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Ashton Fan

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  1. Ashton Fan

    Royal Ballet 2018-19 season

    ,The sad thing is that lots of school students are attending performances of the current mixed bill to see Infra because it is on the GCSE dance syllabus. They dutifully sit through Unknown Soldier, an earnest and worthy piece by Alistair Marriott, which again reveals his choreographic pretentions and his lack of talent. They then watch Infra and, it appears, have to leave before Symphony in C which is by far the best thing in the programme. The problem with Infra is that it is a marmite ballet you either love it because you believe that Wayne MacGregor is one of the greatest choreographers of our age or you loathe because you think that he is little more than a choreographic charlatan and you worry about the long term effects on the dancers' bodies of appearing in his dance works. Interestingly so far Mr Muntagirov has not appeared in any of his works. If it is his decision not to appear in MacGregor's works it shows a great deal of common sense on his part and that he has the artistic clout within the company to decline the offer. Being concerned about the long term consequences for dancers of performing MacGregor's choreography and moving in his choreographic style using his dance vocabulary is clearly not confined to a particular age group as former dancers who enjoyed thirty year injury free careers and young choreographers working in the classical style are equally concerned. As far as that part of the audience who stay on to the end are concerned there has been a palpable sense of relief as the curtain has risen on Symphony in C. One of the newspaper critics who is clearly not a fan of classical choreography gave Unknown Soldier a fairly positive review and simply dismissed Symphony in C as a " tutu ballet " saying nothing about the cast's performance.. Presumably in her eyes Balanchine's response to the Bizet score is far too full of joie de vivre, if not down right frivolous, to be considered acceptable company for the other works in the programme. .
  2. Laurent, When Nureyev staged "The Kingdom of the Shades" for the Royal Ballet in 1963 the company danced it with thirty two Shades and, as far as I am aware, continued to do so until 1985 when they last performed it. Now while it is true that during MacMillan's directorship the Covent Garden company was reduced in size because the Board wanted to make economies, and as always it was the the ballet company which was expected to take the cuts, the cuts did not affect the company's ability to perform Nureyev's staging with a full complement of Shades. It was only when the company acquired Makarova's staging of the full length ballet in 1989 that it began dancing the Shades section of the ballet with a mere twenty four dancers in the corps. I had always assumed that the reduced number of Shades was directly attributable to the fact that Dowell had acquired Makarova's 1980 staging for ABT which had only had twenty four Shades and that it had nothing to do with the state of the RB at that time. I had always understood that the forty eight Shade version of the ballet was not one that had survived in the Russian performing tradition and that it was something of a one off. As far as the Stepanov notations in the Sergeyev collection are concerned the fact that they do not include a full text of every ballet which was recorded is hardly a revelation. I have not seen the material which has been produced to accompany Ratmansky's Berlin production so I don't know what he has to say about just how complete or incomplete the notated text of the ballet is and the other source material which he has used in staging this production such as contemporary accounts of the ballet in performance and in particular accounts of the 1900 production and its stage history. He has been very scrupulous with other reconstructions in giving details about the state of the text which he has used, where there are gaps and what material he has used to fill them and when he has only had a floor plan to work with. I don't understand why you appear to believe that the fact the notation may be incomplete and in parts may be little more than an aide memoire is so significant as far as Ratmansky's reconstructions are concerned. I don't think that anyone has ever suggested that what he has staged is exactly as Petipa first staged it, merely that it is an attempt to get closer to the original text and see what it might have looked like in performance. Do you think that the whole reconstruction movement is pointless or do you think that a later, mid twentieth century version of La Bayadere represents the best of Petipa? I am curious to know why you seem to be so vehemently against the attempt to recover a text which Petipa might recognise? Even restoring a choreographic text to its original position in a ballet can have a marked effect on the work as a piece of theatre. No one except the company's own management is going to deprive the POB of its Nureyev stagings of the Petipa classics.
  3. Ashton Fan

    Bolshoi Ballet Summer 2019 ROH London Residency

    Mashinka, I always understood that the Hochhausers had a large say in what the Bolshoi and the Mariinsky bring to London, The choice of repertory is, to be kind about it, excessively conservative, if not down right dull. I agree about the RB's awful block programming system. Wasn't that a programming innovation introduced by Dowell after his time with ABT ? I seem to recall that we were told, at the time it was introduced, that it made it easier for the company to plan although I have always thought that it was some sort of cost cutting exercise.
  4. When Nureyev staged the Kingdom of the Shades for the Royal Ballet in 1963 the three Shades were danced by Park, Seymour and Mason. Later both Bergsma and Parkinson as well as Mason danced the variation which Naghdi is shown dancing in the film. The sequence Nureyev chose for the Shades' variations in London enabled him to show a marked stylistic and personal contrast in the way in which each of his chosen dancers presented her variation. Beginning with Park's crystalline, speedy footwork providing a contrast with both Fonteyn and Seymour, the second Shade; the sequence then continued with Seymour's almost romantic style approach to her variation with softer, rounded arms and finished with Mason who gave an account of her variation in which you saw both its steel and its beauty. Although I did not see the three named dancers in their allotted solos on the first night, over the years I saw each of them dance the variations which Nureyev had given her on that occasion. Each of them was unforgettable in their allotted variations. The company continued to cast Nureyev's Kingdom of the Shades with soloists who contrasted in the way that the original cast had done pretty much until the staging was dropped from the company's repertory. It always seemed to me that Nureyev had set out to display the range of stylistic approaches available in classical dance as if they were the range of colour on an artist's palette The first time I saw Markarova's production of the entire ballet I felt disappointed by her staging of the Shades' scene because compared with Nureyev's staging it lacked, and still lacks, grandeur as the corps consists of a mere twenty four Shades as opposed to the thirty two Nureyev had used. In addition the soloists' variations seemed, and still seem, monochrome in comparison with the way in which Nureyev had staged them. As they are performed today the seem more concerned with displaying the performers' technical skills than displaying the relationship between the music and the choreography. I am sure, that when it was first staged by Markarova, the variations were danced more quickly and looked far more like flows of movement than current performance practice seems to dictate.
  5. Amy, Thank you for your detailed account of Ratmansky's La Bayadere. From what you have written it would appear that Ratmansky has staged a work which is recognisably a mid-nineteenth century ballet in the balance which it strikes between narrative and dance content. Whether we shall all like a version of the work which is a genuine attempt to stage a pre-Revolutionary version of the ballet is another matter which will depend on our own personal tastes and preferences and in particular whether we regard the ballets of the nineteenth century as technically demanding works of narrative and mood or merely as opportunities for technical display. I can't help thinking that whether or not a genuine attempt to reconstruct a nineteenth century ballet retains its place in a company's repertory has far more to do with how much professional capital has been invested in the version which a company danced before the reconstruction was staged than anything else. It would seem that a reconstruction has a much better chance of surviving as a repertory piece where a company makes no claim to having a continuous performance tradition of the work than where it does. The Bolshoi's reconstructed Le Corsaire and Coppelia did not displace much loved versions of the ballet and have retained a hold in the company's repertory whereas the Mariinsky's Sleeping Beauty and La Bayadere reconstructions were replacing stagings for which continuity and an unbroken performing tradition were claimed, and the reconstructions have not survived . Part of the problem is that the audience may have to get used to a text which has no place for familiar characters or traditional mid twentieth century display pieces another is the dance vocabulary used in the earlier versions.The familiar mid-century much modified "traditional " versions tend to emphasise steps of elevation whereas earlier versions often emphasise petite batterie. If you then add period appropriate performance style to the mix there is a great deal for an audience to get used to seeing. Now I think that an audience, even one that is emotionally,attached to a particular version of a text, has a far greater capacity to adapt to the sort of culture shock which changes in performance style and text represent than a company's coaches who have a professional stake in the purported authenticity of what they are handing on to the next generation. Ratmansky is one of a number of pioneers in the world of textual authenticity and early ballet performance practice and we are currently where the advocates of the early music movement were fifty or sixty years ago. Should any of us be surprised that the movement seems to be of more interest to some companies than others? It is far easier to gain acceptance of the new approach when a company has no emotional attachment to a text because it has no recent tradition of performing the work which is to be restored than it is for a company which makes claims to be the custodian of a ballet's "true" and "authentic" text. If a company claims that it has lovingly preserved a text in an unbroken performance tradition, passing the text down from coach to dancer, generation after generation then a restored text is a threat not only to the company's claims to custodianship but to the professional standing, credibility and authority of its coaches as their professional reputation is dependent on their professional attachment and investment in the text danced locally as "true" and "authentic". I know that there is currently a debate about whether or not a reconstruction which does not use the original designs can be a true reconstruction. Here I think we have to be pragmatic. Three act ballets are expensive to stage whatever their theatrical history. These Imperial works are particularly expensive because of the resources which a staging in the original style would demand. Arguing that any attempt to restore an authentic performing text for La Bayadere, Swan Lake, or Sleeping Beauty performed in period appropriate style has to be accompanied by authentic imperial style sets and costumes puts the whole enterprise beyond the reach of all but the most well financially endowed companies such as the Mariinsky. Bolshoi and POB none of which are likely to embark on such a programme in the foreseeable future. It seems to me that trying to stage an authentic text is far more important than dressing the dancers in authentic style, if only because, it is doable and professionals and audiences alike need to see what these works look like when danced at the right speed with Petipa's musicality. Seeing them performed in a more authentic style is what is needed to persuade the dance powers that be that authenticity is the only route to take in performance. As things are at present we will have to wait until hell freezes over before we see an authentic text performed in period in appropriate style in a Mariinsky staging of these ballets. It certainly has the resources to stage the works in Imperial style but, apart from staging the third act of its reconstructed Sleeping Beauty for its Petipa Gala it seems most disinclined to stage the major works itself in anything approaching authentic style and equally disinclined to co-operate with those who wish to do so. I believe that it even went back on its promise to make the original Minkus score of La Bayaderer available to Ratmansky for his Berlin staging. I could easily accept a La Bayadere in which the score of the ballet is played at a speed both composer and choreographer expected; Petipa's musicality is restored and the entrance of the Shades is quicker and more dynamically interesting and there is no Golden Idol. But then I have just seen McRae's Solor and I know that I really can do without bravura technical display for its own sake. It's astonishing but his performance as Solor was more like a circus act than an account of the role or the character. So for me as far as an authentic Bayadere is concerned it cannot come too soon. Ratmansky is one of a number of pioneers in the world of nineteenth century ballet text and performance style and we are currently where the advocates of the early music movement were in the 1950's and 1960's. That movement achieved its ends with committed performances by pioneer musicians who transformed taste as far as eighteenth century musical performance style is concerned. It will be performances of authentic texts in appropriate style, almost certainly without authentic sets and costumes, that will do the same for Petipa's ballets.
  6. I have to say that I understood that Ratmansky's motive in all of this was to try to get closer to the narrative and choreographic texts of Petipa's ballets and what they may have looked like in performance which inevitably involves restoring a text which Petipa might recognise; removing additional characters who were not in the ballet which he created and restoring his musicality by insisting that the text is performed in period appropriate style and at the correct speed. Whether we like the results or not is a different matter.The Golden Idol was an obvious candidate for removal, What I find really interesting and I have only read about it so far, is that the ballet seems to have been restored to a far more obviously nineteenth century structure and narrative than the version we are used to seeing. The Ratmansky production seems to have restored an orientalist ballet not unlike Giselle in its structure and theme to the stage with the first part of the ballet devoted to narrative ending in a death scene rather than a mad scene and the second half devoted to dance with rivalry, rather than class conflict providing the motivating theme of the ballet. It sounds intriguing to me. Ratmansky is one of a number of pioneers in the world of textual authenticity and early ballet performance practice and we are currently where the advocates of the early music movement were fifty or sixty years ago. Should any of us be surprised that the movement seems to be of more interest to some ballet companies than others? It is far easier to gain acceptance of the new approach when a company has no recent tradition of performing the work which is now to be staged in the new style than it is for a company which makes claims to be the custodian of the ballet's "true" and "authentic" text lovingly preserved in an unbroken performance tradition of the work;the professional standing. credibility and authority of the company's coaches is dependent on their professional attachment and investment in the text danced locally as "true" and "authentic" and its audiences are equally attached to that "authentic" text. La Bayadere is not my favourite ballet and at the moment I would far rather see the Nureyev "KIngdom of the Shades" restored to the Covent Garden stage in all its thirty two Shade grandeur, however inauthentic it may be, than watch Markarova's full length, suitable for touring, version of the ballet . But I think that I could easily accept Ratmansky's version of the work. A La Bayadere in which the score of the ballet is not in Lanchbury's orchestration and is played at the speed both composer and choreographer expected; Petipa's musicality is restored and the entrance of the Shades is quicker and more dynamically interesting because it is performed in period appropriate style sounds very tempting. But then having just seen McRae's Solor I know that I really can do without bravura technical display for its own sake. It's astonishing but it is more like circus than an account of the role or the character but that is as much the fault of the stagers and coaches as it is the dancer's. I can only hope that the day will come when it is unacceptable for a major ballet company not to have a late nineteenth century version of the texts of the greatest of Petipa's ballets performed in period appropriate style but it is also permissible to perform major mid-century stagings of the work ,or a mid- century staging of a scene, which it performs from time to time.
  7. ,Mashinka, Please don't ask such difficult questions. I have no idea about his motive for saying what he did. Perhaps he finds it easier to say that reviving a particular ballet is expensive than to say " I don't want to revive it ".
  8. I agree that you should not have to wait for a significant anniversary in order to see a major work revived but the fact is that is probably what is going to take to get Daphnis and Chloe revived because all I could get out of Kevin when I spoke to him about the neglect of the Ashton repertory was that Daphnis is expensive to stage, The argument that it is a masterpiece cut no ice with him but the Fonteyn centenary might just do the trick. The company should revive it becuase as Ashton said if he had not worked with Fonteyn he would never have developed the lyricism in his choreography.It was revived with its original Craxton designs in 2004 for the Ashton centenary and has not been staged since. You are quite right that the RB seems to be on a roll at present as far as its dancers are concerned. It has several dancers who should be given the chance to dance the Fonteyn role and several young men who should be very be good as Daphnis. The problem with Kevin is that he seems to think that you can leave major works in cold storage for ages and when you revive them they will still look good. But then his background is with BRB which because of its size, has on occasion, to accept compromise casting and performances which will be good enough rather than outstandingly good. This experience seems to affect his judgement more than is healthy for any works in the back catalogue which call for solo singers, choruses or extra pianists, I will do my best to give a coherent account of my experience of the reconstruction.
  9. Interested to learn that Anna Rose appeared in Tarantella with Sambe in what must have been her role debut and also in Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux which I think must have been a joint debut and that in both cases they were well received. But if the RB's dancers no longer perform Balanchine as they once did with a heavy foreign accent that is in large part the result of no longer having such a pronounced house performance style. The more idiomatic Balanchine is perhaps at the cost of a less sure grasp of Ashton's stylistic obsessions and quirks. I had thought that perhaps the Mariinsky's dancers might have had the sense to conform more to the requirements of the choreography when appearing in New York . Did they really cut bits of the choreography in Tchai as reported ?
  10. The first night cast of Nunez, Muntagirov and Osipova are due to dance in the streamed performance of La Bayadere . If last night is anything to go by it will have an exceptionally strong supporting cast with the Shades danced by Choe, Naghdi and Takada and the First Soloists out in force in the betrothal scene. All of which suggests that a DVD may be in the offing. The cast for the streamed Romeo and Juliet is due to be led by Naghdi and Ball. No other casting for this streamed performance is available at present, Here there are rumours of a studio shot film. The streamed performance of Mayerling was danced by a cast led by McRae and Takada and quite a few people here don't understand why it was not the Bonelli, Morera cast who were recorded.
  11. I intend to go later in the run. I can't go earlier as I have rather a lot of tickets for performances closer to home, I shall console myself with the thought that by the time I get to see this production of La Bayadere it will have benefitted from all the intervening performances it has received and that while the dancers appearing in it at that point may be less stellar than at earlier performances they may well be more inclined to follow the party line as far as performance style and musicality are concerned. Meanwhile, closer to home, Mr O'Hare seems to be resolutely refusing to acknowledge significant anniversaries of any kind. The Scarlett production of Swan Lake was more of an exercise in thumbing your nose at Petipa than an act of homage to the man and there is little sign that Kevin intends to mark the centenary of Fonteyn's birth in any way, let alone a significant one. As for other anniversaries which occur about this time such as the centenary of the first performances of Le Tricorne and La Boutique Fantasque two important works by Massine I can't see anything happening on that front either.
  12. The Insight evening gives the opportunity to see Naghdi who makes her debut as Gamzatti during this run being coached as actress and dancer. The other dancers involved are Takada as Nikiya and MacNally as the servant. In addition to seeing Naghdi in the Act 1 scene 2 confrontation between Gamzatti and Nikiyal we see her dancing the betrothal scene solo and later some of Gamzatti's choreography from the temple scene in the final act. I shall be interested to know what you think of its contents. The discussion of the work's origins in the nineteenth century obsession with all things exotic and oriental increasingly felt like padding and as something of a non-event as it dealt with the issue of cultural appropriation which seemed to me to have been included as a means of signalling to the vast audience that these events have that the ROH is a virtuous, culturally sensitive and politically correct organisation rather than telling us that much about the work itself.
  13. A friend has told me that he thinks that the Royal Ballet's difficulties with streaming its performances in the US may well be connected to the fact that the Met has a virtual monopoly as far as streaming opera performances in the US is concerned. By the way while you may have missed a great deal in not being able to access the Royal Ballet's performances you have not missed much by not being able to watch the Royal Opera's performances. Nearly all of the Opera's recent offerings have been "Eurotrash" productions. Just to give you an indication of how silly things have become it is said that the operatic powers that be at Bow Street were none too pleased when David McVicker production of Andrea Chenier turned out to be very place and time specific as far its sets and costumes are concerned and were not that impressed by the director's argument that it was rather difficult to transpose the action of the opera to another place and time when there were so many references to well known historical figures in the libretto.
  14. Ashton Fan

    Royal Ballet 2018-19 season

    MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet is a real slog for the dancer playing Romeo as he is on stage for most of the action of the ballet without opportunities for a break. Juliet by comparison gets let off lightly. Donald MacLeary who was very strong and an exceptional partner has said on several occasions that by the time a Romeo begins the balcony pas de deux in the MacMillan version of the ballet he is exhausted. In his account of dancing the role during the ballet's initial run in London, which was filmed for a streamed performance, he gave some insight into what it actually feels like physically to dance the role of Romeo which is not as obviously strenuous as the role of Rudolf. MacLeary said that the dancer arrives at the balcony pas de deux which ends the first act and finds himself confronted with this girl who keeps throwing herself at him. All he could think of at that point was "Why is she throwing herself at me ? Does not she realise I'm exhausted?" Well,Mayerling requires considerably more of the dancer taking the role of Rudolf in terms of partnering and acting. As to how demanding the role of Rudolf really is, during the course of the first act he dances with his sister in law, Princess Louise; Larisch, his sister and Mary Vetsera as a child; his mother and finally with his wife,, Princess Stephanie. The ballet in its entirety is a real test of the dancer's stamina, acting and partnering skills but the final pas de deux of the first act, at whatever speed it is taken, is probably the most taxing thing that MacMillan ever required a male dancer to do. I know that on the night of the first performance the audience came out of the auditorium at the first interval wondering how the ballet was going to develop during the next two acts because the demanding nature of the acting and the choreography which closed the first act clearly removed several options for the end of the final act. I think that most of the audience were asking themselves " Where does it go from here?" Ed Watson has said that he ends the first act feeling as if he has danced a full three act ballet. I believe that David Wall who created the role said words to the effect that the day following a performance of the role he felt as if he had been run over by a steamroller.
  15. Ashton Fan

    Royal Ballet 2018-19 season

    Yesterday there was an unwelcome development as far as the Autumn season is concerned when it was announced that Ed Watson will not be appearing in the current run of Mayerling. Many people had interpreted the revival of the ballet as Watson's swan song when it appeared in the season's schedule. Watson is to be replaced by Hirano while Hirano is to be replaced by Ball. The role of Rudolf is exceptionally demanding physically and it is to be hoped that Ball, who is in his early twenties, comes through the experience unscathed and does no damage to his career long term, David Wall said that dancing the role had reduced his career by five years.
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