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#16 Alexandra

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Posted 12 July 2004 - 01:54 PM

Rita Felciano reviews the Royal Ballet's "Cinderella" and "Giselle" for DanceView Times:

The Royal Ballet in Orange County

As for Ashton’s choreography, all one can say, what a gift it is. Never having seen “Cinderella” live, it was almost more than could be absorbed in one viewing. Its blend of humor—itself a mix of popular and sophisticated touches, all of them immaculately timed—and delicate sentiments ranging from the tragedy-tinged to the utterly romantic is simply masterful. Despite the fact that neither its fourth-cast Jaimie Tapper (Cinderella) and David Makhateli (the Prince) were ideally cast, the choreography is so musically detailed and richly layered that it simply could not be undercut by technically adequate—despite a couple of missteps by Makhateli—though somewhat stolid performances. First rate choreography shines through good-but-not-first-rate performances like sun through the fog.



#17 Alexandra

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Posted 17 July 2004 - 08:18 AM

Jennifer Dunning writes of Margot Fonteyn, and the exhibition at the New York Public Library about her career, in the New York Times:

Even in Memory, Fonteyn's Aura Can Dazzle

It has been 32 years since Margot Fonteyn danced a major role in New York City and more than a decade since her death. But this radiant international ballet star, whose allure transcended her technique and acting skills, has not loosed her hold on the city's dancegoers. On a recent hot weekend the streets of New York were empty, but reverent fans filled the Vincent Astor Gallery at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center to study photographs of her, see costumes she wore, and pause to watch film of her dancing, the air filled with Tchaikovsky's score for "The Sleeping Beauty."

That was the ballet in which a young English dancer named Margot Fonteyn conquered New York on Oct. 9, 1949. Her unexpected triumph, and the love affair that developed with American balletomanes and continued past her death in 1991, at 71, are chronicled in the library exhibition "Margot Fonteyn in America: A Celebration." Put together by Robert Gottlieb, the editor and dance writer, and Joy Brown, a longtime friend of Fonteyn, the small but choice show is on view through Sept. 3.



#18 Alexandra

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Posted 17 July 2004 - 08:18 AM

Deborah Jowitt reviews Lincoln Center's Ashton Festival in the Village Voice.

"And they were all sweet and kind and English," Gertrude Stein observed in 1937 of the characters Frederick Ashton concocted for A Wedding Bouquet--a ballet accompanied by spoken phrases drawn from her work. Sweetness, kindness, and inevitably, Englishness mark the work of this great British choreographer, whose centennial is being celebrated this year along with Balanchine's.

The Ashton ballets shown during the Lincoln Center Festival also reveal his wit, tenderness, and consummate classicism. The two trios of Monotones I and II (1965), beautifully performed by the Joffrey Ballet, reveal his love of contrapposto, that gentle twisting of the limbs against the body to create asymmetry; the one-armed gestures; the intricate footwork and little jumps executed in place; and the elegant spatial designs.



#19 Alexandra

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Posted 17 July 2004 - 08:19 AM

Mindy Aloff reviews the first Scenes de Ballet/Divertissements/Marguerite and Armand prgoram that opened the Royal Ballet's contribution to Lincoln Center's Ashton Celebration:

The Ashton Ballerina

If, in this entire sumptuous festival for Frederick Ashton, you could only see one number, and that was the performance by Darcey Bussell and Roberto Bolle of the “Awakening” pas de deux from the Royal Ballet’s production of “The Sleeping Beauty,” you would have experienced, full strength, in five minutes, almost everything that classical ballet at its most universally communicative has to offer. I’m speaking about something larger than the choreography per se. The choreography for this pas de deux, set to the violin obliggato section of “Beauty” that is so familiar to New York audiences from “The Nutcracker” of George Balanchine (who inserted it into the scene where Marie’s mother finds her asleep on the sofa and tenderly covers her with a shawl), isn’t Ashton’s greatest, in the sense of complexity of its patterns or nuances of its storytelling. However, the way it tracks the Tchaikovsky melody—like a youngster running with a kite that goes from sailing low, to sailing higher, then sailing high overhead—offers a simplicity of purpose and a visceral excitement that give the dancers a wide-open opportunity to contribute something of themselves to the effect of spiraling anticipation.



#20 Alexandra

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Posted 17 July 2004 - 08:19 AM

The Royal Ballet opened its first New York season in seven years with an Ashton Festival program.

Those who worry about a loss of English ballet style would find plenty to worry about on Tuesday, especially in "Scènes de Ballet," the diamond-sharp plotless masterpiece set to Stravinsky that opened the evening. Only the men, including the Ukrainian Ivan Putrov, had the consistent harmony of body placement that is so much a part of Ashton's modern classical style. In a series of duets in Ashton's ecstatic vein, the women came into their own, mainly as symbols of impossible love.

Structure is all-important to Scènes de ballet, being not simply an element of its composition but quite possibly its main subject.  And this structure--the action organized for a ballerina, a male principal, four male soloists, and a female ensemble of twelve--is impeccable.  Nevertheless, while everything in the ballet seems inevitable, almost nothing about it is ordinary.  Every one of the dance’s 17 minutes contains several surprises:  kaleidoscopic configurations, unexpected choices about who accompanies whom, stage patterns that seem to be evanescent landscapes in an imaginary world.  The architectural design of the piece is so sound and yet so filled with wonders, you wouldn’t want a single element of the choreography to be otherwise.  What you want, after the ballet has amazed you for the first time, is to see it again, immediately.



#21 Alexandra

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Posted 17 July 2004 - 08:20 AM

Mary Cargill reviews the Ashton Celebration's Divertissements, etc. program for Danceview Times:

Hearty Meal

The series of divertissements made for a somewhat disjointed centerpiece, but it did allow the audience to see a number of the current Royal Ballet dancers. The men, most of whom are not Royal Ballet trained, it must be admitted, weren’t up to much, though the choreography certainly favored the women. The “Sleeping Beauty” awakening pas de deux was choreographed by Ashton for the Pre-Raphaelite 1968 production; the pas de deux has lasted much longer than that concept, though it was danced in those slightly medieval costumes. It was made for Sibley and Dowell and no one who saw Dowell’s plush and magnificently scaled arabesque can forget him in that choreography. The choreography, to the music Balanchine interpolated into his “Nutcracker” for the sleeping Marie, is a little gem. It begins formally, with Aurora and Désiré walking side-by-side and bowing in unison, and builds gradually, soaring into lifts, and then finally walking out, eyes glued to each other. Jaimie Tapper was a sweet-natured Aurora, and Federico Bonelli, though he does not have Dowell’s line, was a deferential partner.

The “Voices of Spring pas de deux” does not call for deference, since it was intended as a showstopper. (It was originally choreographed for a production of “Die Fledermaus”.) But there are echoes of Pavlova in the costume and many of the poses, so it should be an elegant showstopper, not, for all its lifts and spins, a Sovietized warhorse. Leanne Benjamin and Iñaki Urlezaga were great fun, and the audience was captivated from the first, when he ran in, carrying her in the inelegantly but descriptively named butt-lift, as she dropped rose petals from her hands.



#22 Alexandra

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Posted 17 July 2004 - 08:20 AM

Robert Greskovic writes about the Ashton Celebration for the Wall Street Journal. There's no link -- this is available only to paid subscribers -- but here's the lead:

In 1970, when Frederick Ashton, the choreographer who spearheaded the establishment of ballet as a distinctly English art, looked back on more than three decades of his dancemaking, he noted being pleased about the works that still survived and wondered if these weren't the ones with the "toughest fibers." He conversely mused that the very delicate ones might not stand up to the "wear and tear and stress" of life.

Delicate and tough nicely names the masterly blend of poetic theatrics consistently revealed in Ashton's ballets. As a dancer who started late and who was smitten with Russian ballet, the choreographer created a remarkable body of work showcasing strict classical ballet as a lively and luminous language capable of ineffable expression.

Ashton, who continued to create ballets nearly up to his death in 1988, lived to see his earlier works survive only fitfully in the repertoire of the Royal Ballet, the troupe for which he created the bulk of his output. This year marks the centenary of his birth, and another toughness is asserting itself in individuals determined to see Ashton's ballets back on the boards with renewed strength.



#23 Alexandra

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Posted 17 July 2004 - 08:22 AM

Susan Reiter reviews the Royal Ballet in Newsday.

Most of the works on its Tuesday program dated from that period, but the evening opened with a fascinating earlier ballet, the 1944 "Scenes de Ballet," one of Ashton's few forays into the music of Stravinsky. The elegant tutus and old-fashioned male tunics hark back to the decorous style of 19th century master Marius Petipa, to whom Ashton intentionally alluded in his choreography, but his division of the stage space and use of asymmetrical patterns were bold for their time.

This is a jaunty, often surprisingly gentle score, and Ashton maintains a decorum light-years removed from the knotty angularity of George Balanchine's Stravinsky ballets.

Miyako Yoshida, in the ballerina role originated by Margot Fonteyn, executed her sharp, swift steps neatly and graciously. During the lyrical passages, however, her feet -- always of crucial importance in Ashton's choreography for women -- at times looked lazy and lacked eloquence.



#24 Alexandra

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Posted 17 July 2004 - 08:23 AM

Eric Taub reviews the Ashton mixed bill for ballet.co's magazine:

Ashton Mixed Bill


It is with a bit of trepidation that I set down my impressions of The Royal Ballet's first Ashton program at the Metropolitan Opera House. After all, Constant Readers will know I'm a die-hard Balanchine worshipper, and yet here I am, taking on the works of Sir Fred for a substantially British audience. I wouldn't want to be the boorish guest who puts down the tastes of his hosts. And yet, there's no way to avoid relating that I was significantly underwhelmed. Over the years, I've come to like some of Ashton's work very much, but most of what I saw at the Met Tuesday night spoke more to me of a somewhat fussy prettiness than the pure sublimity I've found in the Ashton works that have affected me the most. On the other hand, it was a great treat to see dancers I've only read about (including La Sylvie!), and works which were, for the most part, entirely new to me.



#25 Alexandra

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Posted 17 July 2004 - 08:23 AM

Mindy Aloff reviews opening night of the Royal Ballet's "Cinderella" on DanceView Times:

Cinderella

As the final offering of the Ashton Festival, The Royal Ballet brought its current production of the 1948 “Cinderella”—Ashton’s first evening-length ballet and, as the Royal’s new director, Monica Mason, reminds in a program note, the first full-length British ballet—for three performances at the Met, with three different casts. The first of them featured the Royal’s charismatic young ballerina Alina Cojocaru, quickening every classical phrase with spirited authority, in the title role (and winning a personal ovation that rivaled the roars last month at the State Theater for the Georgian dancers); her frequent partner—the persuasively aristocratic, Danish-trained virtuoso Johan Kobborg—as the Prince; Anthony Dowell and Wayne Sleep as the Stepsisters (with Dowell, who seemed at one point to perform the entire ballet “Raymonda” in a variation lasting only several minutes, taking on the pugnacious Stepsister originated by Robert Helpmann and Sleep, who slyly needled his way into every one of Dowell’s laughs, the “shy” Stepsister originated—inimitably, alas for Sleep—by Ashton); Isabel McMeekan, decorously embroidering her intricate choreography, as the Fairy Godmother; Joshua Tuifua as the authoritatively turned-out Dancing Master; and José Martin as the Jester, performing bravura wonders with multiple pirouettes that slowed down to a stilled pose then speeded up again (a feat familiar from other male dancers at American Ballet Theatre who, like Martin, trained at the Victor Ullate Ballet School in Madrid).



#26 Alexandra

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Posted 17 July 2004 - 08:26 AM

Tobi Tobias reviews the Royal Ballet's mixed bill in her ArtsJournal blog:

ASHTON CELEBRATION #5

The centerpiece of the Royal Ballet’s mixed repertory program for the Ashton Celebration was a quartet of pas de deux presented back to back on a bare stage.  The content varied just a little from one evening to the next and the casting varied a lot, so that a goodly number of the company’s principals had an opportunity to win New York’s hearts and minds. 

Programming clusters of brief dances—pièces d’occasion that have survived their original occasion and excerpts plucked from more expansive contexts—is a time-honored way of attracting the general public to the ballet and pleasing fans who are more fascinated by star performers than they are by choreography.  I succumbed myself, decades ago, to the Bolshoi Ballet’s “Highlights” programs (did they really play the old Madison Square Garden or am I making this up?).  What I know for sure is that it was in that downscale context that, as an adolescent ripe for indelible impressions, I saw Galina Ulanova dance the Fokine chestnut known as The Dying Swan  and became a devotee for life of what her simple soul-driven performance represented.  The theory behind such tapas programming is that the responsibility of appealing to a spectator is better distributed among a variety of dances in a given time slot than riskily confined to a single one.  Today, American Ballet Theatre peddles its mixed-repertory programs with a similar tactic.

Once I had seen a lot of ballet, I came to prefer, vastly, more substantial dances and material preserved within its original context.  Still, the Royal’s “Divertissements,” as the company called the one-duet-after-another segment it sandwiched between Scènes de Ballet and Marguerite and Armand offered welcome delights as well as revelations about the dancers it showcased and the company’s overall choices about the manner in which it dances.



#27 Alexandra

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Posted 17 July 2004 - 08:52 AM

Jennifer Dunning reviews the Ashton Celebration in today's NY TImes:

With Jitters Gone, an Ashton Feast

Ashton has a gift for pas de deux that shimmered with love, the emotion partly realized in the ways his men gently assist the women in airborne travel, often close to the ground and so more quietly magical. That was the case here, with Thiago Soares a model partner. The corners have been smoothed off Ms. Bussell, once a very American-seeming ballerina in her forthright classicism. Everything is in the upper body here, and Ms. Bussell moved like pouring cream, luxuriating in every last drop of her deep bends forward in dancing that communicated Ashton's rapture with surprising profundity.

The 1948 ``Scènes de Ballet'' might strike the casual observer as more Balanchine than Ashton. The ballet was in part Ashton's response to its Stravinsky score. But the choreographic discordancies are witty and Ashton just shed the buoyancy that is a key to his ballets, even in the firmly rooted geometric configurations and quadrant legs that distinguish ``Scènes de Ballet.''

The play of that buoyancy and a weightedness that is sadly missing in today's dancing were evident from the start here, in the opening arms of a firmly planted Johan Kobborg, the new male lead, and in the dancing throughout of the fine male demisoloists (Bennet Gartside, Martin Harvey, Valeri Hristov and Thomas Whitehead). Alina Cojocaru, the new female lead, supplied the wit and delicate detail in dancing whose lightness and musical phrasing were a revelation.



#28 Alexandra

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Posted 17 July 2004 - 01:14 PM

Leigh Witchel writes on the Royal's mixed bill, and especially on Scenes de ballet, for DanceView Times:

Scenes and Variations: Ashton’s Chic Beauty

“In an epoch as somber as ours, luxury must be defended inch by inch.” Those words are Christian Dior’s, the creator of 1947’s “New Look” that brought rich fabrics and lowered hemlines back to a world renewing itself in peace. With the end of World War II, Sadler’s Wells Ballet moved to the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, reopening it in 1946 with their epochal "Sleeping Beauty." Ashton’s hymn to spring and peace, "Symphonic Variations," came a few months later. By 1948 he too could defend luxury and chic with his New Look in ballet. And like Dior, he built solidly on the Old Look.



#29 Juliet

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Posted 17 July 2004 - 04:19 PM

I wish I'd been able to go up for this....sigh.

Thank you so much, everyone, for your reviews!!!

#30 Alexandra

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 06:20 AM

In the Star Ledger, Robert Johnson reviews Lincoln Center's Ashton Festival.

Civilization is not innate. Ashton, more than anyone else, if not alone, brought dance culture to the English following the revelations of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. This summer's Lincoln Center Festival confirmed Ashton's genius, while offering a new generation of theater-goers the chance to acquire some treasure for themselves. Those who availed themselves are entitled to feel smug.




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