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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 07 July 2004 - 03:32 PM

I wanted to keep an archive of print reviews for the Celebration and will be posting Links here, so they'll be easy to find later.

Mindy Aloff reviews the opening night at the Ashton Festival.

A Crowd-Pleaser, a Moonwalk, and a Stunning "Enigma": the Ashton Celebration Opens

Frederick Ashton was a genius, without question; however, his work is not everyone’s cup of tea. Happily for me, it is mine, with watercress sandwiches and scones lathered in Devonshire cream. Of the four ballets on this opening program, all of which I first saw with their original casts, and two of which I’ve seen with several casts from both sides of the Atlantic, it seems to me that “Monotones II,” for three (to use Arlene Croce’s excellent word) saltimbanques, who seem to be spelling out a hymn to purity with their bodies on a rivulet of the Milky Way, is among the great works of abstract art from the 20th century, in any medium: worthy to be set beside a canvas by Mondrian or a sculpture by Brancusi. “Enigma Variations,” a demi-caractère epic of Edwardian sensibility, with classical underpinnings, about the interior life of an artist in his garden on an autumn afternoon, is among the greatest ballets in history. “Monotones I,” for a trio of terrestrials whose reference point is a sun that, although invisible to the audience, clearly dwarfs them, is the product of a master craftsman who understands how what can be seen testifies to what can’t: frequently beautiful, often surprising, an enticement to the eye on multiple viewings. “Rhapsody”, a chamber ballet for 14, in which a handsome interloper invades a court, overtakes it by dint of sheer bravura, and gets the queen, too, was made as a star vehicle for Mikhail Baryshnikov. While not top-drawer Ashton, it roused the audience on Tuesday more than his masterpieces. “Enigma Variations” was politely applauded; the reception for “Rhapsody” was tumultuous. It’s not the way I would want things to be, but one can’t legislate people’s responses in the theater, even when one’s heart is breaking over the crowd’s choice.



#2 Alexandra

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Posted 08 July 2004 - 06:20 AM

Tobi Tobias writes about "Enigma Variations" in her ArtsJournal blog:

ASHTON CELEBRATION #1

Two passages in the ballet quietly proceed to leave you shattered.  One is a duet for Elgar and his devoted wife.  She seems to be saying—no, not saying, she's too discreet for that, just feeling—I wish I could be more to you.  I wish I could be everything to you; you are my life’s work.  I wish I could give you what you want.  But of course she can’t, because what he wants is the desire of an artist—to have his efforts (that is, his deepest communication of who and what he is) reach the public they might move.  Though Elgar’s wife may serve as his support and comfort, it is not in her power to make that happen.  It’s impossible to imagine this concept being choreographed until you see Ashton do it perfectly.
 
A second piercing segment, called the “Nimrod” variation (for the nickname of Elgar’s closest friend), begins as a meditative “conversational” duet for the two men and expands into a luminous trio that includes Elgar’s wife.  All the movement—simple, deliberate, and serene—conveys the idea that the three are bonded by shared experiences and ideals, and that this bond enables them to face life’s difficulties and disappointments with equanimity and hope.  The passage also provides a psychological frisson in juxtaposing a pair of presumably closed intimate alliances—a marriage and a same-sex best friendship—and proposing that the three participants involved can establish another, parallel, form of intimacy.



#3 Alexandra

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Posted 08 July 2004 - 06:22 AM

Anna Kisselgoff in the New York Times:

The Rarely Seen Side of a Brilliant Choreographer

n the pantheon of 20th-century ballet, Frederick Ashton, Britain's greatest choreographer, was second to none. Genius comes in many flavors, and his was recalled on Tuesday night when the Lincoln Center Festival opened at the Metropolitan Opera House with its Ashton Celebration, a mammoth two-week tribute.

The roll call of American and foreign companies taking part includes the Royal Ballet from London, with its superstar ballerinas Darcey Bussell and Sylvie Guillem, and three brilliantly assembled companies: the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, returning to New York for the first time in 10 years; the Birmingham Royal Ballet from Britain; and the K-Ballet Company from Tokyo in a United States debut.

Like George Balanchine, Ashton was born in 1904. Yet, symbolically, this other centennial, following New York City Ballet's tribute to Balanchine, could be celebrated by very different fireworks. If Balanchine's display would explode in the air as a dazzling formal spectacle, Ashton's quieter, blooming design would allude to his poetic and witty streak.



#4 Alexandra

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Posted 08 July 2004 - 09:21 AM

Hilary Ostoerle in the Financial Times:

Lincoln Center Festival 2004 Metropolitan Opera House, New York

For sheer dancing virtuosity, the K-Ballet 's Rhapsody ((Rachmaninoff'sRhapsody on a Theme of Paganini) with fleet-footed Viviana Durante and Tetsuya Kumakawa soaring and spinning in the old Baryshnikov role (and not unlike him in stamina) won hands down. All of a sudden we were in familiar territory: bold modern design and dancers with enough flash and sizzle to match Ashton's rapier, tensile choreography. It brought an otherwise tentative evening to a sparkling close.



#5 Alexandra

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Posted 09 July 2004 - 08:44 AM

Copied from today's links:

Anna Kisselgoff in the New York Times on Frederick Ashton:

http://www.nytimes.c...ce/09BASHT.html

The beauty, wit and purity of Frederick Ashton's ballets are on display tonight and tomorrow night at the Metropolitan Opera House as well as next week in Lincoln Center Festival's Ashton Celebration, a brilliantly conceived tribute to the great English choreographer on the 100th anniversary of his birth.

There was a time when Ashton, who died in 1988, needed no introduction. He was 20th-century ballet's poet laureate, an innovator whose use of the classical dance idiom raised it to the heights of metaphor.


Ms. Kisselgoff also reports on companies appearing in the Festival:

http://www.nytimes.c...nce/09ASHT.html

Although the focus is on Frederick Ashton in the Lincoln Center Festival's magnificent Ashton Celebration, the fact is that three unusual ballet companies, virtually unfamiliar in their current forms, are part of the current centennial tribute at the Metropolitan Opera House.



#6 Alexandra

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Posted 09 July 2004 - 08:46 AM

Copied from today's Links:

Clive Barnes in the New York Post on the Ashton Festival:

http://www.nypost.co...nment/24726.htm

THE Lincoln Center Fes tival 2004 kicked off on Tuesday night at the Metropolitan Opera House with the opening of its brilliantly imaginative, two-week Ashton Celebration.
This teams four ballet companies — two from Britain, one from Japan and one from the United States — in an homage to the centenary of the English choreographer Frederick Ashton, one of the major creative artists of the 20th century



#7 Alexandra

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Posted 09 July 2004 - 08:49 AM

Copied from today's links:

The New York Daily News on the Ashton Festival:

http://www.nydailyne...0p-181236c.html

The Lincoln Center Festival tribute to the great British choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton, on the occasion of his centenary, is both fresh and nostalgic.
The pieces being performed by three dance companies seem fresh because they are seldom if ever done here. Seeing them is like discovering some great writer - say, Trollope - you've never bothered to read before.



#8 Alexandra

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Posted 09 July 2004 - 09:01 AM

Mindy Aloff reviews Program II of the Ashton Celebration for DanceView Times:

Comedy Dark and Divine

“I do not think that choreographers have necessarily to be ‘engaged’ or ‘committed’ or to write ballets about current social happenings,” Ashton said in “Ballet Annual 1959” (republished in David Vaughan’s “Frederick Ashton and His Ballets”). “These subjects are as likely to date as quickly as yesterday’s newspaper. Some say, and I think rightly, that if ballet is to be taken seriously, it must deal with serious matters. I believe simply that a ballet must be a good work of art; that it must express the choreographer’s vision of experience as truthfully and beautifully as possible. Insofar as it does this, it will express his most profound sense of values and thus be likely to concern itself with matters of more permanent significance than topical issues. He should deal with that which is spiritual and eternal rather than that which is material and temporary.” On the other hand, in 1959 Ashton probably didn’t realize that by 2004 this kind of talk would be considered quaint. “Truth”? “Beauty”? “Profound sense of values”? “Spiritual and eternal”? Lingo like that isn’t going to pack in the 19 to 34s. Indeed, on Wednesday, the second day of the Ashton Celebration, the Met looked half empty. One problem may have been that the first night got more or less glowing reviews. Glowing reviews, alas, don’t sell tickets. Vexation, affront, disdain: now you’re talking box office! The opening night ballets also didn’t have any sex one could, so to speak, shake a stick at. And the costumes! If you’re going to send Mrs. Elgar on a walk in the woods with two men, at least give her a leather bra. Doesn’t everyone know that Jaeger and the Elgars must have been into a lot more than a discussion of Beethoven, for goodness sake? They were “just friends”?



#9 Alexandra

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Posted 09 July 2004 - 01:01 PM

Tobi Tobias writes about "Five Brahms Waltzes" and "Dante Sonata" for her Artsjournal blog:

Ashton Celebration #2

Dante Sonata, rescued from oblivion on the initiative of the BRB’s director, David Bintley, was choreographed in 1940, as Britain waited for the bombs of World War II to obliterate the happier life it once knew.  A somber mood due to the recent death of his mother augmented Ashton’s response to, as he put it, “the whole stupidity and devastation of war.”  (On another occasion, he used the word futility.)  So the ballet’s juxtaposition of the Children of Light and the Children of Darkness is no good-guys-vs.-bad affair, but rather a lose-lose situation, in which, though the Dark figures are patently the aggressors, both tribes are ravaged and all but destroyed.  Although the work is, admittedly, something of a period piece—with lots of Massine-derived, Robert Helpmann-style expressionism in it—it is piercingly relevant today.  It should be required viewing, for instance, for anyone participating in the upcoming national conventions of our major political parties, alternating in repertory, perhaps, with Kurt Jooss’s The Green Table.



#10 Alexandra

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Posted 12 July 2004 - 01:50 PM

ASHTON CELEBRATION #3

The first week of the Lincoln Center Festival’s Ashton Celebration brought the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago back to New York after a 10-year absence.  The company, which used to be resident here, was very welcome.  In the old days, even when you weren’t feeling much admiration for it, you often still felt affection for the engaging personalities of its dancers and the troupe’s overall feisty spirit.  To be sure, purists in the audience would complain about the Joffrey’s imperfect classical technique and the many pop numbers in its repertory (a majority of them by the company’s present artistic director, Gerald Arpino), but they were the first to be grateful for the late Robert Joffrey’s reaching out to choreographers outside the classical domain, such as Twyla Tharp and Laura Dean; his resurrecting “lost” but worthy ballets of the Diaghilev era; and his giving a major American presence to the works of Frederick Ashton.  My own happy acquaintance with several Ashton ballets comes solely from their Joffrey Ballet productions.  Looking at Les Patineurs, A Wedding Bouquet, and Monotones I and II this past week I could only wonder, What happened?  Not one of the stagings was as good as it should be—and had been.



#11 Alexandra

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Posted 12 July 2004 - 01:50 PM

Two more reviews of the Ashton Festival:

On Friday the Birmingham Royal Ballet, sister company to the Royal Ballet in London, led with a repeat of "Enigma Variations" with a series of fine debuts. If that ballet is a masterpiece, "The Two Pigeons" is a flawed work although it still has Ashton's typical poetic images for its main dancers.

A painter in bohemian Paris tires of the caprices of his mistress and runs off to follow a Gypsy temptress. In the beginning of the final and second act, he is betrayed and stomped by the Gypsies and returns to the young girl as their love is symbolized by two live pigeons on stage. In Act I the birds fly past the painter's studio, designed by Jacques Dupont. In Act II, one of the live pigeons waits for the other.

This symbolism has a resonance that the choreography alone lacks. Ashton went amazingly wrong in the dances for the Gypsies, although the company men jump around with conviction. A similar near parody invests the Gypsy girl's solos on toe. Molly Smolen does what she can with the material at hand.

As the Lincoln Center Festival pursues its monumental tribute to the late British choreographer Frederick Ashton, revelations continue to accrue.

These exciting programs, which present Ashton's works in all their wondrous variety, seem guaranteed to stimulate discussion. The mixed repertory that began to alternate, Tuesday, on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House, has demonstrated that Ashton, renowned as a classical choreographer, was not merely an innovator but also a daring experimentalist.



#12 Alexandra

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Posted 12 July 2004 - 01:52 PM

The Chicago Sun-Times covers its own local troupe, the Joffrey Ballet.

There is nothing quite like having a room of one's own. And on Thursday night, Chicago's Joffrey Ballet finally had complete control of what is unquestionably the largest and most formidable "room" for classical ballet in the world -- the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center.

The theater may not be the most intimate or welcoming of performance spaces (Gerald Arpino, the Joffrey's artistic director, loudly sings the praise of Chicago's Auditorium Theatre above all others). But one thing cannot be denied about the Met: It attracts an intensely passionate and highly critical audience of dance aficionados -- an audience that injects the air with a palpable electricity.



#13 Alexandra

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Posted 12 July 2004 - 01:53 PM

The Birmingham Post pays a visit to the Birmingham Royal Ballet in New York.

At 2pm Molly Smolen, one of BRB's top seed, comes out of the wings to rehearse Ashton's Five Brahms Waltzes in the manner of Isadora Duncan.

This is a solo piece which Smolen, pictured, has danced regularly, but even so it's still practice, practice, practice. The stage lights pick up Smolen's Greek tunic. They also pick up her Arctic boots worn as foot warmers.

Her husband, the dancer Tiit Helimets, comes out of the wings carrying her stole. The boots go, and the solo piano begins. It jerks along yet she doesn't lose her patience as the technicians wander about and the stop-start rehearsal goes on.

Desmond Kelly, BRB's assistant artistic director, sharpens a movement or explains an attitude. Smolen complies. Then suddenly it is all done and she takes off beautifully and the invited audience applauds. I would hate an audience in at this point but Smolen keeps her cool and she is a true pro.



#14 Alexandra

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Posted 12 July 2004 - 01:53 PM

George Jackson reviews Program III (Joffrey Ballet program) of the Ashton Celebration for the DanceView Times:


Another Chair

Chicago, once the hog butcher of the world, is also a place where the arts have thrived. The Joffrey Ballet's banishment there has not been into solitary confinement. Poetry Magazine, the Second City theater scene, Robert Maynard Hutchins and Mortimer Adler's great books based university, buildings by Sullivan, Root, Wright and Bauhaus refugees—these are a few examples of Chicago work that is admired everywhere. The Joffrey's reappearance in New York after a decade's absence showed a company that is recognizable. Youthful and functionally trained, the Joffrey is still eager to please. It suits its Ashton repertory better than before, inhabiting it with an ease that allowed for subtlety.



#15 Alexandra

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Posted 12 July 2004 - 01:54 PM

Nancy Dalva reviews "Enigma Variations" and "The Two Pigeons" for DanceView Times:

My Friends Pictured Within

What a wonderful ballet "Enigma Variations" is—there's really nothing more one could ask of a work of art than this. It is rich on every level, and has an unusual appeal for a ballet: Sir Frederick Ashton's sublime narrative work is about grown-ups in a grown-up world. No one is enchanted, though someone may be imaginary. No one is an animal, though someone portrays a dog while telling a story about one. No one has magic powers. Never for a second do you have to suspend your disbelief. In this "Enigma Variations" is a triumph of naturalism, but also of neo-classicism—the choreography is all ballet, though tempered with everyday human gesture, and hence humanized. We have been lucky to have the Birmingham Royal Ballet here to perform it, and to perform it in a way more satisfactory, as an immediate experience, than I remember a previous Royal Ballet performance here to have been. Although there could have been more variety in the tempi among the variations–the fast faster, the slow perhaps slower—the ballet was in every way acceptable, which is saying a very great deal. One demands the most when a beloved work is returned to one's attention, calling up everything one felt upon first seeing it, and everything one has learned to feel since. My only complaint is that I would like to see it again, and it is over.




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