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Monica Mason


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#1 dirac

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Posted 14 August 2001 - 06:12 PM

Recently I was browsing again through Barbara Newman's collection of interviews, "Striking a Balance," and this time around I was particularly interested in her talk with Monica Mason. Did anyone out there see her dance? any impressions of her in various roles? She seems to have had an unusual career.

#2 Autumn7

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Posted 14 August 2001 - 06:38 PM

I was looking at a 1979 video performance of 'Giselle' danced by Seymour and Nureyev the other night and Monica Mason danced the role of Myrtha. She was very strong as the Wili Queen. If I remember correctly I believe that there are snippets of other interviews with her in the 'Footnotes - Classics of Ballet' series that was televised some time ago. And that's about the end of my limited knowledge of her. :rolleyes:

#3 Mel Johnson

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Posted 14 August 2001 - 06:50 PM

I certainly remember Mason! First really came to my attention as the Chosen Maiden in MacMillan's "Rite of Spring". Amazing, just from the point of stamina and the intensity of dance acting. She got the "strong" roles as a soloist, like the Fairy of the Golden Vine (finger variation) in the prologue in Sleeping Beauty. She also did the cabriole variation in Bayadére. I was a little surprised when she took over the role of Nikiya in that one, which requires more delicacy, but she was just fine! Likewise her Odette, but Odile was all about POWER! She went on to character parts, like Carabosse, and gave the old girl some glamour! A very impressive dancer!

#4 glebb

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Posted 14 August 2001 - 08:11 PM

I saw Monica Mason as Odette/Odile when Royal Ballet visited Kennedy Center in 1974.
I mostly remember that she did a series of changements, opening the legs almost to second position in the air, traveling upstage, where Makarova does hops traveling backwards in arabesque, in the coda of Black Swan Pas de Deux.

[ 08-14-2001: Message edited by: glebb ]

#5 Dance Fan

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Posted 14 August 2001 - 10:14 PM

I remember Monica Mason well as a stalwart of the Royal Ballet. She had a very strong, clean, technique, outstanding in her pointe work and jumps. But what I remember most about her was her striking face - strong featured, not the least bit "ballerina-like" in the conventional sense. She really projected to the back rows.

#6 Mashinka

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Posted 16 August 2001 - 11:46 AM

Monica Mason was hugely popular with RB audiences during the 60's and '70's. In soloist roles she was something of a "scene stealer", always eliciting the loudest applause from the audience. As a principal she was outstanding in "Song of the Earth" and "Dances at a Gathering" and a thrilling Firebird. She had the most expressive eyes. As the unfortunate muse in "Apollo" who lets out a yell at the end of her solo, she was unforgettable, gazing up at Nureyev in embarrSssed supplication. To sum her up, she was a dancer with PERSONALITY.

#7 Manhattnik

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Posted 16 August 2001 - 02:01 PM

I can imagine Mason was a great Myrtha. I remember a Swan Lake she danced with Nureyev (I think) and the Royal at the Met in the mid-Seventies, and her Odile was the haughtiest, sexiest and most purely evil I've ever seen. She certainly was dynamite in that role. I'll never forget the sheer delight she showed at the very end of the act, when Siegfried realized his mistake. She did a little bit of bourreeing and arm-flapping, then pointed at the hapless Siegfried and laughed and laughed, as if to say, "You thought I was HER? You fool!"

Sure lots of other dancers have done that little bit, but none have done it better.

#8 felursus

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Posted 18 August 2001 - 12:51 AM

Speaking of Mason in Swan Lake, she also had fabulous arms. At the end of Act II, when she has been transformed back into a swan, she bourreed off with her back to the audience and the best imitation of Plisetskaya's swan arms I've seen.

It was always FUN watching Mason dance. She put her heart and soul into everything she did. Yes, she was a great Myrthe - maybe the iciest I've ever seen. At the time the RB had two great Myrthes - Mason and Bergsma (best bourrees ever). She also had a great sense of humor - even at her own expense. I once saw her take what must have been a rather painful tumble - there must have been a slippery spot on the stage, because two other dancers slipped right there, but Mason actually went down and had the wind knocked out of her. She managed to get up and continue her solo, but one could see that she was LAUGHING.

The RB is lucky to have her still with them. She has a lot to teach the young dancers of today.

#9 Shirley

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Posted 18 August 2001 - 05:54 PM

Originally posted by glebb:
I saw Monica Mason as Odette/Odile when Royal Ballet visited Kennedy Center in 1974.
I mostly remember that she did a series of changements, opening the legs almost to second position in the air, traveling upstage, where Makarova does hops traveling backwards in arabesque, in the coda of Black Swan Pas de Deux.

[ 08-14-2001: Message edited by: glebb ]


I have seen some of the current dancers at the RB use changements this season which I hadn't seen recently (ie last 10 years).

I never saw Monica dance but she is fascinating to watch when she rehearses dancers in master classes. A wonderful assest to the RB!

#10 felursus

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Posted 19 August 2001 - 12:50 AM

Those changements have been part of the RB choreography for a very long time. Perhaps someone may enlighten us as to where they originated?
:D

#11 Mel Johnson

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Posted 19 August 2001 - 06:44 AM

They started life as échappés, I believe, and go back a good long ways, maybe all the way to Legnani. Doug?

#12 Shirley

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Posted 19 August 2001 - 05:36 PM

Originally posted by felursus:
Those changements have been part of the RB choreography for a very long time.  Perhaps someone may enlighten us as to where they originated?
  :D


I had heard about the changements but until December of last year I had never seen them peformed. Zenaida Yanowsky was the first person I saw use them and since then Yanowsky, Miyako Yoshida and Darcey Bussell have performed them.

In fact Darcey Bussell used the hops traveling backwards in arabesque on the first night of the run of Swan Lakes in October and then used the changements on the last night of the run at the beginning of December.

#13 felursus

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Posted 20 August 2001 - 01:35 AM

Fonteyn used to do the hops backward. She wasn't much of a jumper, but boy could she balance on pointe! :D


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