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ASHTON'S La Fille Mal Gardee in the 2000's.Reflections on a real charming ballet


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#31 carbro

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 07:28 PM

If we think of ballet characters as cartoons (which is what enables interpreters to make each their own), and acknowledge, I see no reason not to acknowledge that Ashton, or Dauberval for that matter, created a sketch based on a recognizable type. We can label it or not, which has no effect on what it is. If you come to this discussion as a performer, you probably would want to resist the labeling, seeing that labeling can easily lead to stereotyping. But if a label helps an audience member see something more clearly, then fine.

#32 vagansmom

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Posted 12 June 2008 - 07:39 AM

I also see Alain as possibly being on the autistic spectrum, but it doesn't detract from my enjoyment of the ballet; for me, it enhances it. Every odd character in every book, play, film, ballet, etc. can be recognized as a clinical "type" by those with some kind of experience in the field. It doesn't change who the character is.

I coach/tutor individuals with social and cognitive challenges. Some are on the "autistic spectrum," which includes Asperger's, others are clinically mentally ill. I have a sister with MS-related dementia and corresponding mental illness. So it's only natural that I view the world through the prism of my experiences and professional knowledge in that realm. I LOVE thinking about characters in the ballets I've seen, and wondering what they'd be like as students. Like all of us, I'm bringing my own experiences to the ballet with me. Other people with other types of knowledge and experiences will notice and think about the ballet in a way that I might not understand. Sharing our own insights with each other is what makes being human such an interesting and lively experience :clapping:

#33 michaelbaker

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Posted 12 June 2008 - 08:24 AM

(quote) i have danced Fille many times in a couple of different companies and I agree with the fact that it is probably one of the quintessential English ballets. A perfect ballet to take the "first timer" to.

(quote)

A friend of mine, a former dancer, saw it last year in Paris and loved it. DIdn't get a lot of details, except that her husband (who's not a dancer) loved it even more than she did.

The French dancers who've moved here and dance with San Francisco Ballet ALL seem to have a great sense of humor and a natural feel for gesture, so I bet they do do it well. But htat's just my guess.

Still, I know what you mean about its Englishness. In fact, Edwin denby commented on its mild gentle Englishness in his review of Fille and wondered if Americans would feel the charm. As Glebb recalls, it does seem to go from highlight to highlight -- but it does that without ever going for some over-the-top feat of bravura. Even when Lise is leaping about or spinning in hte midst of all those ribbons there are no show-stopping effects --



#34 Nanarina

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Posted 13 June 2008 - 07:55 AM

I've not seen the ballet recently.
I first saw it at Kennedy Center in the 70s - Merle Park and Nureyev.
The chickens, Rudy bursting out of the bales of hay, Park hanging from his arms in the window - legs doing tick-tock, the ribbons, maypole and clog dances I recall the most.
In the 80s I had the honor of dancing Alain having been taught by Faith Worth and coached by Alexander Grant. My Widow Simon was none other than Stanley Holden! When I look back I can't help but be extremely thankful for those experiences.



:clapping: Hello glebb I expect you really enjoyed dancing Alain, it is such a comical role, but very clever the way "Sir Fred" used the steps, to make him what he is. I love the way he shoots his arm up to match Lise's arabesque, and conducts with the flute. No doubt you did not stray from the original choreography and mime, not like some of the dancers on tour. Often certain girls in the corp de ballet, found Alain thought it was amusing for them to get their posterers pinched, and on one occasion at the end of a tour, a certain dancer named John Sale (a close friend) had discovered a joke shop in the town we were performing, and he had a large plastic spidar in his pocket, and a big spot on his cheek, much to all the performers amusement. The bosses had all left the theatre, so they got away with it !!

#35 Nanarina

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Posted 13 June 2008 - 08:03 AM

:clapping:

This ballet is so essentially English, I wonder how other companies abroad, cope with the role portrayal.


Beautiful memories Nanarina-(BTW, i love your screenname :blink: ). I grew up watching "Fille" in regular basis in Havana. It's still a highly appreciated ballet among cuban balletomanes, and Mme. Alonso keeps presenting it every year, non stopping. Particularly one Principal Ballerina of the 70's-80's, Maria Elena Llorente, was well known for dancing the role-(which in Cuba i knew by the name of Lissette, her counterpart as Colin). This production is Mme.'s own revival dated from 1952, and it's still in active repertoire.
http://translate.goo...e...D1&ie=UTF-8



:thumbsup: Cuban...... Lets hope it continues to be performed for many years to come. My thoughts on it's "English essence mainly concerned certain contenental companies.

#36 Nanarina

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Posted 13 June 2008 - 08:10 AM

:clapping:

The last time I saw it was with ABT and it's one of the best things I"ve ever seen them do. You would have thought the ballet was set on them, about a week ago. (Alexander Grant staged it.) The cast was Ashley Tuttle and Ethan Stiefel, with Kirk Peterson as the Widow Simone. They had the tone right, the mime right, the dancing was musical, the audience howled, the critics wrote and wrote and WROTE about it -- and I don't think they've done it since. :thumbsup:

What a shame, why do you think they have not performed it again ? I like Ethan Stiefel, he is excellent, not quite so familiar with Ashley Tuttle, what would you think about Paloma Herrera as Lise ?

#37 Nanarina

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Posted 13 June 2008 - 08:15 AM

La Fille... have always been a favorite of mine and i enjoyed the ABT staging a few years ago. Apparently,it was not a big crowd-drawer and it has not been repeated. I wished ABT would do it next season. Herman and Sarah would be wonderful in this ballet, i think. :clapping: :thumbsup:



I heard that this was the case at the POB, it was not very popular, peopel got the impression it was more for children, which is as we all know not the case. It is a wonderful opportuinity to see something charming and light hearted'

#38 Nanarina

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Posted 13 June 2008 - 08:26 AM

A friend of mine, a former dancer, saw it last year in Paris and loved it. DIdn't get a lot of details, except that her husband (who's not a dancer) loved it even more than she did.

The French dancers who've moved here and dance with San Francisco Ballet ALL seem to have a great sense of humor and a natural feel for gesture, so I bet they do do it well. But htat's just my guess.

Still, I know what you mean about its Englishness. In fact, Edwin denby commented on its mild gentle Englishness in his review of Fille and wondered if Americans would feel the charm. As Glebb recalls, it does seem to go from highlight to highlight -- but it does that without ever going for some over-the-top feat of bravura. Even when Lise is leaping about or spinning in hte midst of all those ribbons there are no show-stopping effects --

In the UK when in the Cornfield scene pas de deux Lise balances on one pointe, holding the eight ribbons, there used to be a great re-action from the audience. But on the whole Ashton created technical brilliance in a quiet manner, the main applause came at the end of the scene or performance, not generally to disrput the performance.

#39 glebb

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Posted 13 June 2008 - 09:04 AM

Nanarina - Alain was one of the great gifts of my career! Again I can't believe my good fortune in getting that role.
I don't remember if it was in NY or LA but a critic wrote that my Alain was 'haunted by the ghost of Petrouchka' and I loved that review. Also Jerry Lewis complimented me on my portrayal of Alain!
I was also naughty once in a while in that same scene you described. My naughtiness had to do more with ballet technique but I did love the hugs.
I must say that though I often danced The Boy in Blue and Puck - Alain was not easier to dance even if it appeared easier.

#40 Nanarina

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Posted 13 June 2008 - 09:15 AM

I lucked into last-minute tickets for "Fille" at Paris Opera Ballet last summer. (Hubby, bless him, didn't blanch a bit at paying top dollar.) It was thoroughly charming, as everyone says. As it was a first for me, I cannot say if the French "got it" as well as the Brits.

I wonder if anyone else has thoughts about an observation I had: that the character of Alain is autistic or has Asperger's syndrome. It seemed a pretty dead-on characterization to me: socially awkward, fixated on his umbrella, and if I remember correctly, with awkward and stereotyped movements (although maybe I'm making that last bit up). I've heard him described as a simpleton, but it seemed to me there was much more to him than that.



:clapping: Alain, in the early days of Ashton's version, was just a simple country bumpkin, the kind of person you could find in a very rural English village, where a considerable amount of "inbreeding" had gone on. When there was not a lot of movement between the outside world. Although he was the son of a Rich Farmer, he was very un-sophisticated, you only have to see how his Father twirls the curl on the top of his head, when he is disapointed. He is just like a child, riding his umbrella like a pony, wanting the flute, etc. The idea seemed to be that the role was to amuse and make the audience laugh. I never heard any suggestions in rehearsals or in conversations with Dancers who were to portray Alain, that the characrer was nothing more than funny, amusing in a way to entertain the ausience. I never got the impression there was anything darker or suggestive of a certain condiditon.

#41 Nanarina

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Posted 13 June 2008 - 09:26 AM

:clapping:

Well, that's the thing, I wasn't thinking at all. It just seemed very clear to me. I'm wondering if there's anyone familiar with autism spectrum disorders who has seen Fille who had the same thought.

And, why not?



:thumbsup: Lets not get too technical, Alain is jsut a simpleton in the Ballet, no more no less, he is to amuse and make the sudience laugh , albeit a little cruel laughing at his expense, perhaps something we would not do in real life.

#42 Nanarina

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Posted 13 June 2008 - 10:02 AM

Nanarina - Alain was one of the great gifts of my career! Again I can't believe my good fortune in getting that role.
I don't remember if it was in NY or LA but a critic wrote that my Alain was 'haunted by the ghost of Petrouchka' and I loved that review. Also Jerry Lewis complimented me on my portrayal of Alain!
I was also naughty once in a while in that same scene you described. My naughtiness had to do more with ballet technique but I did love the hugs.
I must say that though I often danced The Boy in Blue and Puck - Alain was not easier to dance even if it appeared easier.

:wink: :clapping: Hi again glebb I can agree with you how demanding playing Alain is, it may look easy, that is down to the prowess of the performer
When we used to go to eat after the performance, the Dancer who had played Alain, was always as tired as the people who had danced Colas and Lise.

I take it you have read all the comments about the definitian of Alain's condition or what he suffered from. Do you ever feel that you were acting anything other than a simple village charater, who because of his place in life, was an easy target for people to laugh at ? I feel the subject has got too complex, even gone a little off topic. To me it is sumply Comedy.

#43 glebb

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Posted 13 June 2008 - 10:16 AM

Hi again Nanarina!
I agree with you and think that too much is being made of his condition. Mr. Mel Johnson with his great knowledge and understanding has explained Ashton and Alain very clearly and very simply. I trust his assessment completely and I often ask his advice on many things. I do think that Alain has a dark moment when he realizes he has been betrayed. So I played him light, dark and then light again.

But maybe it's easier to understand Ashton's characters when one is British. I remember sitting behind Lynn Wallis at the MET during 'Enigma Variations' performed by Birmingham Royal Ballet for the 'Ashton Celebration'. I was enjoying the ballet for its beauty, musicality and of course the performances. But I noticed Ms Wallis getting taller and taller in her seat as the final strains of music were playing. I knew it was something, a feeling only a Brit or at least someone whom had danced for Ashton would feel.

#44 Treefrog

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Posted 13 June 2008 - 02:03 PM

So it's okay to laugh at Alain if he's a simpleton and not if he exhibits socially awkward behaviors we now lump together under a particular diagnosis?

I wasn't trying to imply that Ashton set out to create a character with autism, or any other diagnosis. This suite of diagnoses wasn't even in the public eye when Fille was created. To me, the possibility existed that in creating his character Ashton drew on a set of behaviors he had observed somewhere, that are very different from what we expect of most people in a particular situation, and that often cause a great deal of discomfort and not-very-nice laughter in response.

We call this type of thinking "a hypothesis". Then we seek information to confirm or deny it. So far, I have not heard anyone who is familiar with autistic-spectrum behaviors say, "No, I have seen these type of behaviors a lot, and Alain's behavior is not characteristic." All I have heard is "don't overthink." Well ... who among you has met a village idiot or simpleton? Read any studies about how village idiots acquire their status? Perhaps, just perhaps, village idiots comprise the set of people who exhibit socially awkward behavior and become the targets of derision. I can tell you as a school teacher that people find non-standard social behavior far more queer and laughable than mere lack of brains.

#45 papeetepatrick

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Posted 13 June 2008 - 02:46 PM

All I have heard is "don't overthink."


That may be all you thought about from what you read, but that's not all that was said. Something like a 'village idiot' is a kind of character some of us like to think of in theatrical terms only. Carbro said the allergy to psychoanalysis and clinical types might be because labels, etc., might bring about stereotypes, but actually, I think stereotyping is hardly the problem some of us have, as Commedia dell'Arte is full of these characters. I don't think any of us (at least I don't) care that someone wants to think about modern disease terms or Freudian analyses upon looking at works in which it's not made explicit. As far as the Alain was concerned, what Ashton said about the making of the character would be what interested me; is that irrelevant? He might not always tell everything, that's true.

I think I've met Village Idiots and I know I've met simpletons. Tons of them, too numerous too contemplate. They are more entertaining onstage, and they are surely always exploited--and this is not nice. But many things in old culture don't seem nice to us now, but we accept some of it as having been considered given in their day--such as admiration for the militant and warlike hero, which is distinctly frowned upon since the Vietnam War, but nobody expects heroes in Wagner or Plutarch's accounts of Alexander to need singling out as Phallic Exception Problems. Of course, this may have nothing to do with what you're talking about, but I think those of us in disagreement may have a difference in our taste for seeing such things in certain places. I don't mind socially exploited buffoons if the works haven't yet been banned as too harsh for our sensitive delicate modern tastes. And some director was some months back talking about getting the racism out of Puccini--I guess if was Madama Butterfly, but don't know nor care; they'll always go back to the basic production.

I think Village Idiots have sometimes been revered. Aren't they sometimes considered oracles and consulted on who is to be condemned? Anyway, I'd be interested in the Asperger's Syndrome of Alain if Ashton said something explicitly about it. Otherwise, anything may be fair game for an observer's imagination. Such things take away the magic of the theatrical spell for some of us. I wouldn't ever want to imagine the Mouse King as carrying rabies or Carabosse suffering from AIDS dementia. Apologies if I'm too far off, really not trying to be silly, I just think that theatre exists insulated from much of the literal outside, so not meaning to be offensive. Just not going to do it myself, I guess.


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