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Ashton Fan

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  1. 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.
  2. 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. .
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 ?
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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?
  20. 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.
  21. There is no easy solution to the problem of the Moor in Petrushka . Is it enough to say, as I believe, was the case at Sarasota where it was recently staged, that it is an historical staging ? Does that make it acceptable? Does it help to point out that the ballet's staging and design was influenced by a Russophile artistic movement which showed great interest in indigenous popular art and in particular in peasant art and prints of the early nineteenth century or that this is probably the most place and time specific ballet which the Diaghilev company ever staged ? I am not sure that it does much to ameliorate the situation. At at the end of the day a racial stereotype is a racial stereotype whatever the circumstances of its use, whatever the special pleadings you make for it and its historical context. You see for me there is an even greater problem about this ballet and that is that it is one of the greatest examples of Fokine's revolutionary manifesto in action. In its entirety it is an extraordinary piece of theatre and to banish it from the stage would be an a great artistic loss. In it Fokine's use of the corps marks another step on the way to the liberation of the corps de ballet. In the Polovtsian Dances they were freed from being an amorphous group whose function was to provide moving scenery and a frame for the soloists and transformed into groups who are characters making the corps the ballet. Petrushka set in the St Petersburg of the 1830's or 1840's when the Butter Fair was still held near the Admiralty rather than in the suburbs to which it was eventually banished and died liberates the corps entirely. It may have been a slice of nostalgia for those who created it. It certainly was for Benois who had attended the Fair before it was moved but it was more than that. It was the ballet in which the main characters were given expressive choreography with no hint of virtuoso technique . In this ballet the corps is made up of individuals and groups who emerge from the crowd of revelers and then are swallowed up by it while the audience concentrates on another group or individual. In a great staging there are no obvious divertisements everything is part of the seething life of the fair. The stable boys emerge from the crowd in character, they have come from somewhere, they dance their steps and disappear into the crowd still in character, they are going somewhere, they have not simply stopped dancing. In a bad staging they get ready for their moment in front of the audience and when they have stopped dancing they switch off and walk away. In a great staging the dance of the coachmen quietly transforms the natural movement of the Imperial coachman moving his arms to keep warm into a dance in which the other coachmen join him. Divertisements such as the rival street dancers and the merchant and the gypsies are transformed into vignettes in which the dancers who are drawn to the audience's attention are individual characters who you see as if in cinema close up. I don't think that the answer to the problem which this ballet presents is simply to drop the work from the repertory which is what seems to have happened at Covent Garden. But then there is so much missing repertory there that it is hard to tell whether the failure to revive works is deliberate or the result of inadvertence or indifference although there are rumours that Alex Beard won't countenance a revival because of the Moor. ENB performed it a couple of years ago in a disappointing staging supervised by the the choreographer's grand daughter which failed to make a convincing case for its survival as no one in the corps seemed interested in maintaining their characterisation beyond the point at which they were actually dancing. The result was that it looked like the very thing that Fokine was trying to escape from and regressed into a ballet with living scenery and divertisements. It is a great work and the role of Petrushka is a difficult one to pull off. I have no doubt that the reason I want to see it keep its place in the repertory is because I have seen Petrushka danced by a number of great dancers over the years including both Nureyev and Alexander Grant but for me the greatest exponent of the role is David Bintley who gave the most profound and moving account of the role that I ever expect to see. I hope that someone comes up with a satisfactory solution to the problem of the Moor as Petrushka is an extraordinary ballet and the role of Petrushka is one which dance actors should have the opportunity to perform.
  22. I make no comment about whether or not Corrales is showing insufficient gratitude for the development opportunities which ENB gave him. I am merely reporting the latest development at ENB and the possible impact of Corrales' move to the RB next season on the career paths of dancers like First Soloists Hay and Ball, and Soloists Clarke and Bracewell. However Rojo may be more concerned about the possibility of another company principal Laurretta Summerscales not returning to ENB after her year in Munich than the loss of Corrales . Summerscales may find the temptation of the wide repertory which Munich can offer her too strong to resist particularly as at present working in Germany is straightforward but could become difficult when, and if, the UK leaves the EU. Of course things may not work out quite as Corrales hopes. There is plenty of competition at the RB. He may anticipate that he will get the opportunity to dance in MacMillan's big narrative works but he is joining the company next season as a First Soloist and will have to wait his turn for roles like other dancers at that level do. More significantly for his career plans by the beginning of next seasons it is quite possible that he will not be the only new First Soloist in competition for roles. Both Reece Clarke and William Bracewell, who took a demotion when he joined the company from BRB, could be in the running for promotion to that rank at the end of this season. As insiders both Bracewell and Clarke may have a bit of an advantage over a newcomer. Clarke is frequently cast with Cuthbertson and that looks set to continue for the rest of the season and Bracewell may well have established himself by the time that Corrales arrives on the scene. This is Bracewell's first season with the RB but he gained a lot of valuable experience with BRB and garnered very positive reviews from the critics for his work with that company. Clarke and Bracewell are not the only competition that Corrales will face. There are plenty of other talented young men at every level in the company. You can't move for them. Things may not move as quickly for Corrales at the RB as they did at ENB.
  23. Another change at ENB. Cesar Corrales has announced his resignation from the company saying that his performances at the Coliseum in January 2018 will be some of his last as a company member. Kevin O'Hare has announced that Corrales will be joining the RB as a First Soloist from the beginning of next season. Tamara Rojo has issued a rather terse statement in connection with his departure which does not mention him by name.The RB announcement makes it clear that the sequence of events was Corrales' resignation followed by him approaching the RB and being offered a job. There is no indication what Corrales will be doing in the interim. The ENB is a company in transition with recently appointed senior dancers settling in and learning new repertory and a couple of very talented dancers working in Munich. The problem for ENB is that while it offers the young dancer plenty of opportunities to dance, to learn stagecraft, to build up stamina and learn the core classical repertory in the early stage of a career, it performs a very limited repertory. In any one season it will dance three full length ballets one of which is invariably Nutcracker. After a time these limitations, which may be beneficial in the early years of a career, must come to be be a cause of some frustration when compared with what a company like the RB has to offer. Each year the RB performs six or seven full lengths apart from the Nutcracker, dips into its back catalogue and also offers the possibility of working on new ballets with one of the three choreographers who regularly work with the company. Corrales' imminent arrival will make the career paths of several of the talented young men currently at First Soloist and Soloist level in the RB somewhat less certain. Up until now they may quite reasonably have seen themselves as being in the running for promotion to principal when Watson and Bonelli retire. Now who can say?
  24. To be pedantic the 1876 ballet for which Delibes wrote the music and Merante created the choreography was not actually based on a Roman source, Its libretto was a reworking of a narrative which first appeared in a sixteenth century poem by Torquato Tasso . According to Ivor Guest the libretto's revisions made Sylvia a far more resourceful character than she was in the original poem and reduced Aminta to passivity. Strangely the previous year when he created his version of Daphnis and Chloe Ahton had made another ballet with a passive male character at its centre. If you are looking for clues about the sources for the costume and scenery designs of Ashton's ballet then you need look no further than Poussin and Claude. The entire run of Sylvia has been a delight, so much so that people have been asking why it languished unperformed for so long. Although some seem to find it difficult to adjust to a ballet without a strong narrative, an active hero and a lot of suffering and expressive dancing in the third act once they accept that this is not a MacMilllan three act dramatic work and that what story there is, is simply a paper thin excuse for a lot of dancing they tend to relax and enjoy its choreographic content. This revival finally showed that the company has begun to develop a performance tradition for the work. Everyone seemed to know and understand why they were on stage and actually enjoying being involved in it. Perhaps the corps were simply relishing appearing in a ballet where the choreographic content is high and demands that they perform the sort of movement that they have spent years learning and perfecting. Choreography with lots of steps must have made a pleasant change after the mixed bill which preceded it which only gave limited opportunities to dance to a small proportion of the company. Perhaps this ballet has now become part of the company's living performing tradition which explains their obvious enthusiasm for it.
  25. I will just say that both Muntagirov and Clarke make the role of Aminta one which is really worth watching. While they can do little to make a character who is rewarded for his devotion to Eros an action hero because it is not in the script that Ashton was following they make Aminta's choreography a real feast of wonderfully elegant dancing transforming the simple shepherd of the first act into a prince in the third act. On Monday night Muntagirov brought the house down with his solo in the grand pas de deux.
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