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glebb

MONOTONES I & II

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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

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

wonderful, mary j! :wink:

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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.

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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.

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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:

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

Giannina

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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:

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

Giannina

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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.

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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

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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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The NBoC still performs a fair bit of Ashton. I saw both Monotones I and II a few years ago. I agree with Mel, they really do complement each other so well.

As someone who associated Ashton with his story ballets, The Dream and Fille, watching Monotones was a completely different experience. To me it is distilled Ashton, a lucid glimpse into the core of his vision and genius. I always admired his comic wit and use of mime, but here I was moved by his seemingly intuitive connection with the music.

I don't really like one section better than the other, although Monotones II has stuck in my memory a bit more. I remember the extremely difficult and slow promenades and balances that the ballerina does, supported by the two men. It reminded me of Rubies and Theme and Variations. Few dancers have the control and precision requisite for such a ballet. I saw Xiao Nan Yu and she was incredibly strong for the entire piece.

I do enjoy Satie's music very much. The music used in the second segment is so familiar and over-used in commercials, movies, etc. that I was worried it would be distracting but it wasn't. I did sort of prefer the music of Monotones I because I had heard it less.

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Dear Glebb,

What a generous, open-ended question.

I've seen Monotones danced by the ROyal Ballet (Dowell was in it, and Lorraine, not sure about Mead), the Joffrey (can't remember the cast), and at San Francisco Ballet (I remember for sure that Lawrence Pech was in it, he had the style SO right he seemed to lend it to the others -- who may have included Ashley Wheater, who came here from the Jofrey and was I THINK also in the Joffrey cast; it would suit him, he has the fondu, hte stretch, the line, the musicality, and he's a fantastic partner.)

I've seen both I and II and do greatly prefer the white one to the green but would be very happy to see both together again. About green I don't have anything to say. (If I'd seen it with Sibley I'm pretty sure I would, but I didn't ).

It's a great work -- likea tripartite moon-child, or saltimbanques going through a Rosicrucian ritual. It has that quality Fellini could get with the clown in la Strada, that the mime in the white got in Les Enfants du Paradis -- the poetic, wonder-struck, floating, not-of-this-world emotion personified in the three dancers, who move like birds or fish, with a group mind.

I haven't seen it for nearly ten years, and SINCE I saw it last I've become familiar with early Merce Cunningham pieces (like Septet) which were performed to Satie's music and have a very similar atmosphere -- mysterious, haunting. Fabulously beautiful sculptural effects arise as if from nowhere and dissolve. Caroline Brown (who was a very pure Cecchetti dancer) looked more Sphynxlike than ANY of Ashton's dancers, great as they were -- the entire atmosphere of Monotones is present in Brown's performance. I wonder if Ashton could have seen Septet -- it was I believe among hte Cunningham pieces that were shown in London, when Cunningham had no following in hte US aside from a few modern painters -- until hte reviews came out in London, it was a smash, all of the London dance world was agog, and New Yorkers woke up to find one of hteir own was famous and great and about to come home.

I have a video of Septet if you would have any USE for making your own comparison; I'd be glad to share it with you.

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Just for the record, the original cast for Monotones 1 had Georgina Parkinson with Sibley and Shaw - I don't think Merle Park ever did it.

I'm hoping this will be one of the things theRB revives for the Ashton season.

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I know that I saw Park AND Parkinson in it at different times. It may have been something that happened only on tour, as Parkinson was sidelined for awhile in NYC because of injury.

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Did something happen to Parkinson that affected her dancing? Some terrible chronic injury? I ask because she dances the Silver Fairy Polka very well in An Evening with the Royal Ballet, but her fairy godmother in my tape of the Ashton Cinderella is nothing short of dreadful--stinted and dumpy. An off night, or the effect of age, or something else? One would never say it were the same dancer.

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Paul, YOUR post is nothing short of poetic! I do not know these pieces at all, but now I can't wait to see them.

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I stand corrected, now that everyone has refreshed my recollection. It appears that it was Monotones II that I am remembering and preferring - the white segment with Dowell, Meade and Lorraine in unitards with the Gymnopedie music. The exactitude of the arms was so exquisite - and it is true that the three dancers chosen had to have identical proportions for the symmery to work. I never saw it at Joffrey - but can imagine the right people there could certainly handle it.

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Re: Parkinson

Monotones came years afterward, but I recall when Nureyev first joined RB as a guest artist, he was paired with her in Beauty in the "Bluebird pas de deux". He gave her some pretty rough handling (largely because she wasn't Fonteyn) and I wondered at the time if I were watching the scheduled ballet, or MacMillan's "The Invitation" just set to other music. I don't think it caused any permanent disability, but ever since, I was always sympathetic to her.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but Monotones I & II are a lot like Chopin's piano concertos - #2 was composed first, then #1 - Ashton knew what he was doing.

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Strange that you should mention Nureyev's cruelty to his GP because I witnessed something very similar in 81 when I returned to England for my viva voce. London in June was a desolate dustbowl, but the Boston Ballet had come to town, with Nureyev as Siegfried. In the Act III pas de deux he was meant to support his Odile (one Mouis sp? as I recall) in a penchee and then move round to take her free hand in an allongee from the back, as her desperately fluttering fingers made clear. Instead, he stepped back into an exaggerated fifth and watched her fall off point with a sadistic smirk on his face. Some sort of revenge, one assumes. Talk about a danseur IGnoble!

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Monotones II came first, made for a gala, then MonotonesI, and I belive at one time Ashton thought of adding a third trio which could/would have featured Park. Adding to what Alexandra said about the original cast for Monotones II, with Dowell and Mead you had the two most classical men in the company matched with Lorraine, who as well as being very flexible, was a dancer with a soft, feminine style. Nowadays, the Royal Ballet simply casts a women with long legs and two men of roughly matching height, classical or not.

Incidentally, Nureyev was a great admirer of Lorraine's dancing. He insisted on having her as a partner on a number of occasions, even, once, when she had left the main company and joined the touring section.

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