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Leigh Witchel

RB Mixed bills (Rake, Diverts, Homage) and Gala

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Greetings from T4 Heathrow in London.

I had a magnificent time in London (and after two weeks it will be great to be home)

Anyone care to comment on the final mixed bills?

I KNOW YOU WERE THERE!

:)

My big (trivial) question - What is the card game the Rake plays? It involves a die being tossed in a cup, and then card deals.

I'm also curious how much de Valois' choreography owes to Massine - perhaps more properly how much both owe to a predecessor? Rake is a very solid dramatic work.

Royal Watchers for DC and Boston - here are my picks to watch:

Rupert Pennefather - he keeps getting better, especially in Michael Somes' roles - a hard spot to fill.

Steven McRae - only a first artist, but should be promoted again soon. Wheeldon created a virtuoso role on him (The "Spirit of Fire" in Homage to the Queen). He's slightly built, but with line.

There's less room for rising women because the company is top heavy with them right now and older dancers like Miyako Yoshida and Leanne Benjamin are showing no signs of fading. Yoshida did just a lovely Rhapsody last night - Benjamin also did it with lovely touches two days before.

Carlos Acosta gave two major performances - the Corsaire pdd and the Balcony-less Balcony pas de deux from R&J - the first with Bussell and the second with Rojo.

C'mon folks, talk :)

I'll see you when I land in NYC!

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My big (trivial) question - What is the card game the Rake plays? It involves a dice being tossed in a cup, and then card deals.

Sounds a lot to me like "lanterloo" or "loo", with its cutthroat system of side bets, oddsmaking, and contingency bets. You could go bust in one quick hurry, even if you won the hand of cards. It was one dangerous game, and didn't long survive the 18th century, although Dolley Madison and others were lifelong addicts.

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More soon (I promise Leigh!), but a question first - the jump that Acosta did in the coda of Corsaire - wha???

I was too consumed thinking 'whoa' to even comprehend remotely what he did. :)

I've seen him do Corsaire before, but not with this... am wondering if he added it during his recent stint with ABT? And thus maybe some more people here have seen it? It probably doesn't have a name... but if someone could even just describe it I'd be very appreciative! :)

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wild guess here, but given the dual mention of ABT and outrageous jump, I want to take a stab. Might it be a "540"? We saw Cornejo, I'm pretty sure it was, do it in Corsaire this past winter (though not in the coda pdd). I don't know ballet terms at all, but it looked like he extended one leg straight out then twirled the rest of his body around this axis a couple times (it didn't look like 3x, though 540 would suggest it was; either way, it was truly jaw-dropping stuff). A corps member we know told us afterwards what it was and that they call it a 540. He seemed to indicate, too, that the lead dancers are encouraged to unleash signature moves like that, even if they're not part of the historical choreography. And he said the company, when it was in an antsy mood during class, will sometimes start chanting "540, 540..." to get Cornejo to do it. :D

ah, a possibly correct term just hit me -- maybe it's like a horizontal tour en l'air? Is that what you saw?

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What you've described is a variety of saut de basque.

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I think I have seen what Acosta did before from other virtuosos, but it was still quite impressive. I don't know the name of what he did (My friend Cynthia would generically term it a whoop-de-doo) but it's a little like a barrel turn gone into hyperspace and crossed with a rivoltade. There was an extra airturn and the leg snapped out.

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Whoop-de-do...yes, that's exactly the term I was looking for! :D

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I've heard it called a double barrel turn as well. I've seen Gennadi Saveliev do it as Lankendem when ABT was out in SoCal with Le Corsaire in the summer of 2002, and the audience gasped as well all three times. Acosta was also doing that move with ABT then in Le Corsaire as Ali in the slave variation. You can also see Tetsuo Kumakawa do a whole series of them in the last variation of Ashton's Rhapsody in a DVD available from Japan.

--Andre

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Yes - I've seen Acosta do the double barrel turns in Ashton's Rhapsody as well - the barrel turn crossed with rivoltade is an apt description Leigh - this seemed to be *more* than a double barrel turn - and indeed was in hyperspace. The man could've taught Michael Jordan a thing or two back in the day.

Gravity? What gravity?

Whoop-de-doo indeed. I tend to call these moments 'WHOA! What the...'

:D

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Leigh, I'm checking in here. :D

The Royal Gala on the 8th and the '75th Anniversary Mixed Bill' on the 9th were indeed evenings to remember. Of course, Acosta was spectacular on both nights -- 'Corsaire pdd' with Bussell on the 8th and, especially, 'Romeo & Juliet pdd' with Tamara Rojo on Friday. The latter was the brightest spot in a rather-lackluster set of divertissements.

De Valois' 'Rakes Progress' commenced the Friday bill. Lovely bit of musical theater, giving Johann Kobborg a real tour de force in 'dance acting.' It's a very English story-ballet based on Hogarth prints that, I suspect, had greater impact in the smaller theater in which it premiered in the 1930s. It certainly would not play in Peoria (or even NYC), with its imphasis on drama and minimal classical dancing but it is a fascinating piece, nonetheless.

The piece-de-resistance on both nights was the 'revival' of Ashton's 'Homage to the Queen,' although only the final 'Queen of the Air' segment and the opening & closing promenades are truly Ashton, from the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The initial three segments are new 'mini ballets' by three contemporary choreographers: Queen of the Earth by David Bintley; Queen of the Waters by Michael Corder; and Queen of Fire by Christopher Wheeldon. The 1953 score by Malcolm Arnold is tuneful, properly regal. The costumes by Peter Farmer pay homage to classicism, with tutus or 'near tutus' in each segment.

Among the newer ballets, the hands-down winner, for me, is Corder's 'Queen of the Waters' segment, with the magnificent Cojocaru and Kobborg as the leads. The choreography & music appear to be the most traditional, Petipa/Pugni-ish of all. Delicate, flowing, peaceful. The segment even includes a modern take on the old Imperial Russian pas de trois 'Ocean and Two Pearls.' The corps of eight girls also added to the beauty of the piece, their arms simulating the ripples of water.

Performance-wise, though, I give top kudos of BOTH evenings to Steven McRae as the Spirit of Fire in the Wheeldon segment. He is the Royal Ballet's Leonid Sarafanov, no doubt.

I now look forward to seeing McRae and the rest of the fabulous RB dancers here in DC, during next week's 'Sleeping Beauties' and mixed bills. The only negative is that 'Homage to the Queen' will not be presented in DC. That's one 'Ashton [et. al.] Rarity' that I wouldn't mind seeing over and over again. Hint-hint to the BBC for future telecast?

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Not only is Homage to the Queen not going to DC, I'm told it isn't featuring in the RB rep next year at all. A great pity as I was visualizing other casts in the roles too.

Opinion is mixed about it here in London but I share Natalia's views and think it might even be good enough to interest other companies.

I would say Steven MacRae is set to be a big star; he has a better proportioned physique than Sarafanov by the way, though he might be shorter.

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