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


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#46 Treefrog

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Posted 13 June 2008 - 03:18 PM

(down off my high horse now)

I suspect this is a case of different people viewing things through different lenses. I thought it tremendously exciting that a fictional character exhibited (what I thought of as) such interesting, clearly defined behaviors. Not everyone's cup of tea, I know. But it's mine. That's the way I go through life: I look or (or simply notice) patterns and try to make sense of them. Sometimes it does take away the magic of the theatrical spell, but sometimes -- as in this case -- it enriches it.

I agree that it would be very useful if Ashton had spoken about his motivation and models. Does anyone know?

#47 Paul Parish

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Posted 13 June 2008 - 10:39 PM

We don't just laugh at Alain. And we don't laugh at him harshly. He's protected by his simplicity from understanding too much, and nobody dislikes him. As Glebb says, he has a dark moment of realizing he's been fooled -- but his spirits don't suffer long. We laugh at and with virtually everybody in the ballet that we like -- that's part of its charm, and maybe of its mysterious way of seeming to "say something about the human condition" -- la comedie humaine -- but in such a mild way there's no demand to take it seriously. We get to see the things they can't see about themselves -- there's a fair amount of comedy made by putting us in a position to see what's behind somene's back. It's funniest about Alain, but also when Widow Simone is falling asleep, and when Colas is hiding behind the sheaves and Lise's miming "when I am married" -- not to mention the cows who've got their behinds facing us directly in the Lancaster's hilarious scenery. But it's gentle comedy -- nobody's perfect, we see more of the big picture than any of them ever do, except perhaps Alain, who gets the bird's eye view when he's caught up into the heavens.

The very funniest thing I've ever sen in the ballet was David Bintley's nose -- which he made look enormous-- as he played Widow Simone one year when he was setting a ballet on SFB. Bintley sat in the cart on the way to the picnic, looking back and forth alternately at Alain the cretin and Colas the swain -- i.e., showing one profile, then the other, as the cart rolled across the stage -- Widow Simone was thinking, wavering, already on the way to agreeing to let her daughter marry the boy she loved. It was really wonderful, an awesome performance.

Part of what's sunny about it is that people think they need to hide their secrets -- in this ballet, there are lots of secrets that tumble out into the open, and it doesn't do anybody any harm -- to the contrary, it lets the sunshine in and everyone fares the better. In that respect it's liberal and liberating and part of the upsurge of optimism about human nature that brought us the American and French Revolutions and the 1960s.

#48 Treefrog

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Posted 14 June 2008 - 04:52 AM

I would dearly love to see this ballet again. As you all describe scenes, snippets rush back into memory that I could not recall on my own. (The men grabbing the scythes by the blades, for example :clapping: )

I know the Joffrey has it in their repertoire, and I think it is exactly the sort of charming, smaller story ballet they do so well. But when I have had occasion to ask the artistic staff about performing it, they expressed doubt that it would draw an audience because it has little name recognition. We can always hope, though.

Anyway, how frequently is this ballet performed in the US? Who does it?

#49 bart

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Posted 14 June 2008 - 05:14 AM

{W}hen I have had occasion to ask the artistic staff about performing it, they expressed doubt that it would draw an audience because it has little name recognition.

Interesting, Understandable. But sad.

It raises an interesting question for Joffrey, and possibly others. How could one "market" this ballet to audiences? Many in the US especially are not not really familiar with Ashton any longer. I'm talking about companies outside the big, historic ballet centers.

#50 Helene

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Posted 14 June 2008 - 05:26 AM

As a family ballet. It has a lot of delights for children. It is also great poster material, and if there are stars in a company, they can do the posters to appeal to the people who always have to see a particular dancer.

#51 Alexandra

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Posted 14 June 2008 - 05:34 AM

Sol Hurok wanted to change its name to "The Farmer's Daughter." There was always a problem with name recognition in that sense, but when the Royal did it, it played to sold out houses (I was in several).

#52 bingham

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Posted 14 June 2008 - 06:46 AM

Maybe, with the sucess of Herman in DQ, ABT will be encourage to revive it.He was very good as Alain in the last ABT production but i think he will be a terrific Colas( but then there is that one-hand-overhead-lift in act one that he has to work at...) :clapping:

#53 Treefrog

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Posted 14 June 2008 - 07:39 AM

{I}f there are stars in a company, they can do the posters to appeal to the people who always have to see a particular dancer.


:clapping: Yeah, well the Joffrey has blown it in that regard, now that Wheater has let Maia Wilkins go...

#54 Nanarina

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Posted 14 June 2008 - 08:11 AM

{W}hen I have had occasion to ask the artistic staff about performing it, they expressed doubt that it would draw an audience because it has little name recognition.

Interesting, Understandable. But sad.

It raises an interesting question for Joffrey, and possibly others. How could one "market" this ballet to audiences? Many in the US especially are not not really familiar with Ashton any longer. I'm talking about companies outside the big, historic ballet centers.



Bart :clapping: :dunno: It seems a poor excuse to blame the fact of bad audience numbers on a name, people can be educsated to appreciate a good production. Sureley the powers that be, do not just relie on Company advertising, why would they not use the professionals in tis field. Makes one wonder what the Company Press Office is achieving. There could be articles in the press, TV appearances, ( in the case of "fILLE" ON chILDRENS/ART/CULTURE SERIES. BBC 1 here in England has "Blue Peter" for children and young people, it has a very good following, and Ballet Stars often appear on this.

#55 Nanarina

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Posted 14 June 2008 - 08:30 AM

We don't just laugh at Alain. And we don't laugh at him harshly. He's protected by his simplicity from understanding too much, and nobody dislikes him. As Glebb says, he has a dark moment of realizing he's been fooled -- but his spirits don't suffer long. We laugh at and with virtually everybody in the ballet that we like -- that's part of its charm, and maybe of its mysterious way of seeming to "say something about the human condition" -- la comedie humaine -- but in such a mild way there's no demand to take it seriously. We get to see the things they can't see about themselves -- there's a fair amount of comedy made by putting us in a position to see what's behind somene's back. It's funniest about Alain, but also when Widow Simone is falling asleep, and when Colas is hiding behind the sheaves and Lise's miming "when I am married" -- not to mention the cows who've got their behinds facing us directly in the Lancaster's hilarious scenery. But it's gentle comedy -- nobody's perfect, we see more of the big picture than any of them ever do, except perhaps Alain, who gets the bird's eye view when he's caught up into the heavens.

The very funniest thing I've ever sen in the ballet was David Bintley's nose -- which he made look enormous-- as he played Widow Simone one year when he was setting a ballet on SFB. Bintley sat in the cart on the way to the picnic, looking back and forth alternately at Alain the cretin and Colas the swain -- i.e., showing one profile, then the other, as the cart rolled across the stage -- Widow Simone was thinking, wavering, already on the way to agreeing to let her daughter marry the boy she loved. It was really wonderful, an awesome performance.



:dunno: :clapping: Oh! Paul, you make me laugh, and so many happy memories flood back of this super Ballet, It will always be a joy, and give the opportunity for the dancers to let their hair down, and do things they could otherwise not do in a serious or major work such as Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty. I expect over the years in many different companies and productions of Fille, there have been a great many naughty fo-pas
slipped into the choreography.

#56 Nanarina

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Posted 14 June 2008 - 03:36 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.



Hi Treefrog :clapping: I think you need to understand the defination of the term "village Idiot" as it is in British Folk Law or Country life.
These poor souls, through no fault of their own, due to lack of social skills, or family standing, very often were un-educated simple folk, who actually were often made to bear the brunt of the villagers. We are talking in reality of a time say prior to the 1950's, when the people did not travel far beyond the boundaries of their own village. The result of which was much in-breeding. This often involved the poor un-educated labourers and a child would be born to a poor soul, who already had a large family of children. So this little one would have looked different and certainly acted differently. They would possibly been one of the youngest, and missed out on schooling and the same attention that their more able sibling'a would have received. As cruel and unkind as it was, they would be teased and made fun of by the Villagers, as a point of amusement, very often being put into the stocks because of their behavyour. There was not the knowledge available to the people within their closed worlds, and basically they did not understand the situation.

To give you an example, there was one such person, who lived in my village only 10 years ago. He was by the time I met him about 68 years old. The Son of a Brother and Sister, who was brought up by an elderly Aunt. After being taken away from his birth mother. He had no idea of how to keep himself clean, feed himself, or look after his home after the old lady died. He behavyed like a boy of 8/9 I would say, but a very simple type of person. He was at times quite a nuisance about the village, but we all tried to look out for him. He had some of the gestures and did some of the kind of things you see Alain doing. If told off (and sometimes he was very persistant, and needed it) but he would cry like a child. Sadly he was always getting into mischief, and mostly would do silly things that would just make you laugh.Without Mallice of course. I remember telling him to get wSHED AND CHANGED AND TAKING HIM OUT TO TEA ONE DAY, HE WAS SO THRILLED, BUT IT GOT A BIT OUT OF HAND WHEN HE DECIDED HE WANTED TO HELP THE WAITRESS, SO THAT NEVER HAPPENED AGAIN. He was a bit off around the ladies, and would turn up in some-ones kitchen, or had even been found sitting in an armchair in my friends sitting room. He was called Fred, and wanted to kiss people on the cheek, and also would give you a crafty pat on the behind. I certainly could see Alain in him.

#57 Treefrog

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Posted 14 June 2008 - 08:51 PM

Thanks for filling us in on your village idiot. As for your excellent thought:

There could be articles in the press, TV appearances, ( in the case of "fILLE" ON chILDRENS/ART/CULTURE SERIES. BBC 1 here in England has "Blue Peter" for children and young people, it has a very good following, and Ballet Stars often appear on this.


I ran this one by my husband, whose area of professional expertise is children's media. He chuckled. No such thing exists in the US, and if it did, it would not air something as parochial as a ballet appearing in a single city. (And there are no locally produced shows anymore.) "Blue Peter", he says, is an amazing show.

#58 Mel Johnson

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Posted 15 June 2008 - 03:21 AM

And now for something completely the same, a classic Monty Python sketch, "The Village Idiot":

http://orangecow.org...es/theidiot.htm

This sketch segued into "Test Match".

#59 Nanarina

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Posted 15 June 2008 - 05:54 AM

And now for something completely the same, a classic Monty Python sketch, "The Village Idiot":

http://orangecow.org...es/theidiot.htm

This sketch segued into "Test Match".



:excl: :wacko: :dunno: Gosh Mel where did you find that ? It could only be Monty Python, Spike Milligan, John Cleese etc. in every respect very clever idiots in their own right. :clapping: They do not make them like this anymore, sadly, comedy has seemed to change over the years, just THINK of The Goons, It aint arf hot Mum, Open all hours, Black Adder, Heid Hi, ALL SUCH FUNNY tv SERIES.

Thankyou so much Mel for brightening up my dull rainy Sunday. Nanarina


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