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Who is an "Ashtonian" dancer today?


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#31 Mashinka

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Posted 26 July 2012 - 06:13 AM

It's good to see this topic being revived. Back in 2006, Herman Stevens raised a question:

How do you revive the style?

He gives a couple of good answers to his own question. That was 6 years ago. Since then, is anything systematic being done to "revive" Ashtonian dancing, or are we still coasting along depending on luck, the coaching of a few dances who worked with Ashton, and some current dancers naturally given to the style?


The latter I'm afraid, but with a new director that may change. Bear in mind that Mason was a MacMillan dancer and the rep in recent years has reflected this. I've read Ashton didn't much care for her, if that is true then by mostly ignoring his works she has extracted her revenge.

#32 Brioche

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Posted 26 July 2012 - 10:47 AM

It's good to see this topic being revived. Back in 2006, Herman Stevens raised a question:

The latter I'm afraid, but with a new director that may change. Bear in mind that Mason was a MacMillan dancer and the rep in recent years has reflected this. I've read Ashton didn't much care for her, if that is true then by mostly ignoring his works she has extracted her revenge.


A ridiculous statment. Read or watch the current interviews. She has done anything but extract revenge.

#33 Mashinka

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Posted 11 August 2012 - 03:44 AM

ROH propaganda

#34 Ashton Fan

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Posted 17 November 2014 - 07:26 AM

If you look at the ballets revived during Mason's directorship you will find that she restored a significant number of  Ashton's works to the active repertory. Having restored Sylvia to its original three act form she ensured that it was seen during several seasons.  Although we got to see a wider range of Ashton works than we did during Dowell's directorship not all of it was well danced.Both Ashton and MacMillan controlled the quality of the performances of their ballets by deciding who appeared in them Today the company management makes most, if not all, of the casting decisions. It is probably fair to assume  that on occasion the need to keep the principal dancers happy by giving them roles that they would like to dance outweighs artistic considerations.

 

The revival of Birthday Offering in Mason's final season seemed to be a prime example of what can go  wrong when you cast dancers according to their position in the company rather than their suitability for particular roles .Rojo was given the Fonteyn role in one cast and Nunez in the other. Rojo was very stiff and gave the impression that she was counting throughout rather than listening to the music and as a result the choreography did not look particularly good;whereas when Nunez danced, it made the impact that it should. The majority of the dancers made heavy weather of their variations.It might have been better not to have revived it because the revival did few of the dancers any favours.An intriguing alternative would have been to select Nunez and some of the younger members of the company for the second cast. I  do not think that that would have been possible but it would have been a great improvement on what we saw..The lower ranks of the company have, for the main part, been trained at the RBS if only for a short time. The younger dancers might have had a better idea of the style and would almost certainly have listened to their coaches.

 

But just as you begin to despair something happens at a performance and your hope is restored,at least in part. That something was the appearance last February for a single Saturday matinee performance of James Hay and Francesca Hayward in Rhapsody. Ashton's Rhapsody is probably the most unlikely ballet for a debut at an early stage in a dancer's career and to put two relatively inexperienced dancers on in it seemed a little rash even to those who had seen the pair in other roles. While it may be true that Hay was dancing far closer to the edge of his technical ability than either McRae or Zucchetti had been,his dancing was elegant and seemed effortless. Francesca Hayward brought lyricism, natural musicality and bright, clean footwork to the Collier role.It would be nice to think that we might see it revived in the 2015-2016 season with this cast but,as the company does not take its role as custodian of the Ashton repertory seriously,it seems unlikely.

 

The problem for the Ashton repertory is that, apart from ballets like the Dream and Month,it is not performed with any degree of frequency. The rights to Ashton's ballets are held by a number people who have varying levels of interest in the revival of the works that they own while MacMillan's ballets are owned by a single individual who is active in promoting them. Although the company needs to develop its dancers it is now run by a team who seem to have little or no interest in using works such as Les Patineurs and Les Rendezvous as a means of developing its dancers. As dancers are more likely to see exemplary performances of MacMillan's works than they are of Ashton's his works continue to be performed at a consistently high level while the standard of performance of Ashton's works is far more variable.

.



#35 Alexandra

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Posted 17 November 2014 - 08:54 AM

Welcome, AshtonFan, and thank you for that very incisive post!  As you note, casting is so important, and (in the little RB dancing of Ashton we see over here) often the casting looks, well, alphabetical. Some years ago, I started reading the term Heritage Ballets ("We must preserve our Heritage Ballets," or, more usually, "We'll have one Heritage Ballet program a year").  I thought that was a terrible idea. It dumps them all into a little barrel labeled Heritage Works, and they are no longer part of the repertory, just ballets that Must be done so that we keep our heritage. Which is, I would think, one sure way of losing the Heritage.



#36 sandik

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Posted 17 November 2014 - 10:31 AM

Well, I'm certainly guilty of using the term "heritage work" -- my dance historian heart wants to keep underlining that there are indeed works in the repertory that exemplify certain styles or periods, works that are worth reflecting on and preserving in living conditions.  But I do understand Alexandra's point -- the goal is certainly not to freeze these things in dusty albums, but instead is the opposite.

 

If the main question here is 'who is an Ashtonian dancer today?,' then my tag-along question is 'who is making new work that uses those same qualities?'



#37 kfw

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Posted 17 November 2014 - 10:52 AM

Thanks for posting, Ashton Fan. If you haven't already found it, you can find my much Ballet Alert! Ashton discussion here.



#38 Jayne

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Posted 17 November 2014 - 11:18 PM

Ashton Fan has a good idea about using the younger soloists and corps members in Ashton works.  For the plot-less ballets, it seems like they would be less expensive to tour (set expenses would be less). Many companies have a junior "second" company just for this purpose.  Wouldn't it be great if RB sent a group of 20 to various towns in the UK to show these works?  



#39 abatt

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Posted 18 November 2014 - 08:41 AM

Of the dancers at ABT, I would say that Gillian Murphy is their best Ashton ballerina.  I've seen her do Sylvia, The Dream and Cinderella.

 

Looking forward to seeing Nunez at ABT doing Cinderella in July 2015.



#40 sandik

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Posted 18 November 2014 - 11:10 AM

Any thoughts on dancers who might excel in this repertory who are currently working in companies where it isn't a part of the rep?

#41 Ashton Fan

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Posted 25 November 2014 - 02:52 PM

I think that I first noticed the ominous words "Heritage Works" being used at about the time that Ross Stretton was appointed director of the Royal Ballet.The words suggested that such ballets are something of an irrelevance and that it does not matter whether they are performed or not. Stretton's programming suggested that he felt that the works that de Valois and Ashton had worked so hard to acquire and the ballets that they had created were irrelevant in the twenty first century.

 

 I can't help thinking that if Russian dancers in the throes of their reaction to the late nineteenth century style of ballet with its apparent over emphasis on technique were prepared to describe Petipa's works as classics and to dance in them at the same time as they appeared in Fokine's revolutionary works then we should feel able to do the same with the greatest works of the  twentieth century  If they were described as twentieth century classics their non performance might become an issue as far as the reputation and standing of ballet companies is concerned..A company's failure to programme its twentieth century works and perform them regularly with carefully selected and coached dancers would become something that artistic directors would have to justify.It would certainly become a ground for criticism of the company's artistic policies.Who knows it might result in a wider range of works being performed than is currently the case.

 

As far as the enquiry about Ashton dancers is concerned are you discussing dancers who dance in the appropriate styleand are good in the roles which the are given or dancers who are cast in Ashton's works regardless of their suitabilty?



#42 mimsyb

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Posted 25 November 2014 - 07:32 PM

Of the dancers at ABT, I would say that Gillian Murphy is their best Ashton ballerina.  I've seen her do Sylvia, The Dream and Cinderella.

 

Looking forward to seeing Nunez at ABT doing Cinderella in July 2015.

I too look forward to Nunez this Summer, but I would also add Julie Kent as a fine example of an Ashton Dancer at ABT.



#43 sandik

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Posted 25 November 2014 - 11:48 PM

It's looking like I might be the only person here who doesn't think that the term "heritage ballet" implies a kiss of death.  I shall have to think of a better way to plead my case...

 

In the meantime, I was asking about dancers that you think might have the skills to excel in the Ashton rep who currently aren't dancing any of those ballets.  I'm always interested in hearing about people who are doing well at what they're doing, but I'm even more curious about what else they might be able to do.



#44 Drew

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Posted 26 November 2014 - 01:05 AM

 
In the meantime, I was asking about dancers that you think might have the skills to excel in the Ashton rep who currently aren't dancing any of those ballets.  I'm always interested in hearing about people who are doing well at what they're doing, but I'm even more curious about what else they might be able to do.


I can't picture the context in which it would ever happen, but I would be intrigued to see what Tiler Peck might achieve in Ashton. Perhaps Sylvia or Fille Mal Gardee...certainly some of his plotless works....

#45 meunier fan

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Posted 26 November 2014 - 03:34 AM

 

 
In the meantime, I was asking about dancers that you think might have the skills to excel in the Ashton rep who currently aren't dancing any of those ballets.  I'm always interested in hearing about people who are doing well at what they're doing, but I'm even more curious about what else they might be able to do.


I can't picture the context in which it would ever happen, but I would be intrigued to see what Tiler Peck might achieve in Ashton. Perhaps Sylvia or Fille Mal Gardee...certainly some of his plotless works....

 

 

Who knows ... it could well happen at Vail methinks ... at least in small chunks given that it is a hotbed of experimentation and cross-boarder dance enlargements.  I have a feeling Ms. Peck would be game.  Perhaps Woetzel himself checks in here ... You never know ... The power of suggestion is, of course, potent.  ...  Might well be worth a quick (and suggestive) email to the management ... with a link of course :) 




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