I simply must jump in here and say that I think Cassandra has this issue spot on.
Firstly for Ruthamandakent to say that the decision to cast Edward Watson in the role of Albrecht must be correct because Monica Mason made it is, with respect, simply a ludicrous defence. Is Monica Mason now some kind of Goddess whose every single utterance represents some kind of unquestionable divine inspiration?! The simple fact is that Monica Mason, just like the rest of us, is capable of making mistakes and misjudgments. All Artistic Directors cast dancers in various roles that then sometimes in practice turns out to be miscasting. And in any case the record of management decisions from this particular Artistic Director is fairly questionable anyway of late…(this is after all the AD that this year decided not to offer Sylvie Guillem a renewal of her guest contract…like Sylvie or not all will admit that she is a Prima Ballerina that companies far greater than the Royal Ballet would kill to have a guest contract with, let alone then make this ill judged management decision to throw that all away…). We also have to remember the massive pressure the RB is under to have English principal dancers to replace Cope etc. Sometimes in life you have to take the best that is on offer, but that does not mean that the option is actually totally suitable.
I am actually also a big fan of Edward in the right repertoire…he is an outstanding modern, neo-classical and MacMillan (some roles) dancer, a unique and very special artist. But he is simply not a classical principal; he does not have the right body or an appropriate classical technique to dance these roles. I would question anyone’s view and understanding of the aesthetics of pure classical dance if they think otherwise.
I agree with much of what has been said positively about Edward’s performance of Albrecht from an acting, dramatic and interpretative point of view. There is no doubt he had some lovely touches of character in his Act 1, and he partnered Leanne beautifully and developed an attractive relationship with his Giselle. However, there are many, many male dancers around the world that can do that, this is not the difficult part nor the test of classical aptitude, compared to what is to come in Act 2. Personally my view is you start with the Act 2 variation and work backwards from there, not the other way round.
As soon as Edward entered the stage in Act 2 we saw the main problem – those hunched shoulders. During that initial run round the stage after Giselle’s first appearance, up they went. Hunched, tense shoulders like this completely negate classical ideals to the core, creating poor epaulement, distorted proportions, as well as causing such tension and restriction in the whole body as to affect the quality of everything like turning, jumping etc. I presume that this constant issue is due to a combination of nervous tension, poor training as a child (surely this fault should have been removed in early training by his teachers) and perhaps some natural physical inclination. Sometimes this facet actually looks fantastic – those hunched shoulders are great in Cathy Marston to express isolation, Wayne MacGreggor to create interesting modernist forms, and roles like a Brother in MacMillan’s Triad again to express isolation and an inner emotional torment. But come on, not in a purely classical, aristocratic role like Albrecht, there is no place for this there. And apart from visual aesthetics, upper body constriction causes a myriad of knock-on technical faults, and inhibits the execution of proper classical technique, as steps cannot be perfectly executed when the body contains tension like that.
The old theatrical saying, “were the two of us actually at the same performance?”, comes to mind ref the 29th April performance and Pixie’s comments. I simply cannot agree ref this Albrecht that “…solos were executed with excellent performance and technique. It was PERFECT…Edward’s solos in Act 2 was breathtaking…clean and sustained”. From what I saw the double cabrioles (as should be) during the beginning diagonal were not achieved at all, the feet were a blur upon beating and hardly enough height was gained off the ground. In any case the body is held in such a position in the air (again partly due to upper body tension and a general misapplication of technique) as to make double cabrioles, let alone the backbends that should have followed the landings, impossible. The whole body was put under pressure during this variation to the point that classical form was distorted, flexibility of the torso suppressed, and co-ordination and harmony lacking, resulting also in a stumble prior to preparing for a turn that he only just recovered from. He got through the variation, just. Nowhere near as bad as it could have been, but certainly nowhere near "perfect". The feet were also blurred during entrechat, he simply does not have the ballon required for these steps.
Pixie deep down does seem to recognise (correct me if I am wrong) that this dancer does not have the strongest of classical techniques or a naturally classical body. Of course Edward has only danced the role twice, but to the trained eye it can be seen that the technical level is unlikely ever to rise significantly as Albrecht, his body simply is not made for this type of role. Pixie mentions a hope for improvement in technique, but at the stage this dancer now is, with this inbuilt upper tension fault, there is little serious prospect of any further enhancements of technique.
I think it is time for some of Edward’s fans to stop being blinded by total fan worship. It is actually more supportive of someone to express an opinion that they may be moving in a direction that ultimately will expose their weaknesses rather than allow their strengths to shine. Stuart says above “his dancing can be astonishing”. Indeed it can, and we have all witnessed it many times. But let it always be astonishingly good by being seen in the right repertoire, I want Edward to be astonishing every time he is on stage, and this is just not possible in roles like Albrecht.