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Ashton Fan

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  1. Ashton Fan

    New Royal Ballet Swan Lake

    Here is an even more cogent question. If Von Rothbart is such a powerful magician and so clearly part of the royal household why does he have to go through the entire charade of conjuring up Odile and bringing her into the palace in order to seize power? Odile is a necessary character if Von Rothbart has to enter the palace in order to gain power over Siegfried and thwart Odile's hopes of freedom through Siegfried's love for her. But if he is part of the royal entourage he does not need Odile as a means to gain access and close proximity to Siegfried and his mother. He could simply cast a spell over the prince and his mother and have done with it. In a staging which is set in medieval ballet land such questions do not arise as the whole narrative sits quite comfortably with what we think we know of the nineteenth century European cultural obsession with chivalric myths and medieval poetry such as the Arthurian legends and our own recollections of the fairy stories and myths we heard as children. But the minute you employ MacMillan style "realism" by alluding consciously or unconsciously to his choreography or hint at realism by giving the ballet a period specific setting, they do. The libretto used by Petipa and Ivanov is neither logical nor consistent but its inconsistencies are those of legend and myth and in performance they seem to contain emotional truths. The minute you set about tidying up the story to make the narrative logical and consistent you create more problems than you solve. Ashton was not consistent in his views of what was permissible when staging one of the nineteenth century classics . In the late 1930's he seemed to be very much against altering their text in any way. By the 1960's he was more liberal in his view of what was permissible but he seems to have been adamant that while you did not have to treat the original text as if it was sacred you had to retain the work's poetic truth. Unfortunately I don't see much evidence of poetry or poetic truth in this staging except in the one act in which the original choreography survives unscathed. It will be interesting to see to what extent it is revised when it is revived.
  2. Ashton Fan

    New Royal Ballet Swan Lake

    Aurora, You don't appear to have heard of the purges and show trials which took place in the Soviet Union during the 1930's. They did not only affect the political elite they affected people engaged in the arts as well. It is said that Bulgakov only escaped being purged because Stalin admired him as a writer. In general if you failed to follow the party line you were quite likely to be purged. If you were lucky you only lost your job , if you were unlucky you lost your life. What was being suggested was that if people like Messerer and Dolinskaia who staged Swan Lake during the thirties had failed to provide the ballet with an upbeat happy ending in accordance with the party line they might well have found themselves in a great deal of trouble politically. Messerer would probably have been particularly careful to follow party diktats because members of his close family had been purged and executed. If you were purged and put on trial rather than simply being shot then you had to be charged with an offence of some sort and being an "Enemy of the People" or a "Japanese spy" were the sort of amorphous allegations you might face.
  3. Ashton Fan

    Promotions and new dancers 2018-2019

    ENB's Manon is a gamble but then so is Wheeldon's Cinderella. Staging Manon was part of Eagling's plan to extend the range of the company's repertory seen in London and the regions. The Board vetoed his plan to drop the Nureyev Romeo and Juliet and revive Ashton's version in its stead. As far as the Wheeldon Cinderella is concerned , like many other choreographers with Royal Ballet connections he seems to spend more time avoiding anything resembling Ashton's choreography for Cinderella than actually responding to the music. I should like to be proved wrong but I am far from convinced that it will sell that well but you can never tell how a family audience, perhaps with children who feel that they have outgrown Nutcracker, will respond to it. When it was first seen in London the audience was essentially the regular ballet audience rather than a family one. ENB's Manon presents its own problems one of which is the limited number of dancers in the company for whom MacMillan's style is at all familiar. Here I think that once the casting is announced it will be somewhat clearer whether or not it will sell in London.Miah Stensgaard's designs for the ballet don't help. They force ENB's dancers to work far harder to establish the time. place and mood of the ballet than the Royal's dancers need to do. It is not a simple question of familiarity with Georgiadis' design but of the relative effectiveness of the designs which the two companies use. The Georgiadis designs establish the essentially squalid and corrupt society in which the action of the work is set. The designs used by ENB are far less specific as to time place and mood and the costumes are more like light weight generic ballet costumes than anything else. The RB is staging several mixed bills over Christmas as well as its perennial Nutcracker. Les Patineurs , Winter Dreams and The Concert before Christmas and The Two Pigeons paired either with Scarlett's Asphodel Meadows or the new work he is making for students of the Royal Ballet School. it will be interesting to see which bill of fare tempts the London ballet most.
  4. Ashton Fan

    Promotions and new dancers 2018-2019

    I should be extremely grateful if someone could explain what a ballet "relevant" to modern audiences actually looks like. Does it simply mean appropriating the title of one of the handful of really well known nineteenth century ballets and then staging whatever you want or is there something more to it ? I will simply say that I saw Khan's Giselle and while others say that they found all sorts of emotional depths in the narrative and the choreography, it did nothing for me. Perhaps the problem is that I am not a true believer in his choreographic style or much of the work of the other choreographers whose works are said to be relevant and accessible to modern audiences.
  5. Ashton Fan

    Promotions and new dancers 2018-2019

    I have to say that while I regret Summerscale's departure from ENB I completely understand her decision. Her husband moved to Munich at the beginning of the current season and their first season there has provided both of them with the opportunity to perform a far wider range of repertory than they could have hoped to dance in four or more seasons at ENB. I can't help wondering whether Cirio's move to ENB is going to provide him with the opportunities he expects. He will certainly get plenty of opportunities to dance but whether or not there are opportunities to be involved in the creation of works which are "relevant" to modern audiences is quite another thing. Whatever Rojo may say about wanting to make ballet "relevant "to modern audiences the fact remains that ENB is very dependent on its nineteenth century repertory and more specifically its annual London performances of Nutcracker to maintain its solvency. Unless things have altered radically since Eagling's time as director the company's regional tours produce massive weekly losses which have to be compensated for by its London appearances. Although I believe that Khan's "Giselle" did good business on its regional tour, historically the company loses money when it travels the regions even when it performs works well known to the average regional balletgoer. This is why I find Cirio's move to ENB a bit odd. The company's repertory is constrained by the need to make money. Rojo may have ambitions to transform the company into a creative force to be reckoned with she may wish to make it less financially dependent on the performance of a handful of ballets which attract audiences but she can only do this if the new repertory sells the same volume of tickets. She will have no problems with the ENB board as long as her new repertory attracts audiences but the minute her programmes fail to do so she will have far less room to manoeuvre as far as repertory is concerned. Earlier in the year she attempted to expand the company's active repertory by programming two works well known to London ballet goers, a new production of La Sylphide, a ballet which the company last performed about thirty years ago during Schauffus' directorship, and a work new to the company, MacMillan's The Song of the Earth. I have no idea how well this programme generated ticket sales in the regions but it did not play to full houses in London. The company has just finished a run of London performances of Sleeping Beauty and again there were plenty of empty seats at most of the performances which I attended. I have no doubt that the RB's new Swan Lake and BRB's performances of Romeo and Juliet did not help ENB's ticket sales but the fact remains that the company is unlikely to have met its target ticket sales for this run of MacMillan's production of Beauty and that is likely to have an impact on Rojo's ability to make ambitious plans for the company's future repertory .
  6. Ashton Fan

    New Royal Ballet Swan Lake

    I have to say that I find the praise for the new Swan Lake incomprehensible and assume that it is a combination of relief that we no longer have to look at the Sonnabend design; relief that the production is no worse then it has proved to be; indifference to the text being danced as long as there is lots and lots of pointe work and an obsession with novelty for its own sake. By the way both Zurich and La Scala have the Ratmansky reconstruction of Swan Lake in their repertory so ABT is not the only company to have a production using the original ending.
  7. Ashton Fan

    New Royal Ballet Swan Lake

    In an ideal world Kevin would exercise far more control over the new works and new productions staged by the Royal Ballet. He would have told Scarlett to stick more or less to the original text and at most allowed Scarlett to create his own act 1 waltz although with the current state of the company he should have thought very seriously about reinstating the Ashton pas de douze and he would have promised us that the company would stage the original choreography and the Ashton version of the fourth act at alternate revivals. I would happily settle for either version of the fourth act rather than the mess which Scarlett has created in their place. The choreography is little better than a series of attempts to allude to Ivanov's choreography for act two and some of his own bright ideas which include the feeble ending to the music for the Apotheosis which is almost as bad as Peter Wright's ending.
  8. Ashton Fan

    "Harlequinade" 2018.

    We all go to the ballet with different expectations whether or not what we see in performance satisfies us depends on how closely the text and its performance provide what we hope to see. I know plenty of people who really only equate classical ballet with dancers doing pointe work and technical tours de force performed by dancers of both genders, They would happily sacrifice the entire hunting scene in Beauty because to them it is not "real" dancing. It sound as if some audience members were dissatisfied with the reconstruction because they were expecting a grand imperial style ballet and choreography rather than the smaller scale almost domestic nature of what they saw in Harlequinade. Some people find it difficult to come to terms with a work which provides small scale pleasures and effective mime passages rather than the big technical set pieces which is what audiences have come to expect from all the " after Petipa productions" with new improved choreography which most companies stage in his name. Even a far from authentic production of a ballet like Cavalry Halt can come as a bit of a culture shock because the amount of mime and character work is much higher than we have become accustomed to seeing and there is only a very limited amount of technical display. What is fascinating in that work is to see the sort of material which appears to have a strong familial relationship with material in Lichine's Graduation Ball. From what I have read here and elsewhere I can't help wondering what part, if any, familiarity with this ballet played in the creation and staging of Fokine's Carnaval? Who knows perhaps some passages in Massine's Pulcinella owe something to Harlequinade as well.
  9. Ashton Fan

    ENB Sleeping Beauty Summer 2018

    It has been announced that Julio Bocca is to work with the company on this revival as guest repetiteur. My general impression is that the current team tends to favour technique at the expense of the other elements which contribute to the successful revival of a nineteenth century classical ballet. The company's recent Le Corsaire seemed to be treated by many of the dancers appearing in it more as an opportunity to give a display of their technical skills than anything else . I do hope that this does not prove to be the case with this revival.
  10. Ashton Fan

    The Lilac Fairy

    I have always understood that the controversy about whether or not Marie Petipa was given a solo to dance in the Prologue of the Sleeping Beauty, and whether she was much of a dancer at all, has more to do with the dancers' strike of 1905 and the part she is said to have played in it than anything else. The official view of her written by those who stayed in Russia and experienced both the abortive revolution of 1905 and then went on to live and work through the 1917 revolutions portrays her as the villainess of the dancer's strike and the person who was responsible for Sergei Legat cutting his throat. The official version of the events of 1905 is that Sergei Legat who in these accounts is portrayed as the more talented of the two Legat brothers both as a dancer and artist and a man fully committed to improving conditions for the company and society at large was pressurised by Marie Petipa not to participate in the dancers' protests about their working conditions and that she almost certainly did this at the instigation of the theatre directorate. We are then I think required to understand that by putting pressure on Sergei Legat not to participate in the strike she precipitated his suicide a few days later. From there it is but a short step to turn Marie Petipa into an untalented performer and a barely competent dancer. I seem to recall that Fyodor Lopukhov was quite happy to state that Marie Petipa could not dance. In the twentieth century pantheon of Russian ballet villains she seems to have been perceived as only marginally less villainous than the arch villain Nicolai Sergeyev and this still affects her reputation as a an artist. Any question along the lines of " If she was that poor a dancer how did she come to occupy the position she held in the company and to perform the roles she was given?" would probably be given the answer that it is obviously that case that family connections account for it. After all her father was running the company for which she danced. But that is only a satisfactory answer if you are willing to accept the official account and don't see the obvious flaws in it which begin with why would Petpa have entrusted prominent roles in major new works to an incompetent dancer? I am sure that some interesting material about Petipa and his ballets will be published this year but somehow I don't think that the students of the history of the Sleeping Beauty are about to rehabilitate Marie Petipa as a major Mariinsky performer but it will be interesting to see what, if anything, has altered in the official version of the history of Sleeping Beauty.
  11. Ashton Fan

    Royal Ballet Summer Season Swan Lake Casting !!

    JMcN Thank you for your comments about Bracewell. I have no doubt that he is an exceptional Romeo and I hope to see him in the role when the ballet is next revived at Covent Garden. There is a marked difference between MacMillan's dramballets and the nineteenth century classics however far "after Petipa" a production of Lac may be. MacMillan's dramatic three act ballets do not expose the dancer's basic classical technique as cruelly and unrelentingly as choreography by Petipa. Ashton and Balanchine does. Romeo is in many ways more a test of the dancer's stamina than his classical technique. While I like a Romeo who can actually dance the role well it has not been unknown for a dancer whose technique has become a bit iffy to cover technical defects, sloppy landings and other misdemeanours by acting and emoting. I can think of one senior dancer at the RB who has been doing this for some years. I hasten to say that I don't think that Bracewell falls into the category of dancers who emote and sprawl their way through a role like Romeo, far from it, everything I have seen him do so far has been very good. He seems to capture the essence of the style of a role and add a little extra to it. He is clearly a gifted and versatile dancer. On Thursday night he was an exceptionally elegant and involved Siegfried giving every choreographed gesture and movement its due weight and real meaning. On Friday night he was leading the Mazurka the section which I think many experience as the low point of act 3 but he lifted it in the way that I recall Alexander Grant and Monica Mason did with the Czardas dancing with real verve ,energy and style.
  12. Ashton Fan

    Royal Ballet Summer Season Swan Lake Casting !!

    Swan Lake cast changes at Bow Street. It has been known for some time that Willian Bracewell will replace McRae at all performances. McRae has been out through injury for much of the season.I saw what is now the Bracewell, Takada cast last night. Bracewell was pretty impressive at what was only his second performance as Siegfried. On last night's showing he has good technique, is a secure unobtrusive partner and does not waste a minute of his time on stage. He actively responds to what he is being told in the mime passages and even makes what can seem merely to be "arm and hand gestures I have been taught" into gestures which have meaning in the context of the narrative. I have seen him in smaller roles but not in anything so long,exposed and demanding in terms of stamina and technique . I fear yet another name to add to the list of dancers whose performances have to be booked, if at all possible. The new information concerns Cuthbertson who is also now out through injury. She was replaced by Takada at what should have been her first performance in the run. It is now clear that she is out for the entire run of Swan Lake at Covent Garden. She is replaced on Saturday 2nd and Friday 8th June by Lamb. She is replaced by Naghdi on the evening of Monday 18th June.
  13. Ashton Fan

    Royal Ballet Summer Season Swan Lake Casting !!

    #mnacenani, I seem to recall that while the prince claims to be bored by pretty much everything that might excite others in his aria sung at the party which he hosts he proclaims on several occasions "chaque un a son gout" which suggests that he accepts that each one has their own tastes and their own interests. In the current context his assertion suggests that he would accept wholeheartedly that we are none of us equally interested in the same aspects of ballet, its style, its choreographers, an individual company's repertory or held in thrall by the same dancers. It is that lack of agreement which can make discussions on a site like this so interesting. I don't know what knowledge you have of the various versions of Swan Lake staged by the Royal Ballet and its predecessor companies over the years but to put it mildly their designs have all had exceptionally long shelf lives even in those cases where the ballet's text has been adjusted or radically revised over time. This, I think, explains the interest being shown in the glimpses of the new production we have been given. Anything and everything that suggests that the new production retains a reasonably recognisable text including the traditional mime and stages the pas d'action as sections involving interaction between the main characters and has not acquired a jester is likely to be welcomed by most of those who have tickets for the initial run of performances, On Thursday we shall know whether or not we have a production that we can live with. Staging an entirely new production of one of the nineteenth century classics involves a massive investment of time and money. Even if the production needs substantial adjustment and there is ample choreographic patching material to hand in the Royal's archive we shall be seeing the designs for years to come. As I haven't seen the designs in use on the Covent Garden stage lit as intended I don't feel able to comment on the mood or style conveyed by the designs except to say that they do not look particularly dark or grim to me. I am intrigued by the words "German Goth" I don't pretend to understand what CharlieH means when he uses them. Does he mean Gothic, Gothick or something completely different?
  14. Ashton Fan

    Royal Ballet Summer Season Swan Lake Casting !!

    The insight event is well worth watching and it is difficult to resist Liam Scarlett's obvious enthusiasm for Swan Lake as a ballet and the task he has been given to stage the company's new production of it. Whether or not he has succeeded will be a whole lot clearer next Thursday. Scarlett says that he has created new choreography for sections of the first act but makes no mention of the pas de trois in that context; that he has retained the Ivanov choreography of the second act; that he has provided new choreography for the divertissements in the third act but has retained the Ashton Neapolitan Dance which he enjoyed dancing and thinks is a perfect combination of steps and music and that he has restored the original Tchaikovsky score to the fourth act. It is a section of his choreography for the fourth act which is shown being coached on the recording. Anyone who has difficulty accessing the insight event using the link provided above may find that going to the opera house's website clicking on the section headed "what's on" finding the section devoted to performance dates and casts for the new production and scrolling down to the end where the insight event is mentioned and film of the event has been posted gives easier access. I could make that one work whereas when I used the link posted above the site was more than a little reluctant to respond and give me access to the recording.
  15. Ashton Fan

    Royal Ballet Summer Season Swan Lake Casting !!

    The choreography of the pas de trois provides a fine classical dancer, whether he is established or on his way up, with the opportunity to show what he can do and his performance can on occasion provide the highlight of the evening as far as the male dancing is concerned. In the days when the Royal Ballet definitely had first, second, third and fourth casts and you could say with absolute certainty who would be dancing the secondary roles in a ballet purely on the basis of who was dancing the leads Michael Coleman invariably appeared in the first cast's pas de trois for years. In those days when the audience barely needed the information because the company had a fixed system of casting the company told you who would be dancing in all the secondary roles. Today when the casting is far more fluid we are told nothing about the casting of the secondary roles until we arrive at the theatre and pick up the cast sheets. Of course it gives the management greater flexibility and enables it to cast dancers who suddenly show that they are ready for bigger and more challenging roles at the point when it will do them most good as far as their development is concerned rather than leaving them waiting for months for the chance to take the next step in their careers but it can be frustrating as far as the audience is concerned. I have known people torn between two casts in the past make their decision on which cast to see on the basis of who was dancing in the pas de trois or Neapolitan dance in the case of Swan Lake, who was dancing Myrthe in Giselle and who was dancing the Bluebird, Florine and Lilac Fairy in the case of Sleeping Beauty. I imagine that the cast on the first night will be particularly impressive and that the same cast or one which is comparable will appear in the streamed performance. If the last revival of Sleeping Beauty is anything to go by we are likely to see interesting casting in the secondary roles in this ballet until the end of the run. I can't help wondering what part, if any, Scarlett may play in the casting of the lesser roles in his production. Among the junior ranks of the company, by which I mean those below the rank of Soloist, the men to watch out for who will probably be given something interesting to do at some point during the run are dancers like Sissens, Yudes, Serrano, Dixon, Braendsrod, Richardson and Donnelly among the women Chisato, Gasparini and Stock seem most likely to be given their chances. There is an Insight Evening tomorrow at which we should find out quite a bit more about what the production is likely to look like and if it follows the usual format we will see one the casts being coached .