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Ashton Fan

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  1. I don't see how anyone can do anything other than guess about when companies might be able to perform again. I believe that the experience from 1919 in Minneapolis and Saint Paul makes it clear that shutting down early means you come out of a pandemic much quicker and with much less. economic damage than you do if you delay shutdown. As both the US and the UK were slow to lock down we are likely to be stuck with the virus for much longer than say Germany which acted very promptly. Until we know what the real extent of the infection is and its rate of reproduction in our respective countries we can't really start talking about how and when companies will resume performing. What is clear is that until we know that the rate of "R" is well below one anyone talking about when the theatres might reopen is asking a question very similar to "How long is a piece of string? " I suspect that places of public entertainment where people gather in large numbers and sit close together in confined spaces will be the last to reopen quite simply because they seem designed to be infection hot spots. Public Health authorities will be reluctant to see them reopen until they are satisfied that the virus is well and truly under control. It is one thing to gradually ease restrictions on the range of shops which can reopen with social distancing if they are thought to attract a limited number of customers drawn from a relatively small geographic area quite another to allow places which can't really impose social distancing because of the way they function and were designed to reopen . It becomes an even bigger problem if they tend to attract audiences from across a wide geographic area as this brings the danger of importing fresh infection. However pressing their financial needs no company is going to want to be accused of creating an infection hot spot by reopening prematurely. Of course it is not just the audience drawn from a wide geographic area sitting close together that presents the potential for spreading the virus and boosting its reproduction rate the working conditions of the performers also present opportunities for it to spread as they scarcely allow for social distancing in any form. Dancers cannot keep six feet apart when rehearsing or performing and nor can musicians sitting in the pit. Watching what happens in Germany and Italy and comparing the two when it comes to announcing that they are reopening their opera houses and when they actually succeed in doing so might give a clue as to what we might expect.
  2. Having pulled stumps on the ballet season some weeks ago I am surprised that the ROH has taken so long to officially abandon the remnants of the opera season. It will be interesting to find out when the management anticipates being able to open the doors again and what form the opera and ballet seasons actually take. At the moment i can't see much happening before Christmas. Given the number of dancers who were prevented from making major debuts in Swan Lake by the shutdown or made unscheduled debuts but never had the opportunity to dance with their advertised partners I suspect that "Lac" will be back next season and that the rest of the repertory will be popular rather than novel or e. A late start to the season will give plenty of time to decide what form "Lac" should take. I should be very surprised if its text was the one devised by Scarlett. The simplest solution would be to use either the text used by Dowell or the one used in the production which preceded it.
  3. I wholeheartedly agree with your concerns about the wisdom of donating ticket money to the ROH. I suspect that it will be more than a handful of regulars who are faced with the problem you described. There are quite a lot of regulars who seem to be just hanging on at present. The economic landscape is likely to be very different when the lock down is eased . Jobs in some sectors will be lost while those like teachers who work for the state could easily find that the government decides that the aftermath of the lock down presents a wonderful opportunity for salary and wage cuts. Such action would make no sense economically and would further reduce employment and the governments tax receipts by damaging the economy as a whole but it would certainly fit the ideological outlook of much of the current UK government. As far as the ROH is concerned I anticipate that tickets for both opera and ballet will cost considerably more next season than they did this season. Even if the ROH organisation is unable to persuade its donors to be more generous than they are at present it is quite possible that ACE will be anxious to reduce its subsidy so that it can prop up less high profile and less financially well connected arts organisations much further north than London and the South East. Any increase in ticket prices will of course make the ROH even less socially diverse than it is at present. I suppose how it chooses to handle ticket price increases will depend on how socially exclusive it feels it can afford to be seen to be. No doubt some donors would be happy to pay more and perhaps eliminate the state subsidy in exchange for greater social exclusivity.
  4. A cursory glance at the Royal Opera House website makes it pretty clear that the opera and ballet seasons have been brought to a premature close. I don't expect any early announcement of what the 2020-21 season will look like for either company as I imagine that both companies are currently revising their original plans and devising seasons which will sell without any effort on the part of the marketing department as its objective will be to deal with the losses which the truncation of the season has caused. The ROH has been trying to persuade people to donate the money that they have spent on tickets for the cancelled performances up to the end of April rather than asking for it to be refunded. It will be interesting to see how much luck they have with that, if only because of the sums involved. Alex Beard who runs the ROH organisation has written to the favoured few saying how much the organisation values its loyal audience members which is a complete reversal of the organisation's recent stance of treating its regular audience as a group who made unreasonable demands of it. The individual in charge of audience relations and marketing, who has since moved on, created the impression that it was an organisation whose main concern was to cater to the needs of the occasional visitor rather than its regular audience. In fact she gave the impression that the target audience were tourists or families celebrating granny's birthday who wanted the ROH experience of wining and dining at the opera house but who beyond knowing whether they were going to an opera or a ballet on the evening they selected were not much interested in what was being performed or who was appearing in it. We shall see how the appeal for donations turns out in the light of recent experience with the organisation.
  5. I am not sure that I gained a lot from seeing Bathilde and the Duke of Courland arrive on horse however authentic that may be theatrically and socially. It was interesting to encounter a sympathetic Bathilde rather than the cold and aloof creature one is used to seeing in Bow Street. I know that this is an attempt to capture something of the flavour of the ballet as a nineteenth century creation and it is almost certainly authentic but I am not sure that Hans/ Hilarion's characterisation as a peasant clod adds much to the mixture. However I suppose that if Bathilde is to be played more naturally and sympathetically rather than as an unfeeling aristocrat then someone else has to be presented as an unsympathetic character. It was a pleasant change to see the peasant pas de deux danced as just that rather than being hacked about to provide opportunities for more than two dancers. The thing that struck me most about the first act was that the mime sequence used in the reconstruction is shorter and simpler than the version which the Royal Ballet has been performing since the 1960's. According to the company's performance records its current version was introduced in the production which Ashton and Karsavina staged in 1960. This mime sequence which the company has retained in subsequent productions is the version which Karsavina said was performed during her time with the Mariinsky. In it Berthe not only has the opportunity to warn Giselle of the threat which her love of dance poses for her but to provide the assembled peasants with a full account of the way in which the Wilis force unwary men to dance themselves to death. In the mime sequence Berthe demonstrates the confrontation between an unwary traveller and a Wili playing both characters. I can't help wondering when Ratmansky's version of the mime sequence became the norm ? I found the second act extraordinarily effective and was more than happy to see the loss of the pressage lift which is little more than a twentieth century technical trick which adds nothing to the ballet aesthetically or dramatically. The lift which replaced it is far more attractive and aesthetically in keeping with the rest of the choreography. I felt that when I saw Ball perform it when he took over as Albrecht mid performance at Covent Garden not so long ago. I didn't feel then that I had been cheated by not seeing what has become the Giselle cliche lift or in this streamed performance. Its replacement looks far more stylistically appropriate in a ballet in which those performing the choreography should be more concerned with the creation of atmosphere and mood than having opportunities for technical display. I have to say that I was pleased to see a production which fell back on the use of nineteenth century stage technology with Giselle showering Albrecht with flowers from a tree rather than all but handing them to him. While there were elements which did not entirely convince me such as the cross formation of the Wilis which, as I understand it, has its source in Justament's notebooks I should love to have the opportunity to see the production live. I hope that it is one of the productions which the Bolshoi bring with them next time the company visits Covent Garden. It was good to have the opportunity to see a Romantic ballet text treated with respect and to have the opportunity to go on Ratmansky's artistic voyage of exploration.
  6. It is pretty clear that there are more potential candidates for promotion among the ranks of the First Soloists than there are likely to be vacancies for Principals at the end of the season. The company seems to have largely lost its dead wood through retirement. It is going to be very interesting to see which dancers the management has decided have gone as far as their talents can take them. As the company does not seem to be touring abroad this summer perhaps Mr O'Hare will decide that he has no need to promote anyone at this time and that he can afford to defer what is likely to be a difficult decision for another season while he tries people out in a wider range of the core repertory than has happened so far. He is under far less pressure to make appointments than he would be if the company were visiting somewhere such as Japan, where the promoters demand principal dancers must be cast in leading roles as a contractual term.
  7. On what I hope proves to be a happier note. The Royal Ballet is increasingly becoming Kevin O'Hare's company rather than the one he inherited from his predecessor. It is usual for appointments to follow on from departures and retirement but some unusual things have been happening in the company as far as long serving personnel are concerned. It is almost unheard of for dancers to leave early in a new season but that is what both Alistair Marriott, Principal Character Dancer,and Jonathan Howells, Ballet Master and Character Artist, chose to do making it necessary to modify the casting for Coppelia which had already been announced. With their early depart it is just possible that Kevin may find that he has enough money to fund more than one new Principal dancer at the end of the season.Here I am assuming that Hallberg's appointment as Guest Artist is not going to be a permanent feature in the life of the company. Kevin will almost certainly appoint someone to replace Soares who announced that his appearances as Onegin were to be his last with the company.The question is whether he will appoint a second Principal, even if he has no immediate need to do so? There are several dancers who in recent months have been given the opportunity to reveal their potential for promotion to the company's top rank. While Clarke has consolidated his position as an extremely useful and adaptable dancer which explains his recent promotion to First Artist, dancers like Magri and O'Sullivan have been cast in roles which have not only expanded their personal repertory and range but have seen them performing key roles in ballets which are central to the company's core repertory. It seems to me that the revival of the long neglected Coppelia has expanded the group of potential candidates for promotion. It is going to be interesting to see who will have proved to be successful when the promotions are announced at the end of the season.
  8. AB's Mom,Thank you for posting the link to the Guardian newspaper article about this. There are some posts on this topic in the section devoted to news from the Royal Ballet which may be of interest to you and others.
  9. Since his time as a student at the Royal Ballet School Scarlett has been seen as a choreographer of considerable promise and on the basis of his choreographic talent he was able to retire from dancing in his mid twenties and take up an official choreographic post at the Royal Ballet which was created for him. It has now been announced officially that he was suspended from his company post in August last year and that his activities there and at the school are under investigation by an outside organisation. The investigation which concerns allegations of sexual misconduct and bullying are ongoing. He has been banned from the Opera House and the Royal Ballet School. Strangely although he had been banned from the Opera House last August it was only announced that "The Cellist" mixed bill was no longer going to include a new work by Liam Scarlett comparatively recently. Presumably at that point,the announcement was made for the practical reason that it isn't really possible to create a new work, if the choreographer is banned from entering the building where rehearsals are to take place. The investigations have not been completed but I think that It will be interesting to see how much further the company feels it needs to distance itself from Scarlett, now that the broad nature of the allegations are known. There are revivals of his production of Swan Lake and his ballet Symphonic Dances scheduled in the coming months. While I am sure that the company is capable of reviving them in his absence there is the question of whether it will wish to be seen to do so. If they are keeping him at arm's length and denying him access to the building and the dancers will they want to be seen to be paying him royalties for these revivals ? Of course there is no problem if the allegations are found to be without substance. But will the company or the Royal Opera House organisation want to run the risk of the enquiry finding that the allegations have substance to them at very the time that his Swan Lake is being performed in Bow Street ? There is always the possibility that other former students and dancers will come forward and make their own allegations now they know that an official enquiry into Scarlett's activities and behaviour is under way. The investigation is already said to concern his activities going back over a period of ten years. The company was able to drop Scarlett's new ballet without explanation or comment when the investigation was not public knowledge but from now on its decisions with respect to his existing ballets scheduled for performance this season are likely to come under scrutiny and may well be the subject of adverse comment. It is going to be interesting to see how the company decides to handle the situation . It is possible that it is just too late to do anything about the version of Swan Lake the company will dance this season. Symphonic Dances is likely to prove much easier to lose.
  10. The closer you get to the performance dates the more likely it is that you will find tickets appearing on the ROH website. In my experience the ROH puts tickets for resale on its site as soon as they come in. So while it may be true that returns are included in the Friday rush the point to note is that they are not held back until the date of the next rush. I see that the performances you want to attend are midweek ones so while I think that tickets can come in at anytime the days when you are most likely to strike it lucky are probably going to be the Monday and Tuesday of the week in which the performances are due to take place and the day of the performance itself. I hope this helps.
  11. It would seem that the ROH no longer uses the services of authorised ticket agents as it once did. Unlike the old one the current version of the website makes no reference to any authorised ticket outlets and states very clearly that tickets can only be obtained from the ROH box office. I shall be very interested to know if you get a more positive response from the Ballet Co Forum website.
  12. As tickets go on sale months in advance of the performance dates to which they relate it is most unusual for the ROH not to receive tickets returned for resale for most performances. The ROH puts returned tickets on its website as soon as they are received. Returns are not held back for the Friday rush for the week in which the performance is scheduled to take place. My advice would be to keep an eye on the ROH website. Although returns, if any, tend to become available during the weeks immediately preceding a performance rather than six weeks before it, someone might return a ticket earlier than usual. The tickets shown on the ROH website are genuine and they are sold at the original price which is not something you can say about tickets offered for resale elsewhere. As far as the casts you wish to see are concerned you might find it somewhat easier to get returns for the Nunez cast than the Osipova one for the simple reason that there is likely to be less demand for returns from Nunez obsessed fans than Osipova obsessed ones with the result that there may be less temptation for purchasers to sell them at inflated prices on a resale site. Other reasons for trying for the Nunez cast are that Nunez is less likely to injure herself and be replaced at short notice than Osipova and you can be certain that Muntagirov has the artistry and the physical ability to dance the Prince. While Hallberg may still be an artist of note, sadly from what little I have seen of him in performance at Covent Garden, his physical strength is somewhat uncertain. I would strongly advise against using resale sites. A couple of days ago, out of idle curiosity, I had a look at a couple of such sites to see what the scalpers were charging for the next Osipova/ Clarke Onegin. There were tickets available. I saw somebody was trying to get over six hundred pounds for tickets for a part of the auditorium from which you would be lucky to have any view of the stage. The more expensive seats on offer although in posher parts of the theatre were not necessarily going to offer much of a view of the performance either. The auditorium is horseshoe shaped and there are plenty of seats which while they may be acceptable for opera performances are all but useless for ballet. In answer to the enquiry about Ballet co Forum. It is a British based site.
  13. If the fate of the nineteenth century ballet repertory is anything to go by, what survives for future generations is a matter of chance in which prestige and artistic reputation count for very little. One thing that is certain is that nothing in the repertory stands much chance of survival if it is not exposed to public view. In order to survive a choreographer's works at the very least need company managements who are committed to staging a representative range of their output ensuring they receive regular revivals coached by those who understand the individual choreographer's musicality and performance style and have the aptitude to convey what the choreographer wanted to see in performance to those who are to dance it. The Ashton Foundation has just posted videos from its coaching events on You Tube. They give you an opportunity to see sessions on Ashton's choreography for "The Walk to the Paradise Garden "coached by Merle Park; two sessions on "Raymonda Pas de Deux" coached by Darcey Bussell with interventions from Donald MacLeary in which Nunez and Bonelli work on the pas de deux and Anna Rose O'Sullivan and David Donnelly work on the solos and Gary Avis coaches Donnelly ; a session on Foyer de Danse and finally there is the choreography Ashton created for a staging of Le Rossignole in which William Bracewell and Anna Rose O'Sullivan are coached by Anthony Dowell. I hope you find the coaching sessions of interest . I leave it to you to decide whether the Foundation is justifying its existence with the work it is doing. It would be great if these events were to prompt the revival of at least some of the works shown.
  14. The film was given a limited cinema release in the UK and was shown on BBC 2 at Christmas. It is fine if you accept that it is not a film of MacMillan's ballet but an attempt to make a film which emphasises the ballet's narrative and gives priority to its choreographed action over its dance elements although it retains most of the significant set pieces. Its visual elements include an obtrusive bush which someone has identified as a rosemary bush and a fluttering curtain which gets in the way in some of the scenes set in Juliet's bedroom. Perhaps it was intended to be artistic. The film shows the company in a state of transition in 2019 as a generation of young dancers takes over from those who became its leading performers during Mason's directorship. In future years it may even come to be seen as an historic record of that change because of the minor roles in which some named dancers appear. Both Anna Rose O'Sullivan and Mayara Magri appear as Juliet's friends and given the way in which their careers are progressing it seems highly unlikely that they will dance those roles again and the same may also be true of both Tierney Heap and Beatrix Stix-Brunell who appear alongside Laura Morera as the ballet's trio of whores. There was some concern when it was announced that Matthew Ball, who is in his mid-twenties, was to dance Tybalt when the ballet was last revived because the role is generally seen as marking the transition from active dancer to character roles. The same is true when it comes to the role of Juliet's Nurse so there were concerns that Romany Pajdak might also be on her way out as an active dancer when she made her debut in the role during the same run. The film's pluses include not only the performances of Hayward and Bracewell but the opportunity to see Sambe dancing Mercutio and leading the Mandolin dance and the editing of much of the choreographic padding for the scenes set in the market square. Although this means that you don't get to see much of Morera or her fellow whores it spares the audience most of the townspeople's tiresome repetitive choreography which cannot be cut in theatrical performances if you want Romeo to survive until the tomb scene. If you are curious about the state of the Royal Ballet Company and want to see something of the dancers of whom you may have heard then the film will give you an opportunity to do so. The film was not made by the ROH and it is not clear whether there are any plans for a DVD to be issued although there would almost certainly be a market for one.
  15. No doubt when they will do that, they will find a wide difference in the effectiveness and outcomes of each of the organisations they study. I don't get the impression that many of the Foundations are undertaking something approaching a last ditch effort to preserve an entire repertory but that is what the Ashton Foundation seems to be engaged in doing. The main problem in the years immediately following Ashton's death was that Dowell, Grant and Somes, who had been left the most valuable ballets in terms of their potential earning power, do not appear to have seen the need to co-operate and make long term plans for their legacies possibly because theirs were the Ashton ballets being performed. They may have been influenced in their attitude by Ashton's own pessimism about the likely life span of his works after his death. Whatever it was that delayed the creation of an organisation to safeguard Ashton's ballets the fact is that the Foundation was established very late in the day with the result that many people who might have made valuable contributions to its teaching resources died before they could be filmed coaching the roles created on them or explaining what Ashton wanted in performance. At the moment I think that the Ashton Foundation is playing catch up and doing some very basic work that should have been done some time ago. The Foundation website lists various activities which are intended to preserve the Ashton repertory and ensure that it is capable of being revived and performed in an authentically Ashtonian form and style. Of all these initiatives the one that will almost certainly prove to be the most important is its decision to develop repetiteurs for his ballets through a shadowing scheme. In spite of the fact that the Foundation's first potential repetiteur to participate in the scheme, Cervera, has since been recruited to teach at the Royal Ballet School this initiative seems to be the first real attempt to try to secure the Ashton repertory for future generations. There is a pressing need to ensure that there is a second generation of Ashton repetiteurs capable of taking over from the first generation who worked in the studio with Ashton creating and reviving his works and have extensive experience of dancing his choreography. As Leslie Collier has pointed out dancers of her generation inevitably became Ashton dancers because whether they were dancing in his ballets or in Sleeping Beauty or Swan Lake they would find themselves dancing his choreography and performing in his preferred understated ultra musical style.This was true of the entire company including those dancers on whom MacMillan created his best works. I think that it is possible to argue that the Royal Ballet became Ashton's company in terms of its performance style and aesthetics in the mid thirties when he became the company's resident choreographer and that it was still largely a company conforming to his aesthetics at his death. Although he had worked for the company creating works for it for many years the company's active repertory did not come to be dominated by MacMillan's ballets until after Ashton's death. It seems to come as a shock to those who ardently proclaim themselves to be MacMillan adherents to be reminded that, with the exception of the works he was forced to create in Stuttgart , all of the MacMillan ballets created for the Royal Ballet were made on dancers who had been formed artistically by dancing Ashton's choreography.Jeremy Isaacs records a meeting with Lady MacMillan soon after Ashton's death at which she pressed her husband's cause arguing that his works should be given greater prominence in the repertory as he was capable of producing new works for the company. I think that it was at that point that the Royal Ballet became MacMillan's company as after that time his works seemed to be given much more stage time and suddenly we entered the world of extended runs of MacMillan's dramballets as casting policy seemed to require that every female dancer of note, if deemed suitable by the master choreographer, would give the audience "her Juliet" and "her Manon" every time those ballets were revived. 1988 was a significant year for the Ashton repertory. Not only was it the year of Ashton's death it also marked the point at which his aesthetic influence over the company came to an end; it was agreed that the MacMillan repertory should be given precedence in programming and Guillem danced her first Giselle for the Royal Ballet and became its most influential dancer artistically and aesthetically since Nureyev's arrival there more than thirty years before. I find it interesting that when David Bintley made Tombeaux his final ballet for the main company as its resident choreographer he made a work which he later described in interview as prompted not only by wanting to mark Ashton's death but to mark what he saw as the death of the "English style". The ballet which uses the Fred step in a number of inventive ways was premiered in 1993 and by then the company's cultural revolution was well under way. It was indisputably MacMillan's company rather than one in which choreographic honours were shared fairly evenly between the two men and their works. It seems to me that it became acceptable, if nor fashionable, to compare Ashton's technically rigorous works unfavourably with MacMillan's output. The former's works were "twee" and "camp" while the latter's with their "realistic" scenarios and action and their expressive choreography were outstanding examples of choreographic art. This view of the relative merits of the two men's dance works was exacerbated by Dowell's decision to stage The Tales of Beatrix Potter which Ashton had created for the cinema. As Ashton had predicted years before it made it look as if he had gone "ga-ga". The fact that Ashton's ballets were often less than ideally cast and subjected to inane new designs which destroyed floor plans or restricted the dancers' movements while the school seemed to have increasing difficulty in producing the sort of dancers able to do justice to Ashton's choreography did not help his cause or his claim to be regarded as one of the twentieth century's major choreographers. Although there has been a move to rehabilitate and restore a wider range of Ashton repertory to the stage under the current director and his predecessor there is still a long way to go. The Two Pigeons was recently restored to the Covent Garden stage after an absence of thirty years Such revivals are still often marred by casting decisions based more on the need to give big names stage time than their suitability for the roles they have been given. All of these mistakes and miscalculations add to the difficulties which the Foundation has to surmount if it is to restore the fullest range of the Ashton repertory to the stage. Last year's Fonteyn Gala was such a missed opportunity to create an audience as there was no follow through with revivals of works included in it programmed in this season. I suppose that we have to be grateful that Kevin is replacing the unavailable Ratmansky piece with Monotones i and II in the final mixed bill of the season and that a very small number of people are to have the opportunity to see both Dante Sonata and Valses Nobles et Sentimentales in the Linbury . It really isn't enough.Once a performance style has ceased to be part of a company's artistic DNA it is extraordinarily difficult to revive works created in that style.Of course the Foundation has no control over what either company stages and not every Ashton ballet is destined to be part of the core repertory of either Royal Ballet company but the fact that neither company has any sort of programming policy which would ensure that the bulk of Ashton's ballets are given a regular airing leaves them very vulnerable, after a period of neglect people start to believe that there must be sound reasons for the neglect and after that all it takes is a badly cast revival to all but settle a work's fate.
  16. I think that I need to clarify what I said about the ownership of Les Patiners and Les Rendezvous as the Foundation's website states that it owns them. My understanding is that the Foundation looks after the ballets on behalf of the Royal Ballet School which receives any income the ballets generate through being performed. Wendy Ellis and Antony Dowell both own valuable ballets. It will be interesting to see what they decide to do with the ballets left to them when the time comes to make provision for their subsequent ownership and management.Will they do what Derick Rencher did with his ballet which ensures that the works he owned are safe from revision and tinkering or will they leave them to people who might believe that as owners they have the right to revise and tinker with them ?
  17. Alexander Grant left Fille to his partner Jean-Pierre Gasquet and Facade to his brother Gary Grant. All the details of who owns what can be found on the Frederick Ashton Foundation website. With the exception of the gift to Tony Dyson Ashton's specific bequests seem to have had more to do with the recipients' association with the ballets left to them than the possibility that they would provide an income for the legatee. Ashton's nephew is the residuary legatee but seems to do very little to exploit the ballets left to him by pushing for their revival.The potential for problems to arise with these legacies increases as they pass from the original legatee into the hands of people who have little or no direct connection with Ashton or the world of ballet. I seem to recall that one of the Foundation's expressed aims was to acquire his works but to do that it needs to generate income. Brian Shaw's ballets Les Patineurs and Les Rendezvous were left to Derick Rencher who in turn left them to the Royal Ballet School. The Ashton Foundation looks after their staging and revival on behalf of the school.The Foundation was able to buy Daphnis and Chloe which had originally been left to Fonteyn but that work was not a money spinner because it costs so much to stage as the original score uses a full chorus. Fille on the other hand does generate an income and would be much more costly to acquire.
  18. It's a bit better than that. We have just had a really exceptional revival of Enigma Variations with three separate casts in which only a couple of dancers, at most, were definitely miscast and really should not have been on stage. This compares very favourably with the last revival of the ballet at Covent Garden when it seemed to me that very few of the dancers involved were suitable for the roles they had been selected to dance. In addition to Valses Nobles et Sentimentales which I believe was thought lost until it was revived and performed in London as part of the celebrations for Ashton's eightieth birthday and his Duncan influenced wartime work Dante Sonata we are also to have the opportunity to see both parts of Monotones as part of the final mixed bill of the season. I am pleased that we are being given the opportunity to see these works this season but the fact remains that the performances of Monotones are only there to replace a previously announced work that had to be shelved. I would feel far more certain about the future of Ashton's ballets as a part of the Royal Ballet's active repertory if there was some evidence that its artistic director was committed to regular revivals of Ashton's ballets and that his most important works were timetabled for regular revival as part of the turnover of the company's active repertory. We are told that we can't have Daphnis and Chloe because it is expensive to stage,although I am told that there is a version of Ravel's score which does not use a chorus. We are told that Cinderella is a problem because of the designs, presumably this is some sort of difficulty between the rights holder and the company, and there are rumours of problems with the current owner of Fille. I can't help thinking that that if the company was as committed to its Ashton repertory as it claims to be that the problems would have been resolved with some alacrity. The fact that they are not sorted out suggests that they are a useful excuse for not reviving the works in question.
  19. It has just been announced that Reece Clarke has been promoted to First Soloist. This is unusual as promotions are generally announced at the end of the ballet season rather than half way through them. However I don't think that many people will be surprised that he has been promoted or that anyone will think that his promotion is undeserved given the range of works in which he has danced principal roles to considerable acclaim beginning with the Michael Somes role in Symphonic Variations very soon after he joined the company. Although no reason has been given it seems that the promotion is not entirely unconnected with the cast changes announced for the forthcoming performances of Onegin. Clarke replaces Muntagirov as Onegin and dances with Osipova as his Tatiana, while Mendizabel dances Tatiana opposite Soares in his final performances with the company, Mendizabel replaces Cuthbertson who was previously announced. There are other cast changes but these are the most significant.
  20. l suppose that I have to begin with the very first ballets that I saw for the simple reason it was a mixed programme danced by Ballet Rambert which made me want to find out more about the art form and expand my knowledge of what ballet was and what it was capable of being. Looking back I count myself extremely lucky that my aunt decided to take me to see a performance given by Ballet Rambert as a birthday present because had the second ballet I saw been my first encounter with the art form I think that I might have been put off ballet for life. My recollection is that the Rambert mixed bill included both Glen Tetley's "Pierrot Lunaire" with Christopher Bruce as Pierrot and Antony Tudor's "The Judgement of Paris." They will therefore have to be the first two ballets on my list. if you want to know what my second encounter with ballet was it was seeing "The Stone Flower" at the Kirov and it was not Prokofiev's s core which i found so off putting. I had come to ballet with innocent ears and had no preconceptions about what a ballet score should sound like by which I mean that I did not think that if the score was not by Tchaikovsky or Minkus it was "difficult" and not really suited to ballet. I suppose it might have helped if I had seen a full length ballet before I saw "The Stone Flower " but I am not convinced that it would have helped that much. I don't think that it was my lack of knowledge of the conventions of full length ballets which was the problem. It seems to me that it was the extremely earnest nature of the narrative and the structure of the ballet itself which were the problems. Far too much of the score was allocated to setting the scene and in establishing the characters the most important part seemingly being the need to establish the extraordinarily virtuous nature of the hero and the unbelievable wickedness of the baddies. What with that and the time taken up by the virtuous hero toiling away in the mine the denouement felt particularly rushed. Even at that age my limited knowledge of the rudiments of theatrical structure led me to think that perhaps you should not find yourself squeezing half the narrative into a quarter of the score. The experience was not enough to put me off ballet going but if it had been my initial encounter with ballet, and if I had had less experience of theatre going, it might have been the first and last time that I attended a ballet performance. I know that I was extremely lucky because not long after that I went to live in a town which the Royal Ballet Touring Company visited on a regular basis. The company danced a wide range of the company's pre-war repertory and although it was disbanded early on in MacMaillan's directorship I had the opportunity to see many works which were not part of the regular repertory at Covent Garden. The core repertory of the Touring Company included ballets by de Valois, Ashton, MacMillan and Cranko. The older Ashton ballets which it danced included Facade, Les Rendezvous and Les Patineurs. I think that it is Les Patineurs which fired my interest not only in Ashton's ballets but in Massine's as well. It has to be my third ballet .The fourth and fifth ballets which were significant in fuelling my ballet going habit were some of the first ballets that I saw at Covent Garden a matinee performance of Sleeping Beauty with a cast led by Sibley and Dowell and a performance of Serenade danced by a cast headed by Beriosova and MacLeary. The five ballets which made me a balletgoer are: 1. Pierrot Lunaire. 2. The Judgement of Paris. 3. The Sleeping Beauty. 4. Serenade. 5. Les Patineurs. and to see eady knew that I
  21. I think that the real problem with the Ashton repertory is the personal tastes and artistic vision of the artistic directors of the two Royal Ballet companies who decide which ballets we shall be permitted to see each season. If they were doing a good job of programming the full range of his choreographic output by ensuring between them that all of the major ballets were revived on a regular basis and even the minor pieces were given the occasional airing then perhaps other companies might wish to stage more of them. The problem is the programming policies of those two directors ensure that only a bare handful of Ashton ballets enjoy anything like core repertory status.Kevin O'Hare seems to want to go down in company history as a director who added to the company's repertory rather than as a conservator of the non MacMillan works in the company's twentieth century back catalogue. David Bintley as an active choreographer has seen his company as a vehicle for his own sub-Ashtonian creations rather than as a repository of choreographic treasures and curiosities , The neglect of the works which BRB has brought back from near oblivion is little short of scandalous since both he and his predecessor Sir Peter Wright have been responsible for award winning revivals and restorations of important works from the thirties and forties. Only time will tell what happens to the older ballets in Birmingham's repertory when Acosta takes up the directorship there in January 2020. Will he be at all interested in ballets which he has never seen which would not have suited him as a dancer or will he start staging works with which he is familiar from his days in Cuba? The great advantage that both Balanchine and Robbins enjoy is that there is a consensus among the US dance community devoted to classical ballet about the quality and significance of their dance output. Although there may be doubts about the quality of individual works no one who wants to be taken seriously in the world of dance has, to my knowledge, ever suggested that the bulk of their works are old fashioned and should be shelved in favour of works by the current generation of choreographers. Balanchine has the additional advantage of being almost synonymous with classical ballet in the US. Things are somewhat different when it comes to the Ashton repertory in the UK where he seems to be far game for those who would much prefer that the Royal Ballet were dancing works by MacGregor and his contemporaries.Indeed there are some critics who can't resist describing Ashton's works as old fashioned whenever the opportunity presents itself as it has in the last couple of weeks with the company's latest triple bill of Concerto, Enigma Variations and Raymonda Act III. "Sepia coloured" and "old fashioned" were pressed into service to criticise rather than describe the rarely revived Enigma Variations which rather misses the point that the ballet is a late 1960's portrayal of the characters whom Elgar described in his score and an evocation of the late Victorian world. You might ask whether this process of downplaying the Ashton legacy was deliberate or accidental and perhaps a meeting which Jeremy Isaacs, General Director Covent Garden 1987 -1996 , described in his autobiography provides some sort of answer. He says that soon after Ashton's death in 1988 he had a meeting with Kenneth and Lady MacMillan at which she pressed her husband's claims to have his work given preference in programming as he was still capable of creating new works for the company. She added that Anthony agreed to this. This, I think, marks the point at which the company which Ashton had helped to establish and whose artistic and stylistic reputation he had forged became the company whose MacMillan repertory became more important to its artistic identity and its financial stability than that of its Founder choreographer. Then there were those who wanted to speed up the process of reducing Ashton's influence on the company's performance style. Speaking at a conference about Ashton and his works held in the late 1990's, John Percival reported that dancers were being encouraged by their colleagues to "camp up" their performances of Ashton's choreography. That sort of thing does not help Ashton's cause nor does the fact that few if any of his works are danced at the right speed probably because the school abandoned teaching the Cechetti system years ago. Unfortunately Ashton danced too slowly becomes heavy and stodgy and fails to capture the imagination..
  22. I am very sorry to hear of McRae's injury and wish him a speedy recovery. Being realistic about his injury it seems unlikely that he will be fulfilling his dancing commitments in the ballets in which he has been cast during the first booking period and this raises the interesting question of who will replace him in his current scheduled performances ? His injury leaves three leading roles to be allocated of which the prince in Sleeping Beauty is probably the most important in terms of career progression because of the place the ballet has in the company's history. Who gets to dance those roles is of interest not because of a lack of potential replacements within the company's ranks but the sheer number of talented young male dancers who might be cast in his stead. The first night of the mixed bill which includes Raymonda Act III is only a few days away and although Clarke is already cast in Concerto on the nights that McRae was scheduled to dance I can't help hoping that Clarke, rather than Hirano, will get to dance Jean de Brienne as he was very stylish in the role when he danced it on the main stage at his year's graduation performance. As Kevin seems very keen to give junior dancers their chances, Clarke was only a First Artist when he danced the prince in Sleeping Beauty when it was last revived, so perhaps we shall get to see someone like Sissens in one or more of these roles ? The disappointment of not seeing McRae will, I am sure, be ameliorated by seeing the next dancer or dancers to be given their opportunity to display their talents and their artistry.
  23. Hallberg is due to partner Osipova in Onegin, Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake and I would not be at all surprised to see them in Dances at a Gathering as well. As far as the role of Onegin is concerned I had understood that the Cranko Trust had a far firmer hand when it came to questions of casting the right type of dancers in leading roles than the decision to cast Hallberg in the title role suggests is the case. it is certainly casting against type and it makes the decision to casting Muntagirov as Onegin appear almost uncontroversial. Although I shall be happy to be proved wrong I don't see either man as ideally suited to the role and in Hallberg's case it is not just the challenge of being cast against type that is the problem there are also some pretty tricky lifts which he will need to master. If he can't make them l look effortlessly expressive he is unlikely to make much of an impact as Onegin. As far as Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty are concerned Osipova is not an obvious choice to dance classical roles, she is a one off, whom you either accept on her terms or you don't. It is strange to see her choose to appear with a partner who even in his current physical state will show up her lack of purely classical credentials but then perhaps it is as a friend suggested to me, she simply likes the idea of working with a totally unobtrusive partner.
  24. Thinking about Mashinka's comments about how flat Dances at a Gathering seemed when it was revived during the 2007-8 and the 2008-9 seasons I can't help wondering what it was that made those recent performances seem muted and lacking in character when compared with the impact of the company's performances of it during the 1970's ? Of course it could simply be the cast which Robbins selected or perhaps the lapse of time has made those performances of more than forty years ago seem so full of character and emotional depth and that every passing year has enhanced their impact but I don't think that is the entire explanation. I suspect that there is far more to it than that. I seem to recall that several of the dancers involved in the company's initial performances said that when Robbins rehearsed them they learned all the roles and were not told until just before the first night which role they would be dancing . This of course means that they were far more deeply immersed in the ballet and the interconnections of the various sections of the ballet than any subsequent Royal Ballet cast would ever be as ballet schedules today do not usually allow that amount of time for in depth preparation. I can't help wondering whether an even more significant factor was that Robbins' handpicked cast was full of dancers with really strong stage personalities who seem to have been allowed a degree of interpretive freedom by the choreographer which is not possible forty plus years later when coaches from a trust safeguarding a choreographer's works are in charge of revivals. I seem to recall that Richard Buckle wrote that NYCB dancers who saw the Royal Ballet's original cast complained that they were acting the ballet rather than dancing it. Perhaps the difference in the impact of the two sets of performances is simply that the most recent casts were coached to dance it in the ""correct" Robbins' style rather than in a manner gave them an opportunity to give their own interpretations of what they were dancing. I recall the Royal Ballet's initial cast suggested a group of people held together by invisible emotional ties. Perhaps it boils down to this forty years ago we had, thanks to Robbin's himself, the "tuppence coloured" version of his ballet whereas today we get the "correct " "penny plain " version. I shall be going to see this forthcoming revival,even if it is a rather bland version of the ballet, because of the inherent qualities of the choreography.I shall go with the hope of seeing two casts selected from across the company's ranks rather than simply from the most senior dancers in the company. It is always interesting to see the dancers an outsider chooses to cast if given a free hand.
  25. Dropping a new ballet is unusual to say the least. As the revival of Scarlett's less than satisfactory Swan Lake takes place at roughly the same time as his new work was due to be premiered perhaps the problem is that he does not have enough time to create the new ballet and undertake remedial work on his Swan Lake production. I am not sure that there are that many people in London who will be filled with joy by the announcement that Hallberg is to become a principal guest artist with the company. So far the little we have seen of him in London makes it difficult to see precisely why he should be given that status at this point in his career. I think that many people assume that his presence in the company has more to do with Osipova wanting to dance with him than anything else. I am not sure that the company needs an exemplar of pure classicism as it has both Muntagirov who is young and Bonelli who is probably entering his final years in princely roles on the books and several young men such as Bracewell, Clarke and Sissens who are clearly going places as far as such roles are concerned. I am not suggesting that Hallberg's reputation as a fine classical dancer is undeserved merely that his best days are almost certainly behind him. When he danced the balcony pas de deux with Osipova at the Fonteyn Gala he seemed blandly beautiful , failed to suggest any sense of passion or urgency in his dancing, struggled with some of the lifts and made the whole thing seem dull. His presence in the company will inevitably reduce opportunities for a number of extremely talented young men who need opportunities to dance and develop.
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