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MONOTONES I & II


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#1 glebb

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Posted 15 August 2003 - 06:43 PM

Wondering if anyone has any experience performing or veiwing Ashton's MONOTONES I & II. Please share. :yes:

#2 Mary J

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Posted 18 August 2003 - 07:21 AM

This is from the dim distant past so forgive me if it is a little vague. I saw Monotones at Covent Garden in 1967. I love the Satie music so I was prepared to like the ballets. I would have to try to find my programs to check the casts but I seem to remember Dowell was in Monotones I - frankly the white unitards tended (and probably were intended) to make the movement more abstract and required even more exacting unformity of style and timing. The choreography fit the music beautifully, and the performance demonstrated the Royal Ballet coolness and precision. The dancers seemed like a single entity rather than multiple dancers - very geometric. I liked Monotones II a little less, I think because you can have too much of a good thing. By then the uniqueness of the visual concept had worn off and the ballets are, after all, called monotones.

#3 Giannina

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Posted 18 August 2003 - 07:34 AM

Be still my heart! Monotones II is my favorite ballet. I saw it, and wrote a review for this board, two years ago in London (Royal Ballet) and it was one of my great ballet experiences. Have not seen Monotones I, nor have I seen it offered recently.

Giannina

#4 liebs

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Posted 18 August 2003 - 07:45 AM

I've seen both I and II, done by the Royal and by the Joffrey. They are both exercises in pure classicsm. Ahston has pared away anything tyhat would distract from the essence of the dance and the music. Like the ppd in Balanchine's Midsummer, any false step or mistake by the dancers breaks the mood and spoils the flow of the ballet. This makes these peices very tricky to perform. I'd love to see either ballet again, its been years.

#5 Alexandra

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Posted 18 August 2003 - 08:53 AM

I only saw Monotones II (the white unitard to the Satie) performed by the Royal in the 1980s, when the bodies weren't as perfectly matched as the original cast. I have seen this a video of this with the original cast and it's in my All Time Top Ten list. I also saw the Joffrey do it, and I thought they made a valiant effort, but they weren't as successful with it as they were in Patineurs and Wedding Bouquet.

The original cast of Monotones (Anthony Dowel, Robert Mead and Vivyane Lorraine and I hope I'm remembering correctly) had two men with nearly the same body proportions and line, and a woman who matched them line for line when she was on pointe, and it's one of those ballets that looks off to me when that can't be recreated (which, of course, it can't). It was the ballet that taught me that ballets have geometry. I saw a film of Ashton coaching once where he was explaining that the crooks of the dancers elbows had to be aligned (all three do arms en couronne). One was about a half-inch off, and that wouldn't do.

I don't know Monotones I as well -- it is more rarely performed. But Antoinette Sibley and Brian Shaw (and Merle Park?) were in the original cast, and I'm sure it was wonderful.

I think this is one of the ballets Joffrey will be reviving this season -- the only American company so far doing an Ashton tribute save for SFB, which gives him two ballets out of three on one program, but I digress. I'd love to see it again.

#6 grace

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Posted 18 August 2003 - 02:01 PM

only seen monotones II (in the mid 80's) - LOVE it, like giannina. :)

...the ballets are, after all, called monotones.

wonderful, mary j! :wink:

#7 Mel Johnson

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Posted 18 August 2003 - 02:15 PM

I've probably seen more Monotones than anybody here, by both the Royal and the Joffrey. I love it when they are performed together. I is so much of a complement to II, that the latter seems incomplete when presented by itself. And yes, Alexandra, Park was the third in I with Shaw and Sibley. I is fiendishly difficult in a whole different way from II. The accents have to be utterly precise, the lines clean and clear, and there aren't a lot of dancers about these days who speak fluent Ashton. I hope they get revived together by people who can do them justice.

#8 Alexandra

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Posted 18 August 2003 - 02:20 PM

Mel, I agree that there aren't many people about that speak fluent Ashton -- and even if there is the World's Greatest Revival Person doing the staging, if the dancers don't get to dance it a LOT, it's hard. Ashton dancing is such a different accent. I remember when the Royal did Dream here several years ago, they did about five performances and the first was very bumpy. By the last one, the corps was beautiful; they'd found their feet in it.

#9 Treefrog

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Posted 18 August 2003 - 02:33 PM

Yes, indeed, Alexandra, the Joffrey will be doing Monotones I and II in February, along with A Wedding Bouquet and Les Patineurs. Come see it! I'll treat. It would be but a small payback for all you do for us. :wink:

#10 Giannina

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Posted 18 August 2003 - 02:53 PM

Treefrog, where will that be performed? In Chicago (she asked, hopefully, because her new GORGEOUS grandson is in the Chicago area)?


Giannina

#11 Treefrog

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Posted 18 August 2003 - 03:23 PM

Yes indeedy, in Chicago at the Auditorium Theatre. Check out the dates on the Joffrey's website (www.joffrey.com).

Congratulations on the grandbaby! :yes: :) :party: :hyper: :jump: :wink:

#12 Giannina

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Posted 18 August 2003 - 03:35 PM

Thanks for the report and thanks for the good wishes. Jacob is sensational!

Giannina

#13 atm711

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Posted 18 August 2003 - 03:42 PM

I have never seen the Monotones and I am a bit reluctant to see it. The three Gnossiennes and the three Gymnopedies are among my favorite music---I play my CD often. I suppose I think of Ashton's 'Symphonic Variations' which I have always found too static, and I fear what I will see in Monotones. This music has been described as having "an aerial line that seems to extend into infinity". But, given the opportunity to see it, I probably would. A masterpiece or not, Ashton is halfway home with that score.

#14 Giannina

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Posted 18 August 2003 - 03:50 PM

atm711, you may not agree with me if you see the ballet but the music is crucial to the choreography. I'm with you in loving Gymopedie; it's been an emotional part of my life. The choreography is perfect for it; I'm in tears just thinking about it. However, as I said, you may disagree and I wouldn't want to spoil the music for you, but.....

Giannina

#15 Mel Johnson

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Posted 18 August 2003 - 06:05 PM

I think that Mr. Joffrey was proudest of having more Ashton than any other company in the world but the Royal. He was proud of the Cranko and the Jooss, and the Balanchine and the Massine, and also the homegrown material, but Ashton was the top in his book. At least I know that these revivals will be responsibly balletmastered by someone who seemed to speak Ashton from the ground up!


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