Ashton Fan

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  1. 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.
  2. The casting I expect to see this evening is the one which danced on Friday evening they are as follows :- The Dream Titania Akane Takada replacing Lamb who is injured. She made her debut in the role on 2nd June. . Oberon Steven McRae Puck Valentino Zucchetti Bottom Benet Gartside Helena Itziar Mendizabal Demetrius Thomas Mock Hermia Claire Calvert Lysander Matthew Ball Peaseblossom Gemma Pitchley-Gale Cobweb Emma Maguire Moth Elizabeth Harrod Mutardseed Romany Pajdak Symphonic Variations Marianela Nunez Vadim Muntagirov Yuhui Choe James Hay Yasmine Naghdi Tristan Dyer Marguerite and Armand Marguerite Zenaida Yanowsky Armand Roberto Bolle His Father Christopher Saunders A Duke Gary Avis Admirers of Marguerite Matthew Ball, Reece Clarke, David Donnelly, Nicol Edmonds, Kevin Emerton, Thomas Mock, Fernando Montano, Erico Montes I would not usually bother with the list of admirers as they merely decorate the stage but I think that the list is of interest in much the same way that the cast for the pas de six in the streamed performance of Giselle was of interest in that it represented a snapshot in time of dancers some of whom have advanced to the top of the company and others who may well do so. In this list the dancers to look out for are Ball who actually dances a few steps in this work and Reece Clarke who is the tallest of the group and who is dancing the male lead in the second cast of Symphonic with Cuthbertson. There are quite a few people who have expressed regret that Clarke is not dancing Armand in place of Bolle but presumably that would have caused all sorts of problems as far as ensuring that Symphonic did not become a training opportunity in the way it did when it was last revived. The general feeling is that Naghdi, Ball and Clarke will all move up a rank when the promotions are announced at the end of the season.
  3. I assume that this mixed bill was intended to show the range of work and styles which ballet is capable of encompassing, The inclusion of Wheeldon's Strapless revealed what it can't do and certainly showed the difficulties which choreographers face when they choose a story which is unsuitable for ballet or one for which the choreography's vocabulary and style is unsuited. The programme opened with Forsythe's "Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude" which the company danced for a couple of seasons at the turn of the century but then disappeared from its repertory. It was danced with extraordinary speed and energy by the first cast of Nunez, Muntagirov, Takada, Stix-Brunell and McRae but even here Muntagirov managed to display the effortless elegance and beauty of movement for which he is admired by the London audience.The first cast was exhilarating the second cast, Mendizabal, Sambe, Hayward Stix-Brunell and Hay, was a bit more relaxed about the whole thing and brought out the wit in the choreography which was not really obvious in the more driven burn the stage account given by the first cast. Mendizabal is never going to be Nunez but she gave a fine account of the choreography. Sambe gave a bouncy account of the lead male role while Hay gave an ultra elegant and effortless account of the choreography which McRae had danced. Hayward and Stix-Brunell who had the benefit of working together from the beginning of the rehearsal process rather than being a last minute pairing due to injury danced as if they were a single performer.Both casts were well worth seeing. Tarantella, new to the company, followed before the interval. Here we were given three casts and the order in which they danced had more to so with what else they were dancing and learning than the quality of their performances. The first cast of Sambe, a ball of energy, and Hayward full of effortless technical skill, character, charm and wit brought the house down on the first night.The second cast was a bit of a disappointment largely because Hinkis held back preferring to give a safety first account of her choreography rather than a the sort of performance it demands.Perhaps Hinkis' overly careful approach to the piece had a dampening effect on Campbell and his account of the choreography.He danced as if he wanted everyone to forget that physically he is too stocky to be danseur material and the result was that while it was accurate it was anaemic,dull and characterless. How much his performance was influenced by his partner's rather subdued overcareful account of her role and how much it reflected a desire on his part to distance himself from the character nature of the role is difficult to say. The third cast of Naghdi and Zucchetti was the most intriguing as Naghdi has said of herself that she is by nature an allegro dancer. This cast sailed through the choreography with consummate ease their account was witty, fun and more musically astute than the first cast had been, Sambe is not as musically perceptive as Hayward is. The third cast had wonderful stage presence and made the whole thing look like a tongue in cheek homage to Bournonville and not simply a piece created on dancers with abundant stage presence,personality and technical skill.. Unfortunately Tarantella sent the audience out on a high and raised expectations which Strapless was never going to be able to fulfill. The audience left the auditorium feeling that all is well with the company and its repertory only to return to it to watch a ballet which should have been given a decent burial after its initial run. In fact there are some who would argue that it really should not have got as far as the main stage in 2016 when it was premiered. It appears to be a co-production with the Bolshoi and was clearly intended as a vehicle for Osipova. I can't imagine what possessed Wheeldon to think that the story of the creation of Sargent's portrait of Madame X and the scandal it caused would be a suitable subject for a ballet. Perhaps it was the exhibition of Sargent portraits at the National Portrait Gallery or the book about the portrait's creation but a choreographer of Wheeldon's experience should have been able to see that it presented insurmountable problems for anyone who wanted to turn it into a ballet. How do you create a ballet about an enthusiastic social climber who wants her portrait painted by an eminent portraitist and who suffers social ostracism because in its original form the portrait suggested that she was a woman of loose morals ? It is not just a case of the past being a foreign country where things are done differently somehow the choreographer has to make the audience interested in that foreign country and his social climbing "heroine" and her fate at the hands of a society which required everyone to maintain a veneer of respectability by conducting affairs discretely. How do you persuade an audience to be interested and involved in such a story? The ballet was strongly cast throughout but neither the cast led by Osipova nor that led by Cuthbertson managed to breathe life into this balletic corpse although they did everything that was humanly possible to do so. I saw both casts and to my mind Cuthbertson managed to make a bit more of it than Osipova had done. Even in its shortened form the ballet felt far longer than the forty minutes which the cast sheet suggested it would take to perform. By the time we got to the cafe scene which is full of local Parisian colour with its dancing waiters and its demure can can dancers my mind had begun to wander. I began to wonder what de Valois' Bar aux Folies Bergere had been like and I came to the conclusion on the basis of what I had read about it that I would far rather be watching "Bar" than the ballet which I was watching. At later performances I stayed outside and talked to people who were doing the same thing. The final piece on the bill was Liam Scarlett's new ballet Symphonic Dances made for a leading female dancer and a mixed cops de ballet.I think that some people, not knowing the music, may have expected a gentle valedictory piece because it was created on Yanowsky who is about to retire from the company. It's not what we got. What we got was a substantial slice of interesting choreography which made no technical concessions to anyone appearing in it. Not only did it underline the important part that both Yanowsky and Morera play in the artistic life of the company it shone a spotlight on the dance talent in the junior ranks. I managed to get a ticket for the Insight evening held the day after the ballet's premiere at which Scarlett was interviewed by Mason. He did not throw any light on the ballet itself but he did explain the prominence he had given to the men in the corps. He said that he had wanted to give the male members of the corps some challenging choreography because of the great technical strength of the company's current male dancers. The ballet is opened by the leading female dancer, Yanowsky on the opening night, Morera a few nights later, who then leaves the stage. Later she returns and one of the men dances with her. Yanowsky danced with James Hay while Morera danced with Giacomo Roverro, one of the company's apprentices. The man's dance is one that suggests that the lead woman is an object of adoration , with Hay and Yanowsky, the height difference almost suggests a mother and child relationship. With the Morera, Roverro pairing the height difference is lacking and so a mother and child relationship did not immediately spring to mind. The result is that the choreography looks markedly different with the two casts but it does not reduce its effectiveness. The middle section brings the male corps to the fore they dance together for some time before the female lead joins them. She dances with the corps as part of it and at some points they lift and present her to the audience. In the third section she dances with one of the men in a conventional pas de deux. Yanowsky's partner was Reece Clarke while Morera was partnered by Matthew Ball.I don't think that the final pas de deux was intended to say something about the place of the female dancer. I think that everyone in the audience would have felt cheated if they had not had the opportunity to see Yanowsky dance with Clarke for the last time or to see Ball dance with Morera as both men are such promising dancers. At the very end of the ballet the lead woman flings herself to the floor and the screen which has been part of the decor descends and obliterates the audiences final view of her. Is the ballet about anything? Scarlett said that the ballet meant whatever we chose to see in it. It is true that there are a few minor sections where Scarlett's imagination seems to flag but those sections seemed to be less obvious as the run progressed, presumably the result of the dancers settling into their choreography. The casting of the ballet meant that both lead dancers had their own male corps dancing with her The female corps were not cast in the same way, some of the female dancers appeared in both casts.The response to this ballet suggests that it will be revived.It will be interesting to see it with new casts. Only time will tell whether it lasts for a few seasons or whether it has real staying power. According to Scarlett his mother's response to his new work was that it was "one of his better efforts". Juxtaposing these two works in a single mixed bill made me wonder about what we can look forward to in the future from Wheeldon who is in his mid forties and Scarlett who has been making ballets for twenty years but is still only thirty or thirty one. It brought home to me that while Wheeldon has made a couple of full length works for the Royal Ballet which have been successful his dance vocabulary appears limited and he is not that able to create characters who describe their unique qualities and express their emotions through a subtle combination of natural body movement and dance in the way that Ashton, Tudor, Cranko, MacMillan and even de Valois could. It is as if he is blind to the possibilities which expressionist dance presents. His creation of Leontes seems so dependent on Ed Watson that I doubt that he would have thought of Leontes' movements and body language without him. I find that these "Watsonisms" are even more effective on other dancers than they are on Watson himself. Scarlett seems to have access to a wider dance vocabulary than Wheeldon and whatever you think of Frankenstein his pas de deux seem to arise more naturally from the narrative than Wheeldon's do. Wheeldon's pas de deux occur because there should be one at this point in the ballet not because they are required by the action or the character's emotional state at that point in the narrative. While they may be interesting from a purely technical point of view they seem devoid of any emotion, be it burning passion or good old fashioned lust. This apparent inability to express a range of emotional states through dance does not matter in the reconciliation pas de deux in Winter's Tale where a certain reticence and reserve may be appropriate at that point in the narrative nor in Alice which is more entertainment than ballet but it is a weakness in other works. I can't help wondering what the future holds for these two choreographers and for the audiences at the Royal Opera House. I have a feeling that people are beginning to think that Scarlett might just be the next really interesting choreographer rather than simply a useful company choreographer. The interview he gave was extremely interesting.. He appears to be very conscious of the company's creative and choreographic heritage without being overwhelmed by it or feeling that everything has to be overturned. When he was asked about the new Swan Lake he said that he was conscious of the responsibility involved in staging it and that he was still doing his research and reading. There is a rumour which may be totally unfounded that there may be more Ashton choreography in it than just the Neapolitan Dance.
  4. As was said in the section about streamed performances Jewels may not be the greatest of Balanchine's works but it is a piece which enables a company to display the range of talent within its ranks and I would add that even if it is Balanchine not on absolutely top form it is considerably better then most other choreographers manage at their best. As I have already said the Royal Ballet used to dance Balanchine with a distinct foreign accent,they no longer do so, but they are no longer a company which can be guaranteed to dance Ashton as stylishly as they once did. It may not be clear from what I have told you about the Royal Ballet this season but the company is going through a period of transition which is more obvious than that occasioned by the departure of Rojo, Cojocaru, Galeazzi and Benjamin.Then it was clear who the dancers leading the company would be as they were, for the main part, already in post as principal dancers. At this point it feels that a generational change is taking place as all the remaining experienced female principals are in their thirties Cuthbertson the youngest is about thirty two and Morera the oldest is in her very late thirties while the two recent appointees are in their twenties and it is likely that any dancers newly appointed to the rank of principal will be no older than their mid twenties. With Yanowsky's imminent retirement, Soares, who has never been that stylish, obviously struggling in exposed roles and questions about how long Watson will continue dancing some people are beginning to treat casting announcements like auguries indicating who the likely candidates for promotion and principal status are as they not only tell us who we are going too see in performance but indicate who among the junior ranks have caught the eye of management and stagers. With the late Gailene Stock at the school and the company's repertory given considerable coherence by Mason some of which has survived O'Hare's somewhat uncritical pursuit of new repertory we seem to be entering one of the Royal Ballet's better periods. We had a good mixture of experience and promising talent on show during the performances of Jewels with the company fielding three casts for Emeralds, Rubies and Diamonds with only two dancers in the main roles appearing in more than one cast. In both cases the doubling up probably reflects management's need to give a dancer like Hristov some leading roles and to feed McRae's ambitions rather than a lack of talent or the youth and comparative inexperience of much of the of the company. Everywhere you look there is real talent and potential. It seems unfair to describe the casts as first, second and third cast as it suggests that there were marked qualitative differences between the performance of each when in fact it was one of those occasions on which the placing of a particular cast in sequence had little or nothing to do with the dancers' abilities or the quality of their performances. If anyone who saw all three casts had a favourite their selection was almost certainly based on the fact that one of the casts included dancers in whom they are particularly interested rather than any great difference between their performances. The casts were as follows;- 1) Emeralds with Nagdhi Ball,Mendizabal and Edmonds with Acri,Gasparini and Hinkis in the pas de trois;Rubies with Heap, Takada and Campbell; Diamonds with Cuthbertson and Muntagirov. 2) Emeralds with Stix-Brunell, Hristov,Morera and Hirano with Hay, Maguire and Crawford in the pas de trois; Rubies with Hamilton, Lamb and MCrae; Diamonds with Nunez and Soares which was the streamed cast. 3) Emeralds with Choe,Hristov, Hayward and Zuchetti with Richardson,O'Sullivan and Stock in the pas de trois;Rubies with Storm-Jensen, Magri and Sambe; Diamonds with Ccuthbertsom and Muntagirov. Salenko and McRae. also danced Diamonds during the run. All the casts in Emeralds brought something special to their performances and each managed to capture the elusive mood of the piece as well as to make it their own. It is a ballet which with the wrong cast I have found you watch out of a sense of duty and ask yourself whether in reality it is one of those pieces which died with the departure of the original cast as it can seem so dull. In these performances it became a fascinating work to be watched with real pleasure because of the theatrical life which the casts breathed into it. Much as I admired the cast of Emeralds which was streamed because it included Morera, Stix-Brunell and Hay who is one of the most interesting and elegant of the company's make dancers I found the cast which included Naghdi and Ball was the most interesting as it showed so much promise. Naghdi has shown extraordinary assurance and maturity in every performance she has given this season and these performances were no exception.This run gave Matthew Ball the opportunity to reveal his increasing elegance as a dancer and partner while Mendizabal gave one of her best performances so far with the company. Gasparini and Stock seemed completely at home in the pas de trois while Acri who was slightly less assured improved markedly during the run. The cast which included Choe and Hayward was also well worth seeing as its pas de trois was danced by Richardson who shows great promise and O'Sullivan who has made her mark in each classically based role in which she has appeared this season. At the first performance of the run Rubies was danced by Heap,Takada and Campbell. They were all good Heap brings real vigour and dynamism to the her role while Takada surprised me by the stylish individuality and character which she brought to her performance. Hamilton's performance in the evening suggested that she was treating the role as the Balanchine equivalent of Ashton's "Popular Song" which should be performed as if those involved in it are terminally bored by their routine and each other and are merely going through the motions of giving a performance The evening cast was the one who were seen in the cinema and while Hamilton seemed very assured in her performance, presumably the result of the time she has spent in Dresden, she seemed rather under-powered when compared with Yanowsky who used to dance the role, and Heap and Storm-Jensen who danced it during this revival.The youngest cast of Storm-Jensen, Sambe and Magri certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves at the performances they gave and they were the cast who consistently brought out the choreography's close relationship to show numbers. Depending on the performance you attended Diamonds was danced by Cuthbertson and Muntagirov, alternating with Nunez and Soares during the early part of the run and in the latter part of it by Salenco and McRae. Cuthbertson does not have the crystalline quality which Nunez brings to the Farrell role. Her approach is softer and slightly more lyrical she had the best of the three partners on offer in the supremely elegant Muntagirov who makes every gesture however simple look as if it his natural expression rather than something he has worked on in the rehearsal room. At the moment if you get Nunez in a ballet which is concerned with technical display then the chances are you will be stuck with Soares as her partner. I can understand why Nunez favours him as a partner as he is thoroughly dependable but I can only say that if you thought the performance which you saw him give in the cinema was laboured it was much better than any of those he gave earlier on in the run. Then he hardly seemed to be in control of what he was required to dance.. When he was promoted to principal dancer he said that he had been told that he had to polish up his technique but I don't think that he ever really did so. It seems to me that for some years he has been delivering edited highlights of roles like Lescaut and to some extent Rudolf while making up for his technical deficiencies by emoting. I think that he is about thirty six but his dancing is nowhere near as good as Bonelli's who is a few years older than him. The final cast of Diamonds was led by Salenko and McRae whose account of the choreography was very clean and accurate but for me lacked the effortless elegance which Muntagirov brings to his dancing and partnering. Somehow I can never stop being aware of the effort which McRae puts into his performances particularly the effort involved in transforming himself and his body from that of a demi- character dancer into a danseur. His dancing and his partnering are admirable but they are not effortlessly elegant in the way that Muntagirov's and Hay's are. Salenko clearly had good training but, and perhaps this is because she is a guest, she never seems to display much individuality in her performances which tend to be accurate but not compelling.With the number of smaller dancers in the company's ranks her regular presence as a guest becomes increasingly inexplicable.
  5. Helene, It is very interesting to read your views on the streamed performance. I should certainly like to read more of your thoughts on the quality of the performances which were on show. At one time the Royal Ballet used to dance Balanchine with a strong local accent. It does not do so to the same extent now but then it does not dance its Ashton repertory as idiomatically as it once did. I think that generally this run of Jewels has proved to be the most successful that the company has mounted and in large part that is because it now has the dancers to do Emeralds justice.All the ballets were multi cast and it was able to muster three casts for Emeralds each of whom caught the elusive quality of the ballet. I am not sure that we would all have agreed that the cast for Rubies which appeared in the streamed performance was the best of the run but then I think that when it comes to streamed performances management feels that it is under an obligation to show the company's senior and best known dancers as for many people living outside London this is the only opportunity that the audience has of seeing dancers of whom they have heard.Lamb can be a very cold remote dancer and she did not really thaw out with McRae. I think that a lot of people were disappointed that Osipova was not paired with McRae for this revival.Although it may not have been quite what Mr B. intended, what they did with the Rubies pas de deux when they appeared in it had to be seen to be believed.
  6. The following may be of interest to those who are unable to access the Royal Ballet's streamed performances but would like to see something of the company's work.Giselle danced by Nunez and Muntagirov, streamed in 2016, was issued on DVD in March 2017. In response to enquiries made by company fans it has been announced that the following steamed performances will be issued on DVD as follows;- 1) Anastasia with Osipova in September 2017 2) Sleeping Beauty with Nunez and Muntagirov in April 2018 3) Nutcracker with Cuthbertson, Bonelli, Hayward and Campbell at Christmas 2018
  7. I don't believe that the ROH accepts returns by phone. The website says that original tickets have to be returned before they will be put up for resale. There was a time when the opera house did not insist on having the original ticket handed back to the box office and the result was that there were occasions on which there was more than one person claiming the right to occupy a seat each of whom was in possession of a ticket for the seat in question because not only had the original purchaser asked the box office to resell the ticket but they had also sold the ticket on to some innocent purchaser. I think that the current system was devised to prevent this.and to avoid the embarrassment involved in holding an inquest into who is in possession of the valid ticket and thus entitled to be present at the performance.
  8. The 10th June is an evening when Osipova is due to dance in Marguerite and Armand. Polunin has " decided to withdraw" from the performances he was due to dance so there is a reasonable chance that some tickets will be returned for resale. The news that Polunin has withdrawn is very recent so you are unlikely to see a great deal of activity on the website for a few days at least as you have to return the actual tickets to the box office. Of course the possibility is that the casting for Marguerite and Armand was not what persuaded patrons to buy tickets. My advice is just keep watching the website and bear in mind all three casts announced for the Dream are well worth seeing.Although it has also been announced that Lamb has withdrawn from Mayerling on the 11 th May due to injury. There is a possibility that the casting for the Dream could turn out to be a game of musical chairs...
  9. 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.
  10. It would seem that Hamilton is now back with the RB as her contract with Dresden was short term rather than permanent.It will be interesting to see what Hamilton is given to dance in the first part of the season as the ballet repertory for first booking period consists of Alice,Sylvia,Nutcracker, a mixed bill including a new piece by Twyla Tharp and a sort of national MacMillanfest involving other companies as well as the RB performing a range of his choreography. We should know in a few weeks what the casting looks like. I think that she is likely to be cast in the tall girl role in Elite Syncopations, given something in the mixed bill, possibly the Queen of Hearts and one of the goddesses who appear in the last act of Sylvia. Hamilton is a fascinating dancer in the right role but in the past there have been occasions when the fact that she was a latecomer to classical ballet training has been all too obvious.In a role like the Queen of the Dryads her performance would be a mixture of movements of creamy beauty and control and within a few bars of music she would be struggling for technical mastery of the trickier elements of the choreography. As she appears to be a woman of steely determination I imagine that she will have used her time in Dresden to work on developing her technique and stagecraft but unless her technique has improved a great deal I don't think that she will be cast as Sylvia. . I know that RB performances can hardly be described as accessible in North America but if any of you do get an opportunity to see the RB performance of Jewels it will be interesting to hear what you think of it. While the cast involved in the streamed performance were the first cast to dance it during the course of the run the quality of the later casts was so high that it seems unfair to describe them as second and third casts with all that seems to imply about the quality of their performances. Tierney Heap appeared in the same role as Hamilton in the second cast and to my mind she brought considerably more to it.
  11. As someone pointed out to me during the lengthy run of Sleeping Beauty the company has been short of two male Principal dancers during the entire season and yet I don't think that anyone has really noticed their absence as far as the quality of the company's performances is concerned. What the audience probably has noticed is that a number of obviously talented young men have been given their first opportunities to dance the princely roles in Nutcracker and Beauty.and some have had the opportunity to dance in Jewels as well. It will be interesting to discover whether these opportunities were part of a development plan for them or whether their appearances in these roles was simply a pragmatic response to the absence of the more senior dancers. Perhaps we shall find out when the casting for the first booking period is announced. While I don't like making predictions I would not be at all surprised to find Hayward cast in the performance of Alice which is due to be streamed next season. She made a very successful debut in the role when it was last programmed and both Cuthbertson and Lamb have already been seen in streamed performances. Perhaps Bracewell will be given a shot at dancing Jack and the Sugar Plum Fairy's cavalier. I think that we will almost certainly have debuts in Sylvia.There are not that many performances of the ballet but if management means to keep the ballet as part of the company's living repertory then we should see one, if not two, debuts in the title role during this run.It might also decide to try out Ball and Clarke as Aminta. Given the way in which O'Sullivan danced in Sleeping Beauty as Fairy of the Songbirds and Golden Vine, Florine and one of Florestan's Sisters I shall be surprised if she is not given a debut as Sugar Plum Fairy over Christmas. In 2018 we have revivals of Giselle and Manon, with any luck that will mean debuts by both Hayward and Naghdi in Giselle and Naghdi making her debut in Manon. I can't help wondering whether Watson will dance Manon with Hayward as he did when she made her debut All in all the season is bound to become really interesting once the casting is announced. As far as the new Swan Lake is concerned it is announced as having choreography by Petipa and Ashton. What that means is anyone's guess merely the Neapolitan dance or some more substantial bits of his choreography ? We have a long time to wait for the answer. I just hope that if it is bad news we don't have to endure it for too long. A production using the choreographic text from the Dowell production with Bintley's pedestrian waltz replaced by one of Ashton's versions and the restoration of the Peasant girl's pas set by De Valois would be more than acceptable but an occasional outing for Ashton's last act would be better. If it ends up with even more Ashton in it then I think that the London audience will probably see it as a tribute from one great choreographer to the man who he said gave him "private lessons" whenever he watched the Fairy Varitions
  12. I think that John Lanchbury did an excellent job for MacMillan in finding music that would work in the context of the ballet which the choreographer was creating. MacMillan sent a copy of Gillian Freeman's treatment of the narrative and his timings to Lanchbury in Australia so that he knew the action that the music was required to accompany and its duration. In return Lanchbury selected and supplied not only the music requested but additional music for each section, should it be needed, and suggestions for cuts should they be required. It can't be easy to find enough pre-existing music by an individual composer. even one as prolific as Liszt which can be stitched together in such a way that it furnishes a suitable score for a full length ballet like Mayerling. The score does its job and I don't think that it is reasonable to expect much more of it. You will be surprised by how much of the score sticks after you have seen the ballet a couple of times.While I understand what you say about the score I think that its"film music" quality is connected to Liszt's popularity with audiences and his influence on composers which continued well into the twentieth century. I think that a lot of composers who turned their hand to composing film music were influenced by him or at least recognized that the mass audience found music written in his style both accessible and attractive. You really should try to watch the South Bank Show documentary about the making of Mayerling. If you do you will find from extracts of performances by the original cast that Wall danced the role with great clarity and finesse. I have no doubt that Polunin was splendid as Rudolph because of the clarity of his dancing combined with his skills as an actor. If you watch the documentary you will see that Wall acts every scene as much as he dances them but that his acting is essential to his performance rather than being used to cover technical inadequacies Rudolph is a dancing role and not really one that is best suited to a dancer whose technique has begun to fray at the edges and is forced to fall back on his partnering skills and resort to emoting to carry the day. Soares gets away with it but seeing the role " danced" is a totally different experience The review of Polunin's performance singles out Rudolph's first solo for special comment. It is as dependent on silky smooth transitions and weight adjustment as is De Grieux's first solo in Manon. I can't help thinking that Rudolph's initial solo must have been made on Dowell as MacMillan originally intended to make the ballet on him and worked on the ballet with Dowell for a couple of weeks before he withdrew and was replaced by Wall. Like everything else created on Dowell lesser mortals have to find their way to do justice to choreography made to display his unique qualities, even when it is only a small section of a much longer ballet. You said that you gave up watching Alice part way through which is a pity because the most entertaining sections are in the second half.I don't think that Alice is a great work. It is more of an entertainment than a ballet but the staging and special effects are impressive and the way in which the Cheshire cat is staged is both inventive and amusing and really captures the spirit of the text. The best bits of the ballet/ entertainment are in the second part so perhaps you should give it another try. My problem with the work is that Wheeldon is not a good enough butcher and the result is that he found himself staging elements of the story which do not work in balletic terms.Some of the choreography seems to be there in order to give individual dancers something to do rather than to reveal more about their character or to move the narrative on. The White Rabbit's solo is a case in point, it seems to be there because Wheeldon has suddenly remembered that he has got Ed Watson in the cast and that he needs to give him some choreography to dance. Again the pas de deux at the end of the ballet seems to come out of nowhere.There appears to be no narrative reason for it except that we are now at the end of the ballet and the audience expects to see a pas de deux to round off the performance. Perhaps with more performances, which we will get next season, one of the younger dancers will transform the work completely and the final pas de deux will suddenly seem to be there for a narrative reason rather than to act as a full stop.It could happen.It has taken other narrative works several seasons to really run in and for roles to be developed to their full potential. Having moaned about the weaknesses of Wheeldon's Alice there are bits that work really well in theatrical terms. It is as if towards the end of the work he was suddenly inspired or perhaps the truth is that when we get to the sequence for the corps as playing cards and the scenes which involve the Queen of Hearts, the reluctant hedgehogs and the send up of the Rose Adagio we have arrived at the incidents which he actually wanted to stage. I went to the performance of Alice at which Francesca Hayward made her debut in the title role and because I left it rather late to buy a ticket I found myself sitting among a group of Russian ballet goers from St Petersburg who sat stony faced through the first part of the ballet but came back for the second half which they found very funny, including the send up of the Rose Adagio. The problem for me is that unlike a ballet by Ashton or MacMillan the choreography does not feel as if it is the only way in which the story could be told.The movement and its relationship to the music does not feel inevitable. But Alice was Wheeldon's first narrative work and I have to say that Hayward managed to make the the ballet work far more effectively than other dancers have managed to do so far. Perhaps the answer is that a new dance work which brings families to the theatre is a good thing in itself as it may lead to an interest in the art form. But somehow I can't help thinking that children deserve to see really good choreography when they see their first ballet and that rather than a work which only works intermittently, regular revivals of Coppelia, Ashton's Cinderella and Fille with performances scheduled during school holidays and at weekends would be a much better way of developing the next generation of ballet goers.
  13. Mnacenani I think that all the titles which you cite as having universal appeal and thus ideal for staging as ballets are concerned with thwarted love a theme which MacMillan wanted to move away from as he felt it was far too conventional and limited the development of the art form. In a television documentary which can still be found on the internet MacMillan talks about the creation of Mayerling and his wish to abandon the subject matter and conventions of the traditional ballet with a ballerina at its centre and a narrative of thwarted love. It would appear that he was influenced in his approach to ballet making by the French ballets he saw in the immediate post war period. Although he does not name him I suspect that MacMillan is referring to the influence on his narrative ballets of Roland Petit. Thus while his contemporaries writing for the British theatre in the 1950's and 1960's were engaged in abandoning the conventions of the "well made play" as unsuited to the material which they wanted to present on stage MacMillan was on a similar quest for ballet, looking for greater realism, a wider range of narrative and pushing at the boundaries of the art form. Whether or not you think that abandoning the conventions of the "well made ballet" based on nineteenth century models in a search for greater psychological realism paid off and was successful depends very much on your response to MacMillan's three major full length narrative works. As our response to the works of individual choreographers is the product of our experience of watching ballet and dance works and our expectations are formed by that experience our response to individual ballets will vary and not everyone will find that Macmillan's choreography with its mixture of classroom steps and expressionist movement is to their taste. But whatever your response to them, it is clear that dancers want to perform the meaty roles in Manon and Mayerling and the paying public enjoys them sufficiently to buy tickets to see performances of them. It seems to me that the fact that these ballets are revived on a triennial basis is testimony to their continuing popularity with audiences and dancers alike and that perhaps MacMillan got something right when he made them.. As far as Mayerling is concerned there is no fixed rule about how the role of Rudolph has to be interpreted. The three dancers who appeared as Rudolph in the first season gave very different but very persuasive accounts of the role .As I recall it David Wall, the role's creator, played Rudolph in a way which made the audience feel some sympathy for the character and his sufferings while Jefferies played him far less sympathetically. From his first appearance on stage Jefferies' Rudolph was already in deep trouble emotionally and clearly "mad bad and dangerous to know". MacMillan's full length ballets leave room for the individual dancer's interpretation of a role. Romeo and Juliet probably provides the widest range of options in performance as it works equally well as pure dance,Sibley and Dowell's approach or as dance drama, the approach of Seymour on whom Juliet was created, and the approach favoured by most dancers today. And yes the choreography for the corps in Romeo and Juliet is dull, repetitive and rather boring. As this is a common feature in all of MacMillan's full length narrative ballets it suggests to me that he was not that interested in the "spear carriers" and did not expect the audience to be that interested in them or their choreography either. Perhaps both Grigorovitch and MacMillan share at least one thing in common as choreographers creating dance dramas the shared belief that divertisements are out of place in such ballets and that if the main characters are to carry the story they need to be in the foreground with the "supers" kept in the background and never given anything to dance that might distract from the main characters and the dramatic action of the ballet. So far the current revival has given the audience four varied interpretations of the role. On Friday Watson gave the audience a distraught unbalanced and potentially very dangerous Rudolph who is already clearly disintegrating physically and emotionally as the ballet opens with a fine supporting cast.Since the ballet was originally prepared with great care and considerable thought was given to which characters were essential to the narrative in what was the equivalent of a film scenario treatment by Gillian Freeman I think that we need to accept that there are no superfluous characters in it. Thus each of the women with whom we see him interact and dance tell us more about him. It is the nature of their interaction with him that counts rather than their names. I will simply say that all the women who appeared in the Watson cast were excellent. Yanowsky was a wonderfully glacial Empress;Hayward a terrified Stephanie; Lamb a slippery, manipulative Larisch; Nunez made Caspar an essential character; and Osipova was outstandingly good as Vetsera. Campbell restored the role of Bratfisch to the status of an essential character while Avis was a compelling Bay Middleton and the Hungarian Officers forever lurking in the curtains during scene changes included a number of dancers who look set for bigger, better things in the near future. Saturday afternoon gave the audience Bonelli's Rudolph who is almost too well balanced to make the action of the entire ballet seem possible or credible when the ballet opens. The opening of course gives Bonelli's Rudolph further to fall. We saw his disintegration begin in the final scene of the first act.His scenes with Morera were compelling and the action of the final scenes of the ballet make it clear that the suicide pact is a total folie a deux. When I watched Soares account of the first solo I wondered yet again how he can still be a principal dancer as his dancing seems so ragged and under powered. But when he began the first pas de deux he made it all look so easy and as the ballet progressed the dancers playing the women in his life seem to have more time and more space in which to perform their roles and the freedom of performance which only comes with a truly great partner and the effect is so compelling and Soares' acting is so good that I forgot what an ordeal the initial solo had been. By then it had become an essential part of his Rudolph.His Vetsera Cuthbertson is excellent in what was a long promised debut in the role. Bank Holiday Monday and I was back in the theatre to see McRae as Rudolph with Lamb as his Vetsera a cast which I had doubts about when I booked as McRae can find it difficult to submerge himself in the character he is playing and stop being "Steven McRae the great technician".In the end I bought a ticket because the early May Bank Holiday afternoon is usually cold and damp rather than with a great sense of enthusiasm for the prospective performance. A friend who had attended the open rehearsal and is far from being a McRae fan told me how impressed she had been by his performance of Rudolph which she described as "one of the best danced accounts of the role she had seen in years." All I can say is that she was not exaggerating. McRae danced the choreography with such clarity and precision that he restored subtle details which other Rudolph's have seemingly ignored or glossed over for years. While I think that McRae's decision to play the tavern scene as if he was tipsy was a mistake the rest of his performance was outstanding and thrilling as a first attempt. Lamb can be very variable in performance and whether she is stunning or merely technically sound depends very much on who is partnering her.On Friday night she had been an excellent, slippery, manipulative Larisch to Watson's Rudolph what was her Vetsera going to be like?. Some of Lamb's best performances to date have been with Pennefather who helped reveal all sorts of detail in her performances in roles as varied as the Sylph and Manon. It would seem that dancing with McRae has the same effect on her.Her Vetsera has clearly been well schooled by Larisch, she knows what will intrigue and excite Rudolph and during the initial section of their first pas de deux she seems to be gauging the effect that she is having on him.All in all a performance which I am glad that I attended. You almost seem to be suggesting that the company should be programming works which are part of Osipova's standard repertory and yet would not that defeat the object of the exercise as far as she is concerned and disrupt the development of the younger members of the company of which she is now a member? When it was announced that Osipova was joining the Royal Ballet I think that we were given the impression that she wished to have an opportunity to spread her wings and dance roles that she might not be given at the Bolshoi where, as I understand it, the rules of emploi are still applied quite rigorously. Surely suggesting that she should be dancing roles like Kitri for example puts her back in the emploi straight jacket from which she was trying to escape? I think that we have to assume that Osipova is appearing in works she wishes to dance in rather than being forced to do so.Far from being a mistake to cast her in the role of Vetsera it would appear that even the exceptionally hard to please critic Clement Crisp was impressed by her performance as he has gone so far as to describe her as the best in the role since Seymour herself and you cannot hope for higher praise than being compared favourably with one of the greatest dance actresses of the last century. I have to say that I have not been that impressed by some of the more recent creations Osipova has danced in particularly those which have been part of the independent programmes in which she has appeared. As far as the Royal's repertory is concerned I do not think it likely that she is being cast in modern creations in order to sell tickets. I think it far more likely that she dancing in works in which she wishes to appear and that she wants to have works made on her as well as appearing in the company's wide ranging standard repertory. Mnacenani I should be interested to know which pieces you would describe as "silly contemporary works" to see whether they are similar to mine. I will start with Wheeldon's "Strapless" which Kevin O'Hare has said needs some tweaking where I should have thought that radical surgery was required with no guarantee of success. If it had not been announced as a co-production with the Bolshoi the kindest thing would have been to put it out of its misery. . I do not know whether you have had a look at the schedule for the 2017-18 season but Giselle and Manon are being revived in 2018 and we are to have a new production of Swan Lake at the end of the season.
  14. Constructing an effective mixed bill is an art in itself. It is not simply a question of selecting the right dance works for an evening as even the sequence in which they are performed can have a significant impact on the audience's response to the programme as a whole. Comments on French ballet websites about programming at Covent Garden suggest that French audiences find mixed programmes containing contrasting elements something of an anglo saxon eccentricity and much prefer, or are used to seeing, programmes with a significant unifying element to them. A programme of dance works set to Chopin's music by a number of different choreographers would not be the subject of comment about the lack of variety whereas a programme of contrasting works by a single choreographer would almost certainly be criticised for its lack of a unifying element. Perhaps the problem in this case was opening with the Cunningham.
  15. Mashinka. You may know considerably more about inadequate performances of Oberon than I do. I prefer to avoid them if at all possible. I know that I spent a great deal of Dowell's directorship being delighted at the prospect of performances of Ashton mixed bills, being appalled by the proposed casts and saving money by staying away from them. The result seemed to be that the Ashton mixed bills with half decent casts at Covent Garden ended up being gatherings of ballet goers who knew and cared what Ashton's ballets should look like in performance which people who I knew from my earliest ballet going years seemed to crawl out of the woodwork to attend .I also went to see a lot of performances by SWRB/BRB which under Sir Peter Wright seemed far more able to conjure up interesting mixed bills with much better casts than the company resident at Covent Garden seemed able to manage although it was generally understood that the resident company had first choice of the school's graduates .Wright seemed to have a much better understanding of how to develop dancers through his choice of repertory and a much better grasp of the ballets which his dancers and his audience needed to experience in performance. Perhaps the fact that Wright came to be involved in classical ballet in his late teens via Kurt Joos gave him a greater appreciation of the special qualities of classical dance and choreography created using the idiom than someone who is introduced to ballet as a young child and grows up in a world where it is a given.I should like to think that Kevin O'Hare had learned some of Sir Peter's system for developing dancers from his time working for him. The ballets in this year's repertory with Fille, Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty and Jewels occupying a significant part of the season suggested that he had. However next year's rep suggests that his commitment to giving the youngest dancers in his company the development opportunities that they need may not be that strong. I know that next season is being treated as a significant MacMillan anniversary season but I am not sure that is necessarily that beneficial for maintaining technical standards throughout the company.The early performances of the new Swan Lake will reveal what damage, if any, the MacMillanfest has inflicted on technical standards as his full length ballets tend to treat the corps as background stage dressing, albeit each with his or her backstory, rather than giving them really challenging choreography to dance.