photo © Elliott Franks

Jenna Roberts as the Lilac Fairy, The Sleeping Beauty, Birmingham Royal Ballet, photo © Bill Cooper