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Ashton Fan

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  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. I have to say that while I regret Summerscale's departure from ENB I completely understand her decision. Her husband moved to Munich at the beginning of the current season and their first season there has provided both of them with the opportunity to perform a far wider range of repertory than they could have hoped to dance in four or more seasons at ENB. I can't help wondering whether Cirio's move to ENB is going to provide him with the opportunities he expects. He will certainly get plenty of opportunities to dance but whether or not there are opportunities to be involved in the creation of works which are "relevant" to modern audiences is quite another thing. Whatever Rojo may say about wanting to make ballet "relevant "to modern audiences the fact remains that ENB is very dependent on its nineteenth century repertory and more specifically its annual London performances of Nutcracker to maintain its solvency. Unless things have altered radically since Eagling's time as director the company's regional tours produce massive weekly losses which have to be compensated for by its London appearances. Although I believe that Khan's "Giselle" did good business on its regional tour, historically the company loses money when it travels the regions even when it performs works well known to the average regional balletgoer. This is why I find Cirio's move to ENB a bit odd. The company's repertory is constrained by the need to make money. Rojo may have ambitions to transform the company into a creative force to be reckoned with she may wish to make it less financially dependent on the performance of a handful of ballets which attract audiences but she can only do this if the new repertory sells the same volume of tickets. She will have no problems with the ENB board as long as her new repertory attracts audiences but the minute her programmes fail to do so she will have far less room to manoeuvre as far as repertory is concerned. Earlier in the year she attempted to expand the company's active repertory by programming two works well known to London ballet goers, a new production of La Sylphide, a ballet which the company last performed about thirty years ago during Schauffus' directorship, and a work new to the company, MacMillan's The Song of the Earth. I have no idea how well this programme generated ticket sales in the regions but it did not play to full houses in London. The company has just finished a run of London performances of Sleeping Beauty and again there were plenty of empty seats at most of the performances which I attended. I have no doubt that the RB's new Swan Lake and BRB's performances of Romeo and Juliet did not help ENB's ticket sales but the fact remains that the company is unlikely to have met its target ticket sales for this run of MacMillan's production of Beauty and that is likely to have an impact on Rojo's ability to make ambitious plans for the company's future repertory .
  20. I have to say that I find the praise for the new Swan Lake incomprehensible and assume that it is a combination of relief that we no longer have to look at the Sonnabend design; relief that the production is no worse then it has proved to be; indifference to the text being danced as long as there is lots and lots of pointe work and an obsession with novelty for its own sake. By the way both Zurich and La Scala have the Ratmansky reconstruction of Swan Lake in their repertory so ABT is not the only company to have a production using the original ending.
  21. In an ideal world Kevin would exercise far more control over the new works and new productions staged by the Royal Ballet. He would have told Scarlett to stick more or less to the original text and at most allowed Scarlett to create his own act 1 waltz although with the current state of the company he should have thought very seriously about reinstating the Ashton pas de douze and he would have promised us that the company would stage the original choreography and the Ashton version of the fourth act at alternate revivals. I would happily settle for either version of the fourth act rather than the mess which Scarlett has created in their place. The choreography is little better than a series of attempts to allude to Ivanov's choreography for act two and some of his own bright ideas which include the feeble ending to the music for the Apotheosis which is almost as bad as Peter Wright's ending.
  22. We all go to the ballet with different expectations whether or not what we see in performance satisfies us depends on how closely the text and its performance provide what we hope to see. I know plenty of people who really only equate classical ballet with dancers doing pointe work and technical tours de force performed by dancers of both genders, They would happily sacrifice the entire hunting scene in Beauty because to them it is not "real" dancing. It sound as if some audience members were dissatisfied with the reconstruction because they were expecting a grand imperial style ballet and choreography rather than the smaller scale almost domestic nature of what they saw in Harlequinade. Some people find it difficult to come to terms with a work which provides small scale pleasures and effective mime passages rather than the big technical set pieces which is what audiences have come to expect from all the " after Petipa productions" with new improved choreography which most companies stage in his name. Even a far from authentic production of a ballet like Cavalry Halt can come as a bit of a culture shock because the amount of mime and character work is much higher than we have become accustomed to seeing and there is only a very limited amount of technical display. What is fascinating in that work is to see the sort of material which appears to have a strong familial relationship with material in Lichine's Graduation Ball. From what I have read here and elsewhere I can't help wondering what part, if any, familiarity with this ballet played in the creation and staging of Fokine's Carnaval? Who knows perhaps some passages in Massine's Pulcinella owe something to Harlequinade as well.
  23. It has been announced that Julio Bocca is to work with the company on this revival as guest repetiteur. My general impression is that the current team tends to favour technique at the expense of the other elements which contribute to the successful revival of a nineteenth century classical ballet. The company's recent Le Corsaire seemed to be treated by many of the dancers appearing in it more as an opportunity to give a display of their technical skills than anything else . I do hope that this does not prove to be the case with this revival.
  24. I have always understood that the controversy about whether or not Marie Petipa was given a solo to dance in the Prologue of the Sleeping Beauty, and whether she was much of a dancer at all, has more to do with the dancers' strike of 1905 and the part she is said to have played in it than anything else. The official view of her written by those who stayed in Russia and experienced both the abortive revolution of 1905 and then went on to live and work through the 1917 revolutions portrays her as the villainess of the dancer's strike and the person who was responsible for Sergei Legat cutting his throat. The official version of the events of 1905 is that Sergei Legat who in these accounts is portrayed as the more talented of the two Legat brothers both as a dancer and artist and a man fully committed to improving conditions for the company and society at large was pressurised by Marie Petipa not to participate in the dancers' protests about their working conditions and that she almost certainly did this at the instigation of the theatre directorate. We are then I think required to understand that by putting pressure on Sergei Legat not to participate in the strike she precipitated his suicide a few days later. From there it is but a short step to turn Marie Petipa into an untalented performer and a barely competent dancer. I seem to recall that Fyodor Lopukhov was quite happy to state that Marie Petipa could not dance. In the twentieth century pantheon of Russian ballet villains she seems to have been perceived as only marginally less villainous than the arch villain Nicolai Sergeyev and this still affects her reputation as a an artist. Any question along the lines of " If she was that poor a dancer how did she come to occupy the position she held in the company and to perform the roles she was given?" would probably be given the answer that it is obviously that case that family connections account for it. After all her father was running the company for which she danced. But that is only a satisfactory answer if you are willing to accept the official account and don't see the obvious flaws in it which begin with why would Petpa have entrusted prominent roles in major new works to an incompetent dancer? I am sure that some interesting material about Petipa and his ballets will be published this year but somehow I don't think that the students of the history of the Sleeping Beauty are about to rehabilitate Marie Petipa as a major Mariinsky performer but it will be interesting to see what, if anything, has altered in the official version of the history of Sleeping Beauty.
  25. JMcN Thank you for your comments about Bracewell. I have no doubt that he is an exceptional Romeo and I hope to see him in the role when the ballet is next revived at Covent Garden. There is a marked difference between MacMillan's dramballets and the nineteenth century classics however far "after Petipa" a production of Lac may be. MacMillan's dramatic three act ballets do not expose the dancer's basic classical technique as cruelly and unrelentingly as choreography by Petipa. Ashton and Balanchine does. Romeo is in many ways more a test of the dancer's stamina than his classical technique. While I like a Romeo who can actually dance the role well it has not been unknown for a dancer whose technique has become a bit iffy to cover technical defects, sloppy landings and other misdemeanours by acting and emoting. I can think of one senior dancer at the RB who has been doing this for some years. I hasten to say that I don't think that Bracewell falls into the category of dancers who emote and sprawl their way through a role like Romeo, far from it, everything I have seen him do so far has been very good. He seems to capture the essence of the style of a role and add a little extra to it. He is clearly a gifted and versatile dancer. On Thursday night he was an exceptionally elegant and involved Siegfried giving every choreographed gesture and movement its due weight and real meaning. On Friday night he was leading the Mazurka the section which I think many experience as the low point of act 3 but he lifted it in the way that I recall Alexander Grant and Monica Mason did with the Czardas dancing with real verve ,energy and style.
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