Posted 25 June 2004 - 02:03 PM
"Helpmann led the children of darkness and looks from a contemporary picture I’ve found, more melodramatic and heavily made up than dancers in the role today. "
From what I've heard Helpmann was always more melodramatic and heavily made up than today's dancers Mashinka!
More seriously, I'm very curious as to what US audiences will make of Dante Sonata. It is very different to any other Ashton work I can think of - though in its freedom and expressiveness a piece he made called Lament of the Waves (now lost I guess) had some similarities. I saw two performances of Dante with two casts - both good. And at both performances the dancers performed with total sincerity and belief - although it must be very different from anything else they perform, even leaving aside the bare feet and loose hair of the women. There are some wonderful images. A heap of seemingly naked writhing bodies; a short, breast-beating variation for one of the Children of Light women; the crucifixion of the leading male Child of Light and a thoroughly ambiguous ending.
The audience (good houses at both Saturday performances) was hugely appreciative.
I thought Silvia Jimenez was terrific as a Child of Darkness and I liked Andy Reitschel in the Helpmann role (much less makeup!). Both women who did the breast-beating variation were good, the leading Children of Light couple were a bit more problematic - they are roles that depend greatly on presence and personality, but I don't think any company anywhere in the world currently has a young Fonteyn and a young Soames.
Two casts in Two Pigeons: I liked Chi Cao and Ambra Vallo best in the first act and Robert Parker and Nao Sakuma in the second. Where this pair fell down for me in Act I was that they tried too hard to act and force the comedy. I rember Ashton once saying to me (in fact about his Juliet) "They all want to act, but it's all there in the choreography". I think that's true for Pigeons as well. By simply performing the choreography as written Cao and Vallo were far more effective.
My husband, who has seen the ballet more often than I, was however very impressed with Sakuma who he thought had caught Seymour's way of moving.
Parker shone more in Act II - even though he didn't managed the triple tours en l'air that Paul Clarke used to do or David Wall's double doubles. And both casts in the final pas de deux had me wiping my eyes - although there's still more to get out of it than they've found yet.
Of the two gypsy girls; Molly Smolen gave an accurate account of the choreography, but I thought she was completely without allure. Asta Bazevicute - a tall dancer had some difficulties, but was a chilly, self-absorbed fascinator - a real femme fatale.
I don't understand Ismene Brown's criticisms of the company. True there is none of the frantic acting you see from the Covent Garden corps in their MacMillan repertory - all those whores and beggars. But it would be totally wrong in Ashton anyway. I did see a company who seemed to believe completely in what they were doing and those gypsies certainly gavseemed e the impression that they were thoroughly enjoying what they were given to do.
I wasn't able to see Fille thanks to engineering works on the railways. My husband has gone to Manchester this weekend to catch up on two casts (including the Parker Sakuma pairing that Brown criticises so heavily) and I'll be interested to see if his impressions bear any relation to her notice.