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Ashton Fan

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  1. While it was wonderful to see Dante Sonata restored to the company's repertory during his tenure as director I have never understood Bintley's failure to revive more of the ballets which were restored to the stage during Sir Peter's directorship after years of neglect such as The Prospect Before Us which was staged to mark the centenary of De Valois' birth and turned out to be a much better comic ballet than its years of neglect suggested it was. It must have taken a great deal of time and effort to restore it and yet although the company received a SWET award for it, the ballet has, I think, never been revived . There are plenty of other examples of important ballets revived by Sir Peter and ignored by Bintley such as Massine's Choreatium ,Joos' Green Table and Ashton's Valses Nobles et Sentimentales. It often seems to me that much of BRB's reputation for being a fine custodian of historically significant repertory is based almost entirely on Sir Peter's work as director. I hope that whoever is appointed as director is sufficiently interested in the company's history to revive the historically significant works which Sir Peter worked hard to stage. One thing is certain Bintley's successor is going to need even more skill and luck than a new director usually requires, if only because of the financial challenges he/she will face as a result of the swingeing cuts to its financial support which the company has sustained. The cuts are going to present a real challenge to the new director but they have produced one benefit. They have prevented the company staging Stanton Welch's version of La Bayadere for which, having read a bit about it on this site, I think all BRB 's followers should be truly grateful. I wonder whether those responsible for appointing the new director will want another choreographer- director simply because Bintley's work has come to dominate the company's repertory in a way that some feel has not been entirely beneficial for the company , There is the suggestion that the initials B.R.B. now stand for Bintley's Royal Ballet rather than Birmingham Royal Ballet. As far as potential candidates are concerned I question whether Robert Parker would really want to leave his post at Elmhurst barely five minutes after he took it up. Given the company's financial position I imagine that the appointment panel will be looking for someone with a bit of experience in running a company rather than someone with no experience who is likely to command a great deal of goodwill within the company. I can think of one young energetic former artistic director with a proven track record as far as choice of repertory and dancer development are concerned who seems to have time on his hands at present. The question is whether he would want to run a company so closely connected with the Royal Ballet ?
  2. I think that you have to remember that when Western Europe rediscovered ballet as a significant art form in the early years of the twentieth century the rediscovery was prompted by Diaghilev's Ballet Russes which for the main part presented new works rather than historically significant repertory. The only company in the West which maintained a significant amount of nineteenth century repertory was the Royal Danish Ballet. The POB performed Coppelia but it had last performed Giselle in the late 1860's. The newly kindled interest in ballet in the West was essentially an enthusiasm for new works. Although today a lot of companies in the West have a repertory which includes a mixture of twentieth century ballets and versions of some of Petipa;s ballets this was not the norm in the 1930's. When the company which eventually became the Royal Ballet acquired its nineteenth century repertory in the 1930's the ballets which De Valois selected for her young company were all works which had historically important scores as well as good choreography. The idea was that these works would develop the company technically and artistically and be a means of maintaining the company's technical standards long term. They were not intended to dominate the company's repertory as it had been established to be a creative company rather than a choreographic museum. As the intention was to establish ballet as a serious art form and Minkus' music tends to support the prejudice that nineteenth century ballet and its music are sweetly vacuous ballets with scores by Minkus were the last things that De Valois and her music director would have wanted to stage and that is before you get into the practicalities of the diminutive size of the stage at Sadler's Wells and the fact that the company did not have the resources to stage a ballet like La Bayadere. I think that the first that the West saw of La Bayadere was the Kingdom of the Shades scene which both major Russian companies had as part of their touring repertory . That is the section of La Bayadere which Nureyev staged for the Royal Ballet in the 1960's.For years it was the only bit of that ballet which the company danced. As far as I am concerned I should be quite happy if the company were to revert to dancing it with its full compliment of thirty two shades and dump the Markarova staging. But that is another story.
  3. Thank you very much for this. I don't think that the BFI has got the Ballet for All series in its archive which is a shame if the other six parts are of comparable quality to this one . Coppelia has a pretty impressive group of dancers appearing in it from an incredibly young Margaret Barbieri as Franz in the French version of the ballet to Brenda Last and Nicholas Johnson in the leading roles in the Russian version of the work. The dancers involved seem to me to be representative of the Royal Ballet Touring Company at the end of Ashton's directorship. Any footage of Brenda Last is welcome, She was one of those dancers who lit up the stage as soon as she set foot on it and always seemed to give the audience her personal guarantee that they were in for a hugely enjoyable evening. She was outstanding for her precision and speed in the Les Rendezvous pas de trois and is still the best Lise I have ever seen. She certainly had a great deal of experience in the role as she danced it over a hundred times. Somehow I have the feeling that this programme has a greater claim to careful scholarship and accuracy than the more recent series about the evolution of ballet performed at the opera house some bits of which were unfortunate to say the least. Thank you again for a chance to watch it.
  4. Call a ballet Swan Lake and the tickets for it sell themselves is, I suspect, an almost universal truth. Now while it may be true that there are some people who have not darkened the doors of Covent Garden to see a Royal Ballet performance of Swan Lake since the Dowell production was premiered simply because they loathed the Sonnabend designs their dislike was not reflected in reduced box office receipts. The fact that some regulars have not bought tickets for the Royal Ballet's Lac for the best part of thirty years has simply meant that more tickets have been available to the general public and visitors to London than would otherwise have been the case. Something similar happens at Christmas with what has become the company's perennial Nutcracker . The fact that a considerable proportion of the regular audience is heartily sick of the Nutcracker is not reflected by a drop in box office receipts as the tickets are bought by a wider range of the public than would usually be the case. At an artistic retreat for ballet company directors held a couple of years ago Kevin said that the company does not stage the Nutcracker each year to fill the company's coffers but because it attracts an audience at least 40% of whom are first time ballet goers. I assume this means that he is able to demonstrate to Arts Council England that he is not simply staging ballet for a cultural elite and this enables the company to meet targets which A.C.E. has set for it.
  5. Only a few weeks to go before we discover what the Royal Ballet's "reimagined" Swan Lake looks like, It will be interesting to see just how far "after Petipa" it proves to be and how accepting of it the Covent Garden audience will be. It does seem strange to embark on a completely new, possibly exceptionally Petipa-lite, production of an iconic ballet created under Petipa's directorship in the year when we should be marking the bicentenary of Petipa's birth. Perhaps Kevin feels the need to put his mark on the company's nineteenth century repertory by staging new productions. If the production fails to please it is likely to be a major problem for him as those who disliked the Dowell production directed most of their ire at the designs and had few problems with the text being danced apart, perhaps, with Bintley's waltz,. With this production we are promised, among other delights a new fourth act. I think that most people had assumed that the 2018-19 season would see further performances of the new production with some really exciting debuts and remedial tinkering with the text where needed, The fact that the new Swan Lake is not being danced next season raises the suspicion that management anticipates that there may be rather a lot to remedy. Mind you it is not as if there are no alternatives and no patching material readily to hand. The company has a very fine alternative act four created by Ashton for the 1963 production as well as at least two versions of the waltz by him in the form of a pas de douze created for the Covent Garden company and a pas de six made for the old touring company as well as several versions of divertissements for act three. Of course if Kevin had wanted to do something which would mark his directorship out as something special artistically he would have tried to get someone to reconstruct the waltz using the original floor plan.
  6. Hayward was promoted to principal at the end of the 2015-16 season. Naghdi was promoted at the end of last season. Hayward made an extraordinary debut in the Collier role in Rhapsody during the 2014 season with James Hay taking the male lead in the ballet. They danced it beautifully. Hay made his role look like a wonderful piece of choreography by dancing the ballet rather than displaying each of the steps. Hayward also emphasised the flow of the movement and as she can do quick changes of direction as if they are normal and pose no challenges the result was an object lesson in how Ashton 's choreography should be danced. They repeated this approach when it was last revived and I think that a lot of people regret that it is not their account of the ballet which appears on DVD. In the period between her 2014 debut in Rhapsody and her promotion to principal she made a very successful debut as Alice dancing with Muntagirov as Jack and made the whole confection palatable; an extraordinary debut as Manon dancing opposite Watson and a somewhat less outstanding debut as Juliet dancing opposite Golding . At least one critic wrote to say that her Juliet showed what a single dancer could do with Juliet on her own but that she needed another Romeo who was more responsive. It will be interesting to see who she is cast opposite when it comes back next season. During the 2016-17 season Hayward made her debut as Lise with Sambe as her Colas; danced the Sugar Plum Fairy for the first time and followed that up with her debut as Aurora. In these latter ballets she was partnered by Alexander Campbell. Her debut as SPF was one of the events which was covered in the BBC documentary about staging the Nutcracker which was first shown at Christmas 2016. I think that it can still be found on the internet. At the end of the 2016-2017 season she made her debut as Titania with Sambe as her Oberon. A session of Leslie Collier coaching them was included in the Insight event about the Ashton Mixed Bill staged at the end of last season. It can be found on the internet . The audience who attended the single performance of Ashton's Dream which Hayward and Sambe gave came out at the end of it grinning like Cheshire cats. An acquaintance of mine who is exceptionally hard to please simply said of her performance that she is "The best since Sibley" which is the highest praise you can bestow on anyone in that role. Sambe was extraordinary as Oberon as he delivered both Ashton's speed and dynamics and Oberon;s thought process. Hayward has recently made her debut as Giselle dancing with Campbell replacing Sambe who was originally cast as Albrecht . While I think that her mad scene is work in progress her second act was extraordinarily satisfying and moving with Campbell managing to be a wonderfully unobtrusive partner. Hayward seems to be searching for a more internalised breakdown than is found in a traditional rendering of the mad scene. It will be interesting to see what it looks like when she has found what she seems to be looking for. In a recent interview Naghdi said that she had been searching for her mad scene and was pleased to have found it before her debut. Both Hayward and Naghdi were brilliant in Balanchine's Tarantella when it was staged recently. Naghdi is, I think, a more diamond sharp dancer than Hayward who seems to flow although this could be as much to do with who has been coaching them as anything else. Naghdi and Ball really came to notice when they were cast as Lensky and Olga in performances of Onegin which included Osipova as Tatiana. This joint debut was followed up by an equally outstanding joint debut as Romeo and Juliet. If I had to point to other differences between the two women I would say that Hayward has speed where Naghdi has admitted that she had to work on her speed when she was cast as Aurora . During the 2016-2017 Naghdi made her debut as SPF and as Aurora with Ball as her partner on both occasions . I have to say that I have never seen such an assured and charming debutant Aurora. Sections of the two dancers being coached by Kevin O'Hare can be found on the internet. Naghdi appeared with Ball as the lead couple in Emeralds when Jewels was staged recently and again they gave a very fine account of the choreography. Their most recent joint debut was a few weeks ago as Giselle and Albrecht and again it was exceptional. Naghdi gave a far more traditional account of the mad scene than Hayward who I felt was searching for something different. Naghdi said recently that she only worked out how she would play the mad scene very late in the day. It would seem that management is trying to balance the roles out between its two newest female principals. Naghdi has been cast as Odette/ Odile whereas Hayward has not been cast in the leading role in the first run of the company's new Swan Lake. I assume that she is destined for the Neapolitan Dance and the Pas de Trois in the streamed performance of the ballet and that she will make her debut as Odette/ Odile when the production is revived. In the meantime there is much to look forward to. Hayward is dancing with Bonelli as her De Grieux in the her current revival of Manon with Naghdi due to make her debut as Mistress in the next few weeks. As for next season Les Patineurs and Two Pigeons are being revived so there is plenty of scope for hope as far as new roles are concerned . The great thing for most of us is that the two new principals are not alone there seem to be plenty of talented dancers female and male at every level of the company. The Hayward, Naghdi debuts as Giselle came within less than twenty four hours of each other. As a long time acquaintance said to me in the not too distant past we would have been extremely grateful if in a single season we had seen one debut of the quality of those Giselles given by Hayward and Naghdi but now with the number of talented dancers at all levels in the company we have almost come to take it for granted that debuts will be exceptionally good.
  7. Morera has been off sick for a couple of weeks now. I hope that it is nothing serious. While it is truly disappointing that she is unable to dance on opening night Hayward, her replacement, made a very auspicious debut with Watson when the ballet was last scheduled. We will get quite a lot of opportunity to see her with Bonelli as he is scheduled to replace Watson who was due to dance with Hayward later on in the run. Cast changes are an essential part of life's rich pattern as far as ballet going is concerned. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and sometimes when illness or injury overturn casting pairings which generally appear pretty permanent you get to see something which is unplanned and special. We shall see tomorrow whether we have been given an unexpected winning ticket in the Royal Ballet's dancing lottery. .
  8. The Guardian review is now available but it only covers the Hayward Campbell performance. Perhaps members of the press felt that two debuts within less than twenty four hours was too onerous a burden. Anyway the Guardian report is not behind a paywall nor is the Dancetabs review nor the review in the Telegraph.
  9. The current run of Giselle performances promised London audiences two eagerly awaited debuts with both Hayward and Naghdi dancing the title role for the first time. As it turned out it there were also two unscheduled debuts in the role of Albrecht by Benjamin Ella and Alexander Campbell. Ella, replacing McRae who is injured, made his debut dancing with Takada as his Giselle while on Friday night Campbell, replacing Sambe,made his official debut with Hayward as his Giselle. In fact the Friday night performance was Campbell's and Hayward's third performance of Giselle as they had already danced the ballet at the Friends Open Rehearsal and at the Taylor Family performance for school children. On Saturday afternoon Naghdi and Ball made their scheduled debuts in the leading roles of Giselle and Albrecht. Debuts in major roles like Giselle are always of interest but two important debuts within twenty four hours is unusual at Covent Garden. There is a very positive review in the Daily Telegraph of the Friday night performance by Hayward and Campbell and a less enthusiastic one in DanceTabs by Jann Parry of the performance which the same cast gave at the Taylor Family matinee for school children. She seems to have problems with Campbell's Albrecht who is not sufficiently blue blooded and noble for her tastes. He is on the short side and looks more like a demi-character dancer than a nobleman but as he gave a masterclass in unobtrusive partnering in act 2 I have no complaints. I wonder what her response would have been if the originally announced Sambe had danced the role as he is also short and on the stocky side. As far as press coverage is concerned I suspect that most of the papers which still cover ballet will publish their reviews early next week and report on both the performance given by Hayward and Campbell and that given by Naghdi and Ball. Although whether or not they will be given much column space is another question.
  10. Mnacenani, The information given under the heading "Credits" states that it is the Vikharev reconstruction. I can't help wondering not only who is going to stage it but who is going to coach it and what performance style will be adopted? I seem to recall that in her autobiography Tchernichova had some pithy things to say about the pedagogues' shocked disbelief when faced with this reconstruction in 1999. It was to the effect that most of the coaches who had criticised Vikharev's reconstruction for radically departing from Konstantin Sergeyev's "authentic" Sleeping Beauty had criticised Sergeyev's production for its lack of authenticity when it was first staged in 1952. At that time the very people who were now claiming to be shocked by Vikharev's staging were fully aware of the changes which Sergeyev had made to the ballet's text in order to create his "authentic" version.
  11. Hayward and Campbell danced at the Friends Open Rehearsal of Giselle. As it is not the done thing to write about such performances in any detail I shall restrict myself to two comments. Much as I like Sambe and believe that he has enormous potential seeing Hayward and Campbell dance together at the rehearsal left me wondering why they had not been cast together initially and feeling very pleased that I have a ticket for their official debut. It would be interesting to know precisely what Kevin's views on partnerships are as he seems simultaneously to believe in them and not believe in them depending on the dancers concerned. Casting rarely seems to follow any obvious logic such as always pairing inexperienced dancers making their debut in major classical roles with an experienced partner as Naghdi and Ball, up until now, have generally been cast together in joint debuts with no one worrying about their shared lack of experience. I understand the need for dancers to be flexible and capable of dancing with a wide range of colleagues but I don't see the logic in not allowing other dancers to achieve a similar level of familiarity and trust with each other comparable with that currently enjoyed by them. Dancing with someone whom you trust implicitly gives far greater scope for full out "risk taking " dancing and artistry than dancing with someone whom you are not entirely sure about and you are learning to trust does. In case anyone feels the need to correct what I have written here in the light of the casting announced for the company's new Swan Lake I have noticed that Ball is due to dance with Osipova and Clarke is dancing with Cuthbertson.
  12. Perhaps it just feels like it, but with the exception of the MacMillan cash cows,Kevin seems to need to have significant anniversaries to justify reviving major works by dead twentieth century choreographers connected with the company. As far as commemorating Robbins and Nureyev are concerned he does arguably have the beginning of the 2018-19 season in which to redeem himself. He may feel it politic to do so simply because staging a new production of Swan Lake with less of the original choreography than we have become used to seeing, and very little of the Ashton choreography as an alternative text may prove to be something which does not achieve the success he mus be hoping for. I shall wait until the next RB season is announced before I start to complain about these lapses. Mussel I don't think that the ROH has yet become the House of McGregor-Wheeldon -Scarlett. I believe that "pleasure" awaits us in the 2020 season. Wheeldon and Scarlett do at least continue to create works which use classical dance vocabulary, indeed Scarlett has said on more than one occasion that he considers the movement which McGregor creates to be dangerous for dancers. Going back to the original topic the choice of repertory at POB for the coming season. I had imagined that at the very least the company would have decided to revive a couple of Nureyev's stagings of Petipa's ballets and some of the nineteenth century works with which Nureyev was associated as a dancer such as Giselle. I imagine that the repertory selected represents the sort of works that Dupont liked appearing in and the sort of works she would have liked to have danced. Now up to a point a director is permitted to stage works by choreographers they admire but if in doing so they abandon their company's heritage and ignore the need to provide development opportunities for the dancers for whom they are responsible they are guilty of dereliction of duty. As others have said it raises the question of exactly what sort of company Dupont wants the POB to be. May I ask is a petition likely to have any effect ?
  13. Dear Mashinka, You liked the Markarova production a lot of people I know did not for the reasons I have given. I did not say that the text which Markarova selected was bad simply that it was derived from a different tradition. I agree with you about the designs which were good. As far as the current Sleeping Beauty is concerned I think that the main problems with it are the sluggish speed at which the ballet has been performed in successive seasons, some Auroras concentrating on the Rose Adagio at the expense of the ballet's second and third acts and their role's over all trajectory and the casting and coaching of the Prologue Fairies. At times their casting has suggested suggested that they were selected by drawing names out of a hat.At least at the last revival the presence of Mr Kessels in the pit ensured that the ballet was danced at a speed which reflected Petipa's musicality. As far as my hopes for the new Swan Lake production are concerned I hope that it will have designs which create an appropriate mood for the ballet, ensure that it is visible throughout the theatre and that it is danced at a speed and in a style which reflects both Petipa's and Ivanov's musicality thus ensuring that in act two the corps de ballet and Odette look as if they are appearing in the same ballet. I also hope that Scarlett's choreography is not too at variance with the rest of the text being danced and that if it is too awful it is replaced in double quick time by either the original choreography or Ashton's.
  14. The short answer is "Too long". In fact Bjornson's designs with overly fussy costumes, a listing palace and the flight of stairs down which Aurora made her entrance just before embarking on the Rose Adagio only "graced" the stage from 1994 until 2003 when Dowell's production was replaced under Stretton's directorship by one staged by Markarova. Unfortunately this production did nothing to endear Stretton to the local audience. He had staged Nureyev's Don Quixote for the company ignoring the fact that its not the sort of ballet which plays to the company's strengths and that de Valois had declined Nureyev's offer to stage it for the company some forty years before.That had been bad enough but with his new Sleeping Beauty produced by Markarova using Konstantin Sergeyev's choreography Stretton was seen to be ignoring the ballet's local performance tradition. The company was given a version of the ballet based on revisions to the text made in the 1950's that are part of modern Russian performing tradition which not only ignored the fact that the ballet had an important local performance tradition dating back to the Diaghilev company's staging at the Alhambra in the 1920's but its significance to the Royal Ballet's sense of identity and its understanding of its history and development. For the Royal Ballet Sleeping Beauty is not just a classical ballet it is THE classical ballet.
  15. There was no real problem with the Dowell production as far as the choeographic text was concerned apart from the fact that Ashton was so upset by the removal of all of his choreography for the ballet that he refused to let Dowell use his Neapolitan Dance. It was Sonnabend's design which people objected to and which led many to stay away from the Royal's performances of the ballet for years. The Neapolitan Dance which had been part of the text of the Royal's Swan Lake since 1952 was only restored after Ashton's death. Unfortunately the bling laden designs remained with us until the very end. I somehow suspect that if it had not been Dowell's production the designs at least would have been replaced long ago. Last season Scarlett was interviewed by Monica Mason at an Insight evening. I found it intriguing when he said that he had only agreed to be interviewed because she was to be the interviewer. At one point he said that she had not let him undertake some projects and that he now recognised that she had made the right decision. The frightening thing for me was that he said that he liked the design ideas for Dowell's Sleeping Beauty which was another design disaster as far as I was concerned.Towards the end of the interview she asked him what he could say about his Swan Lake. He answered that he was still doing his research but he was keeping the Ashton Neapolitan Dance because he had enjoyed dancing it. He said that he was aware of the company's tradition and he recognised what a great responsibility he had been given. I have to say that I was rather impressed by this response from someone in his early thirties. What we have been told about the new choreography suggests that, for good or ill, Scarlett is following the lead of the 1963 production or one of its off shoots which were staged in the 1970's. The indication that he is giving the prince more to dance could simply mean that he is going to give him a moody solo at the end of act one which while it may not be in the original text did the ballet no harm and was part of the RB's Lake from 1963 onward until Dowell's production was staged. It's the suggestion that we might have a dancing Rothbart which gives me more concern. If the new text is disliked the company has a number of textual options available to it. The real problem will arise if the designs are as badly thought out as those for the Dowell production were simply because they cost so much.
  16. I am afraid that I can't be much help here.Usually student's performances mean that the amphitheatre is allocated to students and the general public can buy seats elsewhere in the house but that does not seem to be the case for this performance as the entire house seems to have been allocated to students . I have no idea what sort of prices they have set for the students' performance but I suspect that they are very cheap much as the tickets for the Welcome Performances are. Ticket prices for the Welcome Performance seem to be set at between £5-£20. It looks as if the Welcome Performances are intended to ensure that they sell out so the company can tick the box for attracting whatever percentage of the audience the Arts Council has decreed needs to be made up of newcomers.
  17. Meunier fan, I was not intending to give a complete account of Ball's career in my earlier post but you are quite right Naghdi and he made a wonderful pairing as Olga and Lensky cast with Osipova as Tatiana and Golding as Onegin. Most inexperienced dancers would have been pleased to hold their own against that sort of cast but their performances were outstandingly effective and affecting .Here are some more basic facts about Ball's career. He joined the company in the 2012/13 season. He was promoted to First Artist in 2015, to Soloist in 2016 and to First Soloist at the end of the 2016-17 season. Such regular promotion is far from usual, although Clarke seems to be following a similar trajectory. As Mashinka said in an earlier post the Royal Ballet is looking very good at present with real talent at every level of the company. Two male principals were absent through injury during last season but I am not sure that anyone noticed their absence as far as the quality of the performances which the company gave are concerned. The number of talented dancers in its ranks at present means that no one is surprised if a junior dancer is paired with a far more senior dancer, as happened when Clarke was cast with Cuthbertson in Sleeping Beauty last season, if a very junior dancer is cast as a replacement for a senior one as happened when Clarke replaced Golding in Symphonic Variations a couple of seasons ago or a very junior dancer is simply cast in Symphonic Variations as happened last season when Joseph Sissens was cast in the Brian Shaw role. It seems that the company is finally benefiting from Gailene Stock's directorship of the Royal Ballet School.
  18. Such casting information as the Royal Ballet is prepared to divulge for Swan Lake is now available on the Royal Opera House website. It gives details about who is dancing Odette/Odile and Siegfried and who is conducting each performance. The bulk of the performances are to be conducted by the company's music director Mr Kessels who not only believes that Tchaikovsky was a great composer but that his indications of speed and dynamics should be followed in performance. This gives a strong indication that when he is conducting the various Odette/Odiles will be appearing in the same ballet as the female corps as far as the speed at which the second act is to be danced is concerned. Interestingly Mr Kessels is sharing conducting duties with Mr Ovsyanikov who has a different view of Tchaikovsky's markings. He seems to take the view that it is the conductor's duty to indulge the ballerina as far as the speed at which she wishes to dance her choreography is concerned which has often made it look as if Odette and the female corps were dancing in two completely different ballets.
  19. Mnacenani I am not sure whether your question is who is Matthew Ball or whether it is why is Matthew Ball dancing with Osipova . While I can't tell you with total assurance what was in management's mind when it decided on the casts for this initial run of the Royal Ballet's new Swan Lake I can tell you something about Matthew Ball's career so far. He joined the company in the 2012-13 season and is now a First Soloist. Although management does not favour partnerships he has been cast quite regularly with Yasmine Naghdi the company's newest principal dancer. His first big role was as Romeo with Naghdi as his Juliet. He made his debut as the Sugar Plum Fairy's cavalier and the prince in Sleeping Beauty dancing with Naghdi during the 2016-17 season and partnered her in Emeralds during the same season. They got very good reviews for their debuts. They really do seem to bring out the best in each other. In early 2016 he made an exceptional debut as the Young Man in the Two Pigeons with Stix- Brunell as the Young Girl. Their performances were pitch perfect and the most idiomatic of the entire run. In early 2017 towards the end of the run of Sleeping Beauty he made his debut as the Bluebird, not a role that I would have expected to see him perform as he is not a dancer who I would classify as a technical virtuoso, but he gave a good account of the role. During the latest run of Nutcracker he appeared in the Chinese dance which as revised by Peter Wright is far more technically demanding than it was originally, as well as appearing as the SPF's cavalier. I am not surprised to see Ball's name in the cast list. I think that most people had expected to see him make his debut as the prince in Swan Lake dancing with Naghdi making her debut as Odette/Odile. However management seems to be taking a safety first approach to casting as all the dancers making their debuts as Siegfried or Odette /Osile in this run of Swan Lake have been cast with experienced partners. Naghdi making her debut as Odette/Odile is to be partnered by Kish and Hirano who is making his debut as Siegfried is partnering Lamb. As far as the Osipova,Ball pairing is concerned she has appeared with him in Wheeldon's Strapless and presumably is willing to dance with him. She will be appearing with a talented young dancer who has, so far, proved to have impeccable manners as a partner. He shows every sign of being a fine dance actor and partner. The pairing promises to be fascinating. I don't think that anyone would be that surprised if he were to be promoted to principal at the end of the season. He seems to be a front runner, if not the front runner, for the next promotion to that rank.
  20. The Royal Ballet's new recording of The Sleeping Beauty is now due to be issued on the 2nd February. The performance on this all regions DVD is conducted by Koen Kessels who gave an interview to Gramaphone Magazine in which he made his admiration for Tchaikovsky's ballet scores abundantly clear. The result is that the ballet is danced at a speed much closer to the one at which Petipa expected his choreography to be performed than has been usual in recent years at Covent Garden. The cast is lead by Nunez and Muntagirov . The Prologue Fairies are Choe , Takada, Naghdi, Hinkis and O'Sullivan and the dancers appearing in the third act divertisements include Naghdi, Sambe and Magri as Florestan and his sisters and Campbell and Takada as the Bluebird and Princess Florine.
  21. As I understand it these events are being arranged and recorded to provide archive material for the Ashton Foundation. I find it interesting that the 2016-17 master classes included the Prince's solo from Sleeping Beauty which is an element in the company's standard text of the ballet when the other pieces of choreography being coached in these master classes are real rarities. But when you see Clarke being coached in the solo you realize how much essential detail has been lost and how necessary it was to record the solo being coached by the first man to dance it. I am fortunate enough to have seen all of these pieces and while I am particularly pleased to see The Walk to the Paradise Garden being coached by Merle Park I can't help regretting that it has taken so long for this to happen and thinking about what has been lost in the meantime. Like everything else it is probably a mixture of lack of money and the shortsightedness of the rights holders who did not recognise the need to protect and preserve what Ashton had left them which has led to the current state of affairs. But then the company's ambivalence towards its Ashton repertory has contributed to the situation and has no doubt influenced the rights holders view of the artistic worth of Ashton's legacies to them. Ashton said that he did not think that his works would outlive him and most of the rights holders seem to have shared his assessment of their likely future viability and contributed to it as until recently they have taken little or no action to ensure that the ballets left to them would be performable in a recognisable form after they were unable to stage the works themselves. The good news is that the foundation now has artistic control over three of them. Brian Shaw's ballets were left to the Royal Ballet School by Derek Rencher and are managed by the foundation which has been able to buy Daphnis and Chloe but the rest are to a greater or lesser degree at risk. At present I would think that Fille is in greatest danger as it now belongs to Alexander Grant's partner who is a non dancer. As the foundation was only established in 2011 some twenty three years after Ashton's death there is rather a lot of work for it to do. So many dancers who should have been involved in the project of coaching and recording ballets being coached died long before it got off the ground.
  22. I got a little ahead of myself the masterclass with Bracewell and O' Sullivan in Rossignol was held in November last year and has not yet been put on the site. The following masterclasses are on the site;- 1) Prince Florimund's act 2 solo. Reece Calrke coached by Anthony Dowell on whom it was created. 2) The Dance of the Blessed Spirits. Vadim Muntagirov coached by Anthony Dowell on whom it was created 3) Walk to the Paradise Garden. Meaghan Grace Hinkis and Ryoichi Hirano coached by Merle Park one of the dancers on whom the ballet was created.The others were the late David Wall and the late Derek Rencher. 4) Raymonda Variations . Marianella Nunez and Federico Bonelli and Anna Rose O'Sullivan and David Donnelly are coached by Darcey Bussell with assistance from Donald Macleary . The coaching sessions offer fascinating insights. For anyone familiar with the prince's solo which forms part of the royal Ballet's act two text of Sleeping Beauty the masterclass reveals how the details which were originally intended to express the prince's longing and his sadness have gradually been smoothed down and turned into generalised classical ballet gestures. While the modern style of performance which tends to emphasize and display each individual step turns what was originally a lyrical flow of movement into a hazardous technical minefield which for many dancers is only to be approached with extreme caution which of course undermines its effectiveness. James Hay, who you don't see in any of these masterclasses, seems to have found the solution to the technical problems which Ashton's choreography presents. In a recent interview he said that at some point you just have to stop worrying about the difficulties and just get on and dance Ashton's choreography.
  23. The Frederick Ashton Foundation has been holding a series of masterclasses in which members of the Royal Ballet are coached in extracts from some of Ashton's lesser known choreography such as The Dance of the Blessed Spirits ; an extract from the choreography created for the staging of La Rossignol; a section of the Raymonda Pas de Deux and The Walk to the Paradise Garden. The coaches include Anthony Dowell, Donald MacLeary and Merle Park. The masterclasses were filmed and are now available on the foundation's website under the heading "News and Events", The dancers being coached include William Bracewell, Anna Rose O'Sullivan and Reece Clarke.
  24. As far as MacMillan ballets like Manon and Mayerling are concerned I think that you might have some difficulty sweeping them from the stage. They seem to be very popular with the dancers and are often cited by them as the reason they choose to join the RB. I think that for the performer the pleasure lies in what Yanowsky describes as the space between the choreography and the character which enables the dancers to give their own individual interpretation of the characters they are playing. As for the younger dancers they are said to crowd the wings at Covent Garden to watch the final scene of Manon. I suspect that every company member has thought long and hard about how they would perform the leading roles in these ballets if ever they were offered the opportunity to dance them. The result is that both ballets are part of the RB's artistic DNA and its collective memory. They are revived so regularly that they are not in danger of withering and dying through neglect. As long as they continue looking fresh in revival and are popular with the dancers and their audience it seems unlikely that they will disappear from the stage. I always think that we need to remember that the myth of MacMillan the great story teller is largely the result of the audience's response to Manon in its first season. The critics loathed it but as the audience wanted to see it ticket sales were good and so it survived. There is little sign of the audiences tiring of it. Every three years its revival is announced, everyone groans and then inexplicably they find themselves compelled to buy tickets because of the advertised casts being dangled before their eyes. As far as other MacMillan works are concerned the tide may be changing.The company recently revived "The Invitation"., Most people I know expressed dissatisfaction with the revival which they felt had failed to come to theatrical life . I can't help wondering whether the failure was attributable to the casting and coaching, which seems unlikely as the cast were strong, or whether it was the subject matter of the work which was the problem. Could it be that sexually predatory adults and rape don't actually seem that suitable for balletic treatment any more? Could it be that the revelations of the levels of child sexual abuse which have taken place in the church, children's homes and elsewhere have made the subject matter of the ballet unpalatable? Perhaps The Invitation has become a period piece. I wonder whether it is the subject matter which has made current audiences unable or unwilling to feel any sympathy for the adults in the ballet and whether it was that which stopped the ballet working as a piece of theatre? Because it seemed to me that the work was stopped in its theatrical tracks and just refused to go. The husband's "remorse" rings hollow today when it probably did not to its original audience. Perhaps we have grown a little wiser. I experienced the same theatrically unhelpful response at a performance of Emlyn Williams' play Accolade which I attended a couple of years ago.The play is the story of an extremely successful writer who has been offered a knighthood but whose life is about to be "destroyed" by a press revelation that he had sex with an underage girl at a party. I suspect that the original audience was expected to feel that it was a terrible thing that a man's reputation should be destroyed by such a "minor misdemeanor" and that they willingly complied. The audience sat and watched and gave the action of the play a stony response. It clearly had no sympathy for the main character's situation. When the writer trotted out the excuse that the girl had looked much older you could almost hear the audience collectively intoning the words of Mandy Rice Davies "He would say that would not he?". These combined experiences lead me to hope that The Invitation and one or two more of MacMillan's shabby little shockers could be quietly lost. But then there are always Lady M's views to contend with. Unfortunately she thinks that these works are evidence of her late husband's rebel genius because they challenged the ballet establishment's ideas of what were appropriate subjects for ballet. I can't help wonder whether their daughter, who I assume will inherit the performance rights, feels the same about them?
  25. The Paul Taylor version sounds interesting. I wonder how effective it was thought to be by those who were familiar with the Fokine original ? Did it jar or was it simply accepted as an interesting use of a great score ? A rethink or re-imagining of the narrative is not quite what I am hoping for at present, least of all one devised by Peter Sellars. I recently saw his production of Purcell's The Indian Queen which was a re-imagining with a spoken text which must have been added in the mistaken belief that it would make the piece more relevant and accessible. The problem with this idea was that the text was badly written and pedestrian. Instead of making the piece more immediate and accessible it simply drew attention to the fact that it was a modern addition which had no natural relationship to the music to which it had been attached. As a piece of music theatre the staging was earnest, pretentious and dull . I respect your views about the ballet but surely teaching about it in the context of the Fokine reforms is not quite the same as having the experience of seeing it in the theatre with a cast who have been carefully selected and coached ? My experience of it in performance is that in the theatre the crowd scene really comes to life and can be at least as interesting as the puppet drama itself and sometimes more interesting if the dancer cast as Petrushka is not really suited to the role. The figures who you see momentarily during the crowd scene have an extraordinary degree of interest and individuality if the dancers involved understand that they are performing characters who have an existence before the spotlight falls on them and continue to have an existence after the audience's focus has shifted elsewhere. It is not enough for the dancers appearing as the street entertainers to simply wave their arms about in a nicely balletic fashion which is what they did at the ENB revival. They have to know that the dancers are there to earn money and that they arguing about possession of a good pitch on which to perform and because where they perform will affect their earnings it really matters to them who wins possession of it. You see in my mind's eye I can still conjure up performances by individual dancers who had the ability to inhabit the character who they were playing all the time they were on the stage . Ann Jenner playing one of the street dancers on the Coven Garden stage ; David Drew playing the coachman who initiates the dance of the coachmen; Deidre Eyden leading the wet nurses ; Gary Grant as one of the stable boys and at Sadler's Wells David Morse as a gloriously drunk merchant . At the moment I should just like to see Fokine's Petrushka restored to the stage in a form which makes it a viable piece of theatre. This would seem to require either that the Moor retains his costume and loses his make up or the black face make up is retained as part of an historical staging. Neither solution is entirely satisfactory but one needs to be selected if Petrushka is to be restored to the stage because with the right cast, stager and coaches it is not simply an interesting bit of dance history but an extraordinarily effective piece of dance theatre.
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