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Ashton Fan

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  1. I believe that Anton Dolin, the original "Beau Gosse", taught the solo to Stephen Beagley. and I assume that is the source of what Muntagirov danced. I saw Muntagirov dance the solo when he was with ENB in a programme that included Lifar's Suite en Blanc et Noir. I think Muntagirov made it look far more interesting than it appears on the POB recording of "Picasso and the Dance". In fact I know that he almost persuaded me that it might be worth seeing the whole ballet whereas I recall being singularly underwhelmed by Le Train Bleu when I first got the DVD and played it. It isn't just the contrast between a recording and a live performance. Muntagirov's account of the solo gave it the quirky and lively detail that I associate with Nijinska's choreography, on the recording the choreography seems to have been smoothed out. I can't make up my mind whether the problem is that the ballet is weak or whether the fault lies with those staging it or whether the problem is largely one of miscasting.. In the end I think it is a combination of all three. The ballet is a slight piece but it seems to me that on the DVD it has been completely undermined by casting beautiful classical dancers in the four main roles rather than using demi-character dancers for at least three of them. At the time that the ballet was created Diaghilev was no longer able to rely on a st eady supply of Russian trained dancers and as a result of this, and the fact that Massine's ballets dominated it, the general style of the company's repertory was demi character. I am not sure but I think that Lydia Sokolova who created the role of the female swimmer must have been a demi character dancer as well as she was London born and trained.Originally called Hilda Munnings she owed her name to Diaghilev who I believe conferred it on her in recognition of the quality of her performances in Massine's ballets. The choice of cast may help to explain the general dullness of the recorded performance I refuse to believe that the role of the tennis player which must be based on Suzanne Lenglen which Nijinska created for herself was merely larky. I don't expect another "Hostess" but I expect something with a little more substance even if it is only something that original audiences would have recognised as referring to Suzanne Lenglen the great French tennis player. In my opinion the performance of Le Tricorne is similarly undermined by beautiful dancers dancing beautifully without instilling any real fire or characterisation into the roles that they are playing.. Massine was a demi-character dancer and in Tricorne that matters. Some years ago SWRB/BRB staged a revival of Tricorne and it was a matter of luck whether you saw a dead or a living ballet.. I understand that the cast led by Michael O'Hare made the ballet live whereas the cast I saw was drawn from the company's more classical dancers and the revival as danced by them looked more like an exhumation than a revival. It seemed to be little more than an excuse to show the Picasso designs on stage rather than the staging of a viable theatrical piece. I had the same feeling about performances by London Festival Ballet in the early 1970's.
  2. The Royal Ballet has had both Les Biches and Les Noces in its repertory since the 1960's when Ashton persuaded Nijinska to mount the ballets for the company. They have been revived from time to time with Les Noces reappearing with greater regularity than Les Biches. Les Noces was last revived about four years ago and should be due for a revival in the not too distant future. Les Biches was last revived in 2005 and I sincerely hope that it will be revived again before Yanowsky retires as she is the best hostess that I have seen since Beriosova who was selected for the role by Nijinska herself. There is a short clip of Yanowsky in the role that turns up from time to time on YouTube. She has the chic sophisticated wit that the role requires. Both are truly great ballets and if the only ballets you ever see by Nijinska are these two then you realise that the woman was a genius. "Genius" is a much over used word in the context of the creative arts but absolutely accurate in the case of Nijinska. I also saw the "reconstruction" of Bolero and I did not find it very convincing. Perhaps I have not seen enough of her work although I have seen the Les Biches, Les Noces, the finger variation devised for the Sleeping Princess which de Valois had danced and of course the Three Ivans who used to feature in the Royal Ballet's Sleeping Beauty . While great choreographers don't repeat themselves ad nauseam there are often some common threads throughout their work. With Ashton it tends to false footing the audience by setting up a pattern of repeats which suddenly changes while Balanchine, it seems to me, is for ever reworking Petipa models real or imagined. As far as Bolero is concerned it did not ring entirely true. Some of the groupings looked right but in its entirety it looked wrong. I regret I can't be more specific as it is several years since I saw the reconstruction. Out of interest does anyone know who mounted Les Biches for Munich ?
  3. The copyright to Fille now belongs to Jean Pierre Gasquet who was Alexander Grant's partner. This of course means that he has full artistic and financial control over it. I imagine that he uses someone connected to the Royal Ballet or the Frederick Ashton Foundation to stage and coach the work. Full details of the current rights holders can be found on the Frederick Ashton Foundation website. The Foundation, I believe,hopes in due course to acquire the fights to the other ballets. It now owns the rights to Daphnis and Chloe and to Les Patineus and Les Rendezvous. However it does not get the income from revivals of Les Patineurs or Les Rendezvous as that was left to the Royal Ballet School by Dereck Rencher . As it would seem that Rencher succeeded in separating the ownership of the ballets which Brian Shaw left him from the rights to the income generated by their revival it is to be hoped that the owners of the rest of Ashton's ballets will make similar provisions in their wills.
  4. Any Ashton ballet requires several viewings to really get to grips with the choreography. The structure of Rhapsody is different from other Ashton ballets because it focuses on the male dancer and the ballerina makes her appearance late in the day.For me Rhapsody began to look like an Ashton ballet when Dowell took over the lead male role. I think that was in part because Dowell revealed the flowing quality in the choreography and in part because I "knew" the choreography. it would be a mistake to think that Baryshnikov stood out because he danced as if he was engaged in mere technical display when he danced the lead role. He may have been disappointed by the role because it was an account of male technique but he did not perform it as an overt display piece. As with all of Ashton's ballets it has to be danced with consummate elegance and ease. If you see the difficulty and the effort there is something wrong with the performance. It is another one of his works in which a man after performing challenging choreography, shrugs and tells the audience "It was nothing". It has been danced pretty regularly by the company since its premiere and very few of the men who have danced in it have simply been known as technicians. During the current revival we had three casts. The one that I liked best was the Hay and Hayward cast because they were in total control of the choreographer's style, danced the ballet idiomatically and made the choreography flow in a way that McRae and Osipova did not. McRae places too much emphasis on the work's technical challenges and seems to slam each step down in front of you demanding that you admire his efforts. In fact McRae dances it as if it was Nureyev show jumping style choreography.Hay gets on and dances it and keeps it flowing. Osipova is still trying to master the style and the choreography of this work. The female role is scattered with Cecchetti based swift changes of balance and direction.They should look quirky and fun which they do when Hayward dances the ballet with Osipova they look difficult and awkward. I think my advice would be don't give up on Rhapsody it is a much better ballet than the streamed performance suggests it is. You really need to see another cast more in tune with the choreographer's style and in total command of it. At the first performance Baryshnikov added spice to the pot Osipova has as yet to achieve the same effect.
  5. daveridge. Try posting on the Ballet Co Forum website, The people who post there are mainly, although not exclusively, resident in the UK. It is difficult to imagine that no one in the Oxford area looks at it.
  6. Some time ago O'Hare said that he wanted to build the company from the bottom up. Next season's repertory suggests that he will be doing just that as it has far more obviously classical works which make technical demands of the entire company and far fewer of the MacMillan emote and sprawl variety,which don't, than usual. The great shock is that is that the Ashton and Macmillan repertory have almost the same amount of stage time allocated to them. There is a short video on the ROH website in which the new season is discussed. At one point O'Hare makes reference to the number of talented dancers he has in the company. During it he refers to the significance that the Sleeping Beauty has for the company almost as if he needs to justify its inclusion in the 2016-17 season and explain why it is not stuffed full of works by McGregor and other fashionable choreographers. I am baffled by the fact that he, or those around him, feel the need to refer to a number of company anniversaries as if the choice of such a classically based season requires explanation. The last time I looked the Royal Ballet was a classical company.I think that the choice of repertory reflects the fact that the company is in the process of renewing itself. Dancing in Sleeping Beauty and taking the roles of Aurora, Prince, Bluebird, Florine and Lilac Fairy is more than a right of passage for members of the company. Having said that I think that it would have been enough to have said I have a large number of talented dancers and they need the opportunity to dance in great works like Beauty and Fille.This season will give them the chance to do that. I expect that it will all look much more exciting when the casting is announced for the first two booking periods. I hope that O'Hare is really bold and casts not only the usual suspects as Aurora but Katsura who joined the company at the beginning of this season. Her RBS performances on the main stage in Raymonda Act III in 2014 and as Gamzatti in the betrothal celebrations section of Bayadere in 2015 were really exceptional. It would be wonderful if she and other junior dancers get given the opportunities that t next season's repertory seem to offer.
  7. It would seem that an interim general manager, a conductor called Tiberiu Soare has been appointed to run the opera house. It is being said that although Kobborg has been undertaking the function of the ballet's artistic director he did not sign a contract as artistic director as the post does not actually exist.It all sounds very odd to me. There is also the suggestion that Mr Soare does not think that English has any place in a Romanian national institution. It is unclear what Mr Soare's attitude is to the foreign dancers currently working in the company or whether he knows or cares about the extraordinary transformation Kobborg has made in the short time he has been with the ballet company.. It is at times like this that you realise that they do things very differently in the non English speaking world. I know that Rojo is reported as saying that she would not want to run a Spanish company because directing artistic organisations in Spain is heavily influenced by politics. Tenure has everything to do with which politicians are in power and very little to do with ability and competence. It looks as if the same may be true in Bucharest. Kobborg is in the fortunate position of being a man with an international reputation who now has acquired an impressive track record as an "artistic director" and a transformational leader in a very short space of time. It will be very interesting to see how events unfold in Bucharest and what Kobborg does next.
  8. It is not as if the company is short of petite dancers. Marquez danced with McRae in Fille and they were very good together. Marquez has now left but there are plenty of other dancers who are the right height for him Choe, Takada, Hayward, Naghdi, Magri and Katsura and O'Sullivan spring to mind. Some of these are very junior dancers but they are all very talented. At some point management needs to give them the chance to show what they can do. As the company does not generally seem to favour partnerships except for Nunez and Soares the indulgence of McRae's wishes seems all the more peculiar. Bringing in guest dancers can be justified if there is a shortage of talent in a company but when a company is brimming over with talent it can only be justified if the guest brings something really special to his or her performances. I am not sure that Salenko's presence can be justified on that basis. I think that people who book for McRae Salenko performances do so to see McRae rather than to see Salenko. She is good technically but her characterisation of different roles is of the one size fits all variety. She danced in Two Pigeons before Christmas and her Young Girl was a generic girl which would have done equally well for Swanhilde .She was not sufficiently irritating and her descent into misery was totally unconvincing. She danced with McRae in Tchaikovsky pas de Deux before Christmas and I thought that both of them over emphasised the technical display and underplayed the wit in the choreography. Unless the company is going to develop partnerships I would rather see McRae dance with a similar range of partners to those of the majority of other principal dancers. ..
  9. As I understand it Hamilton has been given leave of absence for another season. There has been no announcement that she has left the Royal Ballet which is why I said it will be interesting to see how permanent her permanent contract at Dresden turns out to be. As I said there were poor pickings for her in London this season. Hamilton needs greater performance experience than she would have been likely to get at Covent Garden even if this season's repertory had been more suited to her. She is very good in the MacMillan repertory but has surprising weaknesses which reveal themselves when she dances the nineteenth century repertory. I am sure that she knows that she needs to sort the weaknesses out if she wants to get to the very top. The story of how she got her training shows how determined she is to attain her goals.It will be interesting to see how she gets on with La Bayadere at Dresden. The problem for the up and coming dancer at Covent Garden is that management works on the basis that nearly every female principal will give us her Manon, her Odette Odile and her Juliet, As each of them usually get three performances of these lead roles it leaves little opportunity for the First Soloists and more junior dancers to get a shot at any of those roles. It looked as if management was addressing this problem this season when Hayward and Naghdi were given Juliet and Ball was given Romeo. and some junior dancers like Stix- Brunell, Magri , Hay and Ball were given roles in Pigeons. However the current revival of Giselle has not seen any of the promising younger dancers given an opportunity to dance Giselle or Albrecht and the rest of the season seems to offer few opportunities for them. Kevin O'Hare has the good fortune to have a company full of talent but he needs to select repertory which will develop his young dancers and then actually cast them. The company's use of Salenko as guest artist suggests that O'Hare's priorities are not as focussed on developing his company as they should be. It is not as if there are no talented dancers within the company who could dance with McRae and should have done so in Pigeons and several other ballets in which she has appeared with him. It will be very interesting to see which ballets are selected .for performance next season and even more interesting to see who actually gets to dance in them. The end of season promotions should give a strong indication of the direction the company is going to take. There are three principal positions vacant at present. I can think of dancers who might be in the running for those positions but I am not convinced that O'Hare will necessarily make any appointments at that level this season. I am sure that dancers like Ball, Clarke, Naghdi Stix-Brunell, Heap and O'Sullivan will be promoted.
  10. Melissa Hamilton's presence at Dresden during the 2016-2017 season is apparently with the permission of the Royal Ballet's Artistic Director which raises the question of how permanent the permanent contract will be? It will be interesting to see what happens at the end of next season. The move to Dresden for the 2015-2016 season was a very sensible move by Hamilton as apart from Romeo and Juliet and Sugar Plum Fairy there was not necessarily going to be a great deal for her in the Royal Ballet's choice of repertory this season. She is not an obvious Ashton dancer, there was no guarantee that she would get a chance to dance Giselle and she has not been used much by either Wheeldon or Scarlett in the past, It will be fascinating to see what promotions are made at the end of this season and what action O'Hare takes to develop his younger dancers in the 2016-2017 season through choice of repertory and casting decisions. He managed to give several young dancers opportunities in Two Pigeons but only principal dancers have been cast as Giselle this season which is a great pity. Whatever decisions Melissa Hamilton makes in the future about her career the decision to go to Dresden has given her performances and the opportunity to widen her repertoire.She would not have got the opportunity to dance something comparable to La Bayadere if she had remained in London this season. At Covent Garden management still does not seem to have got the balance right between giving the principals' their dues and developing the next generation.
  11. That Cinderella DVD although old has the considerable advantage of being danced by the Royal Ballet when it was Ashton's own company.There is not a single dancer in it who does not dance the choreography with complete mastery of the style. Unfortunately that is not something that can be said of more recent recordings where there has been a tendency to cast Ashton's ballets according to seniority and box office power than according to the dancers suitability for a role or as an exemplar of the style. On this DVD you get not only Sibley and Dowell as Cinderella and the Prince, Ashton and Helpmann as the Ugly Sisters but Alexander Grant who created the role as the Jester. Georgina Parkinson as the Fairy Godmother and a fine selection of dancers as the Fairies of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. In this recording you see the Jester danced as a character rather than a keg machine closely related to the Soviet Jester. There is an older recording made for US television which was broadcast in colour but only preserved in black and white. The cast includes Fonteyn, Somes ,Grant with Ashton and MacMillan as the Ugly Sisters. Cinderella, the fruit of Ashton's "private lessons with Petipa", is Ashton's Imperial Russian ballet, Sylvia is his Empire ballet and Ondine his modern take on the three act ballet using a score by Henze but incorporating a staging of the famous pas de l'ombre which appeared in the most famous nineteenth century ballet on this theme and storm at sea deliberately staged in nineteenth century fashion. As far as Fille is concerned there are four recordings to choose from. The oldest was recorded by the BBC with the original cast of Nadia Nerina, David Blair, Alexander Grant and Stanley Holden. If you want to see what an extraordinary dancer Nerina was this recording is for you. It does not use the sets used in the theatre but that does not matter when you have performances of this quality and freshness. The second recording dates from 1980. The dancers are Leslie Collier, Michael Coleman, Gary Grant and Brian Shaw . Unfortunately Grant was little more than a pale imitation of his older brother. We almost certainly owe this recording to the celebrations of Ashton's eightieth birthday which is a pity because it catches Coleman's Colas a little too late to be ideal. However for me he is still better than either Colas on the later recordings because he dances Ashton idiomatically and well. At the time of this recording he was still the first cast Colas, Collier is a great Lise her footwork is brilliant, and she dances expansively and with vigour. I would have preferred Ronald Emblem as Simone to Brian Shaw. Emblem was a brilliant exponent of the role and his characterisation was far warmer than Shaw's. The best bit of Shaw's performance was always the way he swept of the stage at the end of the clog dance. which has not been preserved. The third recording stars Marianela Nunez, Carlos Acosta with Jonathan Howells and William Tuckett. While it may be true that a new recording was needed the problem is that Acosta is not an ideal Colas. He is not a natural Ashton dancer and clearly finds some of the steps awkward, Nunez on the otter hand is splendid and dances Ashton with real understanding of the style, The fourth is the recently released recording starring Natalia Osipova and Steven McRae with Paul Kay and Philip Moseley. The first night cast of Laura Morera, Vadim Muntagirov, Paul Kay and Will Tuckett had a real warmth to them which was lacking in the cast who appear on DVD. Morera is a fine Ashton dancer she has the footwork and the pliant upper body which the choreography requires. Osipova is a superstar and she is not,as yet, an Ashton dancer. Muntagirov " charmed with the innocence of youth" not something I would accuse McRae of doing. Paul Kay is excellent as Alain and in many other roles created by Alexander Grant, Philip Moseley characterisation is alright but he is not the best clog dancer to have graced the Covent Garden stage. .The recording is fine if you simply want a technician's approach and are happy with a close approximation to the style rather than the real thing.
  12. Our first experiences of ballet teach us how to watch it . We tend to apply those initial experiences to everything we see subsequently and this affects how we understand works created by choreographers with whose style we are unfamiliar. Once you have got your eye in it can be very difficult to fully appreciate a choreographer working in a very different style because he or she is not doing what you have come to expect a choreographer to do. Perhaps it is easier for someone who knows the late nineteenth century Russian repertory to get to appreciate and understand what Balanchine is doing than for someone who comes from a ballet tradition which does not often use formal devices such as processions and does not use dancers in ever changing groupings and patterns. Balanchine creates complex floor patterns just as Ashton does and both choreographers' ideas ultimately derive from late nineteenth century Russian practice. Most people I know sit upstairs at the ballet and would not dream of doing anything else when watching ballets by Balanchine, Ashton, Petipa or Ivanov. You will get so much more from the experience if you do. When you are able to see how the choreographer is moving his dancers round the stage as well as watching the soloists you will truly be seeing the ballet the choreographer created in all its complexity. All of the choreographers who I have mentioned created beautifully balanced complex ballets where the floor patterns for the corps is as important as the soloist's choreography. If you can try to see the same work a couple of times in quick succession. You will see more in it each time you view it .
  13. A richly deserved promotion. She is an exceptionally stylish and elegant dancer. I don't think that anyone who saw her rather than Cojocaru who is off injured will have thought that they were being short changed in any way.
  14. The news that Kaneko is replacing Morera is a real disappointment. Kaneko is not that bad but she is not in the same class as Morera in this role. Any way I hope that you manage to access the performance somehow..
  15. I have always thought that if you are able to do so you should try and see more than one cast performing a work with which you are unfamiliar. There is no guarantee that the first cast or the cast with most big names will be the best cast in any work. As far as Winter's Tale is concerned it is difficult to justify the description " rarely performed" which most of the dance critics have applied to it in their articles about the piece as it seems to have been a regular feature of London theatre life for years. It is no more difficult or complicated than any other Shakespeare play. The late plays are now described as the late plays rather than the "problem plays". It is years since anyone thought of Winter's Tale as little more than a failed reworking of Othello. I know several people who are keen theatre goers who say that it is their favourite Shakespeare play I understand that many ballet goers want narrative works. Not every new work is going to be a great one but Wheeldon's Winter's Tale shows how much he has learnt since making Alice. It has always seemed to me that both Ashton and Balanchine benefitted from their time working in the commercial theatre. As Balanchine said of Ashton and himself they may have made bad ballets but they did not make boring ones. I have no doubt that Wheeldon's experience in working on An American in Paris will feed into any other narrative works he makes. I am pleased that the Royal Ballet is once more a creative company and that it is able to work with the National Ballet of Canada. I don't expect to like every new work that the Royal Ballet produces and have not liked all of them. I have a long list of ballets that need to be revived beginning with the Diaghilev repertory, including a lot of Ashton and some of MacMillan's classical ballets. It seems to me that dwelling on the past is just as unhealthy for a ballet company as treating everything that is new as something to be treasured merely because it is novel. I think That Wheeldon has done remarkably well with Winter's Tale. I think that those who are able to do so should buy tickets for a couple of different casts see the ballet and make up their own minds about it. I hope some who go tell the forum what they thought of it . As far as the critics of the past are concerned we none of us know what they might think of this work or any other ballet that has been staged in the last twenty or thirty years, If they were around now they would also have experienced the dearth of new classically based work that we have. They too might be pleased to see that new works are being made. I don't know and I have no intention of trying to find out.
  16. It is a long time since a new narrative ballet has made such a positive impression on audiences and critics as Winter's Tale did at its London premiere. I think many harboured doubts about its suitability as a subject for ballet but Wheeldon received good advice as far as cutting and adapting the story for ballet treatment is concerned. The work that we saw in London was not perfect but it worked and I expect that it will have been altered for the better in its Canadian staging. I don't think that you can judge any ballet on the basis of streamed performances or DVDs . They are better than nothing but they only ever provide a shadow of the performance as experienced in the theatre. While it may be possible to judge the choreography in pure dance terms it is much more difficult to capture the expressive elements that the work contains. Natalia's comments about the bits of the work which she enjoyed most from the streaming and DVD are the opposite of my experience in the theatre. For me the jollifications of the second act rather overstayed their welcome and were insufficiently varied for my taste. In particular Wheeldon failed to distinguish Perdita and Florizel sufficiently in their choreography from the rest of the people involved in the second act. It was the first and third acts which were most compelling in the theatre because of the range of emotions which were expressed in dance terms. The only changes I should like to see in these acts are a little less lurking behind statues by Leontes as this continues long after the audience has got the message and the recognition scene given longer to register as in London it was over in the blink of an eye. While the oracle at Delphi plays no part in the ballet the restoration of Leontes' daughter to him is an important element of the last act and should be given more time to register. My reservations are little more than quibbles as the ballet does the job it was intended to do. I would urge anyone who can do so to buy a ticket and see it in the flesh. I don't think that you will be disappointed.I have already bought my tickets for the London revival later in the year.
  17. I wonder what sort of budget the Bavarian State Ballet had for its reconstruction of Paquita? While it is true that many European opera and ballet companies receive state subsidies it does not mean that they are all awash with cash. Comparing the ballet company at Munich with those at Paris or La Scala when it comes to the choice of designers or budgets for costumes makes little sense to me. Among other things it assumes that the three companies share a similar level of eminence in their respective countries and the same level of resources is available to each of them. France has seen the arts as a way of projecting its culture and power at least since the reign of Louis XIV, La Scala may not be in Rome but in many ways it operates as if it was. It is the main opera house of Italy and the centre of the country's operatic and balletic activity.Munich does not quite operate in that league. It is a state capital and while its opera company might be able to claim to be the greatest in Germany it can not make that sort of claim about its ballet company. Both Stuttgart and Hamburg have stronger claims because of the choreographers who have worked for them. If any German ballet companies receive lavish funding I would expect it to be these two rather than the Munich company. I have no doubt that the Bavarian State Opera is well funded but I would be very surprised if the ballet company at Munich got anywhere near the same budget as the opera company. The size of its budget will affect every aspect of its activities and in particular the amount of money available to spend on a new production which might be regarded by many as an experiment rather than a production likely to be revived over many seasons. A limited budget does not mean bad design although it does mean that cheaper materials are likely to be used. Having lavish funds does not guarantee that a good designer will be engaged or good costumes produced. But if I had to choose between a reconstruction which had a sound choreographic text based on the Stepanov notation, included all the mime which was part of the production at the time the text was notated and was danced in a period appropriate style and at a period appropriate speed but had cheap uninspired designs and one with a good choreographic text including the mime, with designs based on the original ones but danced in the currently fashionable style with high extensions and tempi so slow that they make a nonsense of Tchaikovsky's score I would choose the reconstruction which showed me the choreography danced in a way that Petipa might recognise as having some connection with his work. Of course I would like good designs too but it is the text including the mime performed in period appropriate style and speed which interests me.
  18. The powers that be at Covent Garden have recently invited audience suggestions of works for revival which have long been out of the repertory. Needless to say there have been many requests for the revival of works which are seen quite regularly and far fewer for rarely performed works which today means most of the Ashton repertory, all of the Diaghilev repertory and anything which suggests that MacMillan was quite an able classical choreographer.Ashton gets a mixed bill most years but he is deemed old fashioned and far less exciting than MacMillan. Wheeldon, Scarlett and McGregor who is regarded as a master choreographer in some quarters. . Now while Kevin O' Hare recently referred to MacMillan's works as company classics he has said that Ashton is central to the repertory. We are still waiting to see just how central, central is in the context of the Ashton repertory. In May we had stunning performances of Fille from Morera. Muntagirov and Kay and we have just had a run of Two Pigeons with both Monotones I and II and another run of Pigeons is due after Christmas with Rhapsody as its companion piece. Of the works mentioned in Ballet Annual I suspect that Cranko's Pastorale and Harlequin in April are incapable of revival but I may be being unduly pessimistic. I have no idea of the extent of the Cranko repertory conserved by the Stuttgart Company.I know that it is more committed to looking after its Cranko repertory than either of the Royal Ballet companies are in conserving and performing Ashton's works. Birmingham Royal Ballet has some Ashton works in its repertory including Fille and Two Pigeons. In 2014 it danced Facade. Les Rendezvous and Dante Sonata in a mixed bill .The Royal Ballet last danced Facade in the 1990's and Les Rendezvous in the 2004-2005 season. The Birmingham performances of Facade and Les Rendezvous which I saw were not cast with as much care as I should have liked.Les Rendezvous is currently saddled with a ghastly re-design which makes a nonsense of Ashton's floor plan because there is a big empty space at the back of the stage rather than park railings and a set of gates and dresses the dancers in truly hideous costumes. However weak the Chappell re-designs were thought to be their replacements are inept.The new designs destroy the mood of the ballet created by its setting and Chappell's vaguely nineteenth century costumes. The men now wear boaters and blazers which suggest the 1920's and the world of Facade and the women wear 1950's style full skirted polka dot decorated dresses and look as if they are wearing washing up gloves.. As far as Capriol Suite is concerned Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet danced it in the 1980's so it must have been notated . I can't remember whether it was part of the celebrations of the company's first fifty years or whether it was part of the celebrations of Ashton's eightieth birthday either seems possible.I went to see it not expecting too much. It is after all a very early work and knowing that it owes its origins to an early dance manual suggests that it will be dutiful rather than interesting. It is a gem of wit and invention, It is going to be one of the works that I suggest should be revived. If Ashton's choreography for Monotones can entrance an audience then Capriol Suite should be equal to the task as well. .
  19. I could not agree more about the opportunities that the old touring company gave to young dancers and choreographers. I think that David Wall said that when he first arrived at Covent Garden he was in awe of his new colleagues until he realised that he had danced more Siegfrieds than any of his colleagues who were dancing it there had. SWTB and its successors gave opportunities for young dancers to dance an extremely wide repertory from the nineteenth century classics, pre war works such as Capriol Suite, Les Rendezvous and Les Patineurs right the way through to the latest works created by its own choreographers and by Ashton. It enabled young dancers and choreographers to learn stage craft and make mistakes away from the glare of publicity. Something singularly lacking at present. I know that Ashton created a pas de six for act 1 for the touring company's Swan Lake which I am told was very beautiful.The interesting thing as far as I am concerned is the number of Important dancers who served their apprenticeship there. There was an obvious decline of standards in the main company which started to show during the later years of MacMIllan's directorship although it was not too obvious because he was able to make his major works on dancers who had been trained and formed by De Valois and Ashton. If I were asked to identify the causes of the decline I would say first de Valois' failure to secure the continued services of Vera Volkova and second MacMillan agreeing to disband the touring company. I know that it was replaced by the New Group which was supposed to bring choreographic enlightenment to the provinces but it probably put more people off ballet for life than it recruited to the cause.Eventually it was replaced by the Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet but it took time for it to acquire the nineteenth century classics and its remit did not include acting as a feeder for the main company. Arguably the gap in development opportunities for both dancers and choreographers still affects the company to this day. While I recognise that a company resident at an opera house has to mount a significant number of full length ballets every year those in charge of the Covent Garden company seem to lack the vision to adjust the repertory to include the delightful ballets that helped develop the Vic Wells company and Peter Wright's Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet. It has always seemed to me that a formula which worked very effectively for those two companies would work equally well at Covent Garden.It would not be a complete cure all but it would certainly help.Putting on ballets that are technically and stylistically challenging but don't carry the weight of performance history such as the Two Pigeons is a good start except we have had too many dancers cast who don't require development opportunities and ticket sales have been poor. This combined with the out and out critical failures such as Raven Girl, Connectomes and Acosta's Carmen is likely to result in the AD having less freedom over programming in the coming seasons, So we will be back to the same limited range of works programmed regularly with the annual Ashton mixed bill of rarities that should be staple repertory works and all the works restored to the stage by Mason will slip back into the shadows.
  20. JANE, Thank you for that information. I thought that Casse Noisette did not stay in the repertory of Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet for very long.It is good to have confirmation on that point. I sometimes wonder where the ROH recruit the staff who put information about productions on their website and how long they stay. It would appear that whoever it was who put the article together failed to identify Antoinette Sibley as one of the three dancers in the photograph of Sibley, Dowell and Nureyev which was included in it.This leads me to suspect that the same people are probably also involved in putting the ballet programmes together because the production photographs in them frequently fail to identify the dancers correctly. It seems to me that whoever was responsible for the article was so taken with the idea that Nutcracker is an essential part of Christmas at Covent Garden and has been since the year dot that they failed to understand that the photographs of the 1951 production were nothing to do with what was happening at the Royal Opera House. While Nureyev was the first person to stage a full length Nutcracker for the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden it was not a regular part of Christmas at the Royal Ballet until Dowell's directorship. I have always thought that not only was it lazy programming on his part and even lazier programming on the part of his successors to programme Nutcracker at Christmas, year in and year out, but unfair on the ENB. After all ENB relies on its box office takings at Christmas to cover its touring losses.As the Royal Ballet does not undertake domestic tours it has always seemed particularly mean spirited for the Covent Garden company to enter into direct competition with one of the few classical companies which does.It is not as if the Royal Ballet has no other ballets it could programme at Christmas. You mention the Alexander Bland history of the Royal Ballet's first Fifty Years. I have a copy but it is in storage at present. So the answer to your question is yes and no.
  21. Ashton's Casse Noisette was created for the Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet's first US tour in 1951. It was in two scenes and omitted any story element. According to the Birmingham Royal Ballet website it included Ashton's choreography for the Snowflake and The Kingdom of the Sweets. When Sadler's Wells Ballet became the resident company at Covent Garden de Valois created a new company as a training ground for young dancers. This second company originally called Sadler's Wells Opera Ballet, which suggests that it was providing dancers for the opera company resident at Sadler's Wells, had by the time of the 1951 tour become known as the Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet. There is no indication in the Royal Opera House Performance Database, which is far from complete, that Ashton's Casse Noisette was ever danced at Covent Garden by either the resident company or by Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet.
  22. I know that Peter Wright is credited with the choreography for the 1958 film. Perhaps his autobiography will cast some light on what is his and what derives from Sergeyev's pre war productions.It is quite possible that Peter Wright's choreographic input was limited to rearranging things so that the dancers were in the right position for the cameras,which were far from mobile then, rather than altering the steps that were danced.I think that is probably the reason why de Valois gets a credit for the Royal Ballet's Coppelia which had been set for the Sadler's Well's stage. I recognise that Markova and Dolin introduced the Christmas Nutcracker tradition to London. I have always thought that it was a mistake to make it such a regular feature at Covent Garden, where it now graces the stage four years out of five.I recognise that a revival was inevitable this year because of Sir Peter Wright's ninetieth birthday. A little more variety at Christmas would do us all a lot of good. Coppelia has not been seen at Covent Garden for some years and then there is Cinderella. Mashinka do you know whether Mona Ingoldsby ever staged the Nutcracker? It seems to me that someone needs to write an inclusive history of ballet in Britain in the twentieth century by which I mean one that is not just a history of the Royal Ballet.I know that there is a general lack.of interest in ballet history but such a book is needed. It would be beneficial to us all to put de Valois and her company into context by showing what other people were doing at the time. It would need to discuss the work of people like Ingoldsby and Darrell,and of companies like Ballet Rambert as a classical company and Western Theatre Ballet which became Scottish Ballet. There might be difficulty in finding a publisher but that does not mean that such a book is not needed.
  23. I am not sure that there was much of a tradition of the Nutcracker at Covent Garden before Peter Wright's 1984 production. There do not seem to been any performances of it at the Royal Opera House until Nureyev's 1968 production and that production was not performed only at Christmas. In fact Christmas Past at Covent Garden seems considerably more interesting than Christmas Present Before the Nureyev production the consensus seemed to be that while the score is probably the greatest of Tchaikovsky's ballet scores the choreography was not of comparable quality.Nureyev's production was clearly based on the version that he knew from his time at the Kirov.The link between the two acts,at least by the time that I first saw it, was created by Clara's relatives appearing in the divertisements in the second act. A bad case if too much party and too much excitement. It was a production that appealed to adults and children although some thought it rather dark. Several seasons elapsed between the final performance of that production and the first performance of Peter Wright's production. Although it is now a staple of the repertory I think that quite a few people were disappointed by it when they first saw it. I know that several people were amused by a report that de Valois when asked what she thought of the new production had said words to the effect that she could see no reason to replace the Nureyev production because it was excellent and the best she knew of. Sir Peter's production lovingly tended by him has now acquired the patina of age and authenticity and no doubt there will be an outcry when it is finally pensioned off.The changes to the choreography which Sir Peter has made, since 1984, enable Clara and Hans Peter to play an active part in both acts. Clara is now played by a company member rather than by a student from the school. Pre 1968 the company seemed to rub along quite well at Christmas with Cinderella and ballets other than Nutcracker.. As to what the 1930's productions looked like the ICA Classics DVD of Fonteyn and Somes dancing Tchaikovsky Ballet Masterpieces may provide a clue..
  24. Great Swanhildas I should have liked to have seen? Genee is definitely at the top of my list, followed by Lopokhova, Nerina,Beriosova and Jenner. Not necessarily a great Swanhilda but an intriguing one De Valois who took over from Lopokhova. As to the impact that Genee had on her audiences according to Ivor Guest there were people in the audience at the Vic Wells initial performance of Coppelia whose response to Mrs Keynes was that she was not a patch on Genee.Clearly her 1906 Coppelia had left a strong impression on those who saw her. Someone asked whose choreography she danced, well, according to Guest, it was devised by her uncle, a dancer, who adopted her when she was a child. Great Swanhildas I have seen. I think the best was Brenda Last a dancer who lit up the stage with her first entrance in every ballet she danced and had a technique that was so quick and clean She was also a great Lise and danced that role more times than anyone including Nerina.I also loved Barbieri and Hatley in the role. It was in SWRB repertory for years but not danced at Covent Garden,for some reason, which is why we never saw Collier as Swanhilda.As far as recordings are concerned ICA Classics have issued a DVD of a number of ballets in which Nerina appears. One is a heavily cut two act Coppelia with Nerina as Swanhilda and Helpmann as Coppelius. The cuts make you wish that it included act 3 as the dancing is so full of life. Here is a story about the RBS Covent Garden matinee that you might enjoy.In 1976 the ballet was Coppelia Susan Lucas was Swanhilda and David Bintley was Coppelius,at nineteen he was one of the best I have ever seen. The performance was great fun but one of the critics chose to point out that Lucas had wobbled a bit when she performed the section with the mirror. Nerina wrote a letter which was published in which she suggested that the critic concerned did not know what he was talking about. As I recall she said that if anyone knew what was, and was not, easy to dance it was her rather than the critic and that far from being easy to dance it was very difficult to perform that section really well and she had not noticed the defects that the critic claimed to have observed.
  25. Well Two Pigeons and Rhapsody are due to be screened in January with the first night cast from this run due as the cast for the screening.Anyone interested in the critic's response to the revival can find them on Ballet co Forum's web site's links with the daily press for yesterday and today. I don't think that Cuthbertson's 2011 Sleeping Beauty was her finest hour either. But I have seen her give much better performances and I do not think that I lower my standards when I watch her performances.I will admit that I am averse to the Rose Adagio being reduced to an Olympic event.with Aurora clearly going for gold as it has the unfortunate effect of distorting the ballet's structure and rendering the the third act's grande pas de deux considerably less than grand, I seem to recall that Cuthbertson had the best part of eighteen months off with injury followed by ME before this performance.Perhaps management was at fault as I think it was when Darcey Bussell, fresh from maternity leave, was first night cast of Sylvia. That perhaps was explicable as the ballet had been absent from the stage so long but it did not stop it being a daft decision. .Each of us have dancers we would prefer not to see and the answer is not to book for them.If someone says that the dancer concerned is very effective in a role the answer is either to go and see them in the role which entitles you comment about their performance or to stay away. If you choose to stay away from that dancer's performances then you are not in a position to comment on them. .
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