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A week at the Royal - Nov 8-13, '04An informal journal


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#31 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 15 November 2004 - 02:59 PM

is that the famous "faster, ashley!" ?? :thumbsup:

#32 Drew

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Posted 15 November 2004 - 03:15 PM

Leigh...Alymer: you both may already have doubled checked by now...but in case not, it is Thomas Wyatt, "Whoso list to hunt..." with hunting as a metaphor for sexual pursuit. The transposition of "noli me tangere" (whose Christian reference Wyatt's original audience would have gotten) is, I suppose, deeply ironic. I can't quite decide if Bussell has struck me, in the past, as having a "noli me tangere" quality--she seems a little too sweet and approachable, even if the sexuality is under wraps, but I haven't seen her in all the same roles as Leigh. (Farrell did sometimes...and Balanchine seems, in certain roles, to have envisioned her that way.)

#33 Lynette H

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Posted 16 November 2004 - 05:38 AM

The lady that Wyatt is referring to in the poem is usually supposed to be Anne Boleyn - hence the reference to Caesar i.e Henry VIII. Not relevant to anything at at all, really, but it is a lovely poem.....

#34 Alymer

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Posted 16 November 2004 - 12:19 PM

is that the famous "faster, ashley!" ??


From where I sat it was more like "What the *****!!!!". I'll say no more.

#35 Paul Parish

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Posted 16 November 2004 - 04:04 PM

Thanks for all these reports, Leigh!

I was going to say that thepoem is Wyatt's "They flee from me, that sometime did me seek" -- but Drew's right, it is "Whoso list to hunt...." But "They flee from me" feels like a companion-piece to it. Sir Thomas Wyatt was the first great poet since Charucer,; he was a courtier of henry VIII.

And yes, "Noli me tangere, for I Caesar's am" is such a striking line it's tempted people to think the lady who used to seek him and doesn't any more was Ann Boleyn, though I don't think there's enough evidence to substantiate it.

"Noli me tangere" is not really a Christian reference many Christians would be familiar with -- it's not like the lamb of God or the Old Rugged Cross, something millions of people would recognize, but it IS familiar to students of Renaissance poetry and even more of the paintings.

There were a lot of paintings of the "Noli me tangere" moment, when the resurrected Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, looking remarkably refreshed and gorgeously approachable. It was a great counter-Reformation subject (they loved pictures with the subtext 'Can you believe how these Puritans are bad-mouthing our darling Mary Magdalene?') -- but it was also painted earlier by Giotto, Breughel, and there's a GREAT version by Titian
http://www.magdalene...imetangere3.htm

So Leigh, it's perfectly reasonable that a nice Jewish boy with a humanist college education should have heard the phrase.

#36 grace

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Posted 16 November 2004 - 04:07 PM

Yes, and on one occasion from my seat in the stalls circle, Miss Seymour telling the conductor, in fairly basic terms, exactly what she thought of his tempi!

:lol:

thanks for the info, alexandra and leigh. i hope i remember these things, and don't ask them again. paul parish, thank you very much for the link to the titian painting, to make my understanding visual. i am really enjoying your descriptive writing, leigh. i admire your ability to observe and articulate these things. thanks. :thumbsup:

#37 Paul Parish

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Posted 16 November 2004 - 06:58 PM

could I ask you to eflect again on scenes de ballet -- or was it danses concertantes? what's it feel like in your muscle memory after giving it your kinesthetic identification?

There's some reason, something metaphoric, implicit in what you're saying about facetings and postions cascading through the troupe, from one person to the nest... (there's some kind of fascinating process going on, what is it?

I've never seen the ballet, sure wish I had. Please. Help me out.

#38 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 16 November 2004 - 08:24 PM

I don't know if this is going to make sense, but looking at Scenes de Ballets with dancer eyes . . . it's analagous to Balanchine for that generation and training of dancer because Ashton was taking the classroom training and pouring it out onto the stage - but he's speaking with the upper body - epaulement and contraposto. In some Balanchine works you feel like your legs are "stating" positions - tendu to tendu, hit fifth, hit tendu, extend, close - etc. Imagine that in the upper body. En haut, third position, torque, listen to your shoulder, incline, bend and bend again. Third arabesque, a la lyre. But showing the enchainement rather than the position. I'd think you'd really need chops and a solid, old-fashioned training with lots of port de bras exercises to dance it.

Did that make any sense, or even touch on what you were asking?

#39 Paul Parish

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Posted 16 November 2004 - 08:39 PM

It's a beginning.......

sounds exhilarating, like (for a pianist) being able to play Mozart well enough to hear the music without getting so drunk on hte music you can't keep going....

actually, it also sounds like a tree in a wind must feel... i.e., the excitement generates so much tension it's hard to stay relaxed enough to reconfigure as fast as you must without snapping....

#40 Ari

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Posted 17 November 2004 - 05:58 PM

I was also in London last week, and here are my thoughts on Sylvia —

In the ballet world, 2004 will undoubtedly go down as the Year of Sylvia. To start with, we had Mark Morris’s highly acclaimed new version for the San Francisco Ballet. Then the National Ballet of China teamed up with the Paris Opera Ballet to revive Lycette Darsonval’s 1979 staging. And now the Royal Ballet has brought Ashton’s version, which premiered in 1952, back from the dead.

It was a risky undertaking, given the unavailability of any dancers who had actually performed the work to stage and coach it and the consequent necessity of using only notes (not notation), scraps of film, and memories. Such reconstructions are usually textually dubious and, more important, stylistically barren. So it was a real surprise (and delight) to find this Sylvia looking authentically Ashtonian through and through. I never saw the ballet in Ashton’s day (it was dropped from the repertory about 40 years ago), so I obviously can’t speak to this production’s faithfulness to the original, but it feels like Ashton, and that is what really counts. Bravo to Christopher Newton, who is almost singlehandedly responsible for this production.

The original Sylvia—that is, the production for which Delibes first wrote his score—was a product of the French Romantic period, and thus very different from the brilliant kind of dance-and-drama extravaganza that Petipa has led us to expect. The world of nymphs, shepherds, fauns, and dryads is a gentle, pastoral one, and you’d think that it’s a style that Ashton would take to naturally, but a curious thing about his Sylvia is that it owes much more to Petipa, specifically The Sleeping Beauty, than to his Romantic predecessors. In fact, the cues it takes from The Sleeping Beauty are too numerous and too specific for comfort. As with his first three-act ballet, Cinderella, Ashton has leant too heavily on Beauty as a model. This may be why he was reluctant to do more full-length ballets, despite Ninette de Valois’s urging: he was unable to break through this model of a formal classical three-act ballet to find an approach of his own. (The Two Pigeons and La Fille Mal Gardée are different animals, being stories about real people rather than fairies and gods; it’s the narrative that counts in those ballets, not formal structures bearing the weight of classical mime and dancing.) Ashton never had this problem with his one-act works, possibly because he had no Petipan model to inhibit him.

In Sylvia, the borrowings from Beauty occur in both the choreography and the staging. Sylvia’s first variation quotes liberally from the fairies’ variations in the Prologue. The third act consists largely of divertissements by gods and goddesses who celebrate the hero and heroine’s reunion (a bit prematurely, since they aren’t actually pledged until later in the act). There’s a frisky duet for a pair of . . . well, they’re supposed to be goats, but they behave just like the cats in Beauty. The initial appearance of another pair of gods (Apollo and Terpsichore, as it happens) is a mimed scene that looks exactly like Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf. At the end of the ballet, Sylvia and Aminta pose centerstage with Terpsichore behind them, raising her arms benevolently as though she had brought them together (which she hadn’t). And the second act ends with Eros arriving in a boat to show Sylvia a vision of the lovelorn Aminta. She climbs into the boat and sails away to find her beloved. (None of this is required by the story. Mark Morris’s version, from the accounts I’ve read, is quite different.)

This is not to say that these appropriations from Petipa spoil the pleasure of the ballet, with its beautiful choreography, luscious music, and lovely and appropriate costumes and scenery, but it is a little disconcerting.

The biggest hurdle for a modern production to overcome—aside from the dancers’ unfamiliarity with the Ashton style, a larger problem that Monica Mason is trying to rectify beginning with this Ashton-rich season—is finding a ballerina who can follow Fonteyn in the title role. Reviews of the 1952 production stressed the extent to which the production was tailored to Fonteyn’s special qualities: her dramatic versatility, lyricism, and above all the overwhelming sense of purity she embodied. This purity went beyond the technical and stylistic; it was an aura that surrounded her as a person, and Ashton used this, along with her strength, to create in her a kind of icon of moral rectitude. It’s hard to think of another ballerina who possesses this. Farrell had it, but in a completely different way—there was never anything innocent about her. Kistler has it to a lesser degree, but again without the innocence. Marianela Nuñez and Darcey Bussell, the two Sylvias I saw, certainly don’t have it. Bussell was a more aggressive heroine than Ashton seems to have intended, while Nuñez didn’t appear to have any concept of the role at all. At the beginning of the second act, when Sylvia rejects Orion’s bribes of rich clothing, she looked like a petulant princess (in the negative modern sense) sulking over having nothing to wear. In the third act, she grinned nonstop, without regard to what was happening dramatically. Neither dancer has the necessary technical or stylistic purity. Bussell is physically so different from Fonteyn that the steps look like different choreography. Nuñez is a closer match physically but lacks lyricism and dramatic understanding, and looked to me like a soloist doing a ballerina’s job. This was a real disappointment, as I’d read so many good things about her. I wonder why Tamara Rojo was not cast in this; of all the Royal’s ballerinas she strikes me as the most suited to the role. In the future, Sarah Lamb, who appeared as one of Sylvia’s attendants and who danced the Thais pas de deux at the Saturday matinee, might also fill the bill. She seems to be in the Antoinette Sibley/Sarah Wildor mold, if not the Fonteyn one.

Neither Aminta I saw was especially convincing. Jonathan Cope is tall and reedy and, while muscular, is rather scrawny, giving him the appearance of a nerdy intellectual rather than a vigorous outdoorsman. Rupert Pennyfather (replacing Iñaki Urlezaga) is a young dancer who made a good stab at the role, but is as yet too inexperienced to put it over. Both Dianas, Mara Galeazzi and Laura Morera, were powerful and effective (looking forward to ABT’s production, this role has Monique Meunier written all over it), as were the Orions, Thiago Soares and Viacheslav Samodurov. I liked Joshua Tuifua as Eros; he had a dignity and commitment to the role that is rare in so young a dancer, although Martin Harvey danced it more strongly. The ensemble looked like they were making a sincere effort at the Ashton style, although I don’t know how faithful any performance can be that is not done by dancers trained in the Cecchetti method. But since few professional dancers are these days, we have to be grateful for what we can get.

More on the mixed bills later.

#41 bertrande

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Posted 18 November 2004 - 12:09 AM

I liked Joshua Tuifua as Eros;  he had a dignity and commitment to the role that is rare in so young a dancer, although Martin Harvey danced it more strongly.  The ensemble looked like they were making a sincere effort at the Ashton style, although I don’t know how faithful any performance can be that is not done by dancers trained in the Cecchetti method.  But since few professional dancers are these days, we have to be grateful for what we can get.

More on the mixed bills later.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Ari, it seems that Joshua Tuifua looks young to everybody! I was in London last year and saw him in something and I thought to myself "that's a young dancer the RB could develop". On the contrary, he's actually been with the RB for more than a decade and would qualify as one of the RB's more senior corps members. Akin to say Amanda Edge and Elizabeth Walker for NYCB.

#42 Alymer

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Posted 18 November 2004 - 05:56 AM

It was a risky undertaking, given the unavailability of any dancers who had actually performed the work to stage and coach it and the consequent necessity of using only notes (not notation), scraps of film, and memories.


I think that's a bit of a misaprehension Ari. There are quite a few dancers around who did dance in Sylvia, not least Doreen Wells who gave several performances of the title role. Alexander Grant - the original Eros - is happily still with us (just back from holiday and looking very well when I saw him last night), as is Attilio Labis who partnered Fonteyn in her last performances of Sylvia. I know a number of people who danced in that last revival who were, or could have been, contacted to teach what they could remember. I don't know if Melissa Hayden was one of them......
Please don't think for a moment that I'm trying to minimise what Christopher Newton has achieved, but there were a number of dancers around who remembered parts of the choroegraphy and gave their help.

#43 Martha F

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Posted 18 November 2004 - 08:32 AM

Donald MacLeary who coached the principals also danced in the ballet I believe. From what I remember from the masterclass, his partners include Fonteyn, Beriosova and Mason (in the one-act version I think).

#44 grace

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Posted 21 November 2004 - 06:47 AM

please leigh, can you explain your use of this word : 'contraposto' (in this context)? thanks (again) in advance!


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