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Ashton Fan

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.


  3. 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.

  4. 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. 




































  5. 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 ?

  6. 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.


  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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

  10. 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.. 


  11. 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. 


  12. 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.

  13. 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.


  14. 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.

  15. You can add to the list performances of Marguerite and Armand which are included in a mixed bill called "Alina at Sadler's Wells" which will be performed at the Wells between the 20th and 23rd February 2020. I find the fact that today this work is said to be the most frequently performed of Ashton's works almost as unsettling and unbelievable as the fact that so few of his works are being programmed.

    Mr. O'Hare clearly understands the need to perform the company's nineteenth century repertory and to do those works justice in performance but when it comes to the twentieth century repertory he is, at best, ambivalent. He understands the need for regular performances of MacMillan's successful full length works as they generate a regular income for the company and certainly attract dancers to it but another reason for their regular revival is that  they benefit from the presence of an active advocate for them. MacMillan's works  are not thought to need excuses or explanation when it comes to programming them and they most certainly do not fall into the "heritage works" category whereas it would seem that with the exception of Symphonic Variations and perhaps Fille, Ashton's works do. Their presence in a programme requires an explanation about the importance of "heritage works" to the company's artistic identity. 

    The problem is that it is perfectly possible to have an insight event about the importance of Ashton to the company without apparently recognising the need to perform his ballets on a regular basis. I suspect that Kevin would think that the loss of a few Ashton works through neglect was a price worth paying for the presence in the company's repertory of a handful of reasonably successful works by MacGregor. As it is MacMillan is seen as far more important to the company than Ashton could ever be. No one seems to be that concerned about devising some sort of plan that would ensure that Ashton's works and other major twentieth century ballets such as Les Noces and Les Biches were performed on a regular basis and were part of the regular churn of the active repertory. If Kevin had thought about the Fonteyn centenary, rather than adding a gala as an afterthought , he might have used it as an opportunity to publicise some of the Ashton repertory and followed it up by including a couple of the ballets  from which excerpts were shown in the following season's repertory. I feel sure that there were plenty of people who would have loved to have seen revivals of Ondine and Daphnis and Chloe this season. However next season should be exciting as it seems that it is going to be full of works which have been made or acquired since he became Artistic Director. I am not sure how that is going to work financially but perhaps that is the explanation for the exceptionally high ticket prices for much of this season's repertory.


  16. I think that it is quite reasonable to assume that if the Royal Ballet's Artistic Director casts a dancer with considerable name recognition in a role in a ballet when the company is on tour that you are indeed going to see someone who is thought to bring something special to the work they are performing and that dancers whose performances are preserved on DVD are thought by management  to deliver exemplary accounts of the roles and works they have been recorded performing.   Unfortunately that is not always the case . Other factors seem to come into play when such decisions are made . Seniority frequently seems to trump suitability in casting decisions while the decisive factor often seems to be which dancers' performances are likely to produce the highest sales.  All of this may be understandable but it can cause confusion when it comes to deciding whose performance to see or whether a particular work is worth seeing again after you have seen a disappointing performance given  by a well known dancer.  At present Ashton's ballets seem to be under greater threat from bad casting decisions than MacMillan's are.



  17. Some interesting comments about a programme which to me looks more like a ragbag of odds and ends devised to display examples of the works of choreographers   currently working with the company than a serious attempt to construct a programme of dance works which will display the company's dancers to best advantage.It is not as if the company has no such works in its back catalogue that could be pressed into service but that is almost certainly the problem. The works I am thinking about including Ashton's Thais pas de deux and The Walk to the Paradise Garden would definitely fall into the category of  "heritage" works and the danger with them is that they might show up the quality of the most recent pieces chosen for performance. I have no criticism to make about Kevin's choice of dancers all of whom I would pay good money to see in pretty much anything. I am far from convinced by his choice of repertory particularly when it comes to excerpts from McGregor's dance works which don't seem to me to lend themselves to being presented out of context. The same could be said of Scarlett's ballets.  

    I find nysusan's comments about the Five Brahm's Waltzes to the effect that if Rojo could not convince her about the piece no one could, rather odd. Rojo was undoubtedly a talented dancer but I have never thought of her as providing a  benchmark against which to assess other dancers' performances in any Ashton ballet for the simple reason she seemed unable or unwilling to dance his choreography idiomatically. I thought  her totally miscast in Five Brahms Waltzes. She was  a fine interpreter of dramatic roles created by other choreographers  but her performance of Ashton's evocation of Isadora Duncan was far from being her finest hour artistically. I thought that she had only been cast in it in 2004 to give her something to do during the Ashton centenary celebrations. She had not improved when I saw her dance it again some years later. The main problem for me was that I was never really convinced that she could dance Ashton idiomatically and in Five Brahm's Waltzes  lnstead of just getting on and dancing the choreography she seemed intent on trying to act being Isadora. The ballet created on Lynn Seymour was devised as an evocation of Duncan's dancing and first danced in full at a celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of the Rambert Company. Both Ashton and Rambert had seen  Duncan dance indeed Rambert had been such a great Duncan enthusiast that when she was a medical student in Paris she had given Duncan style dance recitals. Ashton gave her a preview of the work and Rambert is reported to have burst into tears saying "That's exactly what it was like".

    When the piece was danced by Seymour nothing in the dance text was exaggerated, there were glimpses of the iconic Duncan gestures and poses but no exaggerated freeze framing and the whole piece took just under seven minutes to perform whereas when Rojo appeared in it she took the best part of ten minutes to get through it. She overdid the famous Duncan gestures and poses and took it into head to insert obvious pauses between each of the waltzes. I don't know whether it is true that the pause she inserted  between the fourth and fifth waltz went on for a full minute but the pause seemed interminable and by slowing it down she managed to make the whole piece seem ponderous while simultaneously failing to give the appropriate weight to the movement which Ashton had choreographed.

    Watching the ballet for the first or second time it can seem disconcertingly odd as it has little or no connection with Ashton's classicallyt based ballets which are for the most part the ballets with which we are most familiar. It is only when you have the opportunity to see Five Brahms Waltzes in the context of the reconstruction of his wartime ballet Dante Sonata premiered in 1940 that you really become aware of Duncan's influence on his choreography although the surviving fragment from his ballet The Wise Virgins also reveals her influence. At the end of the war Ashton switched to a more overtly classically based vocabulary and style and Duncan's influence dwindled.








  18. Luke is Peter Schaufuss' son. I don't recall him being that outstanding when he appeared with Queensland Ballet in his father's staging of La Sylphide a few years back but a lot can happen in a couple of years. Perhaps he has developed since he was last seen in London

    Ashton himself staged the revival of his Romeo and Juliet for London Festival Ballet in 1985 with the assistance of Niels Bjorn Larsen who  had danced the role of Tybalt in Copenhagen in 1955. Larsen brought a film of the ballet to London as the work had not been notated. I believe that Ashton made some changes to the ballet's text . According to Katherine Healy, the first cast Juliet, Ashton, spent a lot of time working with her including teaching her stage craft. He spent much less time working with other casts, largely because he had convinced himself that the critics were not going to greet the revival with any degree of enthusiasm. My recollection of the revival is that if you saw the first cast the ballet looked good  but if you saw later casts they were less Ashtonian in their approach and performance style. The real interest in the ballet is that it is far less the story of two young people crushed by societal pressure and  much more a personal tragedy. Ashton's  Romeo and Juliet is a version of the ballet which does not rely on Lavrovsky's staging in the way that later Western stagings seem to do. He responds to the score in his own way and this produces a  staging which does not slavishly follow Lavrovsky in the way that  Cranko and MacMillan do. Schaufuss edited the ballet when he staged the work in London with his pwn company a few years ago. I hope that Sarasota sees the full version rather than the pared down one. 

    If you are interested in reading about Healy's experience of working with Ashton then try to get hold of a book called "Following Sir Fred's Steps" which I think was published by Dance Books. It contains papers given at a conference about the Ashton repertory held at the University of Roehampton during the 1990's including the one she  contributed to it.

  19. Who knows the precise basis on which Miss Hayward has found herself featured on the front page of Vogue? Appearing in Cats probably has a great deal to do with it but then if the publicity  for the film has the effect of giving her greater name recognition I doubt that Kevin O'Hare will complain about it. i don't expect that he will complain if name recognition translates into more ticket sales and a higher profile for the company's artists and the art form as a whole. Although he talked about  Hayward's film appearance as a once in a lifetime opportunity for her and said how much he had enjoyed appearing in Bugsey Malone when he was young I imagine that he saw it as a way of getting free publicity for her and the company. At the moment the ROH board seem very keen on both resident companies being seen as being accessible and non elitist and her film appearance would fit in with that very well.  Unfortunately the current pricing policy is somewhat out of step with this ideal.

  20. MacMillan employed a writer called Gillian Freeman to draw up the scenario for Mayerling. I believe that she read everything she could find on the subject of the deaths at Mayerling and the main characters involved. Needless to say she did a great deal of reading . As far as Mitzi Caspar is concerned her actions in the second act suggest that she betrayed Rudolf to Taafe telling him about the Crown Prince's  involvement with the Hungarian officers and their political schemes. Whatever you may think of the ballet MacMillan did not set out to create a documentary ballet. As was perhaps inevitable characters are broadly depicted and sometimes have to stand in for other historical characters 

    In real life Rudolf suggested that Mitzi should die with him in a suicide pact.It was only when she refused that he decided to ask Mary Vetsera to die with him. Caspar is said to have told the authorities that Rudolf was planning to kill himself but they ignored her report. I could of course say that the fact that the audience is left with the impression that Mitzi is betraying Rudolf just shows the weaknesses of ballet as a narrative form because it can only tell a story through choreographed movement which can rarely convey the subtleties of personal motivation. But MacMillan would have been well aware of this limitation when he made the work as he had been making ballets for more than twenty years.  So perhaps he set out to show the audience something different. When he shows Mitzi engaged in activity which is at best ambiguous and at worst looks like out and out betrayal perhaps what he had in mind was to show us that Rudolf had good reason for his paranoia and for feeling that he could not go on. As Prime Minister Taafe spent a lot of time trying to persuade the Czechs, rather than the Hungarians, not to pursue nationalist policies which would have further divided the Empire. All we really need to know is that the Austro-Hungarian Empire was a state in which the authorities were always engaged in surveillance of all levels in society. Perhaps in the great scheme of things the precise nature of Caspar's involvement with the authorities does not really matter and all we need to know is that she was in touch with them.

  21. It would be very interesting to know just how much adverse comment Alex Beard, the ROH's Chief Executive, and the Board have received as a result of the failure to record the Fonteyn Gala and make it  available to the general public either by streaming it to cinemas or  broadcasting it on television. The omission is odd as both the Ashton centenary and Darcey Bussell's retirement were marked by live televised performances from Covent Garden. While the Fonteyn centenary may not have been quite as significant as Ashton's, her career as a dancer was of great importance in the development of the company and its style as Ashton himself admitted.  In her biography of Ashton, "Secret Muses", Julie Kavanagh records the choreographer saying that without Fonteyn he would not have developed the lyrical side of his choreography.

    Although the pieces selected for the celebration omitted a number of major works, and the Ashton repertory apart from a few later works made for dancers other than Fonteyn is largely neglected, the Gala still managed to suggest that Fonteyn is, and will remain, of greater significance to the company's artistic identity than other dancers including Darcey Bussell are ever likely to be.

    The failure to record the Gala and make the recording available to a wider public than the ticket holders who were present in the theatre is not simply a missed opportunity to give the resident ballet company a higher profile with the general non-ballet going public than it currently enjoys and to generate income. It also runs contrary to the ROH's season long claims, made in the context of the new facilities available to the general public, that it wants to make the building, and presumably the works performed there, accessible to as wide an audience as possible, rather than simply wanting to sell tea and other refreshments to non-ticket holders.




  22. I have to say that I agree with you about Stix-Brunell indeed  I find her neglect more than a little odd. I assume that she is not dancing Aurora because she is going to appear as the Lilac Fairy with one or more casts in Sleeping Beauty and will be given Prologue Fairies and Florestan's Sister to dance as well. After her fine account of the Young Girl in Two Pigeons with only a single performance in both seasons that it has been revived I should have thought that she was all but guaranteed at least one performance as Swanhilda. She seems more suited to the role to me than Magri who is to appear in it. Perhaps Stix-Brunell is down as an understudy for Swanhilda and has been promised Odette/Odile later in the season. Her stop-start career has always been something of a mystery to me as she has seemed near perfect to me in pretty much everything that I have seen her dance.

  23. It's almost time for the company's leavers, joiners and promotions to be announced. Speculation is rife on other Forums as to who should be promoted.

    We already know that Sambe has been promoted to Principal from next season as the company seems to have been forced into making an announcement to that effect after he gave an interview to the Times newspaper. It is all very strange as Sambe's interview was almost certainly arranged by some part of the ROH organisation. After successful debuts as Colas and Oberon last season when he was also supposed to make his debut as Albrecht but was prevented by injury from doing so, followed by equally successful debuts as Romeo with O'Sullivan as his Juliet, and as Basilio dancing opposite Naghdi's Kitri, the announcement will have come as no surprise to anyone. 

    Although Kish's retirement creates a second vacancy at Principal level I think it unlikely that Kevin will appoint a second male Principal this year. The most likely promotions, it seems to me, are that Clarke and O'Sullivan will become First Soloists next season. Clarke has been collecting Principal roles in core RB repertory almost from the day he joined the company beginning with the Somes role in Symphonic Variations. While O'Sullivan has had similar opportunities to acquire repertory she has danced successfully in a wide range roles. When Sleeping Beauty was last revived two years ago her roles included Princess Florine, at least three Prologue Fairies, and one if not both of Florestan's Sisters, at various times during the run. The casting for the first booking period tends to support the idea that O'Sullivan will be promoted. Having recently made a successful debut as Juliet in her first full length ballet, O'Sullivan is due to make her debut as  both Aurora and Swanhilda as well as dancing Dorabella for the first time in the opening months of the season. I am not convinced that there will be a third First Soloist appointed.

    I think that the really interesting promotions, by which I mean that there is more talent than there are rewards available, will come with promotions from First Artist to Soloist. Here  dancers like Donnelly, Dubreuil, Sissens and Yudes must be in the running for promotion as much for their potential as the performances they have given over the last season or two. But at this level it is entirely possible that management may feel the need to reward consistently top quality performances in supporting roles over several seasons  by more mature dancers. If that is the case, then dancers like Gasparini and Pajdak may be in the running. This season Pajdak has been in virtually everything. She has led the female corps down the ramp in La Bayadere made her debut as Nurse and danced an extremely wide range of supporting roles in Don Q and other ballets. I am not reading anything into the fact that she danced one of the excerpts performed at the Fonteyn Gala but it is interesting that, as a First Artist, she was selected to do so.


  24. I hope that some on this site will find the following information of interest. Opus  Arte has announced that in July 2019 it will issue an all regions DVD covering the syllabus for the Enrico Cecchetti Diploma. It is expensive but the DVD contains the best part of four hours of material based on the syllabus for the diploma.

    The initiative is supported by the current Artistic Directors of the Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet and I understand that the DVD includes a section in which Kevin O'Hare and David Bintley talk about the Cecchetti Method. There is an introduction by Darcey Bussell who is the current President of the RAD. The dancers seen on the DVD are James Hay, Chisato Katsura and Romany Pajdak from the Royal Ballet and Ruth Brill, Brandon Lawrence and Lachlan Monaghan from Birmingham Royal Ballet. 

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