This transcript is from an interview that was first published on 28th of May 2018. This transcript has been edited slightly to help with clarity, the audio of this episode and more information can be found here.
This interview came from season produced to complement a special report exploring gender equality in Australian Dance. You can find the full report: Turning Pointe: Gender Equality in Australian Dance at https://www.delvingintodance.com/turning-pointe. .
Transcripts are a new initiative of Delving into Dance to make the rich archive avalaible to deaf audiances. These transcripts are paid for through the support of audiences and supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria. It would be wonderful to have your contribute to this initative, You can contribure here.
The interview started by asking what was the first dance that moved her, at her home in London as the snow fell outside…
Judith Mackrell: Actually I can remember very specifically, I was still at school, and it was a piece by Robert Cohan, performed by The Contemporary Dance Theatre, at The Place Theatre, when it was still quite a little company. Modern dance in this country was still a really new and radical thing. And I can remember it was a classic Graham, Martha Graham move. I think it was called Cell, it was one of his sort of rather internal kind of dark, psychological pieces. And there was a moment where this woman was sort of curved in a contraction, and one arm was very slowly swinging. And she just sort of looked - the way her face caught the light as she looked and I was just transported. I had done ballet as a kid, and then at stroppy teenage age and sort of decided you know, it's all fairies and flowers and I'm too intellectual for this. And I wanted to go learn Jean-Paul Sartre, and go to Paris, like Simone de Beauvoir. I was that kind of pretentious kid, and I thought I'd done with dance all together. And then I saw this piece and I realised that it had, it was as potent as words could be, and that it could actually express lots of things that I think for a teenage girl was boiling away inside. So that was the moment and I didn’t think about at the time about writing about dance. But I did then go back to studying dance; I did a lot of contemporary dance at university and beyond, and really loved it; really found I never wanted to be a dancer professionally, but it did enough to sort of feel it get under my skin.
Andrew: So how did writing about dance come about?
Judith Mackrell: I had planned a sort of academic career really, and I was doing a secondary degree, as Deacon at Oxford, sort of all set really… accept that it was a very bad time for getting jobs in higher education. There was actually a job freeze under Margaret Thatcher. And I just thought, I'm not committed enough to this idea of a life that I would go anywhere to pursue it, you know? I basically wanted only to be either in Oxford or London - where my friends which was very shallow of me. And so I sort of drifted away from that. And I was doing quite a lot of dancing and a bit of writing. And actually, it was a friend who I said, you should write about dance, “you know, your writing all the time, you're dancing the time, put it together.” And at that point, there was there were very few dance critics around other than the kind of big national critics who work for the big broadsheet papers. And I kind of didn't really know how one went about it. So I kind of just sketched out some fake reviews. And then I went to a newsagent looking to see which might do bit of arts coverage and which didn't seem to have a dance reporter. And I sort of sent off lots of my fake reviews and eventually got a few commissions. And it just sort of grew from there.
I was really, really fortunate, really fortunate in that about two or three years after I'd started this, the Independent newspaper launched in 1986. And they were looking for new writers who hadn't necessarily had lots of newspaper experience. And I got the gig there. And that was absolutely Cinderella go to the ball now, because, you know, I kind of thought unless there's a sort of plane crash with dancers writers on board, I'm never ever going to get a job. So that was, that was wonderful. And it was great to be starting up with a brand new newspaper, because there was a lot of sort of fits and excitement, we had lots of space, 600 word reviews, which was fantastic. So I, I had a great platform. And it was also the 80s there were dancers getting bits in roles. But there was a lot of interest in the arts. I mean, I don't know how it was in Australia, but here got quite glamorous, there was lots of arts coverage on TV. So you felt you were part of something bigger.
Andrew: Yeah, and writing about dance so particular as well, because it doesn't often have language attached to it. So you're talking about bodies and what bodies communicate and I just love reading reviews that kind of capture that essence of movement and dance.
Judith Mackrell: I think it makes dance writing one of the most difficult but also the most fun of the kind of critical disciplines if you like, because you are having to describe as well as analyses and judge - you're having a lots of the people who you hopefully come to read you, won't have seen the show because say it's a very short run - they very often have no kind of reproduction so its a kind of record of the show. I mean, you might see glimpse of it on YouTube or something, but it's -so you're there to act as some kind of record on that show. And the challenge of finding the words finding the images that can capture at least something of what you've seen, you know, I think as a writer that keeps you fresh.
Andrew: Becomes such an important over time archive, a transient practice.
Judith Mackrell: Yes, and that’s what also makes writing about dance - as I said, that's what makes it so fresh and interesting. Always as a critic, because in a sense, it frees you, it doesn't free you from not judging. I mean, obviously, your principal duty is to your readership that wants to know whether they should go and see this show or not. But there is also that sort of background obligation that, yeah, in your view, it might be one of the few records that survives on this show. Unless now, obviously, because people tape their shows, it's much easier to produce a sort of video or online recording of something. But nonetheless, I feel you're part of a project, you are part of a community.
Andrew: And a video carpets something into the social and political context of where it is performed or when like a review can.
Judith Mackrell: That's true, that's true, your voice, in a sense, provides something of the background to that piece -
Andrew :Our journalism has changed dramatically to the point now that space has become even smaller - reviews there are the same I guess there aren’t those platform in many respects.
Judith Mackrell: I've been quite lucky. I mean it just been wildly inconsistent in the last few years, in terms of the word count, they decide to lot. So last year our lead reviews suddenly jumped to 800 words, then now back down to 560. The short reviews there are only 250 - 275, so that is kind of postcard length. So that's quite a challenge; flipping between those, all those different word lengths, because obviously, what you write is so dependent on that, you know, whether you can really go into any kind of depth, whether you can - in and writing about dance. The other problem is that obviously it's not just choreography is the music, it's the design, it's the lighting, it's the performances, as you say, it could well be some of the political and social issues involved. So if you're only writing a teeny tiny review, you're just having to zone in or maybe just one or two of those. So it's very hard to get the richness of a performance. I mean, I personally welcome the whole advent of online blogging and writing. I mean, I think some of it can be quite vicious. You know, can dissenter kind of slanging match when you get into kind of commentary and argument but there are some very fine writers out there and I like the idea that there's much of a player voices even though often some of the critics voices - the professional critics voices have been stunted you just by shorter reviews. But in general, yes. The trend seems to be towards limiting arts review coverage. I mean, it's expensive, you know, it's, it is sadly, one of the less red areas of a newspaper, it costs a lot because very often you're having to send people out to see a show outside London, although that happens less than this. I mean, our coverage is hideously metropolitan now. Because who can afford the train and the hotel?
So it's tricky times, but I don't feel actually pessimistic. I think, I think we're in a transitional phase. And, you know, certainly I look at young writers now. And I think, although it's a nightmare to make a living at this job in the way that I've been really fortunate to do.
They don't have to sit on the floor of a newsagent anymore. Centennial. Yeah, you can form your own blog, you can or you can write for one of the many excellent dance websites out there.
Andrew: It is some respects is how the podcast started. And my interest isn’t to criticise, but a conversation and I didn't, I had no idea that people would listen, you know, it's just, I can get a website, I can get a recorder and I can put online Yeah, and 10,000 people have found it and follow. And it's because kind of, it's very democratizing in that sense. Anybody could have ago and engage and pick up the tools and everyone's got a computer around
Judith Mackrell: Here, and everyone's got a voice. And, and I think the lovely thing about a podcast is instead of there and people can come to you if they want, and they can recommend to you and there's, there's, it's in, I think some of what on what's online is very shouting and self promoting. And that's a bit too dispiriting. But I think, you know, that's, that's what that's what makes me optimistic, is that people are finding different ways of different discourses, different forms of conversation, different forms of writing, and that's all brilliant.
Andrew: Yeah, it's just, it's engaging with the practice in different places, yes, to providing those avenues for people to go and save, show the context around the person's work. It's just a different format. And in a lot of your work, you've written about gender and gender equity. And it was a pace that you wrote a few years ago now, and the byline was why are male partners getting so much attention? Yeah. What's that about?
Judith Mackrell: It was very interesting. When I started at the independent in ’86, it seemed just a simple matter of fact that in modern dance, particularly women dominated the art form, it wasn't just that you had the absolute greats like a Martha Graham, Pina Bausch, Trisha Brown the rest of the Judson’s Lucinda Childs' - but that the next generation coming along we're also dominated by women and I just, I never really questioned that until actually it was a colleague of mine at The Guardian -an arts journalist who went to press conference that was held at Sadlers Wells, they were announcing their new associate choreographers and she said, “they're all old and why are they all bald - so what's going on?’ and I looked at him and it was Wayne McGregor, it was Akram Khan, there was there was a whole bunch of them and she was absolutely right and I suddenly took a look and I thought this this has changed dramatically and I've not had my eye on the ball that the people, the choreographers who were getting the big commissions who were doing the big internet international productions, who were getting the big tours who are getting all media spotlight had become men. Matthew Bourne, as I said, Wayne McGregor, Hofesh Shechter at Curb and of course there were women around but they seem to have slipped several runs down and I was then aware that there were actually two or three young women choreographers who become quite vocal in right and, and it just sort of gained a bit of momentum. I mean, it wasn't just me there were a couple of other critics and these other voices just beginning to kind of question and provide that conversation, was very interesting, because I was quite wary as older women have in any way intimating that somehow these younger women lacked the confidence or the assertiveness you know, they weren't without talent but why were they not out there working on the big scale I think it was it was it was the disparity not so much disparity in numbers of choreographers, all male, female, the balance female field, but the balance of scale and visibility and profile.
Andrew: So the difference between a main stage, big theatre space, as opposed to a small space?
Judith Mackrell: I didn't want to suggest that women weren't just going out and seizing the opportunities, although very interestingly, a woman was at conference of which some of this stuff got aired. And one woman who'd been at the Arts Council for several years said she had noticed a difference in the way that women presented their applications that men simply went in, would even approach her and say, How do I do this, would you be interested, I will be much more they would, they would be, they would make a move, whereas women were much she said, much more hesitant. So I thought, well, that's interesting, you know, is there something in the culture even that women in some senses just become more unsure of themselves So that's a whole other debate about feminism. There were other women who talked I think quite right key about the fact that that very often because the trajectory of a dancer and choreographer has career that often they start out as dancers in their 20s, and then it's in their 30s, that a lot of the old late 20s, 30s is a lot of them start turning to choreography. And for women, that's obviously a problem because early to mid 30s is sort of premium time if you want to start a family and that taking time out for motherhood makes it then very difficult to carry on rising through the ranks as a choreographer because the touring, the pressure of fundraising, I mean, the job I think, has become a lot more pressure a lot harder probably than it was when dance was at a much smaller scale. So that that was another perspective, I think there's a genuine truth in the fact that when an art form starts out, and there's not a lot of money in it, and it's experimental, that's when women often flourish. I mean, we just took a novel writing, you know, the lot of the great early novelists where women - it was no money, there was very little money to be had. And likewise, you know, if you look at when modern dance has gone through its most experimental phases, Graham, I adore Duncan, Graham, the Judson generation and then I think the kind of flourishing of a dance here in the 80s, it's somehow seems to be a context in which women creatively thrive. And then somehow when the money gets attached, and there's more pressure, and that's more the budgets get bigger and the stakes get higher. That's when the men moving in all this is hugely contentious and difficult.
Andrew: Is it the boards and gatekeepers that are inherently more conservative or risk adverse and then men are seen as a safer bet? Or is it that…
Judith Mackrell: I wouldn't say so, because in modern dance, people are always looking for the risk and the danger. And, you know, I don't if you think of someone like Lloyd Newson, for instance, who rapidly became very, very successful, you know, on works like Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men, which was some most raw, harrowing and the very essence of un-conservative work. So I think what is the case is that when big budgets are involved, and they are in these big international touring productions, that then people want to know that they've got someone who can deliver. And I think that's when the whole problem becomes self-perpetuating. That if you've got a male choreographer who's got a really good track record, and will bring a whole lot of publicity with him, that's maybe a safer option than a less well known woman who's maybe been working, making work for a small scale and wants to make the transition to the biggest stage, but needs someone to invest some time and some confidence in her. So I think it's not the conservative in terms of the world, I think it's conservative in terms of; we need to make sure that the box office will deliver on this.
Andrew: And then the flip side is if you've only got men having those opportunities, or those touring, that next generation don't have those high profile mentors, mentors within those companies to take them under their wing and teach them the leaders will teach them how to operate. [23:11]
Judith Mackrell: And I think it's also one of the other arguments that came up was to do with the fact that because still many more women want to dance as a profession when men are in a class, little bit of extra fuss tends to be made the fact that perhaps they've had to overcome more obstacles to either get their parents or their friends to accept that this dance is what they want to do means that there's a kind of self selecting process going on that the more committed the more balls either more passionate, the more driven personalities get through to the top. And so I think there's an element of that as well. I mean, but then but then there are some people who say, ‘Oh, it's just an entrenched sexism within the establishment.’
I didn't quite by that, I think is there's been laziness as we said earlier, in terms of people just wanting to go for the familiar names, the familiar product and there's maybe a degree of kind of sexism in terms of perceiving men as somehow mobiles, a more feisty, more stronger faces, stronger voices, but actually, I've rarely seen it in operation in any company, or in any venue. I think, if there is sexism it’s something much more intangible, much more to do with the way our society is operating at the moment.
Andrew: There's something to you know, which is quite interesting. Those men and boys growing up would have potentially been seen as a sissy boys. And yet, they can still climb this with ladder. Yeah, and capitalize and these are considered masculine qualities.
Judith Mackrell: I mean, there's a very interesting corollary to this, which is that in ballet, and I don't know if it's the case in contemporary dance, but in ballet companies are now having a finding that the young men auditioning coming through are much more gifted, much easier to find talent among young men than young women. And whether that's because young women are what was traditionally an arena for them. Now, they found other things they'd rather do, or whether that actually to succeed in barely now, in particularly, you have to be so good, so focused, so driven, that actually, if we're accepting this model of young men and women, that the guys are showing kind of discipline and determination and that sort of culturally, young women aren't so armored by it - I don't know.
Andrew: Something about that model to which has been brought up quite a lot in interviews I've done about the hierarchical system where there are more girls there are insecurities around body or perfect body. And as a result, by the time I start making those leaves, they they're really quite battered and bruised from that process. That to have an individual voice or an outspoken voice, or to be more of a maverick, is something that the system hasn't encouraged.
Judith Mackrell: Yeah, I mean, it's particularly the pace in ballet, obviously, because it's a much more idealized and it's a much more competitive art form. I mean, I was talking to one Ballet director about the issues of having a kind of more diversity in terms of color and background in ballet. And the problem is, is that I think was every ballet director that I've encountered wants to do, they want to see more Black and Asian dancers and no longer is there such a minority; it’s becoming a majority. Yeah, but they don't, you know, they want to see more black dances, more dances from working class background say, but the because the technique is becoming so much more rarefied so much more high palette, you know, we see dance at a level that I didn't see even when I started as a critique. And the trouble is that it's limiting the pool.
Andrew: So that long term investment, a long time if you don't have the money to attend the class two times week, and then it increases to three times into those different courses. And summer schools, you don't develop that technique.
Judith Mackrell: Also, if you're not coming from a cultural or social background, where that kind of discipline is instilled, or encouraged, or, you know, or when you are having to deal with the kind of mockery of your peers or but I mean, there's so many so many factors that go into this and I don't know how we address it because some of it seems so much more endemic in society, but maybe it's also to do with maybe - we need to sit back and say, ‘Well, what we will you know, if this is a question for ballet, what we want from ballet? Do we want these ever more superhuman dancers? Do we want more Maverick or forces bodies? Personalities?
Andrew: That's a big question. Yeah, in regards to some of these issues, are there particular companies or programs or things that you're seeing shifting and changing that you say is welcome, or?
Judith Mackrell: Yeah, there's been a huge increase in companies working with disabled dancers, differently abled dancers, and I think that's been really interesting, just the revelation that you can look if you've had him performing in Australia, Dan Daw, who used to be with the company, Candoco, who essentially dances - has no legs, but the force of his extraordinary physicality and his charisma and his expressive intensity made you realize this and you don’t look at as a special case or that you pity or that you think of us as some kind of exotic addition. I mean, he’s genuinely a performer, who stood alongside any normally able-bodied dancer, you know, with pride and panache. So that's been interesting to me, how far one's perceptions of beauty and talent be pushed in dance. It's been interesting to see a lot of older dancers being either brought back into dance or embraced, you know, and even most recently in ballet, Alessandra Ferri at the age of 50. Plus, having given up her career entirely, came back and starting Wayne McGregor’s, Woolf Works. So, I think there's this - it's an interesting phenomenon that on the one hand, there's an attempt to break down these sort of physical stereotypes of what a great dancer can or should be. But at the same time, at the core of the art form, it seems to be getting more and more rigorous and ruthless. And so say interesting.
Andrew: There's been a lot of conversations around the MeToo hashtag and in other creative spaces. Do you reckon there's going to be more revelations and conversations coming out of them?
Judith Mackrell: Yeah. I mean, when you mentioned the issue of hierarchy, I do think that is something that 21st ballet companies are going to have to deal with because there is something about the way that dancers remain infantilised and I don't use that term in a judgmental way. But in the practical way, they are by virtue of having to have been so disciplined, so responsive to instruction all those years, that that they it, it's difficult for a lot of them to, to vocalize what they want, it's difficult for them to find a sense of power within themselves. I mean, that's an odd thing to say in modern, because I'm awed by how grown up dancers are. That they become hugely professional at the age of 18, where most kids are still kind of slopping around, trying to work out -
Andrew: …what they're doing?
Judith Mackrell: Yeah, and, you know, I mean, as we know, adolescence has been protracted to now these kids are in their mid 20s. So, on the one hand, dancers, I think are fantastically adults, and admirably focused and self responsible, but because the working environment is all about them, being told what do essentially and within a company structure that is in itself has layers and layers and layers of hierarchy. I think that does give an unreasonable amount of power to those at the top an unreasonable degree of passivity particularly to the younger dancers and obviously running a huge, a large ballet company is incredibly difficult you know, you have to be in a sense like a super parent having to yell at people I'm sure you do - and I couldn't do it to save my life, and there are going to be you know, you're dealing with people's egos you're going you've got a director who has a dancers career pretty much in their hand.
So you're always going to have dancers who feel slighted and overlooked, wounded, betrayed and other dancers who may seem to be being favored to overly privileged. So, I'm not surprised all these revelations are coming out about discontent and abuse, you know. It shades a huge spectrum of that behavior in companies now, but I think while there are individuals who may well have behaved extremely badly, I also think there's something about the whole culture of ballet that needs to be shifted a bit in order to find some more kind of equal place where, of course, you have to have an artistic director steering the company course; dancers have to fit in to the creation of a work to rehearsal schedule, have to turn up for class on time, blah, blah, blah. But some kind of equitable middle ground where those voices can meet and where, you know, maybe even having the kind of very strict hierarchy we have in many ballet companies have Corps de Ballet all the way up through artists, senior artists, Principal maybe that was loosened up a bit more so there was less of a sense of ranking more. I remember, I think Antoinette Sibley said it simply that when she first joined The Royal Ballet, you didn't speak to a principal unless you were spoken to, it was it was a bit like being at a Royal Court. So obviously a great deal has changed since then. But it I think that culture persists a little bit, you know, almost, there's almost like a sentimental attachment to it, as much as a sort of pragmatic and will it's always worked that way. [38.15]
Andrew : What advice would you have to a young female coming up through the ranks either in a ballet or within the industry more broadly?
Judith Mackrell: Well, it's the advice I probably given to any young woman, which is to focus on, it's like a Hallmark card, but focus on what your gift is, what your talent is, what you are, know that if someone's offered you a job, it's because they've seen something. Hopefully it was because they've seen something individual in you, and to try and sort of cherish that to make it of course, absorb everything you can from what's around you, of course, learn, of course, find your role models, but don't try and be someone else. You know that as a critic and a fan, you know, there's nothing more exciting than seeing a dancer who is the individual, they don't need to be perfect. But to have that sort of flame inside to have that that way of moving. That expresses something that it is so particular to them. That's the thrill. And that's the way the way you connect with an audience.
I mean, there's a really extreme example I remember reading Kelsey curtains memoir where she talks about the fact that she could never believe in herself. She was always trying to imitate somebody else, trying to be skinnier than that ballerina, to have the kind of revere Bolshoi style of another ballet. I mean, trying to be all things to all people, and then you become nothing. And, and yes, if, even if there's someone in your class who looks like the perfect prototype of blonde skinny, perfect ballerina, Barbie ballerina, don’t look at them. It’s easy advice to give, you know, much, much harder to follow. But going back to the culture of, to the sort of wider culture that these young women are coming out - can I'm very conscious of sounding like a hostile old bat, but, you know, as everyone knows, as people are so exposed via social media, via adverts, via mages of women that are so airbrushed that to actually just sort of settle down and be yourself, to be at ease with yourself, It's so much harder, so much harder than it was for people of my generation. Where you barely, hardly ever saw a photo of yourself. Really, I mean, apart from family savvy people who take photos all the time, you didn't. You weren't consciously aware of how you look from the outside; you just got on with stuff. And, I think that's degree of self-consciousness. And that kind of creative self-criticism that young men and women are subjected to now it's, it's paralyzing…
Andrew: took several selfies in the snow on the way here…
Judith Mackrell: Exactly. And I mean, and again, I think this is the aspect of social media I love. I think it's, there is something wonderfully social, when it's working about but, but also, this is terrible pressure to somehow be conforming to this cloud version of what's the perfect life, the perfect body, the perfect -
Andrew: boyfriend, girlfriend, whatever. How can men in the industry be better advocates or be more cognisant of these issues?
Judith Mackrell: I think simply by being aware helps. And I think when one of the things that will-be choreographers, when they said, when this all first blew up here was it would be great if the men who are given the platforms, who are given the microphones, could speak up for women when appropriate. That to recognise when a woman's confidence is failing a bit, I think there's now amongst male artistic directors and programmers, there's certainly a real self consciousness here about making sure women are being seen and heard you know.
Comically, I mean, poor Crystal Pite, in the ballet world feels like she has the whole weight of the female ballet choreographers on her shoulders. I mean, her and other choreographers, because the male directors- I think is what so absurd is that we're now in a situation where everybody's falling over themselves to program women choreographers. But of course, the system doesn't change that fast. And it not only does it not change sufficiently fast for the women to be coming forward, but also because we are still stuck in this world where, as I said, that the high profile production - you still call them financial pressure writing. So I think you need time and to kind of look around and explore who's out there. And that's one thing a lot of these guys don't have is actually to be trolling little festivals and trolling YouTube. And just saying well, what’s her name, what could she do for me? You know, how could I do something for her? So, so I think it's, I think the change will be slow, but I think it will happen.
Andrew: Hmm. accountability to isn’t it?
Judith Mackrell: Yes. And that That's great. That's that people now feel they are being watched. And that the male, female balance is being scrutinized much harder.
Andrew: Because I see that there's a role for, you know, female dancers and choreographers. I feel like there's a role for the men in the industry then I also feel like there's a role for the audiences.
Judith Mackrell: Yes.
Andrew: And the audiences are the ones that have their bums on seats, so if they are demanding or if they are expressing an interest then you know, there are all these different leavers pushing in all different directions, the work can only get more diverse and more interesting.
I think, finally, I'm moving away from the gender stuff, what are some things that are exciting, new in dance at the moment?
Judith Mackrell: I'm interested… it's very funny. When I started as a critic, professionally, my tastes were formed very much by choreographer like Balanchine, Richard Alston, - they were choreographers whose language is very much about pure dance. And, Mark Morris, you know, thrilled by just seeing what rhythms, shapes, patterns and worlds could be conjured up, just by moving and I had a very little interest in story ballets, so they were so old fashioned, so clunky, and there was very little narrative dance theatre around then.
And so I've been very interested how that's all evolved and how the art of storytelling has come back to ballet. And the variety of ways in which those stories are being told, but also the variety of actual stories that are being told. All those - that means quite a lot of the work I see is now veering towards theatre as much as it is pure dance. I love to see a choreographic sensibility brought to the stage, you know, even if people are talking and handling props, when they're sensitive to bodies. And when they’re sensitive, how just the glance of an eye or the change of breath or stance, changing tension in a body, all those things you did, that’s really exciting to me. How the art form is enriching itself and how, you know, in troubling times, we do need those stories. We need stories to be told about ourselves and about the world we live in. And dance can do that as much as other art forms. So that's been interesting.
It's terrible. When people ask, what are you excited about? My mind goes blank, as if I wasn't excited to all and yet fascinatingly, over the last two weeks, I've given three five star shows in a row. So one of them was Pina Bausch’s Victor and that was very interesting because I wasn't sure what - I've seen that production maybe three or four times, and I thought with maybe the influx of new dancers into the company, somehow it would start to feel like, seen that, done that you know that they may be going through the paces a bit, and actually it was - I enjoyed it more than any other time I'd seen it practically, because they were bringing a different life and an energy and a different physicality to it as well. So there were the great old timers like Dominique Mercy and Julie Shanahan whose fantastic, so that was great to me. And the other three - so I gave five stars to that. I gave five stars to a show by a choreographer who I love Ben Duke, who works here whose previous work was a one man solo adaptation - Milton's Paradise Lost, which is hilarious and epic and crazy, and he’s just on a new show called Juliet, and Romeo, which works on the premise that Romeo and Juliet actually survived but sort of become rather squabbling lovers.
And that was so funny. And so beautifully put together. It was a mix of text and dance and very finely chosen music. And the first half is hilarious. And I love to love and dance. Give me a good performance by the Ballet Trocadero and I'm as happy as Larry. But the second half of this Juliet and Romeo, it got more and more dark, more and more harrowing and that was brilliant. And then the other was Giselle by a young dancer called Francesca Hayward - zipped up the ranks at the Royal and that was really exciting writing to me, because she's one of those dancers who, she has a beautiful technique but you're not looking at the technique. It's as if every step she's making up on the spur of the moment.
Because that's what the character she's dancing has to be doing. You know, it just feels like just unnecessary out-spontaneous expression of thought and emotion. And that is always so exciting to me as a fan and a critic is just to see a dancer inhabit a role that you couldn't imagine her being any other place or time and you either, that's the thing of dance. It's the perfect moment when it happens.