Dancers create illusions, not facts. Perhaps some can transfer what we do and have done to the computer, but the atmosphere, the feelings, the guts of what dancers do , can not be computed. It happens, sometimes well, sometimes not. It is up to the dancer to find a level which is always acceptable so that the reaction will also find a level.
One of the greatest challenges I witnessed was the audience at Covent Garden in London. The audience was a CLUB. The same people came night after night, about 2000 of them. They thought they knew the ballets backwards and forwards. The were what we referred to as BALLET-TOMAINES. They had a fixed impression of what we were doing, and fought against anything which went outside their impressions.
As a result, the Royal Ballet was the most boring company in the whole world. There was not feeling, there was not expression, simply because if there was, that group who watched them all the time would rebel.
That audience really did not know what to do or say when David Adams came on the scene, for he gave to the fullest in each performance.
My favourite story in that area was after the first night of Manon by Kenneth MacMillan. In the first scene I was playing an old man who brings his young mistress to a party in the street. After delivering her into the arms of the waiting young men, I was instructed to sit at a table, order drinks, and get slightly drunk.
I tried to underplay the scene as much as possible. I had no steps, just people to interact with ,so, I did my bit.
After the performance, Georgiadis, the designer of the set and costumes came to me and asked what had happened in that scene. He had not seen any of the dance sections, for he could not keep his eyes off me.
Monica Parker the dance nottator also spoke to me. She was still laughing from what I had done with the scene. “Was it too much Monica?” I asked. “No David, it was fantastic, but I could not watch anyone else”
The same reaction took place with Kenneth, and when I asked him I should cut it back, he replied “no David, keep it, it is fantastic, the other people on the stage will just have to come up to the level of performing you have reached.”
Time after time, ballet after ballet, the same thing happened, until some of it rubbed off.
The audience accepted my ways.
I was not a Royal Ballet type, I was me!
An impression was made, but was it maintained, I doubt that very much. They just went back to their audience governed boring ways. Thus the critics can destroy, rather than breed growth in a dance world.
I remember vividly my performances of von Rothbart with the Royal. In the third act as I sat on the throne next to the Queen Mother, I would try to seduce her with my moves and expression. After all, if my daughter is going to win the day with the Prince, we would need some help from his Mother.
Gerd Larsen just sat there dumbfounded. “what are you doing David?” Right there on stage I explained why I was playing that way. She agreed that it was a good idea, but “Derek Rencher does not do that.” After saying “but I am not Derek Rencher” she sat back and enjoyed, the proceedings.
Time finally won over that stick in the mud audience and dancers.
That relationship between audience and performer is the whole reason for doing what we do.
There have been times in history when what dancers do was some kind of secret, some inner sanctum, only for the initiate. We never told the secrets.
The blinds have been lifted, but, the viewers have to realise what goes in to doing all of those things. The sweat, the hard work, the constants rehearsals, the concentration, the co-operation.
To this day I hear people say ” well, don’t you just get up and do it!”
I have even heard trained dancers say “well after all, once you know it, you just do it” I should add that these dancers have not as yet been exposed to the rigours of a dance company. They have a shock in store.
“Many are called.”