Royal Ballet Chief Quits after Threat of Revolt by Dancers
David Lister Media and Culture Editor, The Independent (London, England)
THE HEAD of the Royal Ballet has quit suddenly a year after taking up one of the most coveted posts in the arts. And he has infuriated his fellow executives at the Royal Opera House with a leaving statement that implies the Royal Ballet is more interested in "heritage" than "the future of ballet".
The resignation of Ross Stretton comes weeks after The Independent revealed that dancers in the company were on the point of mutiny against his leadership. They had discussed a motion of no confidence and called in representatives of their union, Equity. Mr Stretton's resignation apparently had as much to do with this breakdown in company unity as academic debates over the heritage and future of choreography.
Senior insiders in the company said last night that Mr Stretton had failed to galvanise the company and had few admirers among the critics, and that his management style did not gel with the rest of his team.
Mr Stretton, 50, who is married with three children, is an Australian and came from the Australian Ballet company to head the Royal Ballet, which contains stars of such stature as Darcey Bussell and Sylvie Guillem. Though he forged good relationships with some dancers, the protest meeting and Equity involvement was a huge embarrassment to the Royal Opera House chief executive, Tony Hall, who had reduced many prices, increased access and improved the Royal Opera House's public profile in his first 15 months in the job.
In their protest meeting, dancers accused Mr Stretton of making frequent last-minute changes of casts, which were annoying for them and for audiences who had paid to see certain dancers.
Mr Stretton will not work out any notice period. The Royal Opera House confirmed that he had left for good yesterday.
The Royal Ballet, founded by the late Dame Ninette de Valois, has had a succession of distinguished figures at its helm including Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Sir Frederick Ashton and Sir Anthony Dowell. Mr Stretton was appointed director in March 2000. He took up his post in August last year, after Sir Anthony's retirement. …