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Ashton Fan

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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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?
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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?
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. A few comments about Ashton's Sylvia. Much as he did in 1951 with his version of Daphnis and Chloe, Ashton seems to have set out to rehabilitate a great ballet score which did not have a great choreographic text attached to it. In both cases Ashton chose to follow the original narrative which the music had been written to accompany rather than adopting a new story line. It is almost as if he was setting himself a choreographic examination. Sylvia is both a display piece for the ballerina and an affectionate, if somewhat tongue in cheek, tribute to the ballet conventions of the French ballet of the 1870's. I would not be at all surprised to learn that the ballet created by Merante was intended as an affectionate tribute to the POB of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century whose repertoty seems to have been awash with anachreonic ballets and ballets based on classical myths. As far as the ballerina role is concerned it is a real test of technique because while it may not be stuffed full of obvious crowd pleasing technical tricks the choice of steps and their combination is a real challenge which exposes the technical weaknesses of anyone who attempts to perform it. The dancer has to have complete command of the choreographic text and the role's musicality and be able to use the choreography to display the emotions which Sylvia experiences in each act. The ballerinas who danced Sylvia at the Mariinsky described it as the most difficult role they had ever danced while Yanowsky who gave by far the most successful account of the role in London in 2004 said that it was exhausting to perform as it was like dancing three different ballets in one evening . Now of course the fact that a role is difficult does not make it a great one but for the audience it is a genuinely rewarding experience to see it performed by a dancer who is in complete command of its every aspect. Created to display Fonteyn's technique and the breadth of her abilities as a ballerina it still represents a real challenge to the dancer. As far as source material and influences are concerned Ashton began his dance training with Massine who used the Cecchetti method. When Massine left London Ashton studied with Marie Rambert for whom he made his earliest works. Then he went to work for de Valois' young Vic Wells company. It is almost certain that it was the presence of Nicholai Sergeyev staging the five Petipa ballets for the company which de Valois chose to call the classics which first brought Ashton into direct contact with Petipa's choreography over anything like an extended period. Ashton was always very open about the influence that Petipa had on his work. Once when asked why he spent time watching the Fairy variations as he knew the choreography extremely well he described watching them as "Taking private lessons with Petipa". It is interesting that one or two of you have noticed that there seems to be a similarity between the choreography in Sylvia and that of Corsaire and Raymonda. I don't believe that Ashton would have had direct knowledge of, or access to, either of those ballets in performance as they were not among the nineteenth century ballets which de Valois selected for her young company. Remember you could not just hop on a train or plane to travel to Russia to attend ballet performances during the 1930's or 1940's as you can today.. Ashton may have heard about these ballets from Karsavina who was living in London or Violetta Elvin, the Bolshoi trained member of the Sadler's Wells Ballet Company. However I think that it is far more likely that Ashton only knew of them indirectly through his knowledge of the Diaghilev repertory. We have to remember that Ashton and his 1952 ballet audience had a far more comprehensive knowledge of the Diaghilev repertory than we have today. In 1952 there can have been few ballet goers who had not seen at least one production of Scheherazade staged by former members of the Diaghilev company. Some had probably seen several. Scheherazade was still a viable theatrical work and a staple of London Festival Ballet's repertory in the mid 1970's. If that staging is anything to go by watching a work staged by a ballet master with direct experience of performing the work in question is a far more theatrically rewarding experience than watching a modern staging by one of Fokine's descendants where everything seems staid. It seems to me that the immediate source for the images and the choreography which Ashton created for Orion are Scheherazade,the choreography for the male corps de ballet in the Polovtsian Dances and that for Kotschei's male followers in the Firebird but that it is Fokine who was recycling choreography and images from Corsaire and Raymonda. It is true that Orion's choreography looks like it belongs to a lost Diaghilev orientalist ballet but I am sure that these are deliberate allusion to Fokine's choreography. In the same way I think that Ashton was alluding to Nijinsky's L'Apres Midi d'un Faun when he gave the sacrificial goats choreography which includes the occasional flat on movement and pose. When it is danced with wholehearted commitment and understanding Sylvia proves to be a fine work in performance but it is not, and was never intended. to be a dramatic action ballet. Aminta is not an action hero but a lovelorn shepherd who is rewarded for his devotion to Eros.Sylvia is a nymph who is punished for her lack of respect for the god of love but is nonetheless rescued by him and after her trials and tribulations finds herself transformed in the third act into a Petipa style ballerina. I think that Clement Crisp's assessment of the ballet as a paper thin excuse for a lot of fine dancing is absolutely spot on. Interestingly audiences seem to be warming to it with each performance. As far as Osipova is concerned her first performance in a new role always gives me the impression of being work in progress. I will reserve final judgment until her final performance when I have no doubt it will look very diffferent. I will simply say that her first two acts seemed to be spot on but that her third act was not as musically brilliant as it needed to be.
  16. I take it as read that, if only to ensure that the company breaks even financially each year, we will see a number of nineteenth century ballets each season and that unfortunately one of them will almost inevitably be Nutcracker. What I take issue with is management's failure to ensure that the company's twentieth century masterpieces are given a regular airing. I specifically referred to the company's twentieth century masterpieces because I was thinking about the totality of its twentieth century repertory and not just the works created for it by Ashton and MacMillan. The imbalance between the time allocated to the performance of the Ashton and MacMillan repertory is a problem. Some works seem to be far more fragile than others when it comes to reviving them after a relatively long period. However it is not just those works that concern me, the major Diaghilev works are also neglected. It would be a dereliction of duty if works like Les Noces and Les Biches which Ashton pulled back from the brink were lost on Kevin's watch through neglect. Les Noces did not seem as tight theatrically as it used to be when it was last revived for the simple reason that the dancers' movements were not always as connected to the music as they need to be. For years successive directors appeared to understand that works like Noces , Biches and even Song of the Earth need regular airings if they are to remain part of the company's living repertory. The last time that the company danced Song of the Earth it was programmed twice in the same season and it was only towards the end of the second run that it began to hold together as an effective theatrical piece.
  17. Dear Mashinka I don't criticise O'Hare for commissioning new works. I do not criticise him because quite a few of his new commissions have proved to be turkeys but I can see no reason for reviving those that prove to be duds. It is almost as if Kevin hopes that if the audience sees works like Raven Girl, Strapless and Untouchable enough times we will be persuaded that they have been transformed into swans. Commissioning new works is always a bit of a gamble but you can improve the odds if you exercise a degree of control over your commissions. In an Insight event held in Australia during the RB's summer tour Kevin said that he does not like to intervene in any way with the works he has commissioned. I think that this amount of artistic freedom which sounds very good in the context of the creation of a work like a Winters Tale does not sound quite so good in the context of works like Strapless or Carmen. This lack of supervision goes a long way to explain how works like the Wind and Carmen make it onto the stage at all and how a work like Frankenstein which is a curate's egg of a ballet find their way onto the stage in the form they do. Bits of the latter work well but there are bits that would have benefited from considerably more oversight than it in fact received. There is a continuum of involvement in a commission by the person who is paying for it from oversight to interference. Oversight can often be helpful. I suspect that Mim Rambert's high success rate with the new works which she commissioned was because she exercised a degree of control over what her creatives were doing and what she was paying for. I fear that Kevin's patchy record is in large part attributable to the fact that he just lets his creatives get on with it. I also criticise Kevin for failing to get the balance right between the company's twentieth century masterpieces and its new works. I too welcome his more adventurous casting policies and his attempts to make the company the creative force it was set up to be. However I do not share, what I take to be, your optimism about the likely success of the 2020 season when we are promised a programme of works created since he took over the directorship of the company. I am sure that everyone on this site would be interested in your views of the current state of the RB .
  18. The RB's season ended several months ago. Before I say anything about the Ashton mixed bill I will say that it seems to me that the most significant events this season have been Yanowsky's retirement as a company member and the appointment of four character principals. Yanowsky is the last of Dowell's Principal dancers and her retirement as a company member marks the end of an era. She had an extraordinary wide range of repertory and it is difficult to imagine anyone will have the opportunity to emulate her because of the artistic choices being made by management which ignore major works in favour of new pieces of very variable quality. In terms of length of tenure Nunez has become the senior Principal dancer but while she can turn in technically impeccable accounts of the roles which she performs, like Zerbinetta, she always plays herself. She rarely manages to take the audience to the heart of a role in the way that Yanowsky did in performance after performance. Where they shared roles, as they did in the case of Odette/Odile, Nikiya, Myrthe, Manon, Black Queen and Sylvia, Yanowsky's performances always had the edge. She presented the audience with a performance in which the choreography was danced as part of the creation of a vivid character rather than simply being a technically flawless reproduction of the role's choreography enhanced by the occasional bit of freeze framing.Somehow I can't imagine Nunez in roles like the Hostess in Les Biches, the Bride in Les Noces and Lady Elgar roles originally danced for the company by Beriosova which became Yanowsky's unchallenged property. But as O'Hare seems in thrall to the creators of new dance works and shows only limited interest in the great works in the company's back catalogue we may not have to worry about who comes to own the roles in Biches, Noces and Enigma Variations as they have all been out of the repertory for far too long. It has came as something of a relief to learn that the company's management has had second thoughts about ending the appointment of character principals. Articulating the idea that such dancers were superfluous to requirements seemed to begin at about the time that it was announced that the RDB was letting a number of its older dancers go which suggested that the idea had emerged at one of those events at which artistic directors from across the world get together to discuss developments and mutual problems in the world of dance. I don't think that many of the regular audience thought that it was a viable option but you never can tell with artistic directors. Bennet Gartside gave an interesting account of how the proposal was handled when he spoke to London Ballet Association. His immediate response was that he assumed that the company was planning to change its repertory completely as the proposal was not an option unless they did.The announcement that Arestis, McNally, Gartside and Whitehead had been appointed character principals was not only recognition of their undoubted talents but the clear statement that full length narrative works which were created for companies which understood the value of character dancers are not to be dropped from the repertory any time soon.. The absence of Kish and Golding from the ranks of active principals during the season did not seem to adversely affect the quality of performances but it did provide valuable development opportunities for a number of the younger men who have been rewarded for their efforts by promotion. Ball, Clarke and Sambe all progressed a rank. The season also gave Anna Rose O'Sullivan the opportunity to show what she can do.Her performances in a wide range of purely classical soloist roles has indicated that she is one to watch. It was disappointing that Kevin sounded as if he found it necessary to refer to significant company anniversaries in the context of the revivals of Sleeping Beauty and Symphonic Variations. It began to sound increasingly as if he thought that he needed to justify his decision to stage the older works he had selected for performance.
  19. I think that one of the main problems with the MacMillan repertory is that we only ever get to see a limited range of his work. We get to see the three full length money spinners on a triennial basis but apart from them we are more likely to see a work such as Judas Tree than we are to see much of his classical choreography.I am not sure whether this one sided approach to his choreographic output is solely attributable to Lady M's views as to where MacMillan's greatness lies.She seems to believe that his most significant contribution to the development of ballet was his desire to achieve a sort of gritty realism in his works and to push at the boundaries of what ballet was deemed capable of doing. Cultivating his image as an iconoclast who challenged the conventions of classical ballet and overturned a repertory in which ballets about fairies played a prominent part is, of course,risible as it ignores the staple repertory of the first half of the twentieth century; the range of works created by Ashton and the works of two of the choreographers who played a significant part in MacMillan's development namely Antony Tudor and Roland Petit. The worst thing about this carefully cultivated version of the choreographer is that it has the effect of suggesting that MacMillan's classically based works, some of which have not been seen in decades are not worth reviving and that their neglect is totally justified. I went to two of the performances in the Clore studio as well as two Insight evenings. I saw Sea of Troubles an evocation of Hamlet which MacMillan made for a small company performing in small venues which had been formed by a couple of dancers who had previously worked for the Royal Ballet companies and " Jeux" a piece that Wayne Eagling had stitched together from some choreography MacMillan had created for a film. I think that "Sea of Troubles" suffered from being performed in an area that was probably two or three times the size of the area in which it was originally staged. This slowed the action down and generated lengthy pauses as dancers who had left the performing area needed time to return to it. The occasional lengthy pause between the sections made it feel more episodic than I suspect was originally intended. As for the style of dance movement employed it was expressionist and on occasion came perilously close to being characterised as little more than rolling about on the floor. I actually found myself thinking that Helpmann had made a far better job of making a dance work based on Hamlet than MacMillan had managed. I found Jeux much more interesting. It had far greater coherence and it had a cast which included Muntagirov, Naghdi and Gasparini. Of the two other Insight evenings I saw one showed dancers from the guest companies endeavoring to get to grips with unfamiliar choreography the other brought together current and former members of the RB to discuss dancing the roles of Romeo and Juliet. The Insight event in which sections of "Gloria " and "Baiser de la Fee" were rehearsed demonstrated the technical demands the choreography makes on the performer and the advantage enjoyed by dancers for whom works like "Gloria" are regular repertory pieces. The event with dancers talking about Romeo and Juliet fell a bit flat. Listening to retired dancers and current members of the RB talking about dancing a ballet like Romeo and Juliet will only take you so far. Once you have heard several dancers say that MacMillan ballets demand truthfulness rather than artifice and that you leave something of yourself on stage at the end of a performance you have essentially learned everything you need to know about dancing in one of MacMillan's major narrative works. The most interesting event for me was the screening of a documentary made by the former dancer Lynne Wake who danced with SWRB/BRB before going to work for Kevin Brownlow the film historian and expert on silent film. Her documentary had originally consisted of interviews with dancers who had worked with MacMillan during his early years as a choreographer. It has now been re-cut to include film clips of the ballets which the interviewees were talking about.The documentary covers works that I saw in my early days of ballet going and others which have only ever been titles and dancers whose work I had heard about but had never seen. The ballets documented included Laiderette, House of Birds, Solitaire,Danses Concertantes, The Burrow, The Invitation, Baiser de la Fee and his version of Agon. We were told that the filmed performances which were used in the documentary were made by Esme Wood who was married to someone senior in the company's administrative team. The films had been handed over to the British Film Institute for safe keeping but by the time that Lynne Wake approached the BFI to gain access to them the BFI had come to believe that the films had been donated to it and were its property. The BFI had demanded quite a substantial sum for access to the recorded material which would have made it impossible to include excerpts from the films in her documentary . It was only when someone found the receipts which proved that the company had paid for the film stock that the BFI backed down and Wake was given access to the material. We were told that the film of Baiser de la Fee used in its reconstruction, was found in a biscuit tin at the Opera House. Most of the films had been transferred to DVD but the transferred images could not be used as they were just so many white blobs on a black background. Wake almost abandoned the idea of using the film but when she inspected the negatives she found that they had crisp clear images. The problem was that the negatives have no sound track. However when she spoke to Antoinette Sibley and Merle Park they were both relieved that the film with soundtrack was not being used as the sound track on the film had not been properly synchronized with the movement which it was supposed to accompany. The film of Baiser is the only record that there is of the ballet. Although both MacMillan and de Valois were enthusiastic proponents of ballet notation in the early days it was not possible to record everything as there was only one notator available. Ballets created for the Touring Company were only notated if they were transferred to the Covent Garden stage. It was only possible to revive MacMillan's original version of Baiser because it had been filmed. Not all of the early ballets included in the film would work today.I strongly suspect that The Burrow was very much a ballet of its time and depended for its impact on its original cast, which included Lynn Seymour, and the cast's and the audiences's shared knowledge of what had happened during the Nazi occupation of Europe. I certainly thought that "The Invitation" lacked real impact when it was recently revived. I can't say how much this lack of impact was attributable to the cast not including Seymour and Gable and how much was attributable to MacMIllan's later challenging works desensitising us. As the revival was strongly cast I think I will go for the desensitising option. There are other ballets mentioned in the film which would still work today and should be revived such as Danses Concertantes and MacMillan's Agon. I can only assume that the reason for their neglect has more to do with the fact that they are, in Lady M's eyes, the wrong sort of MacMillan ballet. Solitaire is charming and tuneful, hangs on by a fingernail at Birmingham and is obviously not the right sort of MacMillan work as it is not "challenging". Danses Concertantes suffers the same weakness. It is a quirky enjoyable take on the vocabulary of classic dance which fits the score perfectly. I suppose that Lady M may have come to feel that she has exhausted the income generating capacity of the works which she has been reviving regularly. Next April we shall have the opportunity to see excerpts from House of Birds, Danses Concertants and the full Laiderette in performances given by a group of dancers described as Viviana Durante's company who are in reality a handful of dancers from the RB including Francesca Hayward and Ed Watson and Ballet Black. We can always hope that at least Danses Concertantes might find its way back onto the Covent Garden stage and that MacMillan's Four Seasons might not be far behind it .
  20. At the last count there were, I think, four recordings of Royal Ballet casts in the ballet. The first recording dates from 1966 it has Fonteyn and Nureyev in the lead roles,Blair as Mercutio,a very young Dowell as Benvolio and a young Mason as head Harlot. Many regret that there is no recording of the ballet with Seymour and Gable the dancers on whom it was created. Technically the company is still said to be performing the same production today as it did at its premiere however even a cursory glance at these recordings shows that the costume designs which originally were famously not standard ballet costumes have over the years morphed into more conventional ballet costumes and that the stage designs have also been altered. The changes to sets and props occurred while the opera house was being redeveloped. The modifications were probably essential if the ballet was to be performed on other London stages such as the one at the Royal Festival Hall.. Strangely however not all of the detail has been restored since the company returned to its home stage. Birmingham Royal Ballet retains far more of the staging's original detail than the Royal Ballet can boast. In addition to the initial recording which was filmed at Pinewood studios there are three recordings of performances at Covent Garden, The first was made in 1984 with a cast headed by Ferri and Eagling with Jefferies as Mercutio. The second dating from 2006 has Rojo and Acosta in the leading roles and Jose Martin as Mercutio. The third was made in 2012 and was originally seen as a live streamed performance. The dancers in this latest recording are Cuthbertson, Bonelli with Alexander Campbell as Mercutio. I think that some believe that the issue of the latest DVD was prompted by the ROH's acquisition of its own DVD recording label.
  21. I hope to get to see this film, if only to see Simon Russell Beale as Beria. It sounds as if his performance is a cross between his Richard III and his Kenneth Widmerpool which, if true ,I should count as worth the price of admission in itself. A great deal of what sounds highly improbable in the film's story line is not that far removed from what happened in the period immediately following Stalin's death when Russia was ruled by a gang of three. His death prevented the next great purge which was to be precipitated by the "discovery" of the doctor's plot. The doctors had already been arrested in readiness.
  22. Perhaps I am being naive but I had assumed that Vaziev was appointed because of his experience running other companies and his lack of connection with the Bolshoi and its factions. I suspect that his main management strength, as far as those who summoned him back to Russia are concerned, is the time that he spent at La Scala which established that he had the management skills to deal with a company with an entrenched working culture. Perhaps they think that those skills are needed to address the factionalism in the Bolshoi which culminated in the acid throwing incident in which Filin was injured. Ballet companies which do not have a mandatory retirement age present problems to anyone who has to run them as they make succession planning incredibly difficult.I have no idea what the age profile of those in the upper ranks of the Bolshoi look like in reality but, from my limited knowledge, there seem to be a number of artists who are fast approaching the time when decisions have to be about what roles they will dance in the future if only to ensure that the company is able to prepare its new generation of leading dancers adequately and develop the talented young dancers who it seems continue to flock to the Bolshoi in preference to the Mariinsky. As I understand it in the US and in some other countries a new AD is able to dispense with the services of dancers he does not want. Vaziev is not able to do that at the Bolshoi. He has to plan for the future while dealing with the present. At some point he has to put young dancers on the stage to dance roles like Odette /Odile and Siegfried to give them the performance experience that they need in order to become the great dancers that some of them undoubtedly will become. Transitional periods are tough on the mature dance artists who are coming to the end of their careers and on their devoted fans. Perhaps Vaziev is favouring the company's young talent for purely artistic reasons and for the health of the company. Perhaps he also sees it as a way of ensuring that the company rapidly becomes his artistically. A company of talented young dancers whose boss has given them the chances that they want is likely to be much easier to run than one in which there are factions and dancers who harbour resentment. I don't think that any of us are in a position to know whether Vaziev is making the right decisions for the company. Only time will tell. As far as his casting decisions are concerned. Experience suggests that few Artistic Directors escape criticism on that front at some point during the course of a season and sometimes throughout entire seasons. The same applies to repertory choices.
  23. I believe that Gomes gave a performance as Oberon in the Dream in 2012 after Polunin left the company. It was not clear that his guest appearance was actually necessary as there were quite a lot of dancers in the RB and the BRB who knew the role including Joseph Caley who had given some excellent performances of the role and Cervera who had understudied the role and was an Ashton specialist. If I recall correctly at the time it was generally understood that his appearance with the company was at Cojocaru's request. As far as Part taking class with the RB is concerned it does not necessarily follow that she will be working with the company. As Mashinka says there is a lot of home grown talent which makes it unlikely that the company will feel the need to engage her. It is not just the likes of Hayward and Naghdi who have to be accommodated but there are several dancers at First Soloist level who will expect to get a crack at the major classical roles and more junior dancers who having shown considerable artistic development during the last season who will also expect to take their place in the sun in the not too distant future. But you never can tell what management will decide to do. Perhaps we should wait to see what announcements, if any, appear on the company's web site.
  24. mnacenani, While it is good to know that Osipova is happy at Covent Garden and will continue to dance there for the foreseeable future I am not sure that everyone who attends performances by the Royal Ballet would actually feel that her continued presence as a member of the company was essential to its continued artistic health. She is of course a star, which means that for many her performances are above the sort of criticism which other dancers receive as a matter of course. I can think of a number of dancers for example Morera, Hayward,Naghdi and O'Sullivan whose absence would almost certainly be regarded as having a much more significant impact on the company and its long term artistic development than hers would have.
  25. Mashinka, There is an article on the RAD website about MacMillan and Benesch notation which suggests that all but seven or eight of MacMillan's earliest ballets were recorded in Benesch notation and are capable of revival. The first MacMillan ballet to be notated was Solitaire in 1956 everything he created after that was recorded in Benesch notation much of it by Monica Parker. Both House of Birds and Danses Concertantes dating from 1955 were notated when they were revived in 1963. The existence of a physical record means that a ballet like House of Birds could be revived if a company and Lady M wanted to stage it .The problem is that I don't think that there is any great evidence that anyone is that interested in bringing back any of MacMillan's early works apart from Solitaire which gets dusted off very occasionally by BRB. Presumably it was deemed suitable to mark the current MacMillan anniversary because it is part of the company's history as it was made for one of BRB's predecessor companies. That early connection might well have persuaded Lady M that it would do her husband's reputation as a choreographic rebel little or no harm. As there are people working for the company who remember Solitaire from their own time as dancers and the company has not departed as radically from the work's original musicality and performance style as the Covent Garden company has done I imagine that BRB made a good job of the revival. However giving Solitaire an occasional airing to mark a significant MacMillan anniversary does not make it a repertory piece. If I am right about Solitaire's current status then the next time it will see the light of day is in 2027 when MacMillan centenary is celebrated. I first saw Danses Concertantes when it was danced by the RBS during the 1970's as part of their end of term main stage performance. It was still a Royal Ballet repertory piece as late as 1995 so there are plenty of people around who danced in it which means that it should be relatively easy to revive it. A snippet was used at the last Genee Competition held in London. The young South African who won the gold medal was the only one to dance it in competition and he made a very good job of it. I have memories of seeing MacMillan's Agon in the 1970's. I remember rather liking it . I think that it had disappeared from the repertory some time before the company acquired Balanchine's ballet of the same name. As far as 6.6.78 is concerned I know that I have seen it but I remember nothing about it. I wonder how much of a problem the resident company's current performance style would present in successfully reviving one of MacMillan's early works ? The company which originally danced The House of Birds was one whose repertory was firmly classically based and whose house style was Ashton's. The company's current performance style, musicality and dynamics are very different from what they were when the bulk of MacMillan's ballets were created. You don't have to look very hard to find evidence of the effect of this shift in style in ballets which have remained in the repertory. The company dances far more slowly than it did in the 70's and 80's and not everyone has the musicality, clean footwork, or ability as a terre a terre dancer which its dancers then had . Many of its non RBS trained dancers seem to prefer to execute steps in classroom style rather than as the choreographer modified them and few of its dancers are brave enough or have the ability to dance in what must feel like a dangerously off balance fashion or use their upper bodies as expansively as the RB's dancers once did. The result is that we rarely see Symphonic Variations with the Brian Shaw role danced as it should be with the dancer doing off centre turns as he gazes to the heavens and we rarely see MacMillan's Mercutio as he choreographed it. Eliminate the off centre turns and the other quirky and unusual elements in Mercutio's choreography and you eliminate MacMillan's carefully crafted character and turn Merctio into a conventional classical role which is little more than a plot device and about as compelling and interesting . Neither Ashton nor MacMillan could have anticipated the changes in performance style and musicality which have taken place since the 90's. If MacMillan's neglected ballets were to be performed in the company's current performance style the audience would not necessarily see the connection which MacMillan created between the music and his choreography which was what made the works so worth watching when they were new. I suspect that few people recognise the importance which musicality plays in the ability to to dance Ashton and MacMillan really well. It's not a question of counting but of listening to the music. I wonder whether Fin du Jour failed to work when it was revived because it was too much of its time and place or whether it was other factors which were at play? I know that at a time when the company as a whole had been trained to listen to the music to which they were dancing Park, who was in the original cast, was always picked out as being exceptionally musical and I always thought that Penney was very musical. I don't recall that the RB's revival cast struck me as particularly suited to their roles and that the men had extreme difficulty in executing the lifts which both Eagling and Deane had tossed off as if they were nothing. As a result I wonder whether the reason for the failure of both revivals was not the work's weakness but is attributable to remediable factors such as casting and/or inadequate rehearsal time and/or perhaps a failure to get anyone who had been involved in the original performances into the rehearsal studio ? Any one of these factors would have been sufficient to explain the failures. I have to admit that Fin du Jour would not be on my list of works requiring urgent revival. I fear that my comments about the possible causes of the failure of Fin du Jour's revival apply to a revival of pretty much any ballet created before 1990. The fact that the powers that be at the RB don't want to make the older repertory seem dated by demanding that the dancers perform them in period appropriate style and permit performers to dance the works in the currently fashionable,slow,high extension, stop, start,freeze framing style means that few of them are danced in a style which their creator's would recognise. With their musicality, dynamics and use of body distorted and their architecture askew only the floor plan of some of the works is accurate in performance .
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