Letters: Britain needs the English National Ballet

Putin’s choices

Sir: I agree with Paul Wood that Vladimir Putin is on the back burner (“Cornered”, September 24). His actions, from partial mobilization to nuclear threats to snap referendums in occupied Ukraine, point to a psychopathic gamer hoping for one last trick to turn Lady Fortune in his way. However, there is a big gap between “losing” and “losing,” and this is where the West’s focus on the nuclear threat is unnecessary and dangerous. In addition to the partial mobilization, Putin in August ordered a 10% increase in the size of the army to more than one million troops. Combine that with the “effort saving” effect of withdrawing from parts of Ukraine and come spring, Putin has the makings of a ground maneuver force that gives him options. How he chooses to use them is debatable: a “coup de main” assault on Moldova, another attempt to take Odessa, better defenses in eastern Ukraine or an attack on the Baltic states – anything is possible, with varying levels of risk and reward. Putin is cornered and, as Paul Wood concludes, he is dangerous. But let’s not get so obsessed with the worst-case scenario – the use of nuclear weapons – that we don’t consider more likely cases and prepare accordingly.

Colonel (Retired) Simon Diggins OBE

Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire

Growing threat

Sir: Jonathan Sumption is one of the most distinguished minds of this era. I am surprised to see him conclude that NATO’s eastward expansion was “probably” worth the risk (Books, September 24). What have we gained to make the risk of war worthwhile, even “probably”? Russia is by no means the only European power with an aggressive past. And as American neo-conservative Robert Kagan put it: “While it is obscene to blame the United States for Putin’s inhumane attack on Ukraine, to insist that the invasion did not not been provoked is misleading. Pre-Putin Russian leaders who accepted repeated declarations by Western statesmen that there would be no NATO expansion eastward were not “foiled”. They have been deceived and betrayed. This treatment discredited Russian democrats at home and created Putinism as we know it. Yegor Gaidar, a Russian liberal of the kind we claim to love, contacted Canadian Ambassador Chris Westdal in Moscow in 2004 “to implore, plead” against further NATO expansion. He warned that this would “bring out the worst of Russian instincts”. He was ignored.

Peter Hitchens

London W8

Point of view

Sir: We are writing in response to Rupert Christiansen’s article “National Disasters” (Arts, September 24). We appreciate everyone’s right to have an opinion, but feel that the article does not accurately reflect English National Ballet. The article states that there have been labor courts at ENB in ​​recent years. This is an error; there were no labor courts under Tamara Rojo’s tenure.

As for claims of a lack of ‘UK-trained stars’, over 60% of the company have been trained in the UK, including three of our top five ranked directors. We are the only company in the UK to tour ballet at our scale and accompanied by a full live orchestra. We take our responsibilities as a publicly funded charity very seriously, offering a balanced program combining iconic works with lesser-known titles. Recent tours have featured contemporary programming alongside classic works, including Akram Khan’s acclaimed reimagining of Gisele which premiered in Manchester and is our best-selling production to date. Our work also extends beyond the stage with programs that engage local communities, audiences and participants across the country. We have been repeatedly recognized for our work as a creative force, winning Best Response to the Pandemic in 2021 and Outstanding Company at this year’s Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards.

Our artistic choices may not appeal to everyone, but we see firsthand the impact our work can have, both on and off stage. We look forward to continuing to engage with as many people as possible in the future.

Tamara Rojo CBE, Artistic Director of English National Ballet

Patrick Harrison, Executive Director of the English National Ballet


Sir: Fiona Mountford’s lament over the loss of pews in churches will strike a chord with many (“Benched,” September 24). However, it should be noted that benches were not introduced to Europe until the 1500s, after the Reformation. This was partly due to the new emphasis on long sermons rather than rituals. They quickly became a source of status. The rich rented the best benches and the poor paid what they could to sit in the back. Before the Reformation, people stood for services, the only seats available being stone benches against the walls for the sick and lame. To this day, Orthodox churches around the world maintain the practice of having little or no seating, and some of their liturgies last three hours.

Reverend Larry Wright

Kings Norton, Birmingham

Making a Monarch

MR: Although AN Wilson is right that the Queen’s personality was hidden from those outside her circle (“She Hasn’t Changed”, September 17), she showed up more often in the during his early years. Photographer Dorothy Wilding was invited to record the coronation of George VI in 1937 and recalled in her memoir how difficult it was to persuade the Princess to stand with one hand holding her train. Princess Margaret agreed but Elizabeth wanted to cross her hands in front of her. Wilding wrote: “I just couldn’t get Princess Elizabeth to pose the way I wanted. Obviously, this older sister already knew her own mind! … Even at the tender age of 11, a future queen was showing her determined character. Wilding observed that such an attribute in the woman-turned-queen was one we could rejoice in.

Jane Dismore, author of Princess: the beginnings of Queen Elizabeth II

St Albans, Hertfordshire

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