In conversation with Tamás Solymosi, Director of the Hungarian National Ballet
A hugely important part of our role in championing ballet excellence is to work closely with other organisations and individuals committed to setting the agenda for classical ballet globally.
It was a great pleasure to welcome the Director of the Hungarian National Ballet, Tamás Solymosi, to the School as a guest teacher last month, and we’re so pleased that he had chance to meet with the students ahead of auditions for his world-leading ballet Company.
A former Principal dancer, his deep love for ballet shined through in his time with us.
Since coming under his leadership in 2011, the Hungarian National Ballet has completely renewed its repertoire, greatly enriching it to include, alongside its traditional Hungarian ballet productions, great classical pieces, major neoclassical ballets, and some more modern works. He’s also committed to attracting new talent with international auditions, and we’re proud that three of our alumni have joined the Company since his last visit.
About his trip to England, he said:
I was with English National Ballet, which I enjoyed a lot. That’s why I have a lot of friends here. And, of course, I have a lot of friends in The Royal Ballet and the School. This is the second time I’ve been here and I can tell you honestly, I enjoy it very much.
It’s great to be in the studio and it’s so nice to work with young artists who have such discipline. I think it’s really amazing here. I very much like the teachers, the style, and the organisation as a whole. It’s working so well. And it’s always nice to come back to England, to have a bit of time to catch up with friends and watch performances. I’m sure you can tell, I’m happy to be here.
When I knew the date I was coming to visit the School, it was so amazing to see The Sleeping Beauty was on at The Royal Ballet. Kevin [O’Hare – the Director of The Royal Ballet] was nice enough to send me tickets. I felt lucky that I could bring my wife this time — showing her the life that I had before, the places I would go, and watching performances. It was marvellous. I could also see many students from last year on the stage.
Plus, I could see many students from the studio going to watch the performances, which is really important. They’re there all the time! They love it.
Why you are here at the School today?
I keep in touch with Christopher Powney. I love to see the young generation of dancers who are just about to graduate because I’m searching for dancers. Every year we have a huge audition, and I want to be at the leading schools.
So, of course, the School is one of the first to target. We have some students from The Royal Ballet School already working with the Company and they’re doing really well. They are dancing in big roles and they integrate very well. They find, I think, a very strong and nice living situation in Hungary.
So we know it works. And I’m back again searching for dancers for the next season.
How long have you had a relationship with The Royal Ballet School, and how did it come about?
I’ve always followed the School because it produces wonderful dancers, I like its methodical approach, and you take care of the tradition of ballet, which is very important.
This is the second time I’ve been here to teach and to see the students and teachers, and how they work. I hope we can make it a tradition every year because I would love to be one of the places the School can count on.
Our Company is very classical, 80% of the repertoire is classical, so we’re playing all the big things; we do Swan Lake, Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty, and also quite a strong English repertory with Manon and Mayerling, and I have so many other ideas. So British dancers will feel very at home in Budapest!
They’d also find other big choreographers here. We have a very rich choreographic repertory.
What are some of the key qualities you kind of look for in a dancer?
It’s a complex question. Of course, schooling is important. The dancer’s technical ability is very important, but not everything because artistic skill is vital. Ballet is a miracle. It’s one of the most beautiful things on Earth, so it only works if you have the technique and the artistic skills together. If one is missing, it’s limping. It’s not good.
When you have the audience crying or laughing and they’re so happy to watch — that’s when I called it the miracle. And I think here in England, at The Royal Ballet School, the student has a good chance of having it all. That’s why I’m here. I very much believe in this system.
Why do you like working with The Royal Ballet School students?
I like to work with the best people. I know how good the teachers are, some of them I was dancing with or together with at the same Company, or we met at different performances or galas. I don’t feel like I’m a stranger.
I also very much like order and discipline. If you have discipline, order, plans, and a vision, you have everything.
How are our alumni getting on at Hungary National Ballet? You have Mattheus Bäckström, Louis Scrivener, Raffaello Barbieri in the corps and you also have [Principal dancer] Gergely Leblanc, who joined a few years ago.
They’re all in the Company, and they’re all doing extremely well and dancing important roles. They’re good examples for the Company, for the young generation. They’ll see ‘if I want to be as good as Louis, Mattheus, or Raff, I will have to work as they do’. When I’m sat in the audience, I’m really happy to see their success at the Company. That’s the goal.
What’s coming up for the Company?
We have a lot of things coming up. We have three different theatres in Hungary where the National Ballet dance. We have 145 performances planned for this year.
So now we’ve just finished Nutcracker, it was like a Nutcracker tsunami – 35 performances. Now we’re rehearsing The Wooden Prince, with Béla Bartók music, which is coming up next, and we’re already working on Swan Lake and Don Quixote. We’ll have 16 performances of Swan Lake, and 12 of Don Quixote, and after that, we’ll have two big international galas, which of course The Royal Ballet is welcome to attend with some artists. We’re planning to do Études – I love that ballet, it’s such a challenge for the corps de ballet and also the soloists as well.
We’ll also have a tour to Dubai this year.
There’s a lot coming up.
Find out more about The Hungarian National Ballet performances on its website.