THE CULTURE BAR — SPEED POD: Dance
Speed-pod series of 15 minute podcasts focusing on music and culture
In this Speed Pod mini-series episode, we talk to Dance Manager Henry St Clair to tell us more about, and demystify, the world of dance.
Henry St Clair was interviewed by HP’s Lauren O’Brien.
The Culture Bar is a podcast series created by HarrisonParrott focussing on conversations in culture and the arts.
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Lauren O’Brien 00:00
Hello and welcome to The Culture Bar, an arts and culture podcast series brought to you by HarrisonParrot. In this episode of our speed podcast mini series, we talked to Henry St. Clair, the Senior Manager of our Dance department. We talked about what it’s like to manage our new and growing Dance department, his own experiences in the professional dance world, and tips for those looking to experience dance for the first time. Thank you for joining us, Henry. Before we go into the questions, can you just tell us a little bit about yourself, please?
Henry St Clair 00:29
I can. So my name is Henry St Clair. I am from Colchester in Essex in the UK. I come from a dance background. So I studied dance from a very young child. And I went to the Royal Ballet School Lower School, which is white lodge in the middle of Richmond Park when I was 11. I went all the way through the Royal Ballet School and graduated into English National Ballet Company, working mainly in the Colosseum in the Albert Hall. And then I moved to Germany. I was in Germany for five years in two different companies in Augsburg and in Hof, which is in the east of the country, and had a great time dancing, lots of principal roles. I then came back to London and I joined the Royal Ballet Company, where I was for five years and had a fantastic time in London, the Royal Ballet Company. I’ve retired from dance, went to university and did economics because I just thought, I need to do something other than dance and I thought that would be a good a good way to get me in. And then since then, really I graduated in 2013. And since then, I’ve been freelancing and doing company management, general management, casting, producing across the theatre world, almost all exclusively to do with dance.
Lauren O’Brien 01:44
So how long have you worked at HarrisonParrott for then?
Henry St Clair 01:48
I just passed my one year anniversary. So I started at HarrisonParrott, I think on the 19 September 2021. I’ve been in discussions with the company for a good few months. And I had proposed what I thought a dance department should look like in terms of who we should sign from what discipline those individuals should come from, and how I would manage them on behalf of HP. And luckily the board agreed with my vision. And they hired me in September 2021. And we spent a few months sorting everything out, getting everything arranged and started and we officially launched in May 2022.
Lauren O’Brien 02:32
So HarrisonParrott is known for representing classical musicians, touring with orchestras. So dance is this whole new thing for HarrisonParrott isn’t it?
Henry St Clair 02:42
It is. And HarrisonParrott I have to confess I didn’t know the company before I joined because I’m not from that world. Although I am now but HarrisonParrott had also toured dance productions previously, so HP took Akram Khan’s ‘Giselle’ production for English National Ballet to China. They’ve toured Ron bear and they’ve taught Acosta Danza, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, so they’ve toured plenty of dance productions, and have a lot of experience in the world of dance. But I think what they really wanted to explore was whether they could have a dance department that dealt with individuals, as they do within the artist management side of HP that would work from within the world of dance. And I think that we do so we’ve started this dance department, which represents and manages the careers of dancers, choreographers, ballet specific conductors, dance and opera film directors, and anybody from within the creative field of dance really, who wouldn’t traditionally be represented or managed elsewhere.
Lauren O’Brien 03:48
Could you give our listeners some examples of dancers that we’re currently representing?
Henry St Clair 03:52
Of course I can and to avoid accusations of favouritism, I will just bring out one random name from each company that we represent. So for example, up at the Royal Opera House, the Royal Ballet Company we represent Reece Clark was chatting to Reece today. In Munich, we represent Yona Acosta, nephew of Carlos Acosta. In Berlin, we represent among others Ksenia Ovsyanick, fantastic principal dancer there. In San Francisco, we represent Nikisha Fogo and from Paris Opera, we are truly honoured to represent among others the Etoire Odejube.
Lauren O’Brien 04:29
So what does it mean then exactly to represent the dancer, like what does that entail from the management side of things?
Henry St Clair 04:36
Well, I think it’s very similar to managing other aspects of other professional workers lives in that a lot of the time if you are a principal ballet dancer, the thing that you really want to concentrate on is your artistic output on stage and in the studio. The last thing you really want to be thinking about is fee negotiation, travel logistics, diary management, schedule conflicts, and all of the other myriad things that get in the way of your life when you’re trying to be brilliant.
Lauren O’Brien 05:10
A creative individual?
Henry St Clair 05:12
Exactly, yeah. And there’s, there’s so much capacity that your mind and sort of body can endure. And so if you have somebody who can lift off a lot of the day to day administration, it frees you up to have further capacity to explore the sort of artistic output that you might be able to have and the creativity that you can create.
Lauren O’Brien 05:35
The dancers can just focus on what they got out, yeah,
Henry St Clair 05:38
Just dancing and we can take care of the rest of it. And it’s very same for, you know, ballet conductors. So ballet specific conductors is a real niche within the conducting world. And they’re not traditionally managed and represented by management companies. And they are actually incredibly important because the relationship between principal dancers on stage to the orchestra in the pit, as sort of relayed through the conductor at the front is crucial. And the way that the conductor can look at the dancer and see the way that the dancers moving and the tempo that they want to move at and then transmit that to the audience is a real skill. And it’s something that is very difficult to acquire, it takes years and then is is very niche. And so these conductors, often don’t have anybody looking after them. And so what we’ve tried to create is a group of conductors who all work at incredible opera houses and ballet companies around the world, and can help each other with me to create this circle of opportunity so that everybody is working all at the same time. And a lot of the repertoire that is done by ballet companies is the same repertoire to the same score, same musical score, even if it’s not to the same choreography. So if you’ve done Swan Lake in one theatre, you can do Swan Lake in another theatre, even if it’s even if it’s a totally different production, with some slight variations in Tempe. So it’s just a crucial area that ballet conductors are traditionally not entered into.
Lauren O’Brien 07:07
And you mentioned conductors. And I suppose there’s a misconception that you think of a dance department that you’re just representing dancers, but no like you said previously, it’s conductors. It’s a whole- it’s the whole industry.
Henry St Clair 07:20
Yeah it’s anybody within dance. It’s also choreographers, creative individuals, designers, and film directors, for example. So these are people some of these areas we’ve explored already. Some of them are slated for year 3,4,5 as we progress the dance department, but eventually we want to have a department which deals with individuals from across the spectrum. So whatever your area of expertise within dance, we feel that we should be a company that can represent a manage you.
Lauren O’Brien 07:47
Exciting future for for some for a still a growing department. So you’ve literally just come from the Royal Opera House. Are there any performances coming up that we need to watch out for there or any other venues?
Henry St Clair 07:58
Yes, so we have I’ve just come back from the Royal Ballet Company, as you say the Royal Opera House and I should make listeners aware that we also are incredibly proud to represent the estate of the late Sir Kenneth MacMillan, an incredible choreographer, and his work, ‘Mayerling’, is being produced at the moment at the Royal Opera House. And it’s amazing ballet, I would say, probably my favourite ballet. And it’s really a ballet that anybody who hasn’t seen ballet should go and see is the story of Crown Prince Rudolf and the Austro Hungarian empire. And listeners might be surprised to know that is the story of sex, drugs and suicide. It’s a very dark valley, but just amazing, incredible, incredible score and incredible ballet. And then following that, of course, there is the traditional Christmas Extravaganza of ‘Nutcracker’, which is nice and easy to jump into.
Lauren O’Brien 08:57
Well, yeah, we all love seeing a Nutcracker. So you mentioned the Nutcracker, which is quite a famous ballet. Do you have any other ballets to recommend to people who want to get into this artform and experience it for the first time?
Henry St Clair 09:13
So as I just said, Nutcracker is a great one to jump into. Even if you don’t enjoy the ballet itself. It’s the whole sort of tradition and pageantry around Christmas that everybody can just really get on board with and it’s great for kids. Speaking of kids, I think not all ballets are appropriate. You know, Mayerling for example, perhaps not that appropriate for kids. But a lot are and the tales of Beatrix Potter is another lovely one really nice, and that’s based on the tales of Beatrix Potter with all of the animals. There was incredible masks and heads and costumes and it’s just a lovely ballet to take your kids through. That’s by Ashton, Frederick Ashton. And another one I think if you are looking to jump into a ballet that you you feel like well, ballet is full of Women in white tutus and doing all these sort of patterns. If that’s your idea of ballet and you’d like to see that, then of course, Swan Lake, but Swan Lake is can be quite aggressive in that it’s three hours long and it’s quite something to jump into. So one that is similar but not nearly as long is Giselle. Giselle has a lovely act one that sets up the story. And then act two is one of these traditional white acts. They’re called because it’s full of women in white tutus. And it’s a lovely ballet but you get kind of half as much dancing as you do in Swan Lake. So if you’re dipping your toe in for the first time, that’s a really good one to go to.
Lauren O’Brien 10:40
And what about dipping your toes into the music, say our listeners just wants to listen to some of the music would you recommend any ballets to start with?
Henry St Clair 10:50
Well, I think I’d say probably three different ballets for the purely for the music. Probably my favourite is MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet which is set to the Prokofiev score of Romeo and Juliet which is just sublime. There is also again MacMillan, but I might be biassed MacMillan’s one act ballet Requiem, which is set to Fauré’s Requiem, which is also beautiful, which of course everybody will know. And then the third one, I say something a bit more. Well actually two more something a couple more modern, so one by Joby Talbot, either Winter’s Tale or Alice in Wonderland, a much more modern composition, but still truly classical set to classical ballet. And then the other one, I’d say something by Wayne McGregor, and Wayne has worked with a huge number of artists across the musical spectrum. Something that was brilliant is Chroma which was set to an orchestration of the white stripes. And then also he’s worked on an amazing show he did was with Mark Ronson, Boy George, he’s worked with some incredible artists. So if you pick up any sort of Wayne McGregor ballet, you will hear some really interesting music.
Lauren O’Brien 12:00
So finally, to wrap up this podcast, are there any books or reading about ballet that you’d recommend to find out more whether that’s for children or adults?
Henry St Clair 12:11
Yes, so what I mean, I think the most, the most simple and obvious thing to do is to visit the Royal Opera House shop or something similar, where there’s a whole wide variety of books and DVDs, and all sorts of things that you can really get into. And there are some brilliant books in there that sort of explained the beginnings of ballet or the basics of ballet or stories of the well known ballets that you can jump straight into. There is also a brilliant book for kids that I read to my son Forrest, called Boys Who Do Ballet, and it was created by the American Ballet Theatre, and it features five or six of their male principals, and they have been turned into little cartoon figurines of themselves as little boys and they start to do ballet. So it’s like, you know, doing ballet as a little boy is totally fine and it helps you to jump higher to play basketball to run faster in baseball. It’s a bit sort of American sports centric, but it’s really good for kids and Forrest absolutely loves it.
Lauren O’Brien 13:13
Thank you for listening to this Culture Bar speed podcast. Henry St Clair was interviewed by me, Lauren O’Brien. If you enjoyed this podcast episode, please follow us on your preferred podcast player