Monica Mason 54 years with the Royal Ballet…

Born in South Africa in 1941, Monica Mason was a dancer from the tender age of 4. During her adolescence Mason looked up to dancers such as Margot Fanteyn, Svetlana Berisova and Nadia Herina. Mason was always destined for great things herself and it wasn’t long before she joined the ranks of the dancers she admired. It was in 1958, aged just 16, that Mason got her chance to shine when she joined Corps De Ballet at the Royal Opera House. Mason was the youngest member to ever join the company after being discovered in a one-act ballet. Monica Mason was about to embark, unknowingly, on a career that would span generations and earn her credibility among the best dancers in the world.

During her time with the Royal Ballet Mason has danced many roles, but it is a select few that have become synonymous with her. The Chosen One was the ballet that is said to have made Monica Manson’s name in the Ballet world. It was her performance in The Chosen One that for the first time allowed people to recognise Mason’s strength as a dancer. The part; which is now exclusively danced by a male lead, allowed Mason to display perfectly her power and the unusual athletic presence she possessed. She was so easily able to embody the part and deliver an awe-inspiring performance; in a word ‘she stood out’.

In Checkmate Mason’s exuberant power was again ever present. When she danced the Black Queen it was a truly chilling performance. It was now evident that Monica Mason was a very special dancer, her technique and power combined, made for such a vibrant and compelling performance. Kenneth Macmillan claimed Monica Mason was a dancer who had “tremendous power…rare in English dancers.” To him mason was “a real athletic genius.”

Always stretching her limits, Mason was an extremely good mimic and possessed great acting skill, allowing her to transform herself for almost any role. It was this determination and thirst for success that errant her; the much deserved, title of soloist in 1963.

Monica Mason’s role in Macmillan’s Song of the Earth was the role that come to be very much associated with Mason, and is a role which she has taught in turn to generations of dancers since. She first danced the part in 1966.

Then in 1975 after such prominent success, Mason broke her foot, a tragedy for any dancer. Since her time as Director of the Royal Ballet, Mason has gone to great lengths to ensure that the dancers now have access to the best medical help; for she realises that such injuries can ultimately be incredibly debilitating for a dancers career. After her official retirement Monica Mason will return to the Royal Opera House and continue to coach roles she once owned at the hight of her career.

“Respect the past, herald the future and concentrate on the present” These words from exhibtion curator Christina Branchi, sum up perfectly the career of a women who stole the stage time and time again, a women who continues to share her genius with generations of great dancers to be.

This painting of Monica Mason by June Mandoza, is the final image that lines the walls of the stunning exhibtion that pays homage to the brilliant dancer Monica Mason was, and still is. It captures beautifully the statuesque strength that seems to radiate from Mason. Even in soft watercolours her presence in undeniable.

Sophie Maguire

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