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Ashton Fan

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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 .
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Swan Lake cast changes at Bow Street. It has been known for some time that Willian Bracewell will replace McRae at all performances. McRae has been out through injury for much of the season.I saw what is now the Bracewell, Takada cast last night. Bracewell was pretty impressive at what was only his second performance as Siegfried. On last night's showing he has good technique, is a secure unobtrusive partner and does not waste a minute of his time on stage. He actively responds to what he is being told in the mime passages and even makes what can seem merely to be "arm and hand gestures I have been taught" into gestures which have meaning in the context of the narrative. I have seen him in smaller roles but not in anything so long,exposed and demanding in terms of stamina and technique . I fear yet another name to add to the list of dancers whose performances have to be booked, if at all possible. The new information concerns Cuthbertson who is also now out through injury. She was replaced by Takada at what should have been her first performance in the run. It is now clear that she is out for the entire run of Swan Lake at Covent Garden. She is replaced on Saturday 2nd and Friday 8th June by Lamb. She is replaced by Naghdi on the evening of Monday 18th June.
  13. #mnacenani, I seem to recall that while the prince claims to be bored by pretty much everything that might excite others in his aria sung at the party which he hosts he proclaims on several occasions "chaque un a son gout" which suggests that he accepts that each one has their own tastes and their own interests. In the current context his assertion suggests that he would accept wholeheartedly that we are none of us equally interested in the same aspects of ballet, its style, its choreographers, an individual company's repertory or held in thrall by the same dancers. It is that lack of agreement which can make discussions on a site like this so interesting. I don't know what knowledge you have of the various versions of Swan Lake staged by the Royal Ballet and its predecessor companies over the years but to put it mildly their designs have all had exceptionally long shelf lives even in those cases where the ballet's text has been adjusted or radically revised over time. This, I think, explains the interest being shown in the glimpses of the new production we have been given. Anything and everything that suggests that the new production retains a reasonably recognisable text including the traditional mime and stages the pas d'action as sections involving interaction between the main characters and has not acquired a jester is likely to be welcomed by most of those who have tickets for the initial run of performances, On Thursday we shall know whether or not we have a production that we can live with. Staging an entirely new production of one of the nineteenth century classics involves a massive investment of time and money. Even if the production needs substantial adjustment and there is ample choreographic patching material to hand in the Royal's archive we shall be seeing the designs for years to come. As I haven't seen the designs in use on the Covent Garden stage lit as intended I don't feel able to comment on the mood or style conveyed by the designs except to say that they do not look particularly dark or grim to me. I am intrigued by the words "German Goth" I don't pretend to understand what CharlieH means when he uses them. Does he mean Gothic, Gothick or something completely different?
  14. The insight event is well worth watching and it is difficult to resist Liam Scarlett's obvious enthusiasm for Swan Lake as a ballet and the task he has been given to stage the company's new production of it. Whether or not he has succeeded will be a whole lot clearer next Thursday. Scarlett says that he has created new choreography for sections of the first act but makes no mention of the pas de trois in that context; that he has retained the Ivanov choreography of the second act; that he has provided new choreography for the divertissements in the third act but has retained the Ashton Neapolitan Dance which he enjoyed dancing and thinks is a perfect combination of steps and music and that he has restored the original Tchaikovsky score to the fourth act. It is a section of his choreography for the fourth act which is shown being coached on the recording. Anyone who has difficulty accessing the insight event using the link provided above may find that going to the opera house's website clicking on the section headed "what's on" finding the section devoted to performance dates and casts for the new production and scrolling down to the end where the insight event is mentioned and film of the event has been posted gives easier access. I could make that one work whereas when I used the link posted above the site was more than a little reluctant to respond and give me access to the recording.
  15. The choreography of the pas de trois provides a fine classical dancer, whether he is established or on his way up, with the opportunity to show what he can do and his performance can on occasion provide the highlight of the evening as far as the male dancing is concerned. In the days when the Royal Ballet definitely had first, second, third and fourth casts and you could say with absolute certainty who would be dancing the secondary roles in a ballet purely on the basis of who was dancing the leads Michael Coleman invariably appeared in the first cast's pas de trois for years. In those days when the audience barely needed the information because the company had a fixed system of casting the company told you who would be dancing in all the secondary roles. Today when the casting is far more fluid we are told nothing about the casting of the secondary roles until we arrive at the theatre and pick up the cast sheets. Of course it gives the management greater flexibility and enables it to cast dancers who suddenly show that they are ready for bigger and more challenging roles at the point when it will do them most good as far as their development is concerned rather than leaving them waiting for months for the chance to take the next step in their careers but it can be frustrating as far as the audience is concerned. I have known people torn between two casts in the past make their decision on which cast to see on the basis of who was dancing in the pas de trois or Neapolitan dance in the case of Swan Lake, who was dancing Myrthe in Giselle and who was dancing the Bluebird, Florine and Lilac Fairy in the case of Sleeping Beauty. I imagine that the cast on the first night will be particularly impressive and that the same cast or one which is comparable will appear in the streamed performance. If the last revival of Sleeping Beauty is anything to go by we are likely to see interesting casting in the secondary roles in this ballet until the end of the run. I can't help wondering what part, if any, Scarlett may play in the casting of the lesser roles in his production. Among the junior ranks of the company, by which I mean those below the rank of Soloist, the men to watch out for who will probably be given something interesting to do at some point during the run are dancers like Sissens, Yudes, Serrano, Dixon, Braendsrod, Richardson and Donnelly among the women Chisato, Gasparini and Stock seem most likely to be given their chances. There is an Insight Evening tomorrow at which we should find out quite a bit more about what the production is likely to look like and if it follows the usual format we will see one the casts being coached .
  16. The Royal Ballet has just announced that William Bracewell who transferred from Birmingham Royal Ballet to the Covent Garden company at the beginning of the current season is to dance with Takada in the company's new Swan Lake replacing McRae who is injured. It is sad for McRae to miss out on the opportunity to dance Siegfried in this run of performances but a wonderful opportunity for Bracewell to show the London audience what he can do. Bracewell danced a wide range of roles when he was at BRB and it is interesting to see that management has chosen him rather than Campbell or Hay to dance with Takada. During the course of the season it would seem that Bracewell has been getting used to the house. I have seen him dance Polixenes in The Winter's Tale. in the male pas de trois in Manon act 2 and the Wayne Eagling role in Elite Syncopations and he has made his mark in all of them. I had thought that we might see him as Benno during the initial run of Swan Lake alongside Campbell, Hay and Clarke. Scarlett has expanded the role of Benno and who now dances in the pas de trois so that the role could become something of a stepping stone to bigger things for junior dancers. The announcement certainly shows that Kevin is prepared to cast junior dancers when he thinks that they are ready for new challenges.
  17. Marguerite and Armand was created as a star vehicle and far from typical of his output. There are still many who believe that it should have been left undisturbed after its original cast stopped dancing it which is what Ashton wanted Unfortunately it has become the default Ashton ballet of choice at Covent Garden. It means the company can say it is staging Ashton ballets without having to make too much effort to do so. I don't think that is why Iain Webb has staged it. Mr and Mrs Webb take Ashton very seriously indeed. If only one or other of the directors of the Royal Ballet companies took the man's works as seriously as the Webbs do. It is said, at present, to be the most frequently revived of Ashton's ballets which I find incredible. Can there really be that many dancers of a certain age in search of a vehicle? While I am willing to believe that there is the occasional performance where the vehicle "goes" there are many when it resolutely refuses to do so.
  18. As has been said elsewhere when the ENB last revived their MacMillan production of The Sleeping Beauty it looked more like a Royal Ballet production than the performances seen at Covent Garden did. However much has changed in both companies since then, When ENB last revived this production the company had a number of former members of the Royal Ballet on its staff who knew how the work should go. If I recall correctly both David Wall and Alfreda Thorogood were involved in coaching the company's leading dancers. Wall is dead and other members of the artistic team such as Whitten and Gielgud have moved on. The team staging this revival and coaching the dancers is a new one and it will be interesting to see what difference, if any, this makes to what the audience sees on stage At Covent Garden the company is benefitting from a generation of dancers trained at the Royal Ballet School under Gailene Stock's; casting seems less haphazard than it once did and the presence of a Music Director who believes that Tchaikovsky is a major composer and seems by some miracle to have persuaded the orchestra of this has transformed things. This made the company's last revival of the work something other than a dutiful,somewhat dull revival undertaken through a sense of duty and the need to fill the coffers.Koen Kessels also eccentrically seems to believe that Tchaikovsky's tempo markings should be taken seriously which meant that at the 2016-17 revival the ballet was transformed from a slow, solemn monument to classicism into a work of lightness and speed which the casts performed with real enthusiasm . ENB is offering London audiences five casts this summer. Cojocaru and Caley open the season on the 6th of June, followed by Takahashi and Arrieta, Alexandrova and Robison, Dronina and Hernandez with a single performance to be given by Kase and Corrales at the matinee on the final Saturday of the run. It will be interesting to see what the revival looks like with the current artistic team in charge. It is always best for London ballet goers when both ENB and the Royal are firing on all cylinders artistically. London ballet goers are likely to find it difficult to squeeze in all the performances which are taking place during the 6th -16th June as the Royal Ballet will still be performing its new Swan lake and Birmingham Royal Ballet will be appearing at Sadler's Wells with Romeo and Juliet and a mixed bill during the second week of the ENB's run. But it is great to be spoiled for choice. If only the same could be said of the opera.
  19. This educational series covered the development of ballet in Britain in one episode and had another episode devoted to Ballet Today which included sections from MacMillan's Concerto and Ashton's Fille.Thinking about it you could see the series as an extended advertisement for the two Royal Ballet companies. Now my money is on Birdy Last being the dancer cast as Lise. That film really would be worth seeing as there are quite a few people who think that she was the equal of Nerina in the role. Indeed there are those who think that she surpassed Nerina. Perhaps the episode will turn up on the internet at some point. Unfortunately the NYPL is rather too far for me to attend in order to view it.,
  20. Although I should like to see the Royal Ballet stage Nureyev's Kingdom of the Shades I am not in general a great fan of Nureyev's full length stagings of the nineteenth century repertory. They tend to be crammed full of more choreography than they can sustain with expanded male roles which distort the structure of Petipa's original stagings. Nureyev obliterates vast sections of the original text in favour of interpolated tracts of choreography so full of technical challenges that they are reduced to fiendishly difficult exhibitions of technical skill akin to show jumping courses rather than the demonstrations of elegant ease which Petipa intended them to be. Please correct me if I am wrong but I thought that the POB entered the twentieth century with very little to show in the way of active historic repertory apart from Coppelia. Giselle was staged for it in the 1920' s nearly fifty years after the company had last danced it and Lifar staged act 2 Swan Lake for it. As so much of the nineteenth century repertory which is danced today originated in Russia I am left wondering whether the POB would have acquired such an extensive Petipa based repertory if Nureyev had never been its director. Granted that all of Nureyev' a productions are "after Petipa" stagings and some are so far removed from his ideas that Petipa would struggle to recognise the ballets staged in his name the fact is that we only have the luxury of arguing about the form which the POB's stagings of the nineteenth century classics should take because Nureyev staged them there in some form.
  21. 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 ?
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. 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.
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