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Royal Ballet Mixed Bill - July 13-15


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#1 dufay

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Posted 15 July 2004 - 04:50 AM

Quite an enthusiastic crowd! Many empty seats, but I wonder if the principals get these kinds of ovations back home.
Scenes de Ballet- with Alina C, Johan Koborg
Loved it. The corps was very tight (spot on), quartet of men excellent, and Alina was just fantastic. So light, seemed happy to be out there, amazing footwork. The costumes were like Cecil Beaton's- altho designed by Andre Beaurepaire. I enjoyed it tremendously.

Then 4 pas- Sleeping Beauty Awakening with Jaimie Tapper, F Bnelli. Probably better in context. Dancing was fine, but not a highlight.
Die Fledermaus- L Benjamin, I Urlezaga- wonderful. Leanne looked so happy, beautiful dancing.
Thais- Mara Galeazzi, David Makhatelli- interesting lifts. There were times I wondered if the danseur could see where the heck he was going.
Birthday Offering- Darcey B, Thiago Soares. Despite the fact that Darcey got a roaring ovation, flowers, etc- there really wasn't too much to this. Lots of bouree, an amazing balance at the end (which I think she broke a beat early...). Wish she had been in something more substantial.

Then Marguerite and Armand with Sylvie G, M Murru, Anthony Dowell as Armand's father. Guillem's acting is amazing; it was riveting. I was very disappointed that the audience immediately burst into applause at the end. It really required a few moments of contemplative silence.
Bottom line: I want more Ashton. Anyone else there?

#2 Alexandra

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Posted 15 July 2004 - 05:45 AM

Thanks dufay! i'll echo your last question. I keep hearing from people who were there, and about who they saw there, yet everyone is strangely silent......... an Ashton blackout? :)

#3 justafan

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Posted 15 July 2004 - 01:52 PM

I was there last night, and pretty much agree with your assessment. The highlights of the evening were Scenes de Ballet, Die Fliedermaus and Marguerite and Armand. Leanne Benjamin was definitely the big surprise. She danced so powerfully,

I haven't seen much Ashton before, and really was surprised at how different these ballets looked. The lifts were strange to my eyes -- in some cases looked more like gymnastics than ballet. The walking on air steps/lifts were used frequently throughout the selection of ballets. Also, the continuous ballon steps (is that how you describe it?) provided quite a different falvor to the ballets. I'm curious as to whether this is all typical of Ashton. (I'm going to have to read up on it in DanceView Times.)

That's not to say I didn't admire these ballets -- just that they looked different to me. As Dufay mentioned, some of the selections, like Sleeping Beauty might have looked better in a full length offering.

Without a doubt, Marguerite and Armand was the highlight. It's easy to see why Sylve Guillem is such a star. She is a virtuoso dancer, but also an affective actress. Her performance was not subtle, but it didn't seem forced. And Murru is a great match for her.

The resounding applause and numerous curtain calls do beg the question of whether these ovations are typical elsewhere. Certainly, it didn't seem like a regular New York audience. I've only seen this unbridled enthusiasm at performances of the Kirov or Bolshoi. But this was the Royal Ballet, and the audience didn't seem to be filled with Russian emigres supporting their own. So why? And where did the audience come from.

#4 Big Lee

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Posted 15 July 2004 - 09:46 PM

I was also there last night, and also was amazed by the reaction. It sounded as if somewhere in the house there was a group that would just go wild after every work, and particularly went nuts for Bussell. It sounded like the audience had been waiting years to clap and yell themselves silly. Personally, I was in the balcony, and I didn't notice it coming from the upper rings, though there was a large contingent of SAB students, yet I doubt they would have become that excited.

For me, Cojocaru was the revelation. The degree of quickness and articulation in her feet and legs were extraordinary, and I can also see why Scenes de Ballet is considered one of Ashton's masterpieces. I think ABT could possibly do this piece with Gillian Murphy, or better yet bring Cojocaru back as a guest artist. It would make a nice all Ashton evening with Symphonic Variations and The Dream. I'd certainly like to see it again.

Guillem is a tremedous actress. I actually thought Marguerite and Armand was kind of a downer to end on, though I'm not sure how I would juggle the program.

All in all, a great night, and well worth the rather expensive tickets.

#5 Michael

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Posted 15 July 2004 - 09:46 PM

It’s an odd program in so far as it includes that series of four Pas de Deuxs as the middle “Act” between two more weighty works – Scenes de Ballet opening the evening and Marguerite and Armand closing it.

On Thursday night, “Scenes de Ballet,” which I saw for the first time, got a satisfying and committed performance from Miyako Yoshida and Ivan Putrov -- particularly a lyrical and perfumed one from Yoshida. With the Ballet as a whole appearing as a surprisingly “Classical” (in the sense of opposite of “Modernist” – still the Modern is there, in particular, in the Formalism or Abstraction of the work) response to Stravinsky’s music, appearing to me to relate, in its spare and lyrical style, to the Ashton of Symphonic Variations.

Guillem and Murru then closed the evening with a moving dramatic rendition of the Dame aux Camellias story. Murru certainly has gained great dramatic weight and technical authority since he was here two summers ago in Guillem’s Giselle. He was surprise number one of the evening for me. Surprise number two was how completely Guillem effaced her more spectacle-oriented-Ballerina-qualities in the dramatic requirements of her role.

I think I remember that this ballet was made on Nureyev and Fonteyn? If so, that would explain why there is so much bravura dancing for the Ballerino (all of those passionate, long extensions and similarly passionate turns into extended arabesques) while the Ballerina gets no such technical fireworks but instead is required to deliver an intense dramatic quality, adapted to Fonteyn in her twilight years. A role which was a gift for Sylvie Guillem, as I said, as it forced her to suppress the “Sylvie” of the shrieking fans in favor of her character, which she did very well. She had an older, slightly “Used” look to her tonight, the look to her whole body being that which you often see in dancers red and blistered feet when they unwind the tape, which I thought real and which suited her very well. If it wasn’t real, if it was artifice, then that is only so much the more impressive. Paradoxically, this – a night completely without two o’clock penchees – is the night when I thought most she was a star.

But in between -- What terribly trashy tripe and not even danced well. With the exception of Tamara Rojo in the Ondine Pas de Deux (very sexy in her diaphanous costume, a dancer with great dramatic weight, hauntingly dark in her beauty and with an amazingly strong classical technique to match, instantaneously quick with her feet) the entire middle portion of the program was such as to make you think you were not at an Ashton Celebration at all, but instead at one of those cheesy “Gala of the Stars,” or “Stars of the Twenty First Century” affairs, and not a terribly good one at that. Darcey Bussell appeared stiff at the waist and mannered; Marianela Nunez appeared a dancer of general technical weakness, ready to fall forward, and only rescued by her partner from doing so, at every other balance in arabesque; Mara Galeazzi and Mssr. Samodurov working very hard indeed at their Voices of Spring. Etc. And Ondine itself is an excerpt so brief and attenuated as to make you wonder how such a thing can be put on the stage at all. They kiss, they embrace, he or she dies -- It takes about a minute.

I imagine Direction thought this was the way to please the fans of each of these dancers, and the fans of the “Royal Ballet” itself. There was and is, however, nothing particularly Ashtonian about this portion of the program. It was not representative, taken out of context at it was. And it was not well danced in any case. I thus think it did the Ashton program a disservice – and it certainly did one to this audience member’s viewing pleasure – to present this series of Gala Pas's as the middle third of the program.

#6 Jacqueline

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Posted 15 July 2004 - 10:00 PM

I was there on Wednesday night (the 14th) and agree completely with Dufay and Justafan. I must say this is really my initiation to the works of Ashton so I am probably not qualified to comment. But it was a treat. I absolutely loved Scenes de Ballet -- the dancing by Cojocaru, yes -- but also the costumes and the overall look, that yellow and black tutu especially. The Divertissements were interesting -- with the highlight being Leanne Benjamin, so joyous in her dancing. The first one before that -- the Sleeping Beauty entr'acte -- left me a bit underwhelmed and I wondered what all the wild applause was for. I am not often in New York but when I have been have never seen an audience go so wild for every ballet. (Orange County is a different story!)

#7 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 15 July 2004 - 10:42 PM

Housekeeping note - I changed the title of the thread so that people would know to post about any performance of the mixed bill here.

Glad to see the responses so far. I know it took me a while to collect my thoughts, so please, post away!

#8 atm711

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Posted 16 July 2004 - 07:14 AM

I saw Thursday night's performance. The highlight was undoubtedly 'Marguerite and Armand". I was never a fan of this particular ballet---I found it to be melodramatic and a bit corny---that was my impression of seeing Fonteyn and Nureyev. HOWEVER---last night I felt I was seeing it for the first time. Sylvie Guillem's dramatic abilities have not been overstated. While watching her sensitive, nuanced performance , the American actress Julie Harris kept cropping up in my head; she bore a resemblance to her facially, and also dramatically. I loved Massimo Murru's Armand---he portrayed him as young and vulnerable; a young man who probably needed his father's interference. (quite a contrast to the jaded Nureyev).

The 'Ondine PDD' was an odd choice for a divertissement. They showed the final death scene---and I am sure many in the audience were puzzled by what was going on. If they had to show anything f rom this dreary ballet---they should have given us Tamara Rojo in the 'Shadow Dance', which, for me, is the only part worth salvaging. Mara Galeazzi was a joy to behold in the 'Voices of Spring'---I saw shades of Makarova in her---if only she would tone down her tendency to mug.

It was a pleasure to watch Yoshida and Putrov in 'Scenes de ballet'---although my opinion of the work has not changed over the years---Stravinsky is best left to Balanchine.

#9 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 16 July 2004 - 07:41 AM

Housekeeping note - I split off a post by Ismeneb about Guillem's casting in Marguerite and Armand to its own thread (as a comment on a Danceviewtimes.com article) here.

#10 GeorgeB fan

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Posted 16 July 2004 - 01:28 PM

I saw Wednesday's evening performance and for the most part had a wonderful time. Scenes de Ballet was marvelously perform, especailly by Alina Cojocaru. Speed, sharpness, quick feet, she was just wonderful and makes me regret even more that I missed her in her guest appearance with ABT in LaBayadere last year.

Leanne Benjamin - WOW. Her dancing in Voices of Spring pas de deux was filled with a spirited abandonment that was exciting to watch. And talk about mutt 'n jeff. Inaki Urlezaga towered over her and when he lift her in the air she looked as if she was 12 feet in the air. They were terrific.

Mara Galeazzi and David Makhateli was mysteriously romantic in Thais pas de deux.

As for Darcey Bussell in Birthday Offering pas de deux, I think the large ovation that was given to her had not so much to do with her performance, although she along with partner Thiago Soares was excellent, but more to do with her fame. She is after all the most famous England born and trained prima ballerina currently dancing in the world today. Its been a number of years since she've perform in New York and I think the audience just wish to express to her how much they missed her.

As wonderful as the Divertissements was it was disappointing. Disappointing in the fact that I would have much rather prefer a performance of another full-length ballet of Ashton's. Instead of just having the pas de deux from Birthday Offering they could have just stage the entire ballet. From what I understand it a large ballet the offer several virtuosic roles. I would have love to have seen Facade which I believe is his oldest ballet that is still being perform. A Month in the Country, oh how I would have love to have seen that. I have a videotape of Natalia Makarova and Anthony Dowell performing the pas de deux from the ballet and base on that small glimpse, I would have paid almost anything to see what I'm sure is one of his great masterpieces.

As for Marguerite and Armand, I think Michael was right on the money about the creation of this ballet. This was clearly created at the height of Nureyev's powers and at the twilight of Fonteyn's. But that does not take away the power of the ballet. This was my first time seeing Sylvie Guillem and it was a revelation. All these years reading about her being a supreme technician did not perpare me for what a dramatic actress she is as well. Superb. And after a slow start, Massimo Murru prove himself to be her equal. The Insult scene was especailly gripping. There was a danger in their dancing. The way Murru, through his brilliant angry, rip the necklace off of Guillem, the way he literally threw her on the floor and the force of which he slapped the money in her face was overwhelming. And Guillem match him in her suffering intensity. The entire ballet was heartbreakingly tragic.

#11 Shirley

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Posted 16 July 2004 - 01:43 PM

It's great to read about the Royal Ballet in New York - Thanks for all the news!

One thing - Darcey Bussell hasn't danced since April last year due to injury and pregnancy so perhaps people were glad to see her back on stage, never mind on stage in New York! I know I would have given anything to have been there to see the shows but work meant I couldn't! :(

I however know a few people who flew over just to see her and were thrilled that she was dancing so well! :(


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