Jump to content

Ashton Fan

Senior Member
  • Content count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

About Ashton Fan

  • Rank
    Senior Member

Registration Profile Information

  • Connection to/interest in ballet** (Please describe. Examples: fan, teacher, dancer, writer, avid balletgoer)
  • City**
  • State (US only)**, Country (Outside US only)**

Recent Profile Visitors

849 profile views
  1. "Sylvia": Saturday 16: Osipova/Muntagirov.

    I will just say that both Muntagirov and Clarke make the role of Aminta one which is really worth watching. While they can do little to make a character who is rewarded for his devotion to Eros an action hero because it is not in the script that Ashton was following they make Aminta's choreography a real feast of wonderfully elegant dancing transforming the simple shepherd of the first act into a prince in the third act. On Monday night Muntagirov brought the house down with his solo in the grand pas de deux.
  2. Royal Ballet "Sylvia" Osipova-Bonelli Thu 30 Nov.

    A few comments about Ashton's Sylvia. Much as he did in 1951 with his version of Daphnis and Chloe, Ashton seems to have set out to rehabilitate a great ballet score which did not have a great choreographic text attached to it. In both cases Ashton chose to follow the original narrative which the music had been written to accompany rather than adopting a new story line. It is almost as if he was setting himself a choreographic examination. Sylvia is both a display piece for the ballerina and an affectionate, if somewhat tongue in cheek, tribute to the ballet conventions of the French ballet of the 1870's. I would not be at all surprised to learn that the ballet created by Merante was intended as an affectionate tribute to the POB of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century whose repertoty seems to have been awash with anachreonic ballets and ballets based on classical myths. As far as the ballerina role is concerned it is a real test of technique because while it may not be stuffed full of obvious crowd pleasing technical tricks the choice of steps and their combination is a real challenge which exposes the technical weaknesses of anyone who attempts to perform it. The dancer has to have complete command of the choreographic text and the role's musicality and be able to use the choreography to display the emotions which Sylvia experiences in each act. The ballerinas who danced Sylvia at the Mariinsky described it as the most difficult role they had ever danced while Yanowsky who gave by far the most successful account of the role in London in 2004 said that it was exhausting to perform as it was like dancing three different ballets in one evening . Now of course the fact that a role is difficult does not make it a great one but for the audience it is a genuinely rewarding experience to see it performed by a dancer who is in complete command of its every aspect. Created to display Fonteyn's technique and the breadth of her abilities as a ballerina it still represents a real challenge to the dancer. As far as source material and influences are concerned Ashton began his dance training with Massine who used the Cecchetti method. When Massine left London Ashton studied with Marie Rambert for whom he made his earliest works. Then he went to work for de Valois' young Vic Wells company. It is almost certain that it was the presence of Nicholai Sergeyev staging the five Petipa ballets for the company which de Valois chose to call the classics which first brought Ashton into direct contact with Petipa's choreography over anything like an extended period. Ashton was always very open about the influence that Petipa had on his work. Once when asked why he spent time watching the Fairy variations as he knew the choreography extremely well he described watching them as "Taking private lessons with Petipa". It is interesting that one or two of you have noticed that there seems to be a similarity between the choreography in Sylvia and that of Corsaire and Raymonda. I don't believe that Ashton would have had direct knowledge of, or access to, either of those ballets in performance as they were not among the nineteenth century ballets which de Valois selected for her young company. Remember you could not just hop on a train or plane to travel to Russia to attend ballet performances during the 1930's or 1940's as you can today.. Ashton may have heard about these ballets from Karsavina who was living in London or Violetta Elvin, the Bolshoi trained member of the Sadler's Wells Ballet Company. However I think that it is far more likely that Ashton only knew of them indirectly through his knowledge of the Diaghilev repertory. We have to remember that Ashton and his 1952 ballet audience had a far more comprehensive knowledge of the Diaghilev repertory than we have today. In 1952 there can have been few ballet goers who had not seen at least one production of Scheherazade staged by former members of the Diaghilev company. Some had probably seen several. Scheherazade was still a viable theatrical work and a staple of London Festival Ballet's repertory in the mid 1970's. If that staging is anything to go by watching a work staged by a ballet master with direct experience of performing the work in question is a far more theatrically rewarding experience than watching a modern staging by one of Fokine's descendants where everything seems staid. It seems to me that the immediate source for the images and the choreography which Ashton created for Orion are Scheherazade,the choreography for the male corps de ballet in the Polovtsian Dances and that for Kotschei's male followers in the Firebird but that it is Fokine who was recycling choreography and images from Corsaire and Raymonda. It is true that Orion's choreography looks like it belongs to a lost Diaghilev orientalist ballet but I am sure that these are deliberate allusion to Fokine's choreography. In the same way I think that Ashton was alluding to Nijinsky's L'Apres Midi d'un Faun when he gave the sacrificial goats choreography which includes the occasional flat on movement and pose. When it is danced with wholehearted commitment and understanding Sylvia proves to be a fine work in performance but it is not, and was never intended. to be a dramatic action ballet. Aminta is not an action hero but a lovelorn shepherd who is rewarded for his devotion to Eros.Sylvia is a nymph who is punished for her lack of respect for the god of love but is nonetheless rescued by him and after her trials and tribulations finds herself transformed in the third act into a Petipa style ballerina. I think that Clement Crisp's assessment of the ballet as a paper thin excuse for a lot of fine dancing is absolutely spot on. Interestingly audiences seem to be warming to it with each performance. As far as Osipova is concerned her first performance in a new role always gives me the impression of being work in progress. I will reserve final judgment until her final performance when I have no doubt it will look very diffferent. I will simply say that her first two acts seemed to be spot on but that her third act was not as musically brilliant as it needed to be.
  3. Royal Ballet 2016-17 Season

    I take it as read that, if only to ensure that the company breaks even financially each year, we will see a number of nineteenth century ballets each season and that unfortunately one of them will almost inevitably be Nutcracker. What I take issue with is management's failure to ensure that the company's twentieth century masterpieces are given a regular airing. I specifically referred to the company's twentieth century masterpieces because I was thinking about the totality of its twentieth century repertory and not just the works created for it by Ashton and MacMillan. The imbalance between the time allocated to the performance of the Ashton and MacMillan repertory is a problem. Some works seem to be far more fragile than others when it comes to reviving them after a relatively long period. However it is not just those works that concern me, the major Diaghilev works are also neglected. It would be a dereliction of duty if works like Les Noces and Les Biches which Ashton pulled back from the brink were lost on Kevin's watch through neglect. Les Noces did not seem as tight theatrically as it used to be when it was last revived for the simple reason that the dancers' movements were not always as connected to the music as they need to be. For years successive directors appeared to understand that works like Noces , Biches and even Song of the Earth need regular airings if they are to remain part of the company's living repertory. The last time that the company danced Song of the Earth it was programmed twice in the same season and it was only towards the end of the second run that it began to hold together as an effective theatrical piece.
  4. Royal Ballet 2016-17 Season

    Dear Mashinka I don't criticise O'Hare for commissioning new works. I do not criticise him because quite a few of his new commissions have proved to be turkeys but I can see no reason for reviving those that prove to be duds. It is almost as if Kevin hopes that if the audience sees works like Raven Girl, Strapless and Untouchable enough times we will be persuaded that they have been transformed into swans. Commissioning new works is always a bit of a gamble but you can improve the odds if you exercise a degree of control over your commissions. In an Insight event held in Australia during the RB's summer tour Kevin said that he does not like to intervene in any way with the works he has commissioned. I think that this amount of artistic freedom which sounds very good in the context of the creation of a work like a Winters Tale does not sound quite so good in the context of works like Strapless or Carmen. This lack of supervision goes a long way to explain how works like the Wind and Carmen make it onto the stage at all and how a work like Frankenstein which is a curate's egg of a ballet find their way onto the stage in the form they do. Bits of the latter work well but there are bits that would have benefited from considerably more oversight than it in fact received. There is a continuum of involvement in a commission by the person who is paying for it from oversight to interference. Oversight can often be helpful. I suspect that Mim Rambert's high success rate with the new works which she commissioned was because she exercised a degree of control over what her creatives were doing and what she was paying for. I fear that Kevin's patchy record is in large part attributable to the fact that he just lets his creatives get on with it. I also criticise Kevin for failing to get the balance right between the company's twentieth century masterpieces and its new works. I too welcome his more adventurous casting policies and his attempts to make the company the creative force it was set up to be. However I do not share, what I take to be, your optimism about the likely success of the 2020 season when we are promised a programme of works created since he took over the directorship of the company. I am sure that everyone on this site would be interested in your views of the current state of the RB .
  5. Royal Ballet 2016-17 Season

    The RB's season ended several months ago. Before I say anything about the Ashton mixed bill I will say that it seems to me that the most significant events this season have been Yanowsky's retirement as a company member and the appointment of four character principals. Yanowsky is the last of Dowell's Principal dancers and her retirement as a company member marks the end of an era. She had an extraordinary wide range of repertory and it is difficult to imagine anyone will have the opportunity to emulate her because of the artistic choices being made by management which ignore major works in favour of new pieces of very variable quality. In terms of length of tenure Nunez has become the senior Principal dancer but while she can turn in technically impeccable accounts of the roles which she performs, like Zerbinetta, she always plays herself. She rarely manages to take the audience to the heart of a role in the way that Yanowsky did in performance after performance. Where they shared roles, as they did in the case of Odette/Odile, Nikiya, Myrthe, Manon, Black Queen and Sylvia, Yanowsky's performances always had the edge. She presented the audience with a performance in which the choreography was danced as part of the creation of a vivid character rather than simply being a technically flawless reproduction of the role's choreography enhanced by the occasional bit of freeze framing.Somehow I can't imagine Nunez in roles like the Hostess in Les Biches, the Bride in Les Noces and Lady Elgar roles originally danced for the company by Beriosova which became Yanowsky's unchallenged property. But as O'Hare seems in thrall to the creators of new dance works and shows only limited interest in the great works in the company's back catalogue we may not have to worry about who comes to own the roles in Biches, Noces and Enigma Variations as they have all been out of the repertory for far too long. It has came as something of a relief to learn that the company's management has had second thoughts about ending the appointment of character principals. Articulating the idea that such dancers were superfluous to requirements seemed to begin at about the time that it was announced that the RDB was letting a number of its older dancers go which suggested that the idea had emerged at one of those events at which artistic directors from across the world get together to discuss developments and mutual problems in the world of dance. I don't think that many of the regular audience thought that it was a viable option but you never can tell with artistic directors. Bennet Gartside gave an interesting account of how the proposal was handled when he spoke to London Ballet Association. His immediate response was that he assumed that the company was planning to change its repertory completely as the proposal was not an option unless they did.The announcement that Arestis, McNally, Gartside and Whitehead had been appointed character principals was not only recognition of their undoubted talents but the clear statement that full length narrative works which were created for companies which understood the value of character dancers are not to be dropped from the repertory any time soon.. The absence of Kish and Golding from the ranks of active principals during the season did not seem to adversely affect the quality of performances but it did provide valuable development opportunities for a number of the younger men who have been rewarded for their efforts by promotion. Ball, Clarke and Sambe all progressed a rank. The season also gave Anna Rose O'Sullivan the opportunity to show what she can do.Her performances in a wide range of purely classical soloist roles has indicated that she is one to watch. It was disappointing that Kevin sounded as if he found it necessary to refer to significant company anniversaries in the context of the revivals of Sleeping Beauty and Symphonic Variations. It began to sound increasingly as if he thought that he needed to justify his decision to stage the older works he had selected for performance.
  6. MacMillan "insight" evenings

    I think that one of the main problems with the MacMillan repertory is that we only ever get to see a limited range of his work. We get to see the three full length money spinners on a triennial basis but apart from them we are more likely to see a work such as Judas Tree than we are to see much of his classical choreography.I am not sure whether this one sided approach to his choreographic output is solely attributable to Lady M's views as to where MacMillan's greatness lies.She seems to believe that his most significant contribution to the development of ballet was his desire to achieve a sort of gritty realism in his works and to push at the boundaries of what ballet was deemed capable of doing. Cultivating his image as an iconoclast who challenged the conventions of classical ballet and overturned a repertory in which ballets about fairies played a prominent part is, of course,risible as it ignores the staple repertory of the first half of the twentieth century; the range of works created by Ashton and the works of two of the choreographers who played a significant part in MacMillan's development namely Antony Tudor and Roland Petit. The worst thing about this carefully cultivated version of the choreographer is that it has the effect of suggesting that MacMillan's classically based works, some of which have not been seen in decades are not worth reviving and that their neglect is totally justified. I went to two of the performances in the Clore studio as well as two Insight evenings. I saw Sea of Troubles an evocation of Hamlet which MacMillan made for a small company performing in small venues which had been formed by a couple of dancers who had previously worked for the Royal Ballet companies and " Jeux" a piece that Wayne Eagling had stitched together from some choreography MacMillan had created for a film. I think that "Sea of Troubles" suffered from being performed in an area that was probably two or three times the size of the area in which it was originally staged. This slowed the action down and generated lengthy pauses as dancers who had left the performing area needed time to return to it. The occasional lengthy pause between the sections made it feel more episodic than I suspect was originally intended. As for the style of dance movement employed it was expressionist and on occasion came perilously close to being characterised as little more than rolling about on the floor. I actually found myself thinking that Helpmann had made a far better job of making a dance work based on Hamlet than MacMillan had managed. I found Jeux much more interesting. It had far greater coherence and it had a cast which included Muntagirov, Naghdi and Gasparini. Of the two other Insight evenings I saw one showed dancers from the guest companies endeavoring to get to grips with unfamiliar choreography the other brought together current and former members of the RB to discuss dancing the roles of Romeo and Juliet. The Insight event in which sections of "Gloria " and "Baiser de la Fee" were rehearsed demonstrated the technical demands the choreography makes on the performer and the advantage enjoyed by dancers for whom works like "Gloria" are regular repertory pieces. The event with dancers talking about Romeo and Juliet fell a bit flat. Listening to retired dancers and current members of the RB talking about dancing a ballet like Romeo and Juliet will only take you so far. Once you have heard several dancers say that MacMillan ballets demand truthfulness rather than artifice and that you leave something of yourself on stage at the end of a performance you have essentially learned everything you need to know about dancing in one of MacMillan's major narrative works. The most interesting event for me was the screening of a documentary made by the former dancer Lynne Wake who danced with SWRB/BRB before going to work for Kevin Brownlow the film historian and expert on silent film. Her documentary had originally consisted of interviews with dancers who had worked with MacMillan during his early years as a choreographer. It has now been re-cut to include film clips of the ballets which the interviewees were talking about.The documentary covers works that I saw in my early days of ballet going and others which have only ever been titles and dancers whose work I had heard about but had never seen. The ballets documented included Laiderette, House of Birds, Solitaire,Danses Concertantes, The Burrow, The Invitation, Baiser de la Fee and his version of Agon. We were told that the filmed performances which were used in the documentary were made by Esme Wood who was married to someone senior in the company's administrative team. The films had been handed over to the British Film Institute for safe keeping but by the time that Lynne Wake approached the BFI to gain access to them the BFI had come to believe that the films had been donated to it and were its property. The BFI had demanded quite a substantial sum for access to the recorded material which would have made it impossible to include excerpts from the films in her documentary . It was only when someone found the receipts which proved that the company had paid for the film stock that the BFI backed down and Wake was given access to the material. We were told that the film of Baiser de la Fee used in its reconstruction, was found in a biscuit tin at the Opera House. Most of the films had been transferred to DVD but the transferred images could not be used as they were just so many white blobs on a black background. Wake almost abandoned the idea of using the film but when she inspected the negatives she found that they had crisp clear images. The problem was that the negatives have no sound track. However when she spoke to Antoinette Sibley and Merle Park they were both relieved that the film with soundtrack was not being used as the sound track on the film had not been properly synchronized with the movement which it was supposed to accompany. The film of Baiser is the only record that there is of the ballet. Although both MacMillan and de Valois were enthusiastic proponents of ballet notation in the early days it was not possible to record everything as there was only one notator available. Ballets created for the Touring Company were only notated if they were transferred to the Covent Garden stage. It was only possible to revive MacMillan's original version of Baiser because it had been filmed. Not all of the early ballets included in the film would work today.I strongly suspect that The Burrow was very much a ballet of its time and depended for its impact on its original cast, which included Lynn Seymour, and the cast's and the audiences's shared knowledge of what had happened during the Nazi occupation of Europe. I certainly thought that "The Invitation" lacked real impact when it was recently revived. I can't say how much this lack of impact was attributable to the cast not including Seymour and Gable and how much was attributable to MacMIllan's later challenging works desensitising us. As the revival was strongly cast I think I will go for the desensitising option. There are other ballets mentioned in the film which would still work today and should be revived such as Danses Concertantes and MacMillan's Agon. I can only assume that the reason for their neglect has more to do with the fact that they are, in Lady M's eyes, the wrong sort of MacMillan ballet. Solitaire is charming and tuneful, hangs on by a fingernail at Birmingham and is obviously not the right sort of MacMillan work as it is not "challenging". Danses Concertantes suffers the same weakness. It is a quirky enjoyable take on the vocabulary of classic dance which fits the score perfectly. I suppose that Lady M may have come to feel that she has exhausted the income generating capacity of the works which she has been reviving regularly. Next April we shall have the opportunity to see excerpts from House of Birds, Danses Concertants and the full Laiderette in performances given by a group of dancers described as Viviana Durante's company who are in reality a handful of dancers from the RB including Francesca Hayward and Ed Watson and Ballet Black. We can always hope that at least Danses Concertantes might find its way back onto the Covent Garden stage and that MacMillan's Four Seasons might not be far behind it .
  7. Copeland/Bolle Romeo & Juliet from La Scala

    At the last count there were, I think, four recordings of Royal Ballet casts in the ballet. The first recording dates from 1966 it has Fonteyn and Nureyev in the lead roles,Blair as Mercutio,a very young Dowell as Benvolio and a young Mason as head Harlot. Many regret that there is no recording of the ballet with Seymour and Gable the dancers on whom it was created. Technically the company is still said to be performing the same production today as it did at its premiere however even a cursory glance at these recordings shows that the costume designs which originally were famously not standard ballet costumes have over the years morphed into more conventional ballet costumes and that the stage designs have also been altered. The changes to sets and props occurred while the opera house was being redeveloped. The modifications were probably essential if the ballet was to be performed on other London stages such as the one at the Royal Festival Hall.. Strangely however not all of the detail has been restored since the company returned to its home stage. Birmingham Royal Ballet retains far more of the staging's original detail than the Royal Ballet can boast. In addition to the initial recording which was filmed at Pinewood studios there are three recordings of performances at Covent Garden, The first was made in 1984 with a cast headed by Ferri and Eagling with Jefferies as Mercutio. The second dating from 2006 has Rojo and Acosta in the leading roles and Jose Martin as Mercutio. The third was made in 2012 and was originally seen as a live streamed performance. The dancers in this latest recording are Cuthbertson, Bonelli with Alexander Campbell as Mercutio. I think that some believe that the issue of the latest DVD was prompted by the ROH's acquisition of its own DVD recording label.
  8. I hope to get to see this film, if only to see Simon Russell Beale as Beria. It sounds as if his performance is a cross between his Richard III and his Kenneth Widmerpool which, if true ,I should count as worth the price of admission in itself. A great deal of what sounds highly improbable in the film's story line is not that far removed from what happened in the period immediately following Stalin's death when Russia was ruled by a gang of three. His death prevented the next great purge which was to be precipitated by the "discovery" of the doctor's plot. The doctors had already been arrested in readiness.
  9. The Bolshoi under Vaziev

    Perhaps I am being naive but I had assumed that Vaziev was appointed because of his experience running other companies and his lack of connection with the Bolshoi and its factions. I suspect that his main management strength, as far as those who summoned him back to Russia are concerned, is the time that he spent at La Scala which established that he had the management skills to deal with a company with an entrenched working culture. Perhaps they think that those skills are needed to address the factionalism in the Bolshoi which culminated in the acid throwing incident in which Filin was injured. Ballet companies which do not have a mandatory retirement age present problems to anyone who has to run them as they make succession planning incredibly difficult.I have no idea what the age profile of those in the upper ranks of the Bolshoi look like in reality but, from my limited knowledge, there seem to be a number of artists who are fast approaching the time when decisions have to be about what roles they will dance in the future if only to ensure that the company is able to prepare its new generation of leading dancers adequately and develop the talented young dancers who it seems continue to flock to the Bolshoi in preference to the Mariinsky. As I understand it in the US and in some other countries a new AD is able to dispense with the services of dancers he does not want. Vaziev is not able to do that at the Bolshoi. He has to plan for the future while dealing with the present. At some point he has to put young dancers on the stage to dance roles like Odette /Odile and Siegfried to give them the performance experience that they need in order to become the great dancers that some of them undoubtedly will become. Transitional periods are tough on the mature dance artists who are coming to the end of their careers and on their devoted fans. Perhaps Vaziev is favouring the company's young talent for purely artistic reasons and for the health of the company. Perhaps he also sees it as a way of ensuring that the company rapidly becomes his artistically. A company of talented young dancers whose boss has given them the chances that they want is likely to be much easier to run than one in which there are factions and dancers who harbour resentment. I don't think that any of us are in a position to know whether Vaziev is making the right decisions for the company. Only time will tell. As far as his casting decisions are concerned. Experience suggests that few Artistic Directors escape criticism on that front at some point during the course of a season and sometimes throughout entire seasons. The same applies to repertory choices.
  10. Veronika Part -- Royal Ballet ?

    I believe that Gomes gave a performance as Oberon in the Dream in 2012 after Polunin left the company. It was not clear that his guest appearance was actually necessary as there were quite a lot of dancers in the RB and the BRB who knew the role including Joseph Caley who had given some excellent performances of the role and Cervera who had understudied the role and was an Ashton specialist. If I recall correctly at the time it was generally understood that his appearance with the company was at Cojocaru's request. As far as Part taking class with the RB is concerned it does not necessarily follow that she will be working with the company. As Mashinka says there is a lot of home grown talent which makes it unlikely that the company will feel the need to engage her. It is not just the likes of Hayward and Naghdi who have to be accommodated but there are several dancers at First Soloist level who will expect to get a crack at the major classical roles and more junior dancers who having shown considerable artistic development during the last season who will also expect to take their place in the sun in the not too distant future. But you never can tell what management will decide to do. Perhaps we should wait to see what announcements, if any, appear on the company's web site.
  11. Natasha Osipova on Her Future (Recent)

    mnacenani, While it is good to know that Osipova is happy at Covent Garden and will continue to dance there for the foreseeable future I am not sure that everyone who attends performances by the Royal Ballet would actually feel that her continued presence as a member of the company was essential to its continued artistic health. She is of course a star, which means that for many her performances are above the sort of criticism which other dancers receive as a matter of course. I can think of a number of dancers for example Morera, Hayward,Naghdi and O'Sullivan whose absence would almost certainly be regarded as having a much more significant impact on the company and its long term artistic development than hers would have.
  12. Royal Ballet 2017-18 season

    Mashinka, There is an article on the RAD website about MacMillan and Benesch notation which suggests that all but seven or eight of MacMillan's earliest ballets were recorded in Benesch notation and are capable of revival. The first MacMillan ballet to be notated was Solitaire in 1956 everything he created after that was recorded in Benesch notation much of it by Monica Parker. Both House of Birds and Danses Concertantes dating from 1955 were notated when they were revived in 1963. The existence of a physical record means that a ballet like House of Birds could be revived if a company and Lady M wanted to stage it .The problem is that I don't think that there is any great evidence that anyone is that interested in bringing back any of MacMillan's early works apart from Solitaire which gets dusted off very occasionally by BRB. Presumably it was deemed suitable to mark the current MacMillan anniversary because it is part of the company's history as it was made for one of BRB's predecessor companies. That early connection might well have persuaded Lady M that it would do her husband's reputation as a choreographic rebel little or no harm. As there are people working for the company who remember Solitaire from their own time as dancers and the company has not departed as radically from the work's original musicality and performance style as the Covent Garden company has done I imagine that BRB made a good job of the revival. However giving Solitaire an occasional airing to mark a significant MacMillan anniversary does not make it a repertory piece. If I am right about Solitaire's current status then the next time it will see the light of day is in 2027 when MacMillan centenary is celebrated. I first saw Danses Concertantes when it was danced by the RBS during the 1970's as part of their end of term main stage performance. It was still a Royal Ballet repertory piece as late as 1995 so there are plenty of people around who danced in it which means that it should be relatively easy to revive it. A snippet was used at the last Genee Competition held in London. The young South African who won the gold medal was the only one to dance it in competition and he made a very good job of it. I have memories of seeing MacMillan's Agon in the 1970's. I remember rather liking it . I think that it had disappeared from the repertory some time before the company acquired Balanchine's ballet of the same name. As far as 6.6.78 is concerned I know that I have seen it but I remember nothing about it. I wonder how much of a problem the resident company's current performance style would present in successfully reviving one of MacMillan's early works ? The company which originally danced The House of Birds was one whose repertory was firmly classically based and whose house style was Ashton's. The company's current performance style, musicality and dynamics are very different from what they were when the bulk of MacMillan's ballets were created. You don't have to look very hard to find evidence of the effect of this shift in style in ballets which have remained in the repertory. The company dances far more slowly than it did in the 70's and 80's and not everyone has the musicality, clean footwork, or ability as a terre a terre dancer which its dancers then had . Many of its non RBS trained dancers seem to prefer to execute steps in classroom style rather than as the choreographer modified them and few of its dancers are brave enough or have the ability to dance in what must feel like a dangerously off balance fashion or use their upper bodies as expansively as the RB's dancers once did. The result is that we rarely see Symphonic Variations with the Brian Shaw role danced as it should be with the dancer doing off centre turns as he gazes to the heavens and we rarely see MacMillan's Mercutio as he choreographed it. Eliminate the off centre turns and the other quirky and unusual elements in Mercutio's choreography and you eliminate MacMillan's carefully crafted character and turn Merctio into a conventional classical role which is little more than a plot device and about as compelling and interesting . Neither Ashton nor MacMillan could have anticipated the changes in performance style and musicality which have taken place since the 90's. If MacMillan's neglected ballets were to be performed in the company's current performance style the audience would not necessarily see the connection which MacMillan created between the music and his choreography which was what made the works so worth watching when they were new. I suspect that few people recognise the importance which musicality plays in the ability to to dance Ashton and MacMillan really well. It's not a question of counting but of listening to the music. I wonder whether Fin du Jour failed to work when it was revived because it was too much of its time and place or whether it was other factors which were at play? I know that at a time when the company as a whole had been trained to listen to the music to which they were dancing Park, who was in the original cast, was always picked out as being exceptionally musical and I always thought that Penney was very musical. I don't recall that the RB's revival cast struck me as particularly suited to their roles and that the men had extreme difficulty in executing the lifts which both Eagling and Deane had tossed off as if they were nothing. As a result I wonder whether the reason for the failure of both revivals was not the work's weakness but is attributable to remediable factors such as casting and/or inadequate rehearsal time and/or perhaps a failure to get anyone who had been involved in the original performances into the rehearsal studio ? Any one of these factors would have been sufficient to explain the failures. I have to admit that Fin du Jour would not be on my list of works requiring urgent revival. I fear that my comments about the possible causes of the failure of Fin du Jour's revival apply to a revival of pretty much any ballet created before 1990. The fact that the powers that be at the RB don't want to make the older repertory seem dated by demanding that the dancers perform them in period appropriate style and permit performers to dance the works in the currently fashionable,slow,high extension, stop, start,freeze framing style means that few of them are danced in a style which their creator's would recognise. With their musicality, dynamics and use of body distorted and their architecture askew only the floor plan of some of the works is accurate in performance .
  13. Royal Ballet 2017-18 season

    Until now MacMillan has generally been the preserve of the RB and to a lesser extent the BRB as far as UK companies are concerned. As the Royal Opera House Board refused to agree to MacMillan making a ballet using a major orchestral score he was forced to create The Song of the Earth in Stuttgart. Although the work was almost immediately staged by the RB and acknowledged as a masterpiece he encountered problems from the same source when he wanted to create a ballet to Faure's Requiem, this time because of the work's supposed religious content. As a result the works were created in Stuttgart and are part of that company's historical repertory as is My Brother My Sisters. Song is occasionally revived by them. As far as the likelihood of seeing Requiem is concerned it is not usually out of the RB's repertory for any length of time so I expect to see it back in the not too distant future. As far as seeing MacMillan's ballets in the UK today is concerned Lady M decides which companies should be permitted to dance her late husband's work. Perhaps she has not deemed other British companies worthy or perhaps they just have not approached her about staging some of the works which don't need a cast of thousands. The first and most obvious thing is that you need to know of a work's existence if you are going to think about staging it and then you have to decide whether the work is viable today.The longer a ballet is out of the repertory the more likely it is that people will assume that there must be something wrong with it or a company somewhere in the would be dancing it . When the neglected ballet is by an eminent choreographer who has an active advocate the stronger the assumption will be that there is good reason for the work's neglect and that it must be deeply flawed. Unfortunately as Mashinka has said Lady M promotes MacMillan's turkeys aka his "challenging" works and fails to revive works which would enhance his reputation and might even appeal to the directors of other companies who might contemplate reviving them. It seems to me that Lady M has done her late husband few favours by promoting his "challenging" works like Judas Tree and Different Drummer and neglecting his more accessible, more audience friendly, classically based works such as Solitaire; Soiree Musicales created for the School , but surely capable of being a fine ending to a triple bill; the quirky Danses Concertantes; Triad; Verdi Variations which eventually became part of Quartet, or Concerto which looks so innocuously simple and yet exposes every technical flaw in its cast and the large scale Four Seasons which was hailed as a company show case at the time of its premiere but has not been seen for the best part of forty years.I suspect that one of the reasons for the neglect of Seasons is the demands it makes on a company as it calls for ten principal dancers to do it justice. By the time of its second production the company was in decline which no one involved with the company seemed able to arrest and reverse. It is only recently that the company has had the strength and depth to contemplate reviving it but it does not look likely that this will happen.It must have been notated and members of the original cast are still around and compos mentis but if they leave it any longer it will, I assume be deemed incapable of revival. What these ballets have in common is that they reveal MacMillan to have been a a fine classical choreographer which does not exactly fit the image of the man which Lady M seeks to promote. If a wide range of MacMillan's works are to be seen they need to be performed and it seems to me that this MacMillanfest is something of a missed opportunity.Lady M has got other companies involved which means that people in the rest of the country may get the chance to see some MacMillan in live performance, but apart from Baiser de la Fee and Sea of Troubles, both of which I am pleased to see, there is nothing which has been out of the repertory for any length of time. Perhaps this event will encourage one or two companies to ask about some of the missing MacMillan repertory and think about staging it but I have no great hopes that this will happen. While there are some works like Playground, My Brother My Sisters, Valley of Shadows and Rituals which have been undisturbed for some time and should never be revived there are at least two others which should be consigned to oblivion, Different Drummer, which shows what ballet can't do and Judas Tree which shows what ballet should not do and is, as Mashinka says, "an awful thing". If reviving Winter Dreams is the price we have to pay for their perpetual retirement from the repertory, I for one would be prepared to pay it. There are several works which I think deserve to be revived such as Solitaire, Triad, Quartet, Verdi Variations as a gala piece, Soiree Musicales, and The Four Seasons and some which need to be reassessed such as Danses Concertantes; Symphony and Fin du Jour, which defeated the company when it was last revived. Perhaps some of MacMillan's neglected classically based works will not prove to be neglected masterpieces but we should at least have the opportunity to see them while their revival is still a practical option. I am sure that I am not the only one who thinks what we are permitted to see of MacMillan's output is too skewed towards Lady M's assessment of her late husband's place in the development of British ballet. The problem is that by concentrating on a limited range of works and emphasising the way in which he differed from Ashton in taste and output and portraying him as an unappreciated genius not only is our understanding of his work distorted but Lady M is failing to explore and exploit the full range of his legacy. It seems to me that by ignoring MacMillan's work as a classical choreographer she is doing the ballet audience and her late husband a great disservice.
  14. Royal Ballet 2017-18 season

    I am not sure whether I would describe the bulk of the works to be performed during the MacMillan fest as rarities, although Sea of Troubles certainly is one.It was made for a small company that was run by a dancer called Susan Crow who danced with SWRB/BRB before branching out on her own. I wonder what Baiser will look like after all these years? Unfortunately I don't recall much about it except being slightly disappointed by it when the RB danced it years ago. It would be nice to think that it turns to be a piece of real interest, if not a masterpiece, but as someone pointed out to me a significant number of the twentieth century's major choreographers have had a go at making a ballet using Stravinsky's score beginning with Nijinska and including Ashton and Balanchine, none of which have survived in the repertory, it suggests that there is a problem with the score. The most interesting thing about this celebration is that companies other than the RB are involved in it with ENB dancing Song of the Earth, Northern Ballet dancing Gloria, BRB dancing Concerto and Elite Syncopations being danced with dancers drawn from the RB and from the other companies involved in the celebration.Looking at ticket sales for the main stage MacMillan mixed bills it would appear that the only programme which is nearly sold out is the one which does not include Judas Tree. This suggests that the ballet going public is not as sure about the artistic status of Judas Tree as Lady M and that it was somewhat unwise to include the work in two of the mixed bills which are being performed. I wonder whether it will be necessary to reduce ticket prices for those two programmes to shift the tickets? So far the ballet company seems to be doing somewhat better than the opera company as far as ticket sales for the Autumn booking period are concerned. It would seem that ticket sales for La Boheme have been incredibly slow as advertisements for performances have already begun to appear on Tube stations. While I might anticipate that it would be necessary to advertise a revival of a very old production or a production which was badly received by the critics and not much liked by the public when it was new, it is really incredible to see advertisements for a new production of such a popular opera. The general opera going public is not normally that fastidious about new productions when the opera is a staple of the repertory composed by Puccini.
  15. Nureyev premier postponed to 2018/2019

    From what little I have read about the way things are done in Putin's Russia the possibility of being arrested and charged with embezzlement is a fate which many run, including those who receive state funding for the arts. It is of course serious for the individual concerned. The prospect of being imprisoned in Russia is not something which anyone would want to face. However such allegations seem to have become a commonplace way of removing those who are rivals and those who are perceived as causing the regime difficulties and as such, are not that different from the allegations of high treason which were so favoured by Henry VIII as a means of dealing with his problem courtiers and those who stood in his way. There is a possibility that these current allegations have as little real legal substance as the allegations and trial procedures of the Henrican regime. What is happening in Russia could be characterized as a " civilized" form of purge . It has a veneer of respectability as the process appears to be concerned with ensuring that state funds are not misused and it is "civilised" because the defendant does not end up being shot. As I don't believe that Russia has any schemes comparable to the White Sea Canal project, the chances are that a prisoner will eventually emerge from the prison system although few will be as well treated as the man who arranged for acid to be thrown at the Bolshoi's former AD.