Royal Ballet - Ross Stretton

Ross Stretton

Main article: Ross Stretton

Born in Canberra, Australia in 1952, Ross Stretton trained at the Australian Ballet School, later becoming a Principal dancer with the Australian Ballet company. He then moved to America, where he danced with the Joffrey Ballet and as a Principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre before retiring as a dancer in 1990. He was appointed Regisseur of American Ballet Theatre, becoming Assistant Director of the company in 1993. After returning to Australia, he was Artistic Director of the Australian Ballet from 1997 to 2001.

Following Sir Anthony Dowell's retirement as Artistic Director of the Royal Ballet in 2001, the board of the Royal Opera House announced Stretton as his successor, with a three year contract, however he resigned the post after 13 months, in September 2002. Stretton's appointment and subsequent departure from the Royal Ballet generated an unprecedented level of media attention for the Royal Ballet in recent years, due to controversy caused by his management of the company. Following his resignation, Stretton returned to Australia where he worked as a teacher and consultant until his death from cancer in 2005.

A number of controversial issues and allegations as well as resistance to organisational change lead to Stretton's departure from the Royal Ballet:

  • Principal dancer Sarah Wildor quit the company after a dispute over casting. Stretton had both historically and during his tenure with The Royal Ballet favoured athletic, speedy dancers as opposed to those with a more lyrical style, such as Wildor.
  • Stretton sometimes chose corps de ballet members for principal roles, leading to numerous arguments with Principal dancers
  • Principal Character Artist David Drew declared Stretton's appointment as "a disaster for the company" in the Mail on Sunday
  • Lady MacMillan threatened to withdraw performing rights to works by her late husband Sir Kenneth MacMillan
  • Stretton's programming was badly received by critics
  • Dancers let it be known they were considering strike action; however, talks between Equity, the dancers' union, and the Royal Opera House's executive director Tony Hall, averted industrial action
  • Rumours and allegations were made that Stretton engaged in sexual liaisons and affairs with various dancers. Royal Opera House spokesman Christopher Millard said "there have been no informal or formal complaints to management of Royal Opera House about this" .

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