A picture chronicle of my career, part one
School and Stuttgart
I was fortunate enough to be among the first students at White Lodge, Richmond Park, the home of the junior section of the Royal Ballet School. For some reason I was put in a class with far older boys, which resulted in staying on for an extra year, before moving to the Upper School at Baron’s Court.
All through my early youth I had admired John Cranko’s ballets, and in the summer of 1961, while still a student at the Royal Ballet Senior School, I took myself to Stuttgart to audition for his company there. I heard nothing for several months, but was summoned with a contract just before his Romeo and and Juliet opened that December. It was a wonderful six years during which John made some of his most famous ballets, all of which I danced in: as well as R&J there were Card Game, Onegin, Flute & Harp Concerto, L’Estro Armonico and many more. Coming to know those ballets well enabled me to describe how he made them in my recent book Cranko: the Man and his Choreography.
During my time with Sottish Ballet I became more and more interested in modern dance. The ballet master, Harry Haythorne, helped me apply for an Arts Council scholarship to study at the Martha Graham School in NYC for 10 months. Soon after I returned I made Arriving Bellevue Sunday…. I’d been impressed by Pasolini’s film Theorem and this ballet was the result. The set and costume design was by the very talented Margaret Mary Preece who sadly died far too young.
Ken Wells as the Stranger with Amanda Olivier, Kit Lethby, Patricia Rianne, Nicholas Carroll and Bronwen Curry on the balcony as Mary the maid in Arriving Bellevue Sunday….
Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet
When I joined the Royal Ballet, the entire organisation was in a state of flux, Sir Fred (Ashton) had retired and protracted re-organisation was going on … and on. The touring section was, for a time called the New Group. But audiences made it clear that they wanted the classics back in repertory and before long we were doing lots of Coppèlias and Giselles plus, fortunately, several Ashton ballets and some interesting new works. Peter Wright gave me the opportunity to choreograph Migrations, and later The Entertainers for SWRB.
I danced the role of Moondog in The Lady and the Fool many times during the 1970s, here with Margaret Barbieri. I have always thought that this ballet is unfairly thought of as over-sentimental. I write about Cranko’s treatment of the story at length in my book Cranko: the Man and his Choreography.
I danced as a soloist with Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet for seven years, but I felt that I needed to get out into the wide world, with more opportunities to choreograph. Little did I imagine what would follow!