A History of the Companies
A German dancer meets an Australian ballerina in an American ballet company, rehearsing in Germany, prior to a tour in Spain. It was an unlikely event, but it was also a suitable introduction to a partnership where dance and travel were intrinsically interwoven.
Between 1963 and 1999 Alexander Roy and Christina Gallea created, and directed, three different ballet companies : Soirée de Ballet,(1963-64), International Ballet Caravan (1965-1973) and Alexander Roy London Ballet Theatre (1974-1999). Both worked with international ballet companies and with famous teachers and choreographers before making the decision to set off on an independent path. These companies were not only independent, but also self –supporting organisations which survived, against all the odds, for a total of thirty-seven years. During this time Alexander and Christina created a unique repertoire of ballets and nurtured several generations of dancers. The aim was to be free of restraints of boards and committees, to be able to exist without outside funding or subsidy, in order to remain in charge personally, free to work and create in conditions of their own choosing. Independence has its advantages and its pitfalls, obviously, it was not always without a struggle, often a battle just to survive, and always a challenge to meet those standards which they both set themselves. However, survive the company did, and the rewards and the highlights were many.
Soirée de Ballet was always planned as a predecessor to a full-sized ballet company. Following a series of engagements with leading ballet companies throughout Europe, Alexander and Christina, in 1963, conceived a concert programme made up of classical pas de deux and Alexander’s first choreographic works. While Alexander choreographed the ballets, Christina designed the costumes, and both learned skills they had never dreamed of, – in administration, publicity, stage management and theatre design.
The two-hour programme was packed with eight short ballets, a colourful programme full of variety with contrasting moods and multiple costume changes. Soirée de Ballet was performed throughout France, Germany, Switzerland and Austria, and a second year of touring demanded a new programme, equally challenging to mount and to perform. The couple were engaged for a month-long tour in Eastern Germany, a rare event at the time, and presented a two-week season in London. As a result of the London season, they were invited to join a newly-formed British company, London Dance Theatre, which was a welcome opportunity to take stock of their achievements so far, and to continue planning for the formation of a small ballet company, when the moment seemed right.
The demise of London Dance Theatre brought the couple to Paris, where they made a series of dance films for French National Television, and in 1965, having decided to settle in Paris, International Ballet Caravan was born. The company of seven dancers performed throughout France, Germany and Switzerland but the following year, Christina and Alexander moved to London with the decision to base the company there. Having won the interest of a British agent they commenced extensive touring throughout the UK, as well as increasing their performances on the Continent. Alexander choreographed most of the repertoire, short, one-act works, of which the most durable were the highly dramatic The Gentleman Caller, based on Tennessee William’s ‘The Glass Menagerie’ and Circuit, a first essay in contemporary dance, to music by J S Bach and incorporating the spoken sonnets of William Shakespeare. During the late-sixties and early-seventies, influenced by the revolutionary spirit of the time, the company began to explore new ground involving collective productions, speech, mime and audience participation. These productions were well received and won the company their first financial assistance from the Arts Council of Great |Britain and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.
In 1973 a permanent base for the company was found in a large Victorian house in North West London, providing rehearsal studios, offices, workshop and storerooms. A change of name from the nomadic sounding International Ballet Caravan seemed appropriate, and the company then became known as Alexander Roy London Ballet Theatre. In the same year the company made an extended tour across France for the Jeunesses Musicales de France and in 1974 was invited to tour South East Asia, visiting Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taipei and Manila. Renewed impetus was gained from these prestigious tours and several international principal dancers joined the company during these years, complementing the versatile, homogenous group which formed the nucleus. These included Keith Rosson from the Royal Ballet, Frederic Werner from London Festival Ballet and Jean-Marie Dubrul from Ballet Janine Charrat. 1972 had seen the emergence of a new choreographic talent from within the company, and Prue Sheridan created her ballet Quintet, which initiated a series of successful works. During the 1970’s the company visited South East Asia on a regular basis, and extended its European touring to include performances in Italy, Malta and Belgium.
In 1980 Alexander Roy choreographed his first full-length ballet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which won immediate success, and remained in the repertoire until the company’s final tour in 1999. The Dream was followed by other full-length productions, demanding an enlarged company of dancers, a live musical ensemble and invitations to designers to collaborate with Alexander on stage and costume design. The 1980’s proved to be a ‘boom’ period for the company, performing not only throughout the UK, and Europe, but also to South America and from 1988, annually to the United States. By the 1990’s a ‘wind of change’ hit Europe, and the effects of budget cuts to the arts with overall financial restrictions, as well the influx of dance companies from Eastern Europe, brought about major changes. The company’s seasons were cut back to six months and after the 1993-1994 season, after thirty-years of continuous activity as independent dancers and directors, Christina and Alexander decided to make a break. They spent a year looking at dance companies across Europe; Christina gave professional classes in London; Alexander mounted a ballet for a contemporary dance company in Germany, but with the encouragement of both their German and American agents, re-formed the company for two final seasons, in 1998 and 1999. The final production, Alice, Dreams and Wonderland, was performed throughout the UK, France and Germany.
Despite what could be considered as two successful seasons, a decision had been made not to continue the company’s activities after 1999. After all, Christina and Alexander could consider that they had achieved all they had set out to – and much, much more. It had been an extraordinary adventure, almost foolhardy, and if the work load had often been almost unbearable, the rewards had been many. It could be said that for many years, the tours and performances had fulfilled a service, or a purpose, in providing dance performances in towns, and in countries, where there was otherwise little professional dance to be seen. On the other hand the companies had performed, and been successful, in many of the major cities of the world – London, Paris, Berlin, New York, among them.
Alexander Roy- dancer-director
Alexander Roy- choreographer
Companies – Ballets / Tours/Press