Thursday, 25 March 2010


Earlier this week Bennet Gartside sat in the Royal Ballet office facing a team of three and was asked, an hour before the general rehearsal for The Judas Tree, “so, moment of truth; do you know it ?” Unfazed, he replied “I know what I know and I’ll do what I can do.”

Photography throughout : Elliott Franks

This meeting came about because Principal Thiago Soares had been indisposed since last weekend’s Nureyev gala, and in order for the second cast to have their stage rehearsal, they wanted Bennet to take Thiago’s role. Stage rehearsals are significant because it’s the dancers’ first chance to perform with the orchestra, the sets and the costumes, in the theatre setting, which is a very different place from the studio. There is also an audience, albeit one aware that it’s a rehearsal and not a performance.

Bennet is a First Soloist with the company, and regular readers will recall his honest and charming interview for BALLET NEWS last year. When I asked him with whom he’d most like to dance, he had everyone literally in the palm of his hand with his reply : “Actually I’ve been lucky to dance with some great names over my career, Sylvie Guillem. Darcey Bussell, Alina Cojocaru, Tamara Rojo, Marianela Nunez, Sarah Wildor, but I think I might have to say my wife. She’s not a dancer – works in PR. At our wedding we did a Tango that was brilliant. I’ve never seen her so nervous in her life! I think because a lot of the guests were dancers, it really got her wound up. But I have dreams of what it could be like if…!”

Bennet Gartside, Mara Galeazzi and Johannes Stepanek

He also explained that his motivation for starting the week was “that I’m in control of my own future.” Within the company, though, his future is decided by a combination of the Artistic Director (currently Monica Mason) and the misfortunes of his colleagues (and the reverse is also true). Which brings us back to the general rehearsal, and these vivid images captured by photographer Elliott Franks.

You get a strong sense of the teamwork on stage; the atmosphere, which Bennet describes to me, “when the curtain came down everyone back stage was applauding and it was all very nice, all very kind from everyone.” They knew that he had been covering the role, but “they also knew that I had never done it, never done a rehearsal, I was never given a go in the studio.”

Mara Galeazzi, Bennet Gartside and Sergei Polunin

There are two casts for The Judas Tree (part of a triple bill) with the Principal roles of The Woman and The Foreman cast as Leanne Benjamin and Carlos Acosta; Mara Galeazzi and Thiago Soares respectively. Bennet was cast as Peter and Monica asked him to cover The Foreman, “I said to myself : ‘learn it, make sure you know it because anything can happen, just try and learn what you can’. And who knows things might happen, and it did.”

Bennet had spent time in the studio watching Irek Mukhamedov coaching Carlos and Thiago. Both of them also had private calls to rehearse the pas de deux, and Bennet stood in the studio without a partner “I didn’t have a girl to cover because one of the girls that was covering it wasn’t there because she was working too heavily on other things. So I used to just stand and watch it and take in what I could take in”.

Luckily the role of the Woman was danced by Mara Galeazzi, who relishes the challenge of new partners. Just as well, since Bennet describes the process, “I’ve never done anything with her, of these rehearsals, so we just literally went into it blind. I just did what I could do. So, you know, everything starts aching, your arms are tired, but I just wanted to keep going because there was an audience out there.”

Was he was happy with the rehearsal ? “I was. Given the circumstances, I felt I did something. Finding the character came throughout the piece. So difficult, but, as I say, I was happy. Mara was very happy. They were all very nice about it and the support backstage from management when we came off – they were all very complimentary about it.”

After completing the rehearsal, Bennet had to prepare to dance the Peter role for the evening performance, which was being filmed.

This story is tinged with a sadness though. At the beginning I talked about being in a company and how that works for you and sometimes against you. The good news is that Thiago is back; for Bennet that means his hard work won’t come to fruition in terms of a performance. But this is an extra bittersweet tale because while you are, to an extent, at the mercy of the Artistic Director and of fortune, as a dancer the clock is also always ticking furiously and this may have been Bennet’s last opportunity to dance a role he covets.

The cast congratulate Bennet who had an hour's notice for the general rehearsal

The triple bill of Concerto|The Judas Tree|Elite Syncopations is currently in rep until 15th April at The Royal Opera House. Please take note of the warning on the booking page. You've probably got the idea from these photographs.


  1. Lovely article Elise. I was at the rehersal and thought Bennet did brilliantly !

  2. GREAT BLOG!!!

  3. thnx for your comment i love ur post too!
    And the photos are amazing!!

  4. Very interesting feature Elise, we don't often hear about the Royal Ballet's first soloists, it's usually about the principles so very refreshing to focus on someone who is not always in the limelight. Bennet is a very competent dancer who has really proved his worth in roles such as Tybalt recently & manages to bring his own personality to each role he dances, but I guess the opportunity for a first soloist to perform in a lead role at Covent Garden are few and far between - so when Monica Mason personally addressed the Friends to say that Bennet would be taking on the role of Foreman as Thiago was still injured and wouldn't quite be hung properly at the end of the piece...I think everyone in the house was watching with baited breathe to see what would happen. In the end, although it was quite a sinister piece (understatement I know) Bennet proved that he was a more than capable Foreman and the audience loved it, lets hope that this experience will result in Bennet being given some more lead roles. Also wonderful pictures - Many thanks TJ x

  5. I just can't get enough looking at these performance images. They're beautiful!

    And I did get your email reminder a little too late... I don't always check that email every day, especially not when I have a lot of work. :(

  6. Those are great images! Your blog always inspires me to want to see a ballet. Have a great weekend!

  7. Whenever I visit your blog it gives me such a big envy to go and see ballet plays or I don't know just watch on youtube videos!
    It's just wonderful, music and dance together brings peace into my soul, which is very welcome from time to time when all I get to think when I am writing is about shoes and latest designer pieces:)


  8. Absolutely stunning pictures really :) I wonder if their costumes are specially made to aid their movement as I wouldn't have thought denim was the most flexible to move in and reach those positions??? Thanks for stopping by today... its always a pleasure to have you visit :)

  9. Your blog has so many wonderful images! I love it!

  10. Looks like a wonderful show, beautiful photos :)

  11. Many thanks for sharing these fabulous photos with us. How I wish I could see the performance! I do love ballet but have always been a student admirer. I never could remember the combinations! grrr... therefore I watch dance and enjoy it immensely.
    Also, thanks for commenting on my blog! I have to follow yours now to see your upcoming ballet news and photos as they are so beautiful and I can admire from afar!

    Smiles, Cyndi

  12. Hi Elise! I remember reading that interview, where this charming man said he'd most like to dance with his wife! I SO LOVED THAT! What a talented dancer, and great post! ... Thanks so much for your visit. Enjoy your Sunday! xo Paulette

  13. Thank you for coming by and saying hi...these images amaze me...the talent and strength of all these dances. xo Have a great new week.

  14. What a great guy. Saying things like doing things to be in 'control of my own future' also appeal to non-dancers like me (not to mention the dancing with his wife wish). The pictures show perfectly the joy and the immense work that goes into dancing! Great article!

  15. looks amazing!! Hope you are having a nice week! Have a great day!

  16. Anna - thank you !

    Caramel Diva - thank you

    tima_ amosov - very kind of you to say so, thank you

    Fanciful Designs - thank you

    daphne on a rocketship - I agree, the photo's started the whole thing really

    LENORENEVERMORE - thank you

    Cloudia - hello !

    Anon - thank you for your lovely comment. I think I've said before that one of the reasons I started writing online is that I can give space to all manner of ballet-related topics as well as featuing the dancers that I feel have interesting things to say. Very glad to hear that you are enjoying it !

    Couture Cookie - the photo's are stunning; it's quite a photogenically lit set too, which helps. So often they are pitch black ! Shame you missed the deadline.... next time ! One of your guesses was right...

    Simply Colette - thank you. I hope that you have been to see something ?

    Vintage Me New You - thank you so much !

    Lisa Marie Olson - the costumes are always made with movement in mind; some to a greater extent than others. Depends on the ballet really.

    naomemandeflores - thank you !

    Audrey Allure - thank you

    ByLightOfMoon - nothing wrong with enjoying watching a ballet rather than dancing - it's the involvement that's key. Good for you !

    beedeebabee♥ - yes, I think you've captured it exactly right..

    The girl with the flour in her hair - thank you !

    koralee - thank you

    SabinePsynopsis - thank you very much

    Iva - thank you, you too !

  17. You have the most awesome blog. Finally, someone who posts BIG photos with good resolution.


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