Royal Ballet in Washington, DC, June 2009Mixed Bill + Manon
Posted 24 June 2009 - 01:42 PM
If choreography can't stand for itself without a pseudo intellectual essay, than one could argue the choreography isn't worth a damn? Certainly the language is failing - though what McGregor's language actually is I'm not quite sure - but Monica Mason is willing to pay out major coinage to find out.
If someone sat next to you on a bus/train/plane and started to go on at you, a la McGregor, you'd quite rightly think you were sitting next to someone either insane or on drugs, and change seat. When this kind of waffling drivel is written in relation to "art" it's seen as alright.
The thing I think is sad is how few signature works the RB is touring to the States, where Ashton is revered think of what a programme with Monotones II, Symphonic Variations, Fille could have done? Also I think it so sad that a company which was once considered the greatest classical company in the world outside of Russia isn't touring a single 3 act classic which made it the company it used to be.
As for Pennefather, he's a soloist who like Edward Watson was pushed to principal status to fill the longtime vacuum of male principals from the UK. He's a political principle turned principal and like Watson is now expected to dance a range of roles and repertory he just doesn't have the technique to fulfil.
Posted 24 June 2009 - 01:47 PM
Posted 24 June 2009 - 03:39 PM
Oh yes, I absolutely agree with you about the corps. Their choreography is very interesting. I especially liked the part where they line up in the middle of the stage and then peel off, and then repeat it to stage right. This is the first "modern Wheeldon" (as opposed to a more neo-classical piece like American in Paris or Carousel) I've seen where he has a corps de ballet and not just principals (like After the Rain). I certainly appreciated the fact that this was not another contemporary "pretzel pas de deux." And I do wonder if my reaction to it would have been different if it had been programmed with different ballets.
Do premiere dates count as program notes? City Ballet programs always have world/or company premiere dates which I like because they help put the work in context. For an oft-danced Balanchine ballet I might remember off the top of my head approximately when it was choreographed, but not for choreographers like Ashton with whom I am less familiar.
I definitely would have liked to see more Ashton. This is only the second Ashton I've seen live (Fille, which I saw in Paris with POB and when the Royal Ballet brought it to Washington a couple of years ago), so I only know his work through DVD and tape.
Posted 24 June 2009 - 04:37 PM
By programme notes I meant the page long diatribes of pseudo intellectual artspeak McGregor favours, not performance dates etc
Posted 24 June 2009 - 08:48 PM
Chroma--showed off the dancers' lovely bodies and technique impressively but nothing else. Extremely pretentious, no substance IMO. I agree with those who say program notes oughtn't to be necessary, and in the case of this ballet they add nothing.
A Month in the Country--couldn't be more of a contrast to Chroma, both in style and quality. Ashton is an excellent story teller, and the characters and events were very clear. Ansanelli has beautiful footwork, and it was shown off to great advantage, but the part is really meant for someone older. Still, her pas de deux with Beliaev was touching. I have two questions about this ballet: first, did Ashton choose to use Chopin's theme and variations on Mozart's "La Ci Darem La Mano" from "Don Giovanni" on purpose? It seems to maybe have some relevance in terms of the older/younger, experienced/callow relationship of Natalia and Beliaev, although with the sexes reversed. I'm not familiar with the play. Also, is the ending with Beliaev kissing the ends of the ribbons on Natalia's dress in the play? I recall reading about a similar gesture in a play described in Edith Wharton's "The Age of Innocence", but I cannot recall whether the title of the play is mentioned, and I don't have a copy of the book with me.
DGV--left me cold and rather bored. I would not mind if I never saw it or Chroma again. However, A Month in the Country left me longing for more Ashton! I wonder if it might pair well with The Dream...?
Posted 25 June 2009 - 01:42 AM
Was is the operative word in that sentence. Perhaps the company recognizes its serious deficiencies in the classics these days.
That is my view of both these dances, though Watson is one of the best modern dancers I've seen in years: I'd just prefer to see him with a modern company.
Posted 25 June 2009 - 05:23 AM
Posted 25 June 2009 - 05:57 AM
I really really have to strongly disagree regarding Pennefather's technique. It's not strong at all, and Nunez, Rojo with whom he's been partnered several times absolutely run rings around him. Watching him and Watson stumble through classical enchainements can be kind of painful and I notice Watson now completely avoids any classical, danseur noble role - which raises the question why is he a principal?
I always blanche a bit when people say "on the acting side" like performance is something that can be broken down into component parts and layered. If you look at old films of Dowell, he was never a great actor, but through the dance he achieved incredidble fluidity, poetry and artistry. Nureyev was always Nureyev, Baryshnikov too knew that performance and acting as a dancer came through the dance.
Mashinka, I agree with Watson, he's an extremely interesting dancer. The problem is for modern dancers trained in the classical technique is where is there for them to go, if not with a classical company? Netherlands, Rambert, Lyon I suppose spring to mind. I think that Watson would be absolutely blinding in Pina Bausch's company - but again I very much doubt he would be drawn to any of those companies. He seems to like the few modern pieces he's always first cast in and the scenery chewing Macmillan rep.
The thing is I very much wonder what Watson and Pennefather's careers would be like if they tried to gain a principal contract with any other major classical company? Next to ABT's rather impressive line up of spitfire male virtuosos - that just wouldn't happen, neither man has distinguished himself in the Balanchine rep except Watson did a good Melancholic a role requiring more flexibility than technique, though a T&V would defeat both men. I doubt either would be offered principal status in any of the major world companies.
Pennefather and Watson's elevation to principal is political and I daresay necessary to continue to justify the enormous state funding that the RB receives. I also get this feeling when I watch Lauren Cuthbertson, currently the only British female principal, who is a lovely first soloist, but just not principal material.
Posted 25 June 2009 - 06:17 AM
Mixed Bill - Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Chroma - Finally, I've found the perfect ballet for Alina Somova of the Mariinsky: Flex, flex and more flex! [Seriously - she would be perfect in this.] I'm with Hans and others who do not care much for this pretentious work, although it is initially intriguing, with its cream-colored 'box' of a set and unisex sheaths for costumes. There's a lot to admire in the ten dancers (four ladies & six gents), especially the initial pair of Mara Galeazzi and Edward Watson, as well as the wispy Sarah Lamb in an impressive solo. And let's not forget the redheaded dynamo Steven McRae in both of tonight's modern works. Unfortunately, MacGregor seems to have TWO favorite moves, which are constantly repeated: (1) the undulating stick-out-the-arse and (2) the beyond-180-degree sideways kick-up, even by some of the men! Folks, if you think Chroma is bad...wait til you see the even more pretentious Infra, which was telecast in the UK a few months ago. How this fellow nabbed the post of House Choreographer is beyond me. Was the RB that desperate for choreographers? Is this the 'New Ashton'??? Speaking of...
A Month in the Country - This Ashton masterwork made the evening worthwhile - in and of itself more than worth the price of admission. Many of us stood and cheered Alexandra Ansanelli's soul-infused performance as Natasha, all the more poignant in the fact that this is her final appearance on the U.S. stage, and pennultimate performance of her too-brief career. [She is only 28 or 29, for goodness sakes. Last performance will be in Cuba...so this was America's farewell to a beautiful artist.] Ansanelli was romance personified, bringing back memories of the first-and-greatest Natasha, Lynn Seymour. Ivan Putrov brought dramatic sparkle and gorgeous line to the male leading role of the Tutor. The boy with the ball (Ondiviela, I believe...working without my notes) was excellent. Well, I loved the entire cast, who seem to have the Ashton signature petis-pas down pat. At intermission, the Russian friends who sat with me laughed as they told me, "Thank goodness that we did not walk out at the first intermission. Now this is more like it!" Incredibly, they (and I) also loved the 3rd and last ballet of the night, which was modern...
DGV - Wheeldon has done it again. Wow - wow - wow! Beautiful, exciting, thrilling, with elements of a 'plot' or even some 'romance,' which was totally lacking in the MacGregor work. Even Michael Nyman's minimalist score is hauntingly beautiful, including that 'Edinburgh Tattoo-like' finale with the roar of drums (but no bagpipes). I smiled as I remembered some movements straight out of Wheeldon's equally-lovely recent ballet for San Francisco, Within the Golden Hour, e.g., Marianela Nunez's entrance in a high 'platter lift' ('Bussell Lift' that Carmela mentioned earlier), slowly carried in by Gary Avis...and, later, near the end of Nunez/Avis' pdd, the movement where the man sits on the floor and hold's the lady's ankle, as she steeply inclines her body away from him. [Actually, DGV preceded Golden Hour...so Golden Hr borrowed from DGV , not the other way around, right?]
The enthusiastic and nearly-full audience cheered loudly for the Royal Ballet after each work. The section where I sat (2nd Tier) was almost full, unusual for a mixed bill in the middle of the week.
Posted 25 June 2009 - 06:39 AM
Well, NYCB does have a history (at least in the Martins era) of having male principals who are no great shakes, but dance frequently because they are reliable partners and blandly inoffensive. An unintentional return to the days when the ballerina was the focus and her partner was just there to support her. Sebastian Marcovici and James Fayette (who has retired) spring immediately to mind. And frankly, I'd take Edward Watson or Rupert Pennefather over Nilas Martins (even in his good days 10 years ago, let alone his present state) any day.
Posted 25 June 2009 - 06:53 AM
You have me banged to rights, that's very very true. Last year when I had the chance to see NYCB in four programmes I have to say in regards to many of the male principals I was left thinking, hmmmmm....
And actually having seen the current state of the etoiles male ranks at POB one comes away with the same impression. Like Watson though, there are some very talented modern dancers in etoile positions in a classical ballet company.
And in truth since both the RB and POB dance those three acts so rarely nowadays, it doesn't really matter. Watson and Pennefather have enough technique to muddle through a fille. Bayadere, Don Q, Swan Lake, Coppelia etc defeat them but those ballets are one a season at most and that's why the Royal has recruited so many foreign virtuosos. Ditto POB.
Posted 25 June 2009 - 11:48 AM
Though I liked Chroma (as well as Infra and Eden/Eden) a lot, it faded a bit over 3 consecutive viewings. What makes it interesting for me is not only its facility-on-sleeve kind of choreography, showing off the extreme facility of the dancers, but the different kind of energy and movement quality it asks from the dancers. As a piece of choreography, it may not last the ages, but it works very well as an exciting essay on movement. As such, I thought the contrast to the much subtler, softer Ashton that followed it (after an interminable 25-minute intermission) was very interesting, and only served to highlight Ashton's particular brand of classical port de bras. The contrast between the abstraction of Chroma, and the clear story and drama of Month was also very interesting. DGV for me was kind of synthesis of the two: it has clearly more classical port de bras, though Wheeldon does distort classical lines everywhere, has a more classical use of the corps, and it calls for the kind of extreme facility shown in Chroma. At the same time, DGV's rhythms and pacing was more varied and subtle than Chroma, which seemed to run with the knob stuck at 11. I thought the program was a great way to introduce the company to the public.
Things I liked: Edward Watson and Leanne Benjamin in DGV, and Edward in Chroma. They had perhaps the most idiomatic movement quality for those two pieces: sharp, discontinuous, and a little disturbing. Eric Underwood was similarly nice in Chroma (but not so much in DGV). Marianella was also very nice in DGV (but admittedly, she's my favorite RB dancer), but I would gladly watch Watson and Benjamin again. Sarah Lamb looked great for having just come back from injury not too long ago, and I would never have guessed that Chroma would fit her so well.
Rupert was a great surprise in Month, and I loved how Ashtonian his dancing style was --- the port de bras, the attack of his gestures all looked very right for Ashton: I loved his solo. Ivan Putrov the next night had a more anonymous, homogeneous execution. Alexandra won me over in a lovely, touching pas with Putrov, but her style did not fit in with the company at all. This was really apparent in her first solo with the fast footwork, when she was followed by the very idiomatic Iona Loots. Her attack was homogeneous, whereas Ashton has a way of emphasizing or punctuating the end of his phrases and steps, while going just as fast. A friend of mine was distracted by Alexandra's sickled foot at the beginning of the pas, but I was too distracted by other things to notice that. The audience received her very warmly, and it was really nice to see that.
Both Kolias were good, and handled the virtuosic part well, but I preferred Paul Kay for his greater ease, and his better-fitted wig!
I did not like the seams in the set of Chroma or the wrinkles in the colored rectangular backdrop --- it seemed to go against the minimalist design, and made it look cheap. The sets for Month were beautiful, DGV looked well executed except for a couple of minor lighting issues (they looked like fluorescent lamps flickering a bit as they initially lit up instead of coming on full strength).
After the Tuesday night performance, some friends and I went to the nearest 7-11 for some late-night food (the program was 3 hours long), and one of them caught someone humming the tune to DGV!
Posted 25 June 2009 - 12:32 PM
Next time, if it's still there (it's been a long time since I lived in Foggy Bottom!), I recommend Mehran on K? or on Pennsylvania! It's Pa: http://mehrankabob.com
It's a small little Pakistani cafe; prices have gone up over the years, but still affordable. Open until 1 weekdays, 3 am on weekends..... I'm veggie, but loved their stuff, and it's good sustenance if you like your curry!
Posted 25 June 2009 - 01:06 PM
Posted 25 June 2009 - 01:27 PM
I meant only the Royal is loaded with foreign virtuosi, not the POB.
By ditto I meant several of the etoiles I've seen dance classical roles and was kind of underwhelmed by their classical technique. They were the ones who've been discussed here as surprise nominations to etoile due to their suitability to the modern ballet rep.
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