Ballet director attacks teaching

THE ARTISTIC director of a leading ballet company condemned standards of dance teaching at the weekend after he was shocked by an audition for recruits, writes Nicholas Schoon.

Derek Deane, artistic director of the English National Ballet, said: 'I'm appalled by what I have seen today. I fear for the future of British dance if we can't start producing the quality that classical ballet demands.'

Mr Deane saw 70 young women and 30 men perform at an open audition on Saturday. About half of them were British and newly out of ballet school, and they had been picked from 500 applicants who sent in curricula vitae, photographs and video tapes.

He needed to fill 11 places for year-long contracts, but afterwards declared that he would take none of the women and only one of the men 'although even he had a lot of physical problems'.

Only one of the English National Ballet's 12 principal dancers is British born and trained, and the Royal Ballet is also dominated by foreign principals.

Mr Deane, fomerly a principal with the Royal Ballet, said: 'By the time youngsters reach the major ballet schools at the age of 16 or so the physical damage has been done and it's very hard to repair.

'There's a lack of physicality - things that are fundamentally wrong with the way they use their feet and legs and backs. They've been trained so badly it would take years to try to produce something worthwhile from them.'

The company had a high reputation in the Eighties, under Peter Schaufuss, but most critics felt it declined sharply after Ivan Nagy took over. Its notices and reputation have improved since Mr Deane arrived 14 months ago from Rome, where he was deputy artistic director at the Rome Opera Ballet. He has dismissed several of the company's 64 dancers.

Harold King, artistic director of London City Ballet, said there was plenty of bad training, 'but the Royal Ballet School (which takes pupils from 11) is outstanding and does a very good job.'

One teacher told the Independent standards have become much higher and 'we're finding it harder and harder to get the right young people with the right bodies.'

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