In Friday's LINKS, dirac posted Allistair Macaulay's NY Times piece on the current status of Ashton repertoire.
Starting with the proposition that "choreography is the most fragile of art forms," Macaulay outlines what has happened -- and is happening -- to several Ashton ballets since the choreographer's death. Despite the creation of an Ashton Trust several years ago, he finds that "the Ashton repertoire is in more perilous condition" than, for example, Balanchine's.
THE UNCERTAIN FUTURE LIFE OF ASHTON BALLETS
An example: Fille Mal Gardee, the rights to which were left by Ashton to Alexander Grant.
Many steps and gestures have demonstrably been altered since Ashton’s day; in one recent season at Covent Garden every single “Fille” performance seemed to bring the erosion of some further detail. The ballet still pulsates with the tenderness, love and joy that always made it one of the most life-enhancing ballets ever made, but it’s being danced in what Shakespeareans might fairly call a Third Quarto edition, with many details of Ashton’s finer poetry smudged. And who can be sure that when Mr. [Alexander] Grant is no longer with us, its more lovable qualities will survive?
Any thoughts about the article? Or ideas about the situation?
Firstly Bart thank you for raising this issue.
I have always deferred to my elders who saw legendary dancers at their height and I am going to say that what Mr.Macaulay has touched upon, cannot be evaluated unless you have some experience of the Royal Ballet at its performing apogee. By this I mean a balance of filling the characters dramatically or the style of a role together with the technique to match either the era, or the best of those that had gone before.
The tragedy of the Ashton repertoire with the Royal Ballet is threefold and I am going to avoid the ownership of particular ballets which Mr Macaulay has touched upon.
Firstly, the sacking, for that is what it was, of Michael Somes, the most difficult, severe, but dedicated protector of the Ashton repertoire, when it should have been the sacking of the less than always first rate choreographer Kenneth MacMillan. I believe when Michael Somes went, so did the “Royal Ballet style” begin to trickle away and neither Anthony Dowell or Antoinette Sibley both Ashton specialists were in a position to save the decline.
Secondly, the subsequent appointments of Artistic Directors of the Royal Ballet who have failed Ashton, who WAS and IS, the Royal Ballet plus of course a few ballets by Petipa,Ivanov, Perrot, Fokine, Balanchine, De Valois, Massine, Nijinska, Cranko plus a good number of MacMillan's one act ballets not the overblown later 3 act works whose turgid and torpid moments diminish the impressive scenes that he also created.
I will not comment on Alexander Grant's staging’s of "La Fille...", as I believe the Royal Ballet have lost the way with this triumphant Ashton ballet many years ago, with a long series of miscasting or over parting. La Fille mal gardee was the third ballet that I ever saw and from 1961 onwards I saw the original cast at almost every performance (yes it really was that complete a ballet experience) until Nadia Nerina let the company.
Thirdly part of the problem and perhaps most importantly, has been the distinct decline in ballet criticism over the last twenty years, with only two or three critics in London waving the flag of their independent and knowledgeable views.
I cannot express my disappointment with the Royal Ballet over the last 20 years when publicity, has replaced substance and still failed to sell seats.
I have probably paid for 3000 tickets over the years and I sincerely plead that Terpsichore, or whosoever God empowers to descend and to renew this wonderful company who reached triumphant heights in the 1960's and 1970's which have yet to be matched in succeeding years.
I have to mention Dame Monica Mason’s remarkable achievement in pulling the Royal Ballet, from the absolute abyss. She is I believe now shackled by the economic situation (check out next seasons repertoire) and seeming pressures of changing the direction of the repertoire from what was once a successful academic classical ballet of the first rank, to now include dance works, far removed from what made and sustained the Royal Ballet’s world status.
Only time will tell as to the fate of a favourite company of mine.
PS I was grateful to see the comments of Alexandra, Helene and Peggy R.