The world of classical ballet, at least the very small part of that world in London, is having a bit of a flap , to say nothing of the journalists having a field day with the headline writing, about Ross Stretton and his recently released interview containing details of his time at The Royal Ballet.
In case you're not up to speed let us fill you in. Ross Stretton, an Australian, was briefly the director of The Royal Ballet about 6 years ago. He was forced out under a cloud following disappointing reviews of newly introduced work, unproven allegations concerning misconduct with young female dancers and allegedly falling foul of the high and mighty types at Covent Garden.
Mr Stretton died, from cancer related issues, in 2005. He gave an interview to the National Library of Australia in 2003 with the caveat that it not be released until 40-50 years after his death. Knowing the end was near, due to his illness, he revised those instructions to three years after his death.
You can read a more detailed analysis of the interview at the link below, from the Sydney Morning Herald. Suffice to say that what Mr Stretton said about the Royal Ballet and its inner workings was less than complimentary and the broadsheet hacks have gotten their knives out.
Judith Mackrell in particular, who's id image on her Guardian Blog looks more and more like Delores Umbridge from the Harry Potter Books every day, has a good old time kicking a dead man when he's down.
Ms Mackrell gets started with this delightful comment;
"In the interview, Stretton protests his innocence over the issue of sexually abusive behaviour that was said to have precipitated his exit. At the time this behaviour was neither publicly proved nor disproved, although the fact that other rumours came to light of similar behaviour when Stretton was at American Ballet Theatre suggests this talk wasn't just fabricated by disaffected British journalists."
Were this a political story Ms Mackrell would be accused of a "Rovian Attack", referring to Karl Rove, the one time advisor to George W. Bush. Somebody should tell this particular writer that simply because rumors are repeated it doesn't make them any more true. Loading it with the vague "sexually abusive behavior" gets the readers salivating for more salacious details which never come, simply because there are none.
The comment; "was neither publicly proved nor disproved" is particularly nasty in its overtones. Any assumption of innocence until proven otherwise thrown out the window to further disparage a man unable to speak for himself. But as long it makes Ms Mackrell's point, then what's the harm?
Later in the piece we get to the real crux of the attack. Stretton wasn't thinking clearly, in fact he was probably insane by this point because;
".... when Stretton gave his interview in 2003 we have to wonder how clearly he was thinking and remembering. It's grim to have to point out that his death, in 2005, was caused by melanoma that had spread to his brain, so who knows how his behaviour or mental processes were affected in the period leading up to it."
That's right readers, nothing this man said made any sense because his terminal cancer had completely clouded his mind and he was, to all intents and purposes, just making everything up, or "misremembering" if we go back to our friend Mr Rove.
Ms Mackrell has no medical training, presumably, the MD missing from the end of her name provides a clue about that, and she cites no medical experts when coming to that conclusion.
What went on at the Royal Ballet six years ago will never be known. Mr Stretton is gone and the insiders in London's dance mafia have little or no reason to let the truth come out and anything they say is nothing more than conjecture, unless someone has video or audio recordings.
The most revealing thing about this entire issue is the response from the dance writers, who were called to question by Mr Stretton, and the Royal Ballet themselves.
Covent Garden declined to comment either now or in the future, skulking in their ivory tower plotting the next Kenneth McMillan revival. The writers, as illustrated by Ms Mackrell, can say as they please, safe in the knowledge that nobody really cares what they say. Their cloistered, self flagellating little world protected until the next person they don't like very much comes along and tries to spoil things!
One final note, the comments on Ms Mackrell's piece were closed from the outset, wonder why?