Dear Editor –– I would like to pay tribute to Wayne Eagling on his artistic directorship of English National Ballet. As custodian of Mary Skeaping’s Giselle, I had the privilege of spending most of the 2009/2010 Season as a guest of the company.
From that experience, I was and continue to be impressed by the constant improvement in the artistic and technical excellence of the company. I was impressed by Wayne’s promotion of talent at all levels within the company (multiple casts of all solo roles in Giselle), including taking the risk of giving Albrecht to Vadim Muntagirov in his first three months with the company, straight out of The Royal Ballet School. It was also Wayne’s inspired decision to partner him with Daria Klimentová when his original partner was injured and we all know what an exciting partnership that has become. For me, I was very grateful for the total support he and the ballet staff gave me in restoring the dramatic element of Giselle, especially in Act I, something Mary Skeaping was insistent upon although she did not always get it.
Wayne also realised that a whole season of Giselle was not challenging enough for the men in the company, even though they have much more to do than in any other production. He therefore created Men Y Men as a showcase for them. I must have seen at least 60 rehearsals and performances of this work and it never failed to mesmerise me and showed a level of excellence in male dancing unequalled in the company’s history.
I mentioned all this in a letter to the company’s Chairman, John Talbot, when I heard that the Board was trying to oust Wayne last summer. I also expressed my admiration for Wayne’s policy in allowing dancers at all levels in the company to guest abroad, which keeps morale high and enhances the international reputation of English National Ballet. I would now like to add that I applaud his promotion of young choreographic talent within the company, in particular Jenna Lee, Stina Quagebeur and James Streeter, and his decision to open the Beyond Ballets Russes season with an exhilarating version of The Firebird by English National Ballet School graduate George Williamson.
With so many positives and no suggestion of impropriety on Wayne’s part, one wonders why he is being replaced as artistic director. The Board obviously has its reasons and is not obliged to divulge them, but it seems to me that the timing was particularly insensitive as the news came in the middle of an intensive rehearsal period of six major works for the Coliseum season, two of which are completely new and include one by Wayne. However, everyone has risen above it and given thrilling performances of Programme One with, I am sure, equally thrilling performances of Programme Two to come. I wish Wayne every success with whatever direction his distinguished career now takes. With such a dedicated team of dancers and staff, I am sure the new artistic director will have their full support but s/he will certainly have giant shoes to fill! –– Yours sincerely,
Irmgard E Berry MA
Adviser to the Skeaping Estate