Royal Ballet 2019/20 Season in Royal Ballet Posted June 18, 2019 · Edited June 18, 2019 by Ashton Fan Here are some further thoughts on the Gala.The programming decisions of the Royal Ballet management often suggest that they want the local audience to believe that with the exception of a few acknowledged masterpieces such as Symphonic Variations and Scenes de Ballet, which even the most ardent MacMillan enthusiast can't ignore, very little of Ashton's work dating from the time when he was essentially Fonteyn's choreographer is worth reviving The Fonteyn Gala provided the best opportunity that local audiences have had in years to get any idea of the range of Ashton's output during that time. Ashton's "Fonteyn years" began when Markova left the company and it became necessary to find and develop a dancer to replace her and lead the company. That period in Ashton's creative life effectively ended with the creation of Ondine in1958, a point at which it was reasonable to assume that Fonteyn had entered the final stages of her career. One of the great things about the Gala was that all of the pieces which were performed were cast with far more thought and care than is usual when a rarely performed Ashton work is programmed in a mixed bill. The only Ashton work that does not suffer from poor casting at Covent Garden is Symphonic Variations over which Wendy Ellis exercises tight control. Unlike MacMillan's works which are pretty robust when it comes to casting Ashton's ballets need to be cast with the right sort of dancers if they are to be seen at their best. For once the Ashton pieces did not suffer from the effects of compromise casting or senior dancers being given the opportunity to "have a go" at roles for which they are manifestly unsuited. Seeing an Ashton role performed by a dancer who is not prepared to modify their performance style and to embrace Ashton's version of classroom steps and his pliant upper body and epaulement in performance is not "dancing" Ashton, even if the title of the ballet being performed suggests that he or she is doing so. First Artist Romany Pajdak gave an account of the fragment which remains of The Wise Virgins which made me regret its loss. Like Dante Sonata its coreography is not at all like the Ashton we are used to seeing. It made me wonder what the rest of it might have been like, given the nature of the music which Ashton had used. The final solo from Nocturne as danced by Beatrice Stix-Brunell must have made a lot of the audience regret that no one had thought of reconstructing the ballet when there were still dancers around who could have made its reconstruction possible. It seemed like the sort of ballet which would have found a natural home with the old touring company. While I can understand why we were only permitted to see the Fonteyn sections of Birthday Offering it is a great pity that it is not going to be seen in full during the 2019-20 season. Unlike 2012 when management seemed far more concerned with putting senior dancers on stage than finding a cast who would do the piece justice, the company now has dancers who could do so. At the Gala Kaneko danced Fonteyn's solo bringing out its beauty and wit while Lamb and Hirano dancing the pas de deux made it look like a choreographic jewel, even when seen out of context. I have already said something about the excerpts from Ondine and Sylvia which both made strong cases for their revival. I will add that Hayward seemed ideally cast as Ondine. It was almost as if the Pas de l'Ombre had been made for her. She brought out so much detail inherent in Ashton's choreography and made its relationship to the music to which it is set crystal clear. It had a theatrical impact which I have not experienced in other live performances of the entire work. It would not have been possible to celebrate Fonteyn without making some reference to her partnership with Nureyev. I am not sure that the pieces selected were as well chosen as they might have been. The Balcony pas de deux was all but inevitable as it allowed Osipova and Hallberg to be part of the celebration. The problem in performance was that Hallberg's lifts seemed laboured and effortful rather than easy and expressive. Osipova seems to find MacMillan's choreography lacking in some way as she has taken to embroidering it in performance which is distracting to say the least. Sadly their contribution to the Gala was not as compelling as it was, no doubt, intended to be. Of the nineteenth choreography which Nureyev's staged for the company his Le Corsaire pas de deux was the piece selected for performance. I am not sure that selecting a piece of choreography that is done to death in galas across the world was really an ideal choice. It seemed somewhat out of place in the context of this Gala. I understand the significance of the pas de deux for Fonteyn but I am not sure that the fact it was filmed by Czinner was sufficient to justify its inclusion. I should have thought that the choreography for Nikiya and Solor from Nureyev's staging of The Kingdom of the Shades or that for Raymonda and Jean de Brienne from his staging of Raymonda Act III would have been better choices as they have not been debased and reduced to gala fodder. The problem was that while Naghdi danced the choreography which Fonteyn had danced when performing the pas de deux Muntagirov danced the standard modern gala version and it did not quite jell. The Tango from Façade was sandwiched between the two Nureyev related excerpts and came up looking as funny and fresh as ever. It has done remarkably well for a work created as an ephemeral entertainment. The ballroom scene from Apparitions was a revelation. I saw the revival of Apparitions staged for Schauffus' ENB in the 1980's and I have to confess that it did not make much of an impression on me then. It had seemed tedious,dutiful and dull. From the account which Julie Kavannagh gives of the revival neither Ashton nor Beddells thought much of it either. I was really surprised to find the ballroom scene from Apparitions so interesting as a piece of choreography. It seemed to me that Cuthbertson and Ball were ideally cast in it. I should like to think that we shall be able to see a staging of the entire ballet in the not too distant future. The problem with that hope is that it does not seem to fit in with O'Hare's ambitions for the company. The quality of Ashton's choreographic output during his " Fonteyn years" as demonstrated by these carefully cast performances, yet again raises the question about why so much of Ashton's output is consigned to the Heritage section of the company's repertory where it can be safely neglected for years and dusted off for a significant anniversary? One of the reasons has to be the effect of long term neglect which easily persuades those who have never seen them that works by major choreographers which are rarely performed are defective in some way. But that does not explain why Ashton's most popular full length ballets such as Cinderella and his first major post Fonteyn ballet, Fille, are not allocated regular revivals in the way that MacMillan's are or why so many of his one act works are not deemed worthy of revival. A friend has tried to persuade me that the problem with Façade was that most people would see it as hopelessly old fashioned. I am not convinced.