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Ashton Fan

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  1. Not so long ago I had a chance to speak to Kevin O'Hare about the neglect of certain elements of the company's repertory. The area which concerned me were the Diaghilev ballets which de Valois and Ashton had secured for the company and the neglect of the major works which Ashton had created for the company. In particular I had in mind the neglect of Daphnis and Chloe which has not been seen since 2004 and Cinderella which was last performed in the 2011-12 season. He said that the problem with Daphnis was the cost of reviving it. As far as Cinderella was concerned his immediate response was what would you do about the Ugly Sisters ? I suggested casting women in the roles of the Step Sisters for a couple of seasons which happened in the late 1950's (Gerd Larsen danced one of them): getting rid of the current costume designs which make them look like pantomime dames replacing them with costumes which point to their characters which was how they were costumed in each previous production; working on playing them as characters which is how Ashton and Helpmann played them rather than the caricatures which they have become;working on their choreographed gestures as well as the steps and letting the jokes in the choreography speak as each sister has choreography which neatly encapsulates her character, simple choreography for the shy unassuming sister and late nineteenth century bravura style for the dominant one. I also suggested that the characters of Wellington and Napoleon should be dropped and replaced by the tall and short partners of the original staging. This of course would mean that we could also lose the unfunny toupee joke which presumably became part of the stage business as a result of an onstage accident. I believe that since staging the new production of the ballet for the Royal Ellis-Somes has mounted a production in Poland which seems to have entirely different designs from those in use at Covent Garden. In an ideal world of course the Royal would revert to using the original Macles designs. As to dancers there is no lack of dancers who would be able to dance the roles of Cinderella and the Season Fairies with distinction.
  2. You ask "why the Royal Ballet does not schedule more Ashton each season" ? I am not sure that there is a single definitive answer to that question. I think that the Royal Ballet's attitude to its Ashton repertory is one of great ambivalence to the choreographer and his works. It is almost as if those closely connected with running the company resent that it is still associated with its Ashton "heritage works" rather than with its MacMillan repertory which strangely never seems to have the word "heritage" attached to it. In many ways its attitude to the Ashton repertory does not seem that different from the way the Royal Danish Ballet seems to feel about its Bournonville repertory. Both companies seem to wish that they were renowned for repertory other than the works with which most foreign dance enthusiasts associate them. I sometimes think that the Ashton repertory is fated to go the same way that the Bournonville repertory did during the first half of the twentieth century and that it will end up being represented by a handful of ballets, which will not be representative of the range of Ashton's output nor of the choreographic quality his work but will simply be those few works which are known to attract current audiences and known to be financially viable. In other words just as the Bournonville with whom we are familiar is largely the product of repertory decisions made during Harald Lander;s directorship future generations' understanding and knowledge of the Ashton repertory will be determined largely by the taste and repertory preferences of Kevin O'Hare and his successors as Artistic Directors of the company. If that is the case then Marguerite and Armand is destined for a lengthy, money-spinning afterlife while a major work like Daphnis and Chloe is destined to disappear through neglect because it is expensive to stage.
  3. British theatrical tradition explains some elements of Ashton's Cinderella but it is far from providing a complete account of its contents. When the monarchy was restored the London theatres were reopened but strict limits were placed on what theatres were permitted to perform. The non patent houses were permitted to perform entertainments which included singing,dancing and spectacular stage effects. elements which all found their way into what became the British pantomime tradition. It was these elements which avoided the effects of theatre licensing legislation which originally permitted only the two patent houses to perform spoken drama and came to dominate the theatrical form which is, or was pantomime. It has to be understood that pantomime also became a staple of the patent houses repertory because they were exceptionally good box office. While it was the Harlequinade which originally dominated the hybrid theatrical form. Gradually fairy tale characters began to appear in the fore piece which preceded the Harlequinade. The fore piece gradually came to dominate the entertainment and stories like those of Aladdin and Cinderella came to be staple pantomime fare. I think that Aladdin made his first appearance in the late eighteenth century while Cinderella was an early nineteenth century arrival. Rossini's opera La Cenerentola was a staple of the opera repertory at the time that Cinderella was becoming an established theme for pantomime. At least one character from the opera ,Dandini, found his way into the pantomime version of Cinderella. The opera and the pantomime both portray the household in which Cinderella lives as consisting of her father and her two step sisters. I think that for most of the audience who saw Ashton's Cinderella in 1948 and have seen it subsequently the absence of the stepmother requires no explanation whereas her presence would. I assume that it never occurred to Ashton that he should include the stepmother. As far as the Step Sisters are concerned I am not convinced that the British pantomime tradition explains why they are played as travesty roles or that the decline of the pantomime tradition explains why they have been played so coarsely since the turn of the century. There is, after all, a long theatrical tradition in both opera and ballet of older female characters and witches being played by men which has nothing to do with British pantomime. The operas of both Monteverdi and Cavalli have any number of old nurses played by men while in ballet Madge in La Sylphide and Carabosse in Sleeping Beauty are the most obvious examples of character roles originally performed by men. As to whether Ashton, who seems to have been a great ballet traditionalist, chose to follow the ballet tradition by creating the sisters as travesty roles, whether he was following British pantomime tradition or whether his choice was forced on him by circumstances is a question which will probably never be answered satisfactorily. All I can say is that they have not always been played by men. In the late 1950's there were a couple of seasons when they were played by women. I have heard it suggested that Ashton originally intended to cast women as the Step Sisters but injury prevented him putting this plan into action. I have heard it said that it was lack of time that forced him into creating the roles for himself and Helpmann because he felt that he could rely on their joint ability to ad lib to provide the details which there had not been time to create in the rehearsal studio. As to why he continued to use men to play the Step Sisters long after it was necessary I suspect that his love of performing in front of an audience is the most likely explanation. I would suggest that the coarse performances of the Step Sisters and the reduction of the Jester from a character who comments on the action to a mere step machine and a close relative of the Soviet Jester is in large part attributable to inept casting decisions; the beliefs and understanding of the roles of those involved in coaching them and the decision to accept designs which fail to provide any visual clue as to the contrasting characters of the two Step Sisters and make it almost impossible for the audience to see the Jester's face and his expression. Finally there is the lack of dancers in the company who are willing or able to perform demi-character roles to the required standard. As far as recordings are concerned the 1968 recording is the only one of a stage performance of Ashton's Cinderella to be made available for the public to purchase, first as a video and later as a DVD. While it is still available in the US it is no longer available on a zone 2 DVD which means that it is unavailable in Europe. The recording from the 1950's with Fonteyn, Somes and Alexander Grant in the cast and some very interesting dancers performing the season fairies was specially butchered for television by Ashton himself and is worth acquiring. The ballet was recorded again in 1979 with a cast led by Collier and Dowell with Monica Mason as Fairy Godmother and Wayne Sleep as the Jester but while it was televised it was never issued on either video tape or DVD. I will simply say that I would be much happier with a DVD of a performance recorded during Ashton's lifetime than one recorded more recently. In the recordings made during Ashton's lifetime you see a company which dances Ashton's choreography idiomatically and with great musicality. If the 1979 performance were ever to appear on DVD I should not hesitate to buy it but as far as the Cojocaru, Kobborg recording made during the 2003-2004 season is concerned it has never been put on sale, and perhaps with good reason, as it was not exactly the Royal Ballet's finest hour. The new sets and costumes, which I assume Wendy Ellis approved as she is the ballet's current owner, establish entirely the wrong mood for the work. They suggest that the audience is about to see a provincial pantomime rather than a ballet which is the fruit of Ashton's private lessons with Petipa and a tribute to that tradition. As to what was wrong with the performances seen on the 2003-04 revival I will simply say that those responsible for staging the ballet managed to secure the coarsest imaginable performances from Sleep and Dowell as the Step Sisters who completely unbalanced the work and that Martin's performance of the Jester was not much better.
  4. I admired Acosta as a dancer in some ballet but being a great dancer does not make him a great stager of ballets or even a competent one. Nureyev staged the Kingdom of the Shades for the company before he was let loose on anything bigger and more costly and at the time that he was working with the company it had three choreographers on hand one of whom at least would have been prepared to intervene whether or not she was asked. I am afraid that I think that O'Hare seems much better at managing his dancers' careers and giving them the opportunities they need than he is when it comes to decisions about new works and new productions where he shows a complete lack of discernment and taste. The worst thing is that he seems to see no need to keep an eye on what is being created for him and the company is paying for. In an interview he gave while the company was in Australia he seemed to say that he commissions a choreographer and then lets them get on with it. Perhaps the problem is that as someone without any experience of making dance works he does not feel able to intervene. But while that arm's length approach has given us "The Winter's Tale" it has also given us a large quantity of choreographic dross. It has given us Wheeldon's Strapless which I assume was intended to have some psychological depth to it. It is hopeless with large chunks of choreography intended to give us local colour looking as if they are sections cut from his production Of An American In Paris plus a series of bland neo classical works and some even blander pieces of inoffensive choreography by Marriott. In addition it has given us Acosta's Carmen which is unspeakably bad; Scarlett's Swan Lake which is a disaster area when compared with the text which the company danced until 2015 and Frankenstein which is far too reverential towards its literary source and contains a great deal of action and choreography that need to be cut including a totally unnecessary scene in an inn which appears to be an unhappy combination of the brothel scene in The Rake's Progress and the Tavern scene in Mayerling.
  5. Amnacenani. I have no idea what Osipova's contractual obligations with the Royal Ballet are but I assume that she is meeting them by dancing in the ballets in which she has been scheduled to appear during the course of the entire season. I would not be inclined to read much, if anything, into the fact that she is only due to dance two performances of Kitri during the run of seventeen performances of Don Q scheduled for the 2018-19 season. The fact that the two performances are only five days apart and towards the end of the run suggests that the dates have been selected to accommodate her performance schedule. I suspect that it is her choice to limit her performances as Kitri to two rather than a decision imposed on her by management. Few dancers who make their early reputation in demi-character roles like Swanhilde and Kitri want to continue to be associated with them in the public mind in perpetuity. It could be that it is for her a question of putting away "childish things". Also I hate to point this out but the Royal Ballet is not a one dancer company. There are quite a few other dancers whose names will induce people to buy tickets. For those who like Don Q the performances by the cast led by Nunez, Muntagirov are likely to sell out quickly while both the untried casts of Corrales, Kaneko and Naghdi, Sambe are sure to attract those who are interested in the younger dancers in the company. Now while I might find it hard to understand why O'Hare has chosen to revive Don Q; I might even wonder why he agreed to let Acosta stage it in the first place as its performance style is what Danilova once described as an "exhibition of dance" and as such not exactly the Royal Ballet's house style and never likely to be; but I am not surprised that seven different casts are due to dance it from February to April 2019. O'Hare has said on any number of occasions that while he cannot promote everyone he might wish to, he intends to provide his dancers with a wide range of repertory in which to appear. The company has a number of dancers who guest and work elsewhere during the course of a season and seems to be quite relaxed about those arrangements as it creates opportunities for talented younger dancers to be challenged technically and to develop as artists while senior dancers are guesting with other companies. The great advantage of the company's flexible approach to guesting with other companies is that it reduces the likelihood of senior dancers leaving and it ensures that talented dancers are not held back and fail to develop to their full potential because a handful of dancers or a single dancer block their development opportunities. It should ensure that the company never suffers from the effect of a single dancer dominating the public imagination as far as repertory, casting and performances are concerned. It was only when I read the comments of talented dancers like Ann Jenner describing the palpable sense of audience disappointment when Fonteyn was not dancing. and the feeling that they were seen as second best that I came to understand how detrimental Fonteyn's lengthy career was to the careers of several generations of dancers. It made the me wonder whether the company's problems in the 1980s and 1990's were the result of her over long dominance and what came close to being a cult of personality. I am sure that there will be some who will say that the company should extend its stylistic reach to include the bravura, display performance style epitomised in the current performance practice displayed in Don Q but I would much prefer that everyone in the company should be able to dance Ashton's choreography with an innate feel for its musicality and dynamics and that those cast in leading roles were able to show the ability to dance their roles rather than merely reproducing the steps accurately but seemingly without any understanding of the appropriate performance style or sense of the character they are supposed to be portraying.The other ballets scheduled for performance during this booking period are much more "house style" ballets than Don Q is ever likely to be. Perhaps it is a lack of imagination on my part but I find it hard to imagine which roles among those in the works scheduled Osipova might have been prepared to consider dancing or that management might have thought of offering her. Masha in MacMillan's Winter Dreams is a possibility I suppose but apart from that I can't imagine her wanting to appear in Les Patineurs or The Two Pigeons although the role of the Gipsy would suit her admirably it is neither a prestigious role nor a particularly long one although very theatrically effective when danced by the right dancer.
  6. One fact that seems to get overlooked in any discussion about why no exemption from conscription was ever requested for British male ballet dancers during the Second World War or after the war when the country was no longer in immediate danger is de Valois' own family background. She was certainly Irish by birth but although she was born in County Wicklow, her family were part of the ascendancy class from whose ranks a significant proportion of the British Army's officer corps were drawn. Her father Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Stannus DSO of the Leinster Regiment died of wounds received in action on the 17th June 1917 at the age of forty six, and her maternal grandfather, Captain John Smith had served with the Royal Fusiliers. While this knowledge throws considerable light on how she was able to deal with the British Army who initially were only prepared to evacuate the women in the company when they found themselves on a British Council tour near the German, Dutch border and the German army decided to invade Holland. It is extraordinarily difficult to imagine how anyone with her family background would have been prepared to countenance exemptions of any sort from military service for the male members of her company. Conscription continued to affect British ballet companies and their male dancers for some years after the war. Joy Newton writing an essay about staging the Sleeping Beauty in a booklet about the ballet's history and its music said that Ashton devised his choreography for the first act waltz for an all female corps because the company was forever losing its young male dancers to national service. Conscription continued for some time after the war. The National Service Act 1948 required all healthy males between 17 and 21 to undertake eighteen months military service, extended to two years after the Korean War. Conscription was gradually phased out from 1957 onwards . Those born on and after 1st October 1939 were the first group of men not required to undertake military service. The first generation of male dancers of the Royal Ballet not to have their careers interrupted, if not ruined, by conscription included Michael Coleman, born 1941, Anthony Dowel,l born 1943, and David Wall, born 1946. Since this thread was started there have been a number of books written about British ballet during the war the most obvious of which are; " A Dancer in Wartime" written by the late Dame Gillian Lynne. "Albion's Dance; British Ballet During the Second World War" by Karen Elliot published by Oxford University Press. Dame Beryl Grey's recent autobiography " A Life in Dance" which includes her wartime experiences both as student and dancer.
  7. I am not entirely surprised that there was a lower turn out than usual for London Ballet Circle meetings. While Wimbledon and the World Cup may have had an impact on the size of the audience I suspect that the heat was what put the majority of people off attending. In addition to these obvious factors affecting the turn out I can think of several people who usually attend LBC meetings who decided that what could probably prove to be Felicity Palmer's last Wigmore Hall recital was far too important to miss. As has already been said at some point the authorised account of the meeting will appear on the LBC website.
  8. Naghdi is certainly going to show her range in the Japanese programme and with any luck the fact that she is dancing the reconciliation pas de deux from Pigeons means that there is a good chance of seeing her dance the Young Girl when the ballet is next performed in London. I should like to see her dance both female leads in that ballet as Margaret Barbieri did most successfully. The speculation in London is that Ball is next in line for promotion to Principal which might improve the chances of London audiences seeing even more of the Naghdi, Ball partnership.
  9. nanushka I suspect that in referring to Petipa's "multi personality disorder" Macaulay is suggesting that of the ballets attributed to Petipa which are in ABT's repertory some are considerably closer in their text to choreography which Petipa might be able to recognise as having some connection with his own creations than others. Of course Petipa's style developed over time but not to the extent that some productions of ballets attributed to him would suggest. Petipa's "multiple personality disorder" is a problem which has to be faced by any company whose repertory includes both serious scholarly reconstructions of his ballets based on the Stepanov notation and mid twentieth century productions of other works staged by him during the second part of the nineteenth century. Productions like ABT's La Bayadere and Le Corsaire are based on mid twentieth century Soviet stagings. They incorporate elements of the more athletic advances in technique which took place in Russia during the 1920's and 1930's, A company with both Soviet based productions of Petipa's works and other productions based on the earliest recorded notated text of his ballets, is at some point. going to have to try to reconcile the irreconcilable. Putting it simply the Petipa revealed by Ratmansky's reconstructions of Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake is a nineteenth century ballet master rather than a choreographer gifted with the ability to foresee every choreographic advance that would occur in Russia during the fifty years following his death. Being confronted with a Petipa who is considerably more of a contemporary of Bournonville than we are used to seeing can come as a bit of a shock. Even without worrying about the authenticity of every step danced or insisting on period appropriate technique and style, seeing a performance in which the musicality of Petipa's choreography is restored because the conductor refuses to indulge the dancers and insists that the composer's tempi are to be taken seriously has an extraordinarily transformative effect on the audience's experience of Petipa's ballets
  10. The debuts, planned and unplanned, which took place during the initial run of Scarlett's Swan Lake showed considerable promise for the future. Management made the sensible decision that dancers making their debuts in the lead roles would do so with seasoned and experienced partners supporting them. This prompted a great deal of wailing from a number of dance fans who bemoaned the fact that management had not arranged for Naghdi and Ball to make a joint debut in the new production. They seemed to be blissfully unaware that unlike the prince in Sleeping Beauty who only turns up in the second act Swan Lake's Siegfried has rather a lot to do as he appears in every act.There will be many people in London who will envy the Madrid audience on the 19th July.
  11. Mariangela. I forgot to say that if you could give people who post on this site a clue about your specific areas of balletic interest we might be able to give you some more specific suggestions about ballets which you might like. Here is a suggestion. ICA issued a DVD of Fokine's Les Sylphides in glorious black and white. The recording dates from the early 1950's and the cast includes Markova, Beriosova and Elvin. It is an extraordinary account of the ballet danced idiomatically by a cast who understood deep in their bones how the ballet should go and the performance is introduced by Karsavina. This recording,I think, make it clear just why someone like de Valois considered it one of the great ballets of the twentieth century. There is a second recording of the work made some ten years later this time with a Royal Ballet cast led by Fonteyn and Nureyev which makes a strong argument for it. It is to be found on a DVD called, I think, " An Evening with the Royal Ballet" and is not to be sniffed at either.
  12. There must be a way of squaring the Musicians Union because they have not prevented the Beeb issuing rafts of major recordings of classical music not all of which were more than fifty years old. Somehow it would seem that all the standard objections about copyright, performers rights and being unable to find things fade away when the marketing department realizes that there is money to be made from the tapes. I think that the problem with ballet recordings is that ballet is perceived to be an incredibly elitist art form and such a small market that it is not worth the effort of issuing them for sale in their current state, let alone the cost of cleaning them. I suppose that it is possible that the RB might not be that enthusiastic about the project as it would not show a company continuously progressing and improving over the years. I suspect that it is a question of financial return. ICA finally got their hands on the BBC recordings of gems like the Markova. Elvin, Beriosova Les Sylphides and the original cast of Fille, with its pathetic union placating designs which seemed to have been essential to television recordings at the time. I wonder how much it cost ICA to clean the films and how much of a return they have made on their investment as so many people seem to have " discovered" the recordings and posted them on the internet ? By the way it was not the recording of Checkmate that interested me. It was the prospect of a recording of Symphonic Variations and Song of the Earth even with that cast.
  13. Mariangela. I would also add the old recording of Napoli with Villumsen and Hindberg for the same reason. it is charming, danced idiomatically by all on stage and has not fallen victim to the current director's idea that anything that is old has to be made accessible to a modern audience by updating the setting and scenario. In this recording it is treasured for what it is a fascinating nineteenth century gem of a ballet with what the choreographer deemed to be the appropriate balance between mime and dance. In addition it was filmed sympathetically so that you see what you would want to look at in performance rather than being subjected to a recording which is more concerned with the cameraman's and director's virtuosity than it is with the dancers.
  14. sandik, I sympathise with the view that any recording of a major work by company whose dancers know how it goes is better than no recording at all, or one by a company who cannot dance it idiomatically. I feel like that about Bussell's farewell performance not because of Bussell herself but because of two of the ballets programmed that evening and the casts appearing in them. The programme began with Checkmate with a cast led by Yanowsky as the Black Queen, followed by Symphonic Variations with a pretty good cast which included Belinda Hatley who also retired that evening, ending with The Song of the Earth which Bussell had chosen for her final performance with the company. The entire programme was televised by the BBC. Why the company did not issue a DVD of the entire programme is beyond me because Bussell's name alone would have ensured that it sold like hotcakes. While the cast of The Song of the Earth, Bussell, Acosta and Avis was not ideal, it is, as far as I am aware, the only recording which has ever been made of the entire work. As it seems unlikely that it will be recorded again any time soon, let alone with an ideal cast, I would have settled quite happily for a DVD with masterpiece by MacMillan and Ashton on it.
  15. I wondered about that myself. I will simply say that it is unclear to me whether any film of the performances of Symphonic or Façade which were danced at Fonteyn's farewell performance exist. I find it difficult to believe that the BBC sent a camera crew to Covent Garden and it only filmed Salut d' Amour. The performances of Symphonic I mentioned in my earlier post are ones which I know were filmed and broadcast on British television. One was filmed for Granada Television's arts programme Parade in 1973. The cast for Symphonic on that occasion was led by Sibley and Dowell with Jenner, Sherwood, Penney and Coleman as the side couples I think that Façade was also filmed with a cast led by Alexander Grant as the "Dago", The second performance of Symphonic that I was referring to was performed as part of the Queen's Silver Jubilee Gala, The cast for the 1977 performance was, I believe, led by Park and Wall with Jenner, Eagling, Penney and Coleman as the side couples. I believe that the BFI has a recording from 1962 in which the cast for Symphonic is led by Page and MacLeary. with Parkinson, Usher, Sibley and Shaw as the side couples, at least a list of films of Ashton's ballets held at NYPL suggests this is the case. A DVD including any or all of these recordings would be more than acceptable to me.They were all filmed during Ashton's lifetime when Somes was involved in coaching the Ashton repertory and Ashton was actively involved in making those miniscule corrections of angles and height which transformed performances of his ballets from very good to incomparable. Here I have in mind films of Ashton coaching members of the National Ballet of Canadian in The Two Pigeons where his coaching interventions had a transformative effect on the dancers' performances and the better known film of Ashton coaching Sibley and Dowell in the reconciliation pas de deux from The Dream. The latter film seems to have upset some who saw it on the web as it generated comments which suggested that some viewers interpreted Ashton's coaching corrections as picking on Sibley as he gave so few corrections to Dowell and the corrections he gave Sibley seem so minor . It is only when you see the finished result that you see how essential his corrections were.
  16. I think that many London ballet goers are waiting with great interest to see which of the talented younger dancers, other than Hayward and Naghdi, are going to pop up in the ballets scheduled in the next booking period such as Les Patineurs and The Two Pigeons. They will provide Kevin with some great opportunities to develop the careers of dancers such as O'Sullivan, Yudes and Sissens. As far as Naghdi and Hayward are concerned I shall be very surprised if Naghdi does not make her debut as Kitri and Hayward hers as the Young Girl in Pigeons.
  17. Amazon UK has announced that a new all Ashton DVD is to be issued in July and is available for pre-order now. The ballets on the disc are Symphonic Variations, The Dream and Yanowsky's farewell performance as a company member in Marguerite and Armand dancing opposite Bolle, the programme which was streamed to cinemas at the end of last season. As far as the performances are concerned the cast for Symphonic is good and that for The Dream looked better in the cinema than it did in the theatre. In the theatre the performance of The Dream did not carry into the auditorium as well as it should, but then, Takada was a late substitute as Titania. The last ballet is a record of the final performance of one of the most intelligent and witty dancers the company has had in ages. Now while I might wish that the company would issue a DVD of The Dream using the live recording of the ballet with Park and Dowell in the leads and both the live performance of Symphonic Variations recorded at the opera house with Park and Wall in the leads and the recording made of the same ballet with a cast which included Sibley, Dowell, Penney and Coleman, I am pleased that the company is giving us a few crumbs.
  18. For the sake of those who have bought tickets for this new work I sincerely hope that the choreographer of the new Isadora makes a better job of his ballet about Duncan than MacMillan made of his account of the dancer and her life. I also hope that this new ballet does not prompt Lady MacMillan to press for her late husband's "Isadora" to be revived. Duncan's life was extraordinary but even with the assistance of the dramaturge who had worked with MacMillan on creating Mayerling MacMillan did not manage to turn an account of Isadora's life into an effective narrative ballet. It stubbornly remained an account of incidents in her life.MacMillan failed to transform it into something greater, namely an effective piece of dance theatre. I always thought that MacMillan was persuaded that Isadora's life could be turned into an effective dance work by a rather good television documentary which Ken Russell made about her life. I shall be interested to read the comments of those who see the new Isadora.
  19. While I think that Naghdi is the more classical of the two dancers and possibly the stronger technically Kevin has taken care when casting both Naghdi and Hayward . Hayward's first featured role was the ballerina role in Rhapsody dancing with Hay. back in 2012. Hay is a wonderful dancer with a wide range who is a beautiful classical dancer but likely to be held back by his lack of height. Like McRae and Campbell he needs care taken over who he partners because of his height and they are both ahead of him in the queue to dance with Takada. As Hay and Hayward can dance Ashton idiomatically they made Rhapsody look like a beautiful ballet rather than the tough technical exercise which Osipova and McRae made it appear to be. Hayward has also danced Juliet and Manon to considerable acclaim and during last season she made her debut as SPF and Aurora dancing with Campbell and as Lise with Sambe as her Colas and later in the season as Titania again dancing opposite Sambe. Both Hayward's Lise and her Titania were important achievements for the company. Her Titatnia was one of the best I have seen since Sibley relinquished the role. Both Naghdi and Hayward were cast in Emeralds and in Tarantella. Their Tarantella performances were outrageously good. Hayward and Sambe brought the house down on the first night of the mixed bill in which it was included and Naghdi and Zucchetti achieved the same effect when they danced it. In both of these casts it was the women who used their musicality to achieve their effects. I honestly think that the audience would have felt that they had had a good evening's entertainment if the performance had stopped there and then. After those two pairings the Campbell Hinkis cast, which was good seemed more than a little bland and rather tame. It will be interesting to see which dancers from the RB dance at the gala. The promotions are eagerly awaited. I might suggest that other names to look out from among the women are O'Sullivan who danced three different fairy variations. Princess Florine and one of Florestan's sisters with great success during the last run of Beauty, made an unscheduled debut as Alice at the beginning of the season as well as dancing in the pas de trois in Lac; a young Japanese dancer called Chisato; Stix-Brunell who is outstanding in everything she does and always gives a performance and Heap who does the same thing, She seems to me to be cast in the Mason mould. Among the men there is Bracewell who transferred from BRB and made an excellent debut as Siegfried during this run replacing MacRae. He is clearly someone to watch as is Clarke who came to notice a couple of seasons ago dancing the Somes' role in Symphonic Variations; danced the prince in Beauty and Nutcracker last season and was impressive as Aminta and De Grieux dancing opposite Cuthbertson this season. If the casting of the role of Polixenes is anything to go by then Braensrad's name needs to be added to the list as he was one of the four men cast in this significant secondary role during the latest run of The Winter's Tale the others were Ball, Bracewell and Clarke.
  20. I think that the reason why Naghdi was the only younger dancer to be given the opportunity to make her debut as Odette/Odile in this initial run of the new production is attributable to the prior claims of the more senior female principals rather than a lack of talented dancers capable of taking on the role. I think that many in London expected the ballet to be programmed next season and the "missing" dancers such as Hayward, Kaneko and Magri to make their debuts then. While I don't think that Kevin is right to take such an arm's length approach to the works he commissions he seems to have a far surer touch when it comes to managing the development of his dancers' careers. Dancers like Naghdi and Hayward are just the most obvious names among a vast pool of talent present in the company, at the moment, and Kevin seems to have the ability to identify the right developmental roles for his dancers and no one blinks when a junior dancer in his or her first year in the company is cast in a role which would usually have been reserved for a really experienced one. Last season Joseph Sissens, a dancer in his first year as a company member, after a season as an apprentice, was very impressive in the Brian Shaw role in the second cast of Symphonic Variations and Roverro in his first season with the company was given a role in Scarlett's Symphonic Dances and was equally impressive. Earlier on in the current season both Naghdi and Hayward made their debuts as Giselle within hours of each other. Both gave fine accounts of the role and somehow the local audience took it all for granted when a few years ago we would have been grateful for one such debut in a season and considered ourselves very fortunate to have seen it. A great deal of the company's current artistic health is attributable to the work of the late Gailene Stock at the RBS. I sincerely hope that in the future no one loses sight of the part that having an effective school plays in the artistic health of the company. An understanding of that essential link was lost sight of during the seventies although the evidence was there for anyone who cared to look closely at the company. It took a very long time for anyone to accept that there was a problem and even longer to take decisive steps to deal with the problem in an effective manner.
  21. rhys, I don't think that I would take Jann Parry's comments at face value. The Dowell Swan Lake represented a deliberate move on his part to return to the notated text of Swan Lake which is what the company first danced. This meant abandoning all the Ashton choreography which had been created for the Helpmann production. Dowell wanted to retain Ashton's Neapolitan Dance but the choreographer was so upset that he refused his permission for its use and went off in a mega- sulk. The company were not able to reinstate that bit of choreography until after Ashton's death. The thing that was wrong with the Dowell production was not that he was not a curator.The text danced in his production was a far closer to the original text than anything the company had danced since the1960's. Although I think I should say I could have done without the Bintley waltz and the " Jack the lad" prince and his drunken attendants the actual text was sound. The real problem was the Sonnabend designs which the dancers had to contend with each time they performed the ballet. They made the stage look cluttered while the costumes were far too fussy and bling laden. Designs establish a ballet's mood and where it is set, and as Danilova said good designs assist the dancers in performance. But with both his Swan Lake and his Sleeping Beauty Dowell's good intentions for the choreographic text to be danced were hijacked by his designers who created over elaborate designs which got in the way of the audience's appreciation of the choreography.
  22. Here is an even more cogent question. If Von Rothbart is such a powerful magician and so clearly part of the royal household why does he have to go through the entire charade of conjuring up Odile and bringing her into the palace in order to seize power? Odile is a necessary character if Von Rothbart has to enter the palace in order to gain power over Siegfried and thwart Odile's hopes of freedom through Siegfried's love for her. But if he is part of the royal entourage he does not need Odile as a means to gain access and close proximity to Siegfried and his mother. He could simply cast a spell over the prince and his mother and have done with it. In a staging which is set in medieval ballet land such questions do not arise as the whole narrative sits quite comfortably with what we think we know of the nineteenth century European cultural obsession with chivalric myths and medieval poetry such as the Arthurian legends and our own recollections of the fairy stories and myths we heard as children. But the minute you employ MacMillan style "realism" by alluding consciously or unconsciously to his choreography or hint at realism by giving the ballet a period specific setting, they do. The libretto used by Petipa and Ivanov is neither logical nor consistent but its inconsistencies are those of legend and myth and in performance they seem to contain emotional truths. The minute you set about tidying up the story to make the narrative logical and consistent you create more problems than you solve. Ashton was not consistent in his views of what was permissible when staging one of the nineteenth century classics . In the late 1930's he seemed to be very much against altering their text in any way. By the 1960's he was more liberal in his view of what was permissible but he seems to have been adamant that while you did not have to treat the original text as if it was sacred you had to retain the work's poetic truth. Unfortunately I don't see much evidence of poetry or poetic truth in this staging except in the one act in which the original choreography survives unscathed. It will be interesting to see to what extent it is revised when it is revived.
  23. Aurora, You don't appear to have heard of the purges and show trials which took place in the Soviet Union during the 1930's. They did not only affect the political elite they affected people engaged in the arts as well. It is said that Bulgakov only escaped being purged because Stalin admired him as a writer. In general if you failed to follow the party line you were quite likely to be purged. If you were lucky you only lost your job , if you were unlucky you lost your life. What was being suggested was that if people like Messerer and Dolinskaia who staged Swan Lake during the thirties had failed to provide the ballet with an upbeat happy ending in accordance with the party line they might well have found themselves in a great deal of trouble politically. Messerer would probably have been particularly careful to follow party diktats because members of his close family had been purged and executed. If you were purged and put on trial rather than simply being shot then you had to be charged with an offence of some sort and being an "Enemy of the People" or a "Japanese spy" were the sort of amorphous allegations you might face.
  24. ENB's Manon is a gamble but then so is Wheeldon's Cinderella. Staging Manon was part of Eagling's plan to extend the range of the company's repertory seen in London and the regions. The Board vetoed his plan to drop the Nureyev Romeo and Juliet and revive Ashton's version in its stead. As far as the Wheeldon Cinderella is concerned , like many other choreographers with Royal Ballet connections he seems to spend more time avoiding anything resembling Ashton's choreography for Cinderella than actually responding to the music. I should like to be proved wrong but I am far from convinced that it will sell that well but you can never tell how a family audience, perhaps with children who feel that they have outgrown Nutcracker, will respond to it. When it was first seen in London the audience was essentially the regular ballet audience rather than a family one. ENB's Manon presents its own problems one of which is the limited number of dancers in the company for whom MacMillan's style is at all familiar. Here I think that once the casting is announced it will be somewhat clearer whether or not it will sell in London.Miah Stensgaard's designs for the ballet don't help. They force ENB's dancers to work far harder to establish the time. place and mood of the ballet than the Royal's dancers need to do. It is not a simple question of familiarity with Georgiadis' design but of the relative effectiveness of the designs which the two companies use. The Georgiadis designs establish the essentially squalid and corrupt society in which the action of the work is set. The designs used by ENB are far less specific as to time place and mood and the costumes are more like light weight generic ballet costumes than anything else. The RB is staging several mixed bills over Christmas as well as its perennial Nutcracker. Les Patineurs , Winter Dreams and The Concert before Christmas and The Two Pigeons paired either with Scarlett's Asphodel Meadows or the new work he is making for students of the Royal Ballet School. it will be interesting to see which bill of fare tempts the London ballet most.
  25. I should be extremely grateful if someone could explain what a ballet "relevant" to modern audiences actually looks like. Does it simply mean appropriating the title of one of the handful of really well known nineteenth century ballets and then staging whatever you want or is there something more to it ? I will simply say that I saw Khan's Giselle and while others say that they found all sorts of emotional depths in the narrative and the choreography, it did nothing for me. Perhaps the problem is that I am not a true believer in his choreographic style or much of the work of the other choreographers whose works are said to be relevant and accessible to modern audiences.
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