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Royal Ballet mixed bill


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#1 Alymer

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Posted 10 June 2003 - 11:19 AM

I promised to post something about this programme which was given early in May, but I've been really busy. However, I do think it deserves a mention so better late than never.
There were just six performances of this triple bill which consisted of a new ballet by David Bintley, Ashton's Scenes de Ballet and MacMillan's Song of the Earth.
The Bintley was a creation to Glazunov's Les Saisons. It had lovely designs - sets by Peter J Davison and costumes Charles Quiggins. The backdrop was plain with panels which dropped in to represent the changing seasons. The costumes were really attractive, especially the women's tutus. If anyone is familiar with Cecily Barker's Flower Fairy illustrations, it will give you an idea.
Bintley follows Glazunov's libretto, so you start with variations for Winter, Frost, Ice (who skids into splits at the end of her solo)Hail and Snow, follwed by a Spring pas de deux. Then comes Summer - another duet with a female corps of cornflowers and poppies and finally Autumn - lots of jumping for the men - a final balabilee and then we're back to where we started with Winter.
It's just nice classical choreography, varied, interesting and reasonably challenging. I thought the final section could have been trimmed - there was a rather dull adagio for Winter and a group of men - but on the whole I really enjoyed it and was sorry that I could only catch one performance.
It received very indifferent notices - lack of originallity was a general criticism. But I don't think Bintley was trying to do anything more than make a varied and enjoyable classical divertissment and in that, he succeeded. But that's not enough for our critics who appear to believe that the wheel must be reinvented with every new work. I hesitate to suggest that there might be a prejudice against new classical, non-narrative works.
It's also tough for any new work to stand alongside the other two items on the programme. In Scenes de Ballet I thought the corps looked considerably better than the last time the piece was danced. But for me, Cojacaru and Kobborg lack the stature to be ideal as the leading couple and there is no sense of the mystery, apparent in both choreography and music, in the way she dances her variation.
Song of the Earth had a terrific performance from Rojo, Cope and especially, Acosta. They were probably the best Royal Ballet cast I've seen.
All in all, a great evening and I should add, programmed by the departed Ross Stretton, so we should thank him for that.

#2 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 10 June 2003 - 11:55 AM

Originally posted by Alymer
It received very indifferent notices - lack of originallity was a general criticism.  But I don't think Bintley was trying to do anything more than make a varied and enjoyable classical divertissment and in that, he succeeded.  But that's not enough for our critics who appear to believe that the wheel must be reinvented with every new work.  I hesitate to suggest that there might be a prejudice against new classical, non-narrative works.


Thank you Alymer! Your observations are always appreciated, whether prompt or tardy.

I noticed those comments when they first appeared in links. I wish I had seen the performances to judge for myself. On the one hand, I do think there are some critics with a prejudice against the "non-significant". On the other hand, some work is just pedestrian. I don't think it's a sin to go over old ground, but I do think the charges of wasted resources can arguably be leveled at something that goes over old ground on a level below what came before it.

What did other people who saw the Bintley think of it, or the rest of the performance?

#3 Alexandra

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Posted 10 June 2003 - 12:10 PM

I'd like to add a wave -- thanks, Alymer. Not many people keep their promises so faithfully :)

I was struck by the Bintley comment -- I think you've hit on something. I agree with what Leigh said, but I think there are some people who can tell the difference between a solid, middle-range classical ballet, a great one, and a hack job -- and there are some who look at anything that's classical and say "it's just classroom steps," and I think that's where we are now. From what I've read of British criticism though, this is not new. Nancy Reynolds' book, which I often cite (Repertory in Review) has comments from British critics like, "Balanchine has given us his opening ballet again" -- and it's Divertimento No. 15 (I think it's that one; writing from memory) I think "just classroom steps" to some people these days is the dance equivalent of "just dictionary words" -- that concept has lost its original meaning.

#4 Mashinka

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Posted 11 June 2003 - 02:01 AM

The biggest problem I had with Bintley's Les Saisons was that much of the of the Glazounov music was already familiar from Ashton's ballet Birthday Offering and I found myself comparing what I was watching to the more familiar variations created by Ashton. I'm told that Bintley has already done a Four Seasons ballet at BRB using the Verdi version of the music, an odd choice as a Four Seasons by Kenneth MacMillan, also using the Verdi score already exists. Why he chooses to create new versions of ballets already familiar to his audience is something of a puzzle.

Nevertheless there was much to enjoy in this ballet, the Spring pas de deux with Cojocaru and Kobborg was ravishingly lovely, though many might argue that it is Ms Cojocaru's dancing that makes it appear so. I too, admired the sets and some of the costumes, but a number of the headdresses were very ugly, particularly for the men and the ballet was badly let down by some very poor dancing from the male dancers in the autumn section: virtuoso steps for non virtuoso dancers. On the whole I felt the critics were a little too harsh. It's an entertaining work but not a work of any significance.

#5 Alexandra

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Posted 11 June 2003 - 06:04 AM

Good to see you, Mashinka -- interesting point about the use of music. It is hard to see a ballet to music one associates with another ballet, unless the ballet is so different, and so good, that it can exist as a separate version. The only two I can think of at the moment are the Ashton and Balanchine versions of A Midsummer Night's Dream and the Balanchine and Paul Taylor versions of much of the same Bach music (Concerto Barocco and Esplanade). Otherwise, one's memories can get in the way.


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