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Jane Simpson

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Everything posted by Jane Simpson

  1. Just a reminder that Lynn Seymour choreographed at one time - not to much critical/audience success, though there was a piece called 'Intimate Letters' which I - alone in the world, I think - thought was rather good. and what about Marcia Haydee - I've never seen any of her work - has anyone else? I recently heard a senior dancer of the Royal Ballet say 'The future [choreographichally] belongs to women'. This may have been wishful thinking, but certainly Cathy Marston seems promising. And I also heard Vanessa Fenton, a very junior dancer in the RB but apparently a promising choreographer, sayt that she wished there could be a structure for beginner choreographers, 'like in a bank' (!), starting with anyone who likes getting a chance to do a 5 minute piece, and then the most promising being selected and helped to do gradually longer work. We hope that the new structure in the reopened Royal Opera House may allow something like this next year. Also, I'd have thought that though there may have been some anti-woman feeling in the past, these days any company director would kill for danceable work from anyone.
  2. To go back a post or two: yes, David Bintley is neoclassical. He's not a great choreographer in the Ashton/Balanchine class (and incidentally I'm sure he wouldn't claim to be - he's a passionate admirer of Ashton) but I see him as extremely important for the survival of this line because of how he uses the style. Bintley seems to have more, and more diverse, ideas than any other choreographer now working: his ballets are very different, across a wide spectrum from plotless like 'Tombeaux' to the melodrama of 'Edward ll' and jazzy pieces like 'Nutcracker Sweeties'. Not by any means all of them are successful, but the crucial thing is that he is showing young aspirants that they *can* produce exciting and different work within the fold of ballet. Of course he has the luxury of his own company and doesn't have to fight to get his work on, but it's interesting that BRB is widely seen as the most successful company in the UK. Also, he can take a Forsythe work (Limb's Theorem, later this year) into the repertory from a position of strength, showing it as one aspect of the current dance world rather than the model towards which all should aspire.
  3. By coincidence I was at a lecture-demonstration a few days ago which featured Alexander Grant talking about two of his roles - Alain in La Fille mal Gardee and the jenster in Cinderella. He had Jonathan Howells, a young dancer from the Royal Ballet to assist. Grant had been coaching Howells as Alain for the recent series of RB performances, so not surprisingly he had no problems with the excerpts Howells showed us. Nor did the rest of us - he has been widely hailed as the best Alain since Grant himself, though he is far from a carbon copy, having developed his own different approach to the role. (He is taller and slimmer than Grant.) (This, incidentally, should quiet the complaints of dancers and younger ballet goers that we oldsters will never admit that anyone is as good as the original casts: I would be quite happy to see Howells alternate with Grant in my dream casts for Fille.) Things were very different when they came to look at the Jester, which Howells has been dancing but without the benefit of Grant's coaching. He went through the Jester's solos from Act 2 as he'd been taught them and Grant stopped him at least three times and said what he was doing was not authentic. The original version, which he described, was in every case more difficult and more interesting. Grant suggested that the reason for these changes having crept in was that he himself, when he grew too old to manage the proper steps, had changed them so he could get through; and it was at that stage that the video was made - and he suggested RB casts are now being taught from that. We so often hear about and speculate about 'erosion' and how it occurs, and to see someone who absolutely knows the authentic version picking out the bits that have gone wrong was just riveting. I only hope the RB will take it on board!
  4. Immediately I'd posted the message above, I thought the last sentence was too sweeping. I still think it applies to the RB but don't know enough about other companies to generalise: so apologies to any dancers who'd feel insulted!
  5. One of the most encouraging things in the Royal Ballet at the moment is that Sarah Wildor is being coached by Antoinette Sibley. She (Wildor) talks of Sibley as her 'mentor'. I don't ever remember hearing of a one-to-one relationship like this in the company before. Even more amazing, Wildor said in an interview recently (words to the effect that) 'We don't talk much about technique; what astonishes me is the quality of her poetic imagination'. Poetic imagination! I didn't know there was a dancer left who thought in these terms.
  6. The Rambert company archives contain some wonderful film from the thirties - things like Ashton partnering Markova in the Swan Lake Act 2 pas de deux, and lots of the legendary early Ashton etc on the tiny stage of the Mercury Theatre. They show these occasionally at the National Film Theatre in London but one of the problems about releasing them on video is that they don't have a sound track and it would be hugely expensive to add one. The NFT, incidentally, has a policy - i.e. an unbreakable rule - that when they're showing silent films they have a live pianist playing 'appropriate' music: so you get the weird experience of Swan Lake accompanied by meandering piano music with now and then a faint, and disconcerting, echo of the real thing!
  7. On the other hand...one of the things I used to find most fascinating about the RB's David Wall was that he couldn't do this. There was something about the complete openness and honesty of his dancing style that made him into a sort of litmus test for bad choreography - however hard he tried to pretend that it was really quite OK, it still looked bad. I'm certain he wasn't doing this at all on purpose, by the way. I still use him as a yardstick - 'What would this look like if Wall was dancing it?' - and find it very effective. This is in no way a criticism of the many dancers who *can* make silk purses out of sows' ears - I'm deeply grateful to many of them - but I just find it interesting that for some dancers it doesn't work!
  8. My serious favourite is Alvin Ailey's 'Revelations', which I play when feeling really good and on top of the world. However it's one I would never lend to anyone who hadn't seen 'Revelations' on stage, if there was the faintest chance they ever might - I think one's first sight of it should come as a lovely surprise! Less seriously, the one I watch for light relief is the first of Carla Fracci's Great Ballerinas tapes. Apart from Fracci herself it features Peter Ustinov as Gautier mooning about in the ruins of the Paris Opera and giving a connecting commentary which you don't need to know much Italian to understand; and the best bit is the great Vassiliev going from the ridiculous to the sublime as Lucien Petipa - first crawling around pretending to be a dog, and then giving the most wonderful performance as Albrecht. Could we maybe have a thread called 'Video Wish list', of videos that don't exist but ought to? There was a programme shown on BBC television called 'Class' (I think) which was just that - a class taken by Peter Wright and including Dowell, Seymour, Park and Gable. I'd pay serious money for that - it was repeated once but it was before I had a video.
  9. Like Margot I could go on for some time - but maybe my all time favourite is a book called 'Gala Performance', published to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Royal Ballet - like Giannina with 'Baron at the Ballet', I pored over that till I could practically recite it! Incidentally, Margot, there's a wonderful video called The Glory of the Kirov which has a precious few seconds of Karsavina in class - worth every penny of the price even if there was nothing else on the tape at all! So far as I know it's the only available film of her. She lived in England till she died in 1978 and although I never saw her myself she fairly often talked and demonstrated - especially about classical mime - and there's a book she wrote called Ballet Technique, illustrated with photos of Antoinette Sibley.
  10. The Beauty productions all seem to run together in my memory - was that the one where the Prince made his entrance carried in on a litter? And the Vision Scene took place in a quarry? ...or maybe that was the next one. I thought the Hop o' my Thumb was the PITS, even with Sleep - or perhaps especially with Sleep. But I think it was the MacMillan that had a really wonderful bit where when the Prince and the Lilac Fairy got to the palace, you saw Aurora through long muslin curtains blowing in a breeze - it was lovely. Maybe we should put together a composite version based on all the best bits, and another based on all the worst?
  11. For me, it's musicality and character - taking an adequate level of technique as read. I've just written something about this in the 'Great Ballerinas' thread, not having seen this at the time...The ultimate turn off for me is technique alone, except in the very pieces where that's all that matters. And intelligence, or at least the impression of intelligence, is important as well.
  12. I find this whole discussion fascinating, partly as it fits with what I've been thinking about a lot since Beriosova died - reading the tributes to her and trying to figure out what exactly it is that distinguishes a great dancer like her from the very good. I'm coming to the conclusion that for me at least it's the qualities that one almost blushes to mention today, like spirit or soul, and nobility. The great dancers were, or gave the impression on stage of being, somehow above the normal run of humanity. That's why I can't see Bussell, for instance, as joining the Pantheon. She's so keen to be seen as 'ordinary', and 'ordinary' and greatness don't co-exist for me. It's exactly this that held Lesley Collier, for instance, back - you can't be a prima ballerina, in the classical sense of the expression, and the girl next door simultaneously. Durante's reluctance to bring her soul to the party has a similar effect.The younger generation, brought up in the same egalitarian world as the current dancers, may see it all differently. As for the RB 'Bayadere' video, I couldn't disagree more with Steve! Some of the problem may be that the camera loves Bussell more than Asylmuratova, but even so I see Bussell as gorgeous technique and little else, whilst Asylmuratova has the style, the subtlety and soul to bring life and meaning to the choreography. It's interesting that at Covent Garden, even when AA was dancing against Guillem and Ruzimatov, it was she who got the greatest ovation - you have to be there!
  13. She danced with Stephen Jefferies - lucky her: he was a wonderfully sympathetic partner. I remember standing ovations, quite rare in London, going on well after the house lights came up. There were people who found her disappointing, but heaven only knows what they were looking for - blood, I shouldn't wonder. Incidentally an e-mail gremlin crept in - when I said 'in 4th' I should have added 'position' - she only did 2 Auroras!
  14. If he meets Alexandra's criterion of 'still dancing', I'd have to vote for Baryshnikov. the last time I saw him with White Oak he did a Jose Limon solo which I though was one of the greatest things I'd ever seen onstage - a true portrait of nobility. If not, it's more difficult. Mukhamedov, for instance, is unarguably past his best, and from what I've seen so far of Zelensky I wouldn't rate him up with the greatest - not yet, anyway. I don't think there's anyone else today to be mentioned in the same sentence as Bruhn or Nureyev, the two greatest in my experience.
  15. I did finally see a performance by Makarova that moved me very much - quite late in her career she did John Cranko's 'Onegin' with English National, and in the last scene, where she rejects Onegin, I felt she finally let herself go and she was fantastic! I was very pleased that I could at last feel part of the ovation she got.
  16. Kirkland did a couple of Auroras in London very late in her career and I came the closest to crying that I've ever been at the ballet at the way she put her foot down in 4th after a pirouette - such vulnerability!
  17. Just to show we don't all see things the same, I saw Makarova's Swan Lake several times and I couldn't STAND her: the way she slowed the music right down for the Act 2 pas de deux used to make me want to scream! She came over to me as very studied and completely unspontaneous, as if she'd had 103 rehearsals and would never change a movement of her little finger (whereas Kirkland, who probably HAD had 103 etc, came over as if she was making it up as she went along. Not in Swan Lake, of course - I only saw her as Juliet and Aurora.)
  18. For me the only undisputed great ballerina is Asylmuratova, unmatched in the classics. I'd probably add Elizabeth Platel as well, but I've only seen her once in recent years and probably one shouldn't extrapolate from just one glimpse. There's no-one in London; Guillem is fabulous in some things but she's so individual that it's difficult to compare her against others - she needs a choreographer to make things which will really bring out her true quality.
  19. Beriosova was 66. She had been ill for only a few weeks with cancer. She had been used occasionally for coaching, but not nearly enough. Watching 'Enigma' the other week, knowing that she was lying desperately ill in a hospice, was a terribly sad experience; but fortunately she lives on in Ashton's wonderful choreography. Mary, do you remember waiting for outside the stage door after she'd done 'Raymonda'? But we wouldn't have dreamed of actually speaking to her.
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