Ashton Fan

Royal Ballet 2016-17 Season

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Posted (edited)

While it will be interesting to see who management chooses to replace Polunin Marguerite and Amand is only of real interest in those performances which, for London audiences, mark Yanowsky's retirement as a member of the company. The choreographic substance of this mixed programme lies in the first two ballets on the bill, The Dream and Symphonic Variations. Marguerite and Armand is merely a vehicle. although it is currently said to be the most frequently performed of Ashton's ballets. The management has a number of options as far as casting a replacement Armand is concerned. They could ask if the Mariinsky could possibly spare Xander Parrish but if they were being really brave they would take a chance on someone young and exciting from within the ranks of the company such as Matthew Ball who has come on in leaps and bounds during this season. Clarke is unlikely as he is already cast in the Some's role in Symphonic Variations.

 

Both Clarke and Ball are cast with more senior dancers next season. Clarke is to dance Aminta to Cuthbertson's Sylvia  and is due to partner her SPF in Nutcracker while Ball is due to partner Choe at he beginning of the run of Nutcracker and Naghdi towards the end of the run. In addition there is considerable speculation about whether either Naghdi or Hayward will be making their debuts in Giselle in the new year.

 

I will finish by writing briefly about the run of Sleeping Beauties which ended in mid March with a performance by the husband and wife team of Bonelli and Kobayashi. Bonelli's prince was, as usual, wonderfully elegant and Kobayashi's account of Aurora has visibly matured and improved. As I had expected it provided an opportunity to see a few more debuts including, the somewhat unlikely casting in the act 3 pas de trois Florestan and his Sisters of Reece Clarke who is 6 ft 3 ins as Florestan. It is one of those apparently innocuously simple pieces of Ashton choreography which undo those who do not have a secure technique. It is generally something of a challenge for tall dancers but while it is generally better suited to dancers who are more compact it is a role in which many dancers struggle. As originally cast he was to dance with two tall dancers but due to illness or injury he ended up with a tall sister in Stix-Brunell and shorter one in O'Sullivan.It could have been less than special but it turned out to be very good and rather stylish.

 

 

Edited by Ashton Fan

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Thanks for your insightful posts throughout the season,  Ashton Fan! Did you have the opportunity to see the recent new works by Crystal Pite (Flight Pattern) and Liam Scarlett (Symphonic Dances)? If so, any thoughts?

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Natalia, The following post  is one which  I hope will answer your questions.

 

I  did see the Symphonic Dances mixed bill and I started a separate thread about it which has the unoriginal title "Symphonic Dances Mixed Bill 2016-17 season"..

 

I also saw the mixed bill which included the new Crystal Pite,called "Flight Patterns" which you asked about.It also included Dawson's "The Human Seasons" and Wheldon's "After the Rain". As far as this mixed bill is concerned it proved to be surprisingly controversial not because of the new work but the Dawson piece which was first seen at Covent Garden in 2013 when,while it was not universally liked, and was criticised by some of the professional critics for the way in which the women who danced it were handled it passed without too much adverse comment.David Dason has been pursuing a successful career as a choreographer in Germany. "The Human Seasons " is not the only ballet of his to be seen in London as ENB have staged "A Million Kisses to my Skin" and his "Faun" was shown as part of a recent Diaghilev inspired programme. Perhaps I am missing something but I have not found any of them to be the sort of ballet that I would travel any great distance to see.

 

The Human Seasons is one of those almost interchangeable abstract works which you feel you have seen somewhere before almost as soon as the curtains open and the dancers begin to move.It is the sort of ballet which seems to have been created and staged, to fill a gap in a mixed programme rather than because the choreographer has had an original idea.There is a certain amount of running around for no obvious reason; the relationship between the music and the dancer's movements is not always clear;the costume design and lighting has the effect of making the dancers disappear into the background and it is never entirely clear whether this is a deliberate effect or not and it contains a certain amount of choreography in which the  women in the cast seem to be treated as objects rather than people. The casts seen in this revival  were all new to the work. For some reason the professional critics seem to have taken more notice of it this time than they did when it was new or perhaps less of their criticism was edited.At this revival there were complaints about its lack of choreographic content and the way in which it seemed to involve a great deal of physical manipulation of the women including the men dragging them across the floor and swinging them around face down near the floor.

 

I found it a rather tedious piece which did not do anything to hold my interest. I never found out how it was  connected with the Keats poem which was reproduced in the programme. After the less than enthusiastic reviews from the professional critics everything got very heated. The stager took to twitter and suggested that the dancers involved had not been fully committed to performing the ballet. The choreographer announced on twitter " I have decided not to show my work any longer, in London, if I can help it." which he subsequently withdrew replacing it with a more emollient message about the pleasure he derived from working with the company. Presumably he thought about the damage he might be doing to himself if he ruled out possible future links with the company. At least one person who appears to have no known connections with ballet in the UK weighed in and wrote a scathing attack on the Royal Ballet comparing it unfavorably with the Royal Ballet of Flanders, accusing it of failing as a classical company and being out of touch with the latest choreographic developments. As far as I could see the dancers had done all that was humanly possible with the choreography, but the ballet failed to engage me intellectually or move me emotionally.

.

It seems to me that Wheeldon's "After the Rain" has been seen a bit too often for its own good. At this revival the first section did little for me it was well danced by the casts I saw which included Calvert in the first cast and Heap in the second cast.I think that for many in the audience it was the second part which had most impact. In the first cast this section was danced by Nunez and Soares in the second cast it was Yanowsky and Clarke who danced it.Nunez and Soares danced the choreography very beautifully but while we were given a series of beautiful images and poses it was all a bit too slick and devoid of any real feeling. The Yanowsky, Clarke pairing was totally different and entirely involving. I don't think that this was just because we knew that we would not see these two dancers together on many more evenings. It was  because of their artistry. Watching them dance together it is difficult to believe that Clarke is a relatively inexperienced

 junior dance. They danced exactly the same choreography as Soares and Nunez but somehow it seemed to have far greater emotional depths to it rather  than

simply being a carefully contrived, well constructed piece of choreography or a slick production number it seemed to have many layers of meaning to it. .

 

Then we had the final piece the first work which Cristal Pite has created for the company. Perhaps I should say that hers is not the first "refugee themed" ballet which has been staged in London during the last couple of seasons.

 

Hofesch Schechter created a dull worthy piece called "Untouchable" in which a large group of dancers are moved across the stage in one direction and just when you think it is all over they move back to where they began from and then they are moved back across the stage again for the last time. It is very exciting as the dancers shout something inaudible which I was assured was about Nigel Farage a local politician.This masterpiece which some of my friends have taken to calling "Unwatchable" and others "Unspeakable" is due to be revived next season.

 

Akram Khan has given London his modern reworking of"Giselle" in which the heroine is a migrant seamstress. Many claim to have been immensely moved by it but its emotional impact escapes me entirely.

 

Wayne McGregor has given us his entirely forgettable Multiverse . It begins with a pas de deux in which McRae and Kay rush jump and turn at great speed until the point of exhaustion.This second section includes a set ion which fragments of the Raft of the Medusa are projected and the corps de ballet seems to be in danger of being crushed. I have told you this so you will appreciate that the ballet audience which saw Flight Patterns has seen more than its fair share of refugee themed dance works.in the same way that since 2014 the opera audience has been plagued by First World War themed productions.

 

Pite's Flight Patterns was totally different from the earlier refugee themed dance works which we have already seen.It was entirely effective as a piece of dance theatre . The designs and the lighting were excellent and when sections of the stage were left in darkness you were not left thinking that it was either incompetence on the lighting designer's part or an attempt on the company's to cut its electricity bill.Kristen McNally led the cast and while there were other dancers who were given tiny sections when they stepped out of the corps only McNally and Sambe had choreography and movement which could be described as solos.It centres on the communal experience of being displaced and homeless. The dancers are a group who for the audience are virtually indistinguishable as they shuffle slowly across the stage, first in one direction, then in another in what seems to be an endless numberless line of refugees. McNally breaks out of the crowd she appears distraught and seems to be holding a child in her arms which turns out to be a coat. the other dancers fill her arms with their coats. Eventually a gap appears at the back of the stage it seems to be snowing there. The dancers slowly all pas through the gap leaving Sambe and McNally behind, Sambe moves and seems to hesitate about whether he should leave her.He begins to move away from her.It does not sound like much but it is a very compelling dance work. Pite and her designers seem to understand how to create compelling images which will resonate with an audience a gift which few others engaged in making dance works seem to share..

 

And now for something completely different.I  don't think that I need to say anything more about Mayerling except that the finest performances which I saw during this run were given by Bonelli and Morera. While companies rarely remain in a stable state for any length of time when a dancer like Yanowsky announces her retirement it brings home how short a dancer's career is and raises the question of how long it will be before Morera announces her departure. Neither dancer is the standard ballerina type and yet it is difficult to imagine what the company would have been like without them.

 

 

Edited by Ashton Fan

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10 hours ago, Ashton Fan said:

Akram Khan has given London his modern reworking of"Giselle" in which the heroine is a migrant seamstress. Many claim to have been immensely moved by it but its emotional impact escapes me entirely.

 

 

But not audiences nationwide,  standing ovations have been reported in all the provincial theatres the work played in before coming to London.  The next run at Sadlers Wells sold out months ago, the minute the tickets went on sale.

 

The UK classical choreographic scene leaves much to be desired with the best works being on the modern side, Khan is the finest choreographer in the country and his move into the classical milieu facilitated by Tamara Rojo is to be celebrated.  His Giselle is a masterpiece and hopefully will get a wider audience when the promised DVD is made.

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21 hours ago, Ashton Fan said:

The Human Seasons is one of those almost interchangeable abstract works which you feel you have seen somewhere before almost as soon as the curtains open and the dancers begin to move.It is the sort of ballet which seems to have been created and staged, to fill a gap in a mixed programme rather than because the choreographer has had an original idea.

...

At this revival there were complaints about its lack of choreographic content and the way in which it seemed to involve a great deal of physical manipulation of the women including the men dragging them across the floor and swinging them around face down near the floor.

...

After the less than enthusiastic reviews from the professional critics everything got very heated. The stager took to twitter and suggested that the dancers involved had not been fully committed to performing the ballet. .... As far as I could see the dancers had done all that was humanly possible with the choreography, but the ballet failed to engage me intellectually or move me emotionally.

...

Akram Khan has given London his modern reworking of"Giselle" in which the heroine is a migrant seamstress. Many claim to have been immensely moved by it but its emotional impact escapes me entirely.

...

Pite's Flight Patterns was totally different from the earlier refugee themed dance works which we have already seen.It was entirely effective as a piece of dance theatre ... Pite and her designers seem to understand how to create compelling images which will resonate with an audience a gift which few others engaged in making dance works seem to share..

 

 

Lots to think about here.  I've only seen a couple of Dawson's works live (Pacific Northwest Ballet does A Million Kisses and Empire Noir), but 'm familiar with the choreographic style you mention here (filling a specific need in a mixed bill).  I don't think that's always a recipe for mediocrity -- many resident choreographers (including Balanchine) have worked under those constraints and made some beautiful things.  He may have a different approach for narrative work (I watched a video coaching session of Swan Lake where he made very good use of a character arc) but his abstract ensemble work seems to have an ongoing, driving quality with big influences by Forsythe, especially in the partnering.  The women give as good as they get, but it is highly athletic and if someone was struggling with the mechanics, it might feel too harsh.  Watching it here in Seattle, and listening to the local response, I can say that the audience is very caught up in the physicality of it.

 

I'm very sorry to hear that there was a public controversy about the work and the company.  Social media being what it is, we hear a great deal more about the backstory of working life than we used to.  I'm not so sure this is a good thing all the time.

 

I'm hoping to see Khan's version of Giselle -- like Bourne's version of Swan Lake, I think that classics can be re-tooled in multiple ways, incorporating all kinds of elements that show us new things about the work, or about our own times as viewed through a different lens.  They are certainly not replacements for the original work, but can be a fascinating shadow. 

 

And Pite -- she's really having her time right now, and I'm glad to get the chance to see some of the work she's been making.  She herself was a very compelling performer, and she often makes astonishing solo parts, but give her a big group and she will give you something amazing.  It sounds like she's managed that here with Flight Patterns, and I'm very jealous of your look at it.  Thanks so much for the details!

 

 

11 hours ago, Mashinka said:

 

But not audiences nationwide,  standing ovations have been reported in all the provincial theatres the work played in before coming to London.  The next run at Sadlers Wells sold out months ago, the minute the tickets went on sale.

 

The UK classical choreographic scene leaves much to be desired with the best works being on the modern side, Khan is the finest choreographer in the country and his move into the classical milieu facilitated by Tamara Rojo is to be celebrated.  His Giselle is a masterpiece and hopefully will get a wider audience when the promised DVD is made.

 

A DVD -- I am so excited!  It's highly unlikely I'll see this work live, and I'm so curious about it.  Many thanks for the good news!

 

Edited by sandik
nitwittery

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I absolutely agree with Mashinka about the Khan Giselle.  I saw a preview performance, the official world premiere and one other performance - all in Manchester.  I was completely blown away by the performances I saw (and I was fortunate to see 3 casts).  All three performances I saw earned a standing ovation.

 

However, one friend walked out of a performance at the interval and another refuses to discuss the performance we saw together in case she upsets me!

 

The very brave Tamara Rojo is bringing this Giselle to Liverpool in the Autumn and I can't wait!!!  I say brave because the Liverpool audience is notoriously conservative and because Liverpool and Manchester are close together and most people do not go and see a production more than once in a short period of time.

 

I was unable to get to the recent ROH triple bills so can't comment on them but I think the company is looking on wonderful form at the moment.  Yanowsky is a very great artist who will be much missed but there is a heck of a lot of young talent coming through.

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