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Ashton Festival, April 30 - May 3, 2014


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#31 Birdsall

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Posted 04 May 2014 - 04:29 AM

What a joy last night's closing gala was!  I was wondering if I would regret driving 3 hours to see the final night of the Ashton Festival, but I was glad at the end of the night that I went. 

 

Sarasota Ballet's dancers showed a fluid upper body and nice arms that is not often seen in this country. Kbarber, who I met and who is very nice, tells me that the class earlier in the day showed how the upper bodies are stressed in their classes, because Ashton stressed this. I saw better arm movements last night than on videos by the Royal Ballet which I often find very stiff in the upper bodies. This is a quirk of mine. I like to take the waist down for granted and love when the arms and upper bodies are flowing! Sarasota Ballet's dancers were not as amazing with their arms as Vaganova trained dancers, but they came close at least in this repertoire!!! 

 

The evening started with Illuminations which was surreal. Monotones 1 and 2 were originally scheduled but I was glad to see this rare ballet. No way to really understand what is going on, but the costumes and dancing were fascinating. This is where Amy Wood (Sacred Love) and Ellen Overstreet (Profane Love) showed off their flowing arms. At moments it was almost (not quite, but almost) like watching Mariinsky dancers. Ricardo Graziano (who I saw as Colas last season in La Fille mal Gardee) was terrific in his turns and leaps. He is great in his solos and when partnering. At moments I wished they had performed this without a tenor singing the songs. I found him mediocre. Maybe he had to learn this music quickly. No idea. The audience loved him, but after 20+ years of opera listening I am really picky....I guess I should cut him some slack. I guess not everyone can be Pavarotti or Domingo or even Polenzani! 

 

Divertissements came next. Ellen Overstreet was fun and sexy in Jazz Calendar staying in character even for curtain calls rolling her shoulder! During the Awakening pas de deux for Sleeping Beauty I thought Ricardo Rhodes betrayed the fact that Sarasota Ballet is still not quite at the international level at all times. He has actually impressed me in the past (I think in Les Rendezvous last season), but somehow he was off his game and seemed to have a hard time turning Victoria Hulland in the overhead turns. He also seemed a bit tentative in his solo moments. Maybe he is injured or nerves before a packed international audience got to him. La Chatte was danced by Kate Honea, and she was cute and in character as a cat trying to be a woman. 

 

Then, came the Meditation from Thais with Danielle Brown and Edward Gonzalez (a former National Ballet of Cuba dancer). These two were FABULOUS and brought tears to my eyes as I thought about a past love myself as they danced. This was one of the highlights of the night for me. 

 

Voices of Spring with Jessica Cohen and Ricardo Graziano was exuberant and beautiful too. A good piece to end the divertissements with....

 

And the cherry on top:  Les Patineurs and Logan Learned (who I have seen in the trio of Les Rendezvous and as Alain in La Fille Mal Gardee) wiped the stage clean with his acrobatics and personality. It should have been called Logan Learned and Friends! I felt like I saw the best Blue Boy I will ever see in my lifetime. He stole the show (which is easy for the Blue Boy to do). The only quibble would be that I expected his turns in second to speed up as the curtain went down. But overall this dancer is incredible. His short stature and cutie pie personality would probably hinder him in other companies, but Sarasota Ballet recognizes what a gem they have and made him a Principal last season I believe. 

 

I saw Miami City Ballet do Les Patineurs and although very professional and nice there was something missing. Sarasota Ballet dancers looked like they were totally in character and having fun!!! At times the Sarasota Opera House stage was a bit too small causing the group scenes to look too crowded, but their exuberance and passion made this a great performance. 



#32 Birdsall

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Posted 04 May 2014 - 04:34 AM

One more thing.....this Ashton festival (the closing night at least....since that is all I saw) did what it intended. It made this audience member want to see more Ashton. His ballets are wonderful! And that is the purpose of Iain Webb putting this festival on, I imagine......keeping Ashton's choreography alive. 



#33 Natalia

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Posted 04 May 2014 - 04:47 AM

Glad that you enjoyed the gala perf, Birdsall. It was one of the best, esp the end, Les Patineurs.

 

Saturday report (before I head-out to airport):

 

The daytime events included a company class at the Opera House, taken by Iain Webb, with the entire company of about 50, incl. apprentices, bunched on the stage. It was interesting to note the constant attention to port-de-bras and the finer nuances of Ashtonian (Cecchetti?) line, e.g., tilts of neck, twists of torsos, etc. We then walked a couple of blocks to Florida Repertory Theater for a 'final thoughts' panel of various visiting experts, emceed by Webb. Most of the distinguished British members of the panel were full of praise for the company, with one of them (Anthony Doyle, I think) said that he's ready to go back to England to punch the Royal Ballet leadership (or similar sweet words).

 

The evening's final performance began with a reprise of Illuminations, in the same cast as Wednesday, so I won't repeat my thoughts. The real fun for me began with the second portion of the program - the Divertissements:

 

1. Film of Dame Margot Fonteyn in the solo Salut d'Amour, created by Ashton for her farewell ca-1978/79.

then the live diverts...

2. "Monday's Child" from Jazz Calendar - Ellen Overstreet properly slinky in red unitard and silver-beaded cap

3. "Awakening pdd" from the 1968 Sleeping Beauty - Miss ????? - a lovely dancer subbing for Victoria Hulland - with Ricardo Rhodes - very sweet, floaty pdd, to familiar music used by Balanchine for Act I interlude in his Nutcracker. The backstage voice announcing the new dancer was an inaudible blur...she was Asian so maybe it was Sareen Tchekmedian...or Ryoko Sadoshima?

4. La Chatte Metamorphosee en Femme - a delightful solo number created by Ashton for Merle Park, originally performed at a 1985 Fanny Elssler gala in Vienna. Kate Honea was both gracious and hilarious in this trifle, in her glamorous white ostrich-feathered tutu.

5. 'Meditation pdd' from Thais - Danielle Brown & Edward Gonzalez - basically lovely but Gonzalez was lacking stamina in his little solo moment. Brown was magnificent, as she has been during the entire festival.

6. 'Voices of Spring pdd' - young corps member Jessica Cohen was a 'knock-out' in this because of her enormous stage presence and energy, partnered by Ricardo Graziano. I'm only a bit sorry that the initial high-lift entrance was simplified to a series of swoops, although we got the high-lift at the exit.

 

The company saved the very best for last - its acclaimed production of Les Patineurs...in whick Logan Learned as the Blue Skater achieved rock-star status. (Logan and the late Mark Goldweber of the Joffrey will forever be my perfect Blue Skaters.) Instant standing-o and big volley of 'bravos' from the happy audience. Thank you, Sarasota Ballet!



#34 Birdsall

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Posted 04 May 2014 - 05:04 AM

Forgot to mention Logan Learned's wonderful moment when he did a series of turns ending in a held balance in cou de pied position. Not to mention the armless cartwheels (not sure what the technical term for that is)! Maybe Natalia can help with that! 



#35 Drew

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Posted 04 May 2014 - 09:29 AM

Very enjoyable reading about the Ashton festival. Wish I could have been there!



#36 cargill

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Posted 04 May 2014 - 11:03 AM

It was Ryoko Sadoshima-- I didn't hear the announcement but that is what a staff member said. Mary

#37 cargill

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Posted 04 May 2014 - 11:03 AM

It was Ryoko Sadoshima-- I didn't hear the announcement but that is what a staff member said. Mary. Sorry about the duplication!

#38 Natalia

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Posted 05 May 2014 - 04:19 AM

Thanks, Mary!

 

Birdsall, the 'armless cartwheels' seem to be a Logan specialty - straight up-and-down position with feet pointing to ceiling and head above the floor. Usually I see the Blue Skater performing 'rivoltades' with the body more parallel to the floor, as one can see from Stephen McRae in the recent DVD.



#39 rg

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Posted 05 May 2014 - 05:36 AM

for lack of better identification(s), the flying jumps traditionally associated with the "blue" skater in LES PATINEURS were called "butterfly jumps" in and around the British dancers working w/ Ashton, and indeed as noted by Natalia, were more parallel to the stage, than the more vertical moves executed by Logan Learned. depending on the execution of this version of the move, there is a sometime reflection of a floating, flying jump familiar from the vocabulary of traditional, theatrical, Chinese acrobatics.

the closest 'standard' move to what LL does might be what i believe gymnasts call an 'ariel.'



#40 Natalia

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Posted 05 May 2014 - 03:12 PM

Thanks for the proper terminology, RG. I checked the three TV versions aired during the 1970s/80s and noted the following with respect to that moment in the Blue Skater's role:

 

ca1973 (?) - Sadlers Wells Royal Ballet, BBC telecast - Kim Reeder - performs the 'ariel' (like Logan Learned), with the last two totally up-and-down (perpendicular to stage)

 

ca1974 - ABT, PBS telecast - Fernando Bujones - quite different choreography - first he naughtily snakes among the corps couples, then does a manege of Soviet-style grands jetes with only one bounding step in between each jete ('barrell turns').

 

ca1978 - Joffrey at Art Park, PBS telecast - Mark Goldweber - performs the parallel-to-floor 'butterfly jumps' just like McRae does in the recent RB DVD.

 

Interesting that the Sarasota stager, Margaret Barbieri, performed in that 1973 telecast (was part of the SWRB)...and that Logan Learned performs movements closest to those of Kim Reeder, the SWRB Blue Skater. In other words, I don't think that it's just how Learned likes to do them but, rather, he is following Ms Barbieri's teachings/recollections.

 

p.s. - I'd KILL to see Simkin' and/or I. Vasiliev perform the Blue Skater, even though neither was trained in Cecchetti...but still. That alone should be reason for ABT to revive the ballet (with proper steps and designs, as it did 10+ yrs ago...not the 1960s/70s Cecil Beaton edition).

 

Edited to correct Mr. Reeder's first name, i.e., he is "Kim,' not 'Brian.'


Edited by Natalia, 06 May 2014 - 05:17 AM.


#41 rg

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Posted 05 May 2014 - 03:52 PM

thanks, N for all the video observations, tho' i'm not sure who danced in the SWRB vid, but Brian Reeder is the name of an American dancer - w/ careers, out of SAB in NYCB, Frankfurt B, and ABT. he's too young to have been in a 1970s SWRB production, unless someone else was named Brian Reeder.

currently Reeder is resident choreographer of Ballet Next.

btw, Gillian Murphy made one of her first 'big showings' at ABT dancing the fouette segement of the girl in blue, not sure of the date...

 

p.s. added later: i just looked up a listing for a SWRB film of PATINEURS w/ none other than Brian Shaw as the Blue Skater - such slips are frequent when writing about dance and dancing: Clive Barnes once filed a review of Taylor's ARDEN COURT calling it ARDEN FOREST; Kisselgoff filed a rev. of Smuin's Rodin-inspired "Eternal Idol" naming it "THE FALLEN IDOL" - so easy to do...



#42 Natalia

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Posted 05 May 2014 - 03:56 PM

 

RG, my own notes for the vid indicate:

Thanks, RG. The casting credits are cut out of my copy. I got names from the kind person who I visited 20+ yrs ago in UK and made me dub. smile.png

 

She wrote for me:

Blue Skater - Reeder (now assume to be Kim Reeder...not Brian)

Blue Girls - Lois Strike & Marion Tate

White pdd - Vyvyan Lorayne & Carl Myers

 

p.s. - Just checking my copy of the Alexander Bland tome, The Royal Ballet: The First Fifty Years, which lists names of all dancers in key roles in both RB companies through 1980. Indeed, a man by the name 'Reeder' danced the Blue Skater some 22 times, between'73-79 at the SWRB company (page 302 - 'Les Patineurs' segment of the page). So maybe my friend was right? Maybe it was another Mr. Reeder (different first name)? Maybe the real 'Brian Reeder' was a guest artist of the SWRB for an extended period?

 

EDITED to indicate Kim Reeder, not Brian Reeder, as likely Blue Skater in the 1970s BBC telecast. Also, added many "y's' to Ms. Lorayne's name.


Edited by Natalia, 06 May 2014 - 06:45 AM.


#43 Jane Simpson

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Posted 06 May 2014 - 02:49 AM

The SWRB dancer's name was Kim Reeder



#44 Natalia

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Posted 06 May 2014 - 03:11 AM

Thank you, Jane. Mystery solved. I've corrected first name of Mr. Reeder-of-SWRB in the above posts #40 & 42.

 

Indeed, rg, I remember Gillian Murphy as a wonderful 'turning blue girl' in the last (?) ABT productions of Les Patineurs, ca-1998/99 at the Kennedy Center, which surely continued to the MET season in NY that year. Thankfully, ABT went back to the original RB designs (as we saw in Sarasota), as opposed to the Beaton designs seen in the PBS telecast of the mid-1970s.

 

Rg, the Brian Shaw clip to which you refer would have been much earlier (50s?60s?) than my BBC telecast film of the 1970s...but you already know that. :)




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