23 December 2014 at 11.02am | 7 Comments
Derek Rencher (1932–2014) first studied at the Royal College of Art, before joining the Sadler's Wells Ballet (later The Royal Ballet) in 1952. He was promoted to Soloist in 1957 and to Principal in 1969. He later became a Guest Principal Character Artist, and danced his last Season with the Company in 1997–8. In his long tenure with The Royal Ballet he won acclaim particularly for his powerful stage presence.
Rencher appeared in his first new ballets in 1956, making a strong impression in Kenneth MacMillan’s Noctambules and Alfred Rodrigues’s The Miraculous Mandarin. The following year he danced several roles in John Cranko’s new Prince of the Pagodas.
He created his first role for Frederick Ashton in 1961, dancing Demaphoön opposite Svetlana Beriosova as the title role in Persephone. Further role creations for Ashton included Edward Elgar in Enigma Variations (1968), also opposite Beriosova as The Lady, and Rakitin in A Month in the Country (1976) with Lynne Seymour. He created the role of Death in Ashton’s gala work The Walk to the Paradise Gardens (1972), and created the costume designs for Ashton’s gala pas de deux Lament of the Waves (1970).
In 1965 he created the role of Paris in MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet. He went on to create the role of Monsieur G.M. in Manon (1974) and strongly influenced the depiction of a figure who, in Rencher’s words, would ‘buy someone and discard them without a scruple’. Other roles for MacMillan included a diffident Tsar Nicholas II in the three-act version of Anastasia (1971), Prince Philipp in Mayerling (1978) and Isadora’s lover Paris Singer in Isadora (1981).
He was an imposing presence as Von Rothbart in Swan Lake, as Kostcheï in The Firebird and as the High Brahmin in La Bayadère. Other significant roles in his later career included a Step-Sister in Cinderella, Mrs Pettitoes in Tales of Beatrix Potter and the title role in Anthony Dowell’s production of Don Quixote (1993).