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Ashton Fan

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  1. Years ago when I was at school we had a very tough no nonsense language teacher who replaced a far older rather laissez faire one. Much later when she had got us working at the level she expected she explained that she had deliberately adopted the no nonsense style with us as she had found that it was possible to reassert authority with a group who you had initially subjected to strict discipline and then given a bit of freedom but that it was impossible to assert discipline over a group who had not been subjected to it in the initial stages of the teacher pupil relationship. I wonder whether, given the circumstances in which he took over at the Bolshoi and the state that the company was in at the time, Mr Vaziev's has based his management technique on a similar premise? I always think that it is very difficult to interpret accurately the true nature of the boss worker relationship in an organisation with which I am unfamiliar even though the whole thing is being conducted in my own language and I am aware of the general societal norms of acceptable behaviour. I think that it is even more difficult to assess this when the individuals are communicating in a foreign language and I am ignorant of both the general societal norms and the organisation's own culture.
  2. I am sure that you are right about Pavlova and Karsavina remaining a touchstone for Haskell and anyone else fortunate enough to see them. They were outstanding dancers made even more extraordinary by the fact that their technique and the ballets that they danced were so very different from what audiences in the West expected of ballet. A progrmme which included Fokine's Petrushka,Balanchine's Apollo and Nijinska's Les Noces would make the point about the extraordinary nature of the company's repertory very succinctly. Of course we should never overlook the part that Diaghilev played in the creation of the company's repertory. As far as the dancers are concerned I don't think that Ashton ever really got over seeing Pavlova in his youth. I am sure that you could make a strong case that Fonteyn was in large part a Pavlova substitute and that at one level for much of his career in choreographing for her he was choreographing for Pavlova. I don't disagree that there are some wonderful Russian dancers today but the versions of the nineteenth century ballets in which they appear are not always that interesting while their mannerisms in performance moving and posing are irritating and often distort the music. I prefer dance as movement rather than freeze framing.
  3. When considering Arnold Haskell's views on the outstanding merits of "Russian dancers" we should ask what he meant by those words? At a time when it is so easy to see dancers from virtually any country you care to name it is easy to forget that after the Revolution it became increasingly difficult for dancers to leave Russia even on a temporary basis and once Stalin came to power it was well nigh impossible.When Haskell wrote those words he did so in a world in which it was no longer possible for a dancer from the Mariinsky/Kirov to hop on a train to fulfill contracts in the West and then hop on another one to get back to her home theatre in time to appear in her scheduled performances. So who were Haskell's "Russian dancers" ? It is unrealistic to think that in 1934 he meant dancers of Russian origin trained in Russia as the supply had dried up. He knew that even before the First World War not all the dancers in Diaghilev's company were Russian in origin or in training,He would have known that.Lydia Sokolova had entered the company pre war as Hilda Munnings and had been known as Munningsova before she became Sokolova. Other British dancers who subsequently underwent this transformation included Alice Marks who became Alicia Markova and Patrick-Healey-Kay who became first Patrikieff, and then Anton Dolin. It seems me that when he wrote about "Russian dancers" Haskell simply meant dancers appearing in one or other of the Ballet Russes companies. If Diaghilev had problems in recruiting Russian dancers the problem was even more pressing for the various Ballet Russes companies which succeeded Diaghilev's.Of course the later Ballet Russes companies were able to employ the children of Russian emigres trained by White Russian teachers but those companies employed dancers from further afield.As to what made the dancers in those companies so special in Haskell's opinion I strongly suspect that Haskell was praising the "Russian dancers" as much for the ballets they danced as for their schooling and technique. After all at one time or another nearly all of the greatest choreographic talent that Russia had produced was working with one or other of those companies.
  4. Haskell certainly wrote those words but I think that he did so in 1934 so perhaps his statement needs to be put into context. In 1934 the company which became ABT had not been established, that had to wait until 1936. The SAB was set up in 1934 but it would be another fourteen years before NYCB would be founded.Meanwhile in Britain the Vic Wells company which eventually became the Royal Ballet was barely three years old but Sergeyev had already staged Coppelia for it in 1933 and went on to stage both Nutcracker and Swan Lake for it in 1934. While Danilova may not have had a completely unbiased, independent view on the subject of the development of ballet in Russia after the Revolution her views on what had happened there are.worth considering. In her autobiography she says that while ballet had once been a means of creating a mood and telling stories in Russia after the Revolution it had become a display of dance. In her opinion it was in the West that the appropriate approach to dance had been preserved and developed. At the end of the day what we like is a question of aesthetics and taste. It is all purely subjective as far as our preferences for dancers, schools and choreographers are concerned. But I don't subscribe to the idea that only the Russians can dance or that Grigorovich's reworkings of the classics bear repeated viewing while I can happily see works by the likes of Ashton, Balanchine, Robbins,Tudor, Fokine, Nijinska and Cranko and some MacMillan with great regularity.
  5. I avoid Grigorovich's Swan Lake and, like Volcanohunter, when I do go, it is to see a specific cast. In my opinion you need to see it once if only to appreciate the theatrical strength of the original structure with its carefully considered contrast in choreographed dynamics between the sections of dance, processions and mime. In particular it makes very clear how essential the short lakeside mime sequence is to the over all structure and balance of the ballet. The effect of Grigorovich's concept, building on earlier "improvements" to the text, is to turn it into a ballet which should more accurately be called Siegfried than Swan Lake as the dancer performing Odette/Odile is reduced to little more than a supporting character. For me it has the effect of reducing the great Petipa/Ivanov ballet to a rather bland and boring piece in which the role of Odette/Odile is strangely diminished and a few exceptionally talented male dancers have an opportunity to display their technique. As with many other versions of Swan Lake that I have seen it would be more accurate to describe it as based on an idea by Petipa and Ivanov than to suggest a closer connection to the original text. I am looking forward to seeing the Ratmansky reconstruction if only to see the ballet danced at the right speed after years of seeing Odette performed by dancers so obsessed by slowness that their performances seem to come from a different ballet from the one in which the corps de ballet is appearing. For years we have had to put up with Bintley's choreography for the waltz so I am curious to see what the reconstructed waltz looks like. After the initial push for "authnticity" and Ashton's death it would have been wonderful to have seen either of Ashton's waltzes replace Bintley's undistinguished offering.
  6. I don't think that I said that Bussell was crude or graceless. She had a beautiful unforced technique but her performances were bland and rather boring. They were interchangeable in a way that Sibley's and Beriosova's never were . I thought that Bussell showed extraordinary promise at twenty but that she stopped developing early on in her career and never really fulfilled her potential. I can't help wondering whether she would have been a more interesting dancer if she had stayed with SWRB for a couple of seasons or whether she would have been the same sort of dancer whatever had happened in her early career. Peter Wright has said that the original plan was that Bussell would go to SWRB for a couple of seasons to gain experience because she was not thought ready for Covent Garden. She certainly would have had more opportunity to dance and to appear in a wider range of works than she could have got at Covent Garden. She was with SWRB for about a year and then MacMillan gave her the female lead in Prince of the Pagodas.The rest is history.
  7. I don't live in France and while I suppose I could have waited until the casting was announced that would have meant taking a chance on the availability of train tickets at a time of day which suited me and finding a hotel room within a short walk of the theatre. The one thing that I was determined to do was to ensure that I got to the performances whether or not the Metro workers decided to go on strike as they do from time to time. I had a very enjoyable time and saw a lot of dancers who, up until now, have merely been names to me. I saw an approach to Petipa which should at least set stagers, dancers and audiences thinking about current performance practice and its suitability in the context of the few nineteenth century ballets in the standard international repertory. I can hope. Unfortunately as far as ballet performance are concerned we live at a time when overt technical prowess is esteemed above all else and dancers with loads of artistry and "enough technique" tend to be overlooked in favour of technicians. I don't think that the tendency over the last thirty plus years to treat the "traditional" text of Beauty in performance as a significant step on the way to abstract choreography by eliminating, or at least downplaying, all the quirky elements in its choreography so that it conforms to an ideal of pure classicism has helped the cause of dancers who don't simply set out to display their technique. Comments on this forum suggest to me that Sarah Lane is experiencing the same sort of problems at ABT that Belinda Hatley did at Covent Garden. In the RB context the director's choice was between the "Rolls Royce" technique but bland interchangeable characterisation of Darcey Bussell in ballets with any narrative content and Belinda Hatley who was a fine Ashton dancer and outstanding in roles like Lise and Swanhilde and made the role of Aurora interesting and nuanced. You know the outcome. I do hope that ABT manage to bring this production to London in the not too distant future.
  8. I had the good fortune to see four performances of this production in Paris. It is exhilarating to attend performances of this ballet which are not bogged down by its status as the "ballet of ballets". The combination of being treated as a monument to classical dance and the various "improvements " in technique and consequent tampering with Tchaikovsky's score to which it has been subjected since its 1890 premiere has, in my opinion, had the effect of rendering sections of it difficult to watch with any sense of pleasure. .The speed at which this production is danced, the attempt to reproduce the earliest recorded choreographic text combined with the use of period appropriate performance style has the effect of making the dance flow and turns a monument into a charming entertainment which is almost certainly what Petipa and Tchaikovsky intended it to be. It was fascinating to see it a few weeks after seeing one of Ratmansky's earliest attempts at reconstructing a Petipa ballet and strange to think that had Petipa died before he had completed his work on Sleeping Beauty it would have been the melodramatic ballets d'action like Le Corsaire for which he would have been known. Again what an extraordinary set of circumstances to be able to see Ratmansky's restoration of two of Petipa's greatest choreographic set pieces the Jardin Anime and the Garland Dance within the space of weeks. ABT's Beauty is clearly a far more rigorous attempt to restore a nineteenth century choreographic text than Le Corsaire was. There were elements in this Beauty that were new to me and details which are half hidden in the current text performed at Covent Garden. Perhaps they had failed to register because the Mariinsky's reconstruction used modern performance style but I don't recall seeing the King banning the use of spindles in his kingdom before. It was quite a surprise to discover how much some of the characters had to say for themselves. For once I could believe that the character of Catalabutte was closely modeled on a member of the imperial court and would have been recognisable to members of the ballet's earliest audiences. But one thing that was very noticeable was that the amount of detail the audience saw was very dependent on individual performers. I am not talking here about the differences in interpretation of two dancers but differences in the amount of the choreographic text the audience actually saw in individual performances. I suspect that these differences have more to do with the amount of work that individual dancers have to do in trying to forget the "traditional" version and remembering to dance the "historic" one than anything else. The dancers were consistent in whether they were supposed to be on full pointe or not,but in the Fairy Variations the finer details of the epaulement were variable. For example towards the end of dancing the Breadcrumb Fairy Gemma Bond showed the audience that she had her hands full of crumbs by clenching her fists and then releasing her fingers as she scattered crumbs where others merely wafted their arms about rather vaguely. Again there were marked differences in the performance of the Violente variation one dancer manged to show the sparks passing between her fingers others did not seem to try. Of the Auroras I saw Trenary was by far the best. When she danced with her suitors looked at them and smiled at them.She danced with elegant technique,musicality and appropriate characterisation. She reminded me of Ann Jenner. Both Murphy and Boylston seemed strong and athletic,proficient rather than charmingly elegant. They were technically assured but neither managed to give the impression of charm and apparent youth which I think are essential to the role In this production the Rose Adagio is not danced as a show stopper but as an integral part of the first act in which Aurora is introduced to her prospective suitors. Murphy seemed to be working hard to disguise her strength.Neither Murphy nor Boylston managed to make the Rose Adagio look normal and natural. During it Murphy stared straight past each of the princes as if they were not there while Boylston managed little better. I wondered whether the problem was that they were too familiar with the "traditional " version to be completely at home in the "historic" one and had too much to forget to be entirely comfortable in Ratmansky's reconstruction.Neither their second or third acts banished the impression of barely disguised power being reined in. I was surprised by Seo's technical problems in the first act particularly during the Rose Adagio. Her second and third acts were better. Is she a good dance actress rather than a classical ballerina? . I saw Whiteside,Gorak, Stearns and Gomes as the Prince but I don't think that any of those that I saw had complete mastery of their third act variation. None of them really managed to make it look elegant and effortless. I never stopped being aware of how many steps were in it. I wonder how many in the audience really appreciated what a technical tour de force the variation is and how much more difficult it must be to dance than the showy " traditional" version that we know so well. As far as the third act fairy tale characters are concerned they all had real charm to them. I even enjoyed Chaperon Rouge et Le Loup when up until now I have been inclined to think that Lydia Sokolova had got it right when she described it as the most boring variation she knew. As for me I am happy to have had the opportunity to see it. As to what it might turn into when everyone has complete mastery of the choreography and performance style? I think that the answer is that it will be pretty impressive. I hope that someone from the Royal Ballet saw it and that it will lead to some changes in performance practice at Covent Garden beginning with correct tempi and low legs. Petipa is a wonderfully musical choreographer when he is allowed to be. I do not want to create an international incident but I should be grateful if someone could explain what special gifts Misty Copeland possesses. True I only saw her twice as Princess Florine, but while it is a short role it is a role in which a dancer can display her technique and make a real impression without apparently trying. She made hardly any impression and apart from a rather stiff upper body I barely noticed her.
  9. An excellent site and a great idea. Might I suggest that you add Beaumont's "The Ballet called Swan Lake" to your bibliography?
  10. Given the number of abstract and near abstract ballets that are created and the number of ballets in which the dancers are dressed in the current standard ballet uniform it is easy to lose sight of the impact that stage design can have on what we see in performance and how we respond to it. Only a limited number of stage designers ever get the opportunity to design for ballet and even fewer have the experience of designing for narrative works. Ashton belonged to the generation of choreographers who experienced the choreographic and design revolution of the Ballets Russes as it was happening. The designers who he commissioned to design his ballets had, for the main part, also had that experience. Now in theory redesigning a ballet should have as little adverse impact on the choreographer's work as mounting a new production of an opera has on the composer's work. Indeed I believe that the push to redesign some of Ashton's ballets came from people who had far greater involvement in, and knowledge of opera than they did of ballet. So have any of the Ashton redesigns given his ballets a new lease of life? Here is what happened to three of his works. I shall begin with Daphnis and Chloe. The man who redesigned Daphnis and Chloe transformed it from a ballet giving the ancient story a contemporary setting with the old gods present in the modern,ever ancient Greek landscape as genii loci, to one set fairly and squarely in ancient Greece. My recollection of the new designs is that there was no hint at the Greek landscape and of course the dancers were dressed in archaic costumes. The new designs had the effect of reducing the impact of the choreography. The movements of the female corps and of Chloe herself were less expansive than they had been in the original designs, their costumes constrained their movement rather than amplifying it. This meant that in the opening section the audience was unable to savour the contrast between the male and female corps when they dance the same steps in unison and it destroyed the almost Bacchic swirl of movement at the end of the piece as the dancers rush across the stage and then turn and jump, reducing it to a very staid affair. The costume designs also failed to tell the audience anything about the character of Daphnis, Chloe. Dorkon or Lykanion. Now this does not matter with Daphnis or Chloe as the ballet is their story, but it does as far as Dorkon and Lykanion are concerned because they play small but pivotal roles in the action of the ballet.The effect of the redesigns was to kill the ballet.A similar fate befell Cranko's The Lady and the Fool which was done to death by a totally unnecessary redesign which had the effect of sucking the life out of it. Its new look deprived it of its charm and reduced the impact of the choreography. It left an audience who knew the work wondering why they had liked it so much. Then there was Les Rendezvous. Here the designer ignored the original setting of a park with a wall and gate which left a large area of the stage, where the wall should have been, empty. The new design had a backcloth with a tree which looked as if it new had escaped from a painting by Cirico The lack of a wall reduced the impact of the dancers'entrances as before the redesign they had entered the stage through the gate.As far as the costumes were concerned he chose 1950's dresses with polka dots for the women, gave the girls in the pas de quatre long pink gloves which looked like washing up gloves and dressed the men in 1920's style blazers and boaters. It certainly had a transformative effect on the ballet which is danced to music by Auber but not one that did anything for the ballet. Where the Chappell designs were at one with the music and created a mood which supported the choreography the redesigns pulled against the music and seemed to be little more than a random collection of visual effects. If the designer created a mood it was one of confusion. The new designs managed to make a nonsense of the ballet which they were supposed to enhance and revivify. Finally there is Cinderella which has had three redesigns since its premier. I have only seen photographs of some of the original designs so I have no idea what they were like in performance.I believe that they were disliked because they were not sufficiently like ballet costumes.The first redesign can be seen on the film of the ballet with Fonteyn and Somes in the cast, the second on the DVD with Sibley and Dowell. It seems to me that each redesign has given Cinderella prettier rags than the last and provided the Ugly Sisters with increasingly outrageous costumes. The most recent redesign, the first not to be authorised by the choreographer gives Cinderella the prettiest imaginable rags and dresses the Ugly Sisters in costumes that would be regarded as almost too outrageous for a traditional pantomime.The redesigns commissioned by Wendy Ellis are pretty disastrous. They have not destroyed the ballet but they have emphasised and perhaps encouraged a performance style which gives the audience a ballet somewhat different from the one which Ashton created. A sweet Cinderella,dressed in pretty rags and danced in a very charming, small scale manner, a Jester who is performed like a close relative of the Soviet ones,not a character with a soul whose facial expression you need to see,but a mere leg machine and a pair of Ugly Sisters who would be too broad,brash and vulgar for most provincial pantomimes. The people employed to redesign Ashton's one act ballets and those commissioning them, it seems to me, have shown a singular .lack of understanding of ballet design in general and of the particular ballets for which the designs were commissioned. It is probably why any rumour of a proposed ballet redesign, but particularly those by Ashton are met with horrified shudders. Ballet design is important It can create a mood. It can tell an audience when and where the action of a ballet is set. Good ballet design helps the dancers in performance. It remains a mystery why the importance of ballet design is not as well understood as it should be. It seems to me that it is not lack of opportunity but a lack of sensibility on the part of those commissioning the designers which is at the heart of the problem.If you are not aware of the essential elements of the relationship between choreography and its performance by dancers in costume as seen by the audience then you are going to make some very big mistakes. Choreographers like Ashton and Cranko were fully aware of the impact design had on the reception of their works, Somewhere along the way this understanding has been lost. A ballet like Swan Lake can survive bad designs. The length of time that Dowell's, bling laden, concept driven, ineptly designed production held the stage proves that but that does not mean that every ballet can survive such treatment.
  11. I do not think that Valses Nobles would benefit from having new designs. So far every attempt to redesign Ashton's ballets has proved to be a complete and unmitigated disaster. Rather than refreshing them the redesigns have left the redesigned ballets in a state far worse than they were with the original designs. Problems with Ashton ballets in performance rarely have anything to do with the costumes and design. Generally the problem is either the dancers's inability or unwillingness to dance in the appropriate style, which is unlikely with the Sarasota company, or, as a member of the audience, looking for things in his works which you are accustomed to see in the works of other choreographers and not looking at what he is actually doing. Ashton's choreography uses the dancer's body not just their legs.The dancers should have a pliant, fluid upper body as well as clean,bright, fast footwork. It is about a flow of movement and enchainements rather than a series of staccato steps. As far as the designs of Valses Noble are concerned Sophie Fedorovitch was the designer for several of Ashton's ballets and would have been fully aware of the effect that Ashton wanted his ballet to create in performance as far as mood and movement are concerned. I understand that she sat in on rehearsals of some of his ballets, and would revise her designs in the light of what she had seen. She clearly produced designs which satisfied Ashton on the page and on stage when they were seen in movement in performance. She was meticulous as far as her choice of fabric and the cut of her costumes were concerned and certainly would have have known whether or not her costumes were intended to enhance the theatrical impact of the dancing by enhancing the dancers's move. As far the performances at the Joyce are concerned it could be that you saw the wrong cast or part cast. In some of the ballets on show, the company is fielding three casts for some roles. People who know what Ashton's ballets should look like in performance were pretty impressed by the company's revival of Valses Nobles in 2014 so it does not sound as if it is the choreography or the designs which are the problem.. The individuals concerned had no need to be complimentary about the company if it was not deserving of praise. The reviews that I read at the time did not read as if they were being used as a stick to beat the Royal Ballet which appears only to revive Ashton's works out of a sense of duty rather than with any sense of enthusiasm or regard for the man and his works. As far as the rest of the programme is concerned David Vaughan described The Walk to the Paradise Garden as a masterpiece. It requires a master in partnering to bring it off but again in Ashton's ballets the audience should be oblivious to the difficulties it presents for the two main dancers. It should be swept along by its emotional response to the ballet and the ballet's beauty. You can play the game of spot the source material if you wish to, but it is what he does with the source material that really matters. The only one of the ballets on show that I have not seen is Sinfonietta which was made for the Touring Company. I suspect that its disappearance from the repertory had little to do with its quality and everything to do with the fact that the company for which it was created was disbanded in a cost saving exercise undertaken to make the Royal Opera House's books balance. It would be wonderful to think that the current Royal Ballet management team would expend as much effort on staging Ashton's ballets as the Webbs do but apparently the latest McGregor is far more artistically significant than having an active Ashton repertory with ballets ranging from Capriol suite to Rhapsody.
  12. I agree that Five Brahms Waltzes is as much about Duncan as it is about Ashton's style but it seems to me that Rojo's performance of the piece reveals the same problems that I see in the modern version of Monotones 2 and in other Ashton works in performance. A dancer or dancers who can not or are not prepared to dance in what appears to be a continuous flow of movement.In both cases I am left fully aware of the component parts of the two ballets but with little or no idea of the structure of the pieces in their entirety because the performers have chosen to break them up. This is the complete reverse of how they should be performed and what the audience should be aware of in performance. It is the overall effect of the choreography which matters rather than its component parts.
  13. In less than two years we shall be celebrating the bicentenary of Marius Petipa's birth. I can not help thinking that it would not hurt any of us to have a better understanding of what his choreography might have looked like in performance before the celebrations begin. That way we will have a better idea of just what and who we are celebrating and why we are doing so.Now of course we can not go back to the 1890's and there is always a possibility that we might not like what we saw if we could do so but I do not think that is a reason for not trying to restore to the stage something that Petpa,Ivanov and Tchaikovsky might just recognise as their work or at least something closely resembling it. Knowledge that a great deal of the choreographic text and scenario of Swan Lake has been altered over the years to accommodate fashions in performance style, "advances in technique" and political requirements leaves me curious as to what this ballet might look like if Petipa's narrative and floor plans were fully restored; the music was played at the speed expected by the choreographers and dancers adopted a period appropriate performance style. This would require dancers to abandon freeze framing poses, indulging their and the audience's taste for excessively slow tempi, extreme extensions and asymmetry. If we were to see performances in which the stager has restored the original narrative; the original characters; the choreographic text including mime and character dancing then we might have a real idea of Petipa's importance and why we are celebrating him. I am not sure that I would be that worried by an "over realistic" acting style which seems to me a minor detail in the great scheme of things. Having just experienced a Bolshoi Swan Lake which was little more than an almost abstract evocation of Swan Lake with Odette and Odile reduced to supporting roles I am all for any attempt to restore a nineteenth century Swan Lake to the stage and I am looking forward to seeing Ratmansky's Zurich production next year. It would be nice to think that a major company like the RB would respond to this interest in reconstructions by thinking very hard about the form that its new Swan Lake should take and attempt to restore the original act 1 waltz and get closer to the original performance style. In an ideal world the RB would have more than one version of Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet in its repertory each of which would be performed in the appropriate choreographic style. But that is another story and I know it is unlikely to happen. If you are interested my Swan Lakes would be the new one that I have described and the version that preceded the Dowell production. The RB danced it into the 1980's and it was full of wonderful Ashton choreography beginning with the act 1 waltz and ending with his own fourth act. As far as Romeo and Juliet is concerned it would be wonderful of the company were to acquire the Ashton version of the ballet. I am afraid that its current owner is unable to mount it in a style that does it justice.
  14. I think that whoever dances on the first night, this production is going to put the cat among the pigeons as far as Parisian audiences are concerned. They came to the nineteenth century Russian repertory rather late and most are convinced that the Nureyev productions of ballets like Beauty and Lac are the last word in how the Petipa classics should be danced.and look. I suspect that the reconstruction's choreographic text and performance style are going to be the main topics of conversation and controversy. The excerpts from this reconstruction that I have seen emphasise elements of the classical dance vocabulary that were of little interest to Nureyev in his stagings. Nureyev. like everyone else was very much a product of his time and place and during his formative years in Leningrad he was immersed in a dance world which was the product of those who created the Soviet style of male dancing and the Kirov performance tradition of the nineteenth century repertory. It is,in large part, the mid century Russian view of the Petipa ballets that Parisian audiences are used to seeing and perhaps believe to be authentic Petipa. As for me I am curious about the text and shall be interested to see a version which attempts to restore minor details like Petipa's musicality, his choreography his floor plans and something approaching nineteenth century performance practice. A Rose Adagio danced as an integral part of the ballet rather than an Olympic event will be a pleasant change. Perhaps it will convince Mr O'Hare that he needs to review the RB's current performance practice in this ballet by restoring the company's old musicality and speed and removing the "Rojoisms"which crept in during her time with the company. The most blatant of which was reducing the Rose Adagio to a mere display of technique performed with no concern for anything except how long she could hold her balance and how many of the suitors she could ignore. I can always hope.
  15. If you want to do some more investigation of Ashton's style then you could try comparing and contrasting Five Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan as danced by Lynn Seymour on whom it was created and then as performed by Tamara Rojo and White Monotones as danced by Derman, Silver and Deane and the recent recording on the Ashton Celebration DVD. As far as Five Waltzes is concerned it started life as a single waltz danced at a gala. Ashton added to it to create what we see today. In its current form it was first shown at a performance celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Rambert company and as such was an extraordinarily thoughtful gift as Rambert had been a devotee of Duncan and had, for a time, when she lived in Paris given Duncan style recitals. Marie Rambert was given a preview of the work at the end of which she is said to have burst into tears and said words to the effect of that's what it was like. Now with the best will in the world I can't see anyone saying that about Rojo's performance it is just too studied, too careful and lacking in any apparent spontaneity.The pauses between the waltzes for acting and self assessment do nothing for the piece. As danced by Seymour it is a fascinating piece and it is as danced by other dancers such as Belinda Hatley who dance it rather than "acting" it. BRB have performed it on the same bill as Dante Sonata which I have no doubt made Dante Sonata make great sense in the context of Ashton's output as a whole. As far as white Monotones is concerned I am not suggesting that the Derman cast was perfect. At the time they danced it I thought it a second rate cast and it reveals some of the problems that the company was beginning to experience. Deane is far too self contained and he sags. The reason that you should watch it is because it is danced as a continuous flow of movement rather than being "freeze framed". The comment, I believe by Bruce Sansom, about Monotones 2 that you had to choose points during the performance to stop imperceptibly so that the audience could catch up makes sense in the context of the earlier recording dating from the late 1970's. It makes no sense in the context of the modern recording which turns it into a ballet in which the dancers move from one pose to the next, freeze frame the pose, and move on. The company's current performance style is a subtle combination of changes in teaching methods at the school during the past thirty years, the company's recruitment and promotion practices and above all its programming and casting decisions over that time. Just as Balanchine's company became Balanchine dancers by dancing his ballets the Royal Ballet became a company with a unified style by dancing Ashton's ballets. When his ballets ceased to be central to the company's repertory it had a profound effect on what the company looked like in the performance of its entire repertory. Ashton's choreography is technically very demanding, often extremely exposed and generally provides real opportunities for the entire cast to dance. MacMillan's full length works provide juicy roles for the main characters, and sometimes give opportunities to fudge the steps and cover weaknesses by emoting, they often leave the members of the corps doing little more than being animated stage decorations each with their own backstory. This season Ashton's works have been given almost as much stage time as MacMillan's. In addition we are now seeing the effects of Gailene Stock's directorship of the Royal Ballet School in the quality of the dancers who are now being recruited by the company some of whom have had all their training at the school. As far as the future of the Ashton repertory and style at the Royal Ballet is concerned only time will tell.
  16. Alicia Markova summed up the essence of Ashton's choreographic style in a short interview that was shown in a tribute broadcast by the BBC at the time of Ashton's death. She had danced with Ashton and had danced in a great deal of his choreography both on the commercial stage and in his early ballets for Rambert and the ad hoc organisations that provided opportunities for dancers to appear in ballets in their spare time. She was the ballerina of the Vic Wells ballet in its earliest years.She was in the original cast of Facade, Les Rendezvous which are revived from time to time and Foyer de Danse which may, or may not , be capable of revival when Mr Webb at Sarasota has time. Markova was in a better position than most to identify the strongest influences on Ashton's choreography.Born in 1910 and working in the Diaghilev company as a child, Markova was exceptionally well placed to know and recognise the French and Italian schools in the choreography that she had danced in her Diaghilev years. She was fully aware of the influence that Cecchetti had on that company's choreographers and the impact that he had on the way that the Diaghilev company danced.She would have known that Ashton began his training with Massine who was an ardent follower of Cecchetti and that when Massine left London he had gone to study with Rambert another follower of Cecchetti. She was also aware of the non ballet influences on Ashton's choreography. Her Ashton in a nutshell definition of his style was that it was Cecchetti below the waist and Duncan above the waist. She singled out his time working in the commercial theatre as the source of his impeccable theatrical timing and thought that working with black dancers like Buddy Barclay had been important. As far as the Royal Ballet is concerned we shall see at the beginning of next season just how much of an Ashton dancer Hayward really is when she dances Lise. In the meantime those of you who are interested in what Ashton should look like in performance could do a lot worse than undertake a short compare and contrast exercise by looking at two recordings of La Valse one made in the early 1960's and a short excerpt of one filmed very recently. Both can be found on Youtube. The earlier recording can be found on a recording of a mixed programme which begins with Les Sylphides and ends with Aurora's Wedding La Valse starts at about 38 minutes into the recording. The clouds and the lack of distinct images at the beginning of the ballet are deliberate and reflect the composer's directions. The ballet was made for La Scala in 1958 and entered the Royal Ballet's repertory a few years later. This, it seems to me, deals with the explanation that is often given for the company's failures with the founder choreographer's works which is that they are too closely connected to their original dancers for subsequent casts to be able to do them full justice. An exceptionally lame excuse as if other choreographers took no account of the dancers on whom they created their ballets. The recent performance appears in full on the DVD An Ashton Celebration. A fifty six second excerpt can be found on Youtube and this may be enough for this exercise.When watching these two accounts ask which of the two versions most closely fits the quotation that Ravel chose to write on his score "We were all dancing on the edge of a volcano". If you want an example of "a distillation of Ashton's style" see if you can find Birthday Offering with Collier and Dowell in the leads filmed in 1986 as part of the "Fanfare for Elizabeth" Gala. It is not a full account of the ballet, only excerpts, but the the range of upper body movement demanded of dancers of both sexes may come as something of a revelation to those who have seen more recent performances of excerpts from this work.
  17. Celine Gittens has been appointed as Principal at BRB. Her initial performances as Odette/Odile a few years ago were, in my opinion, sufficient justification for her promotion which is well deserved. Meanwhile at Covent Garden the casting for the Winter booking period has been announced and we now know who is dancing in Sleeping Beauty and once again the initial programming details which prompted complaints in some quarters that it was a very predictable season have been transformed by the minor detail about who will actually be dancing in the two roles that management are prepared to tell us about in advance. Hayward makes her debut as Aurora with Campbell as her prince,Hay makes his debut as the prince with Takada as his Aurora. Naghdi makes her debut as Aurora with Ball making his debut as her prince,Osipova makes her debut as Aurora with Hirano making his debut as her prince. Stix -Brunell appears to have been overlooked but perhaps she is to dance Lilac Fairy. The less exciting news is that Golding is partnering Lamb and Salenko is back yet again dancing with McRae. Golding is an extraordinarily wooden and self absorbed dancer. The only time that I have seen him show any sign of animation was when he danced with his girlfriend when Osipova was injured in Don Q. He is strong and tall but so far he has failed to reveal quite why he is a Principal dancer with the company. Last season Hayward made her debut as Juliet with him as her Romeo. The general consensus was that she had done all that was humanly possible to do with the role in the absence of a responsive Romeo. As far as Salenko is concerned I can't fault her technically but so far she has failed to reveal in any of the roles that has danced with McRae at Covent Garden that special something that justifies guest appearances let alone the semi permanent position she seems to enjoy with the Royal Ballet. If anything, to me at least, Salenko and McRae seem to bring out the worst in each other by over reliance on their technique and a total lack of nuance or subtlety .Their performances are very polished but lack real interest once you have got past their technical strength. Salenko is the same in every role she dances and neither she nor McRae provide any form of contrast or any light or shade that would show the other off to greater advantage. It is not as if there are no shortish talented female dancers in the company. It seems to be awash with them at present.
  18. You may think that their incompetence is self evident but Boris Johnson has led a charmed life. He has got into all sorts of scrapes and his time as Mayor of London was far from being an unalloyed success but he has managed to escape the consequences, The public at large believe that he was a great success. The reason for this is that he is rarely subject to criticism by the media.. The explanation of his charmed life is as follows:-1) He is a journalist and writes for publications whose owners share his politics.2) Journalist dog does not bite journalist dog.3) He is one of the few Conservative politicians who has a high profile and is popular with the public at large and so he is too important to the party to be tackled over his failures and incompetence.
  19. I don't know whether your news media have picked up on this but it seems that some people are regretting voting "Out". Now I know that you can't be absolutely certain about what will happen in circumstances that no country has experienced and neither campaign covered itself in glory as far as informing the voters about the likely consequences of leaving might be. As you might imagine the Out campaign was fueled by a great deal of emotion and very few facts. The Out campaigners appear to have done no serious thinking about what the economic consequences of leaving were likely to be.They presented the electorate with a number of models for our new relationship with the EU none of which had been really thought through ;all of which crumbled on close scrutiny;now we will have "our own model" and everything will be sweetness and light. Many of the disadvantages of leaving that were dismissed as "Project Fear" seem to be turning out to be "Project Reality".. Now while you can't ignore what the people have said in a referendum I am not convinced that the electorate will be overjoyed by a Prime Minister who by following their "expressed will" does the political equivalent of driving the family car into a brick wall.. That's why I would not be surprised if the new Prime Minister manages to find a way out of following the advice that the people have given her. She has secured the services of two of the most well known of the Leave campaigners to get to grips with the problem that they have created. This means that they will either be revealed to be incompetents if they get the preparation for the negotiations wrong or they will carry the can if the whole process produces a result that appears to be far worse than the country's current position. Meanwhile ordinary people, students, dancers and musicians will do their best to get by and cope with the consequences of this decision. A significant number are rediscovering their Irish grandparents.Now while it is true that a lot of people who voted "Leave" are deeply attached to traditional values and the old way of doing things not everyone who voted "Leave" is so attached to the past. I wonder what their response will be if the economic consequences of voting "Out" really begin to hit in the six months that the preparation for the negotiations is supposed to be going to take.If the pound really goes down the tubes and things that people want to buy from abroad go up significantly and employers find that they are short of essential staff. The UK imports a lot of food from Europe and a lot of people from Europe are employed in the Health Service and as seasonal farm workers. I expect that companies like the RB will continue to recruit the dancers that they want regardless of their country of origin but what will happen to the young British dancers who currently work abroad is far from clear.
  20. We await further developments to determine what the effects of the referendum will be on the arts and everything else. You need to understand that the referendum is not binding it is only advisory so in theory the Government could just choose to ignore it At the moment Mrs May is saying "Brexit means Brexit". However that could change if things go horribly wrong before the Government has prepared its negotiation strategy. If it were to become clear that the the economy is being as badly affected as the Remain campaigners warned it would be or the Brexiteers who have been given the job of preparing for the leave negotiations make a complete hash of it then Mrs May might decide that Parliament must act to counter the adverse effects of the referendum decision. I don't think that she would go for another referendum as you can't rely on people making rational decisions, but you never know. Meanwhile we all have to live our lives;people will decide what's best for them and funding for all sorts of things will dry up. Notice has to be given under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to trigger the process of leaving the EU. It is thought that is unlikely to happen before 2017.Negotiations begin at that point and the UK remains a member of the EU for a further two years after notice is given. It is unlikely that everything will be unravelled and sorted within that period.Of course the world will not stand still during this time and it would seem that the scientific community is already having problems as a result of the referendum result. Sources of funding are drying up and scientists are having second thoughts about coming to the UK to work. There is no reason to believe that the that referendum result won't have a similar effect on the arts. It's not simply funding that has been hit opportunities to work in the EU are likely to reduce before the two years have expired. While the situation for EU citizens currently working here as dancers and of UK citizens working as dancers in Europe is unlikely to be affected the prospects for student dancers don't look quite so bright,They will just have to wait and see.Somehow I don't think that anyone involved in the process is going to be too concerned about the "elitist" arts.
  21. When the Maris Liepa Foundation brought their revival of Nijinska's Bolero to London it was said to be reproduced from original sketches and photographs and notes made by Bronislava Nijinska provided by her grand daughter. The ballet was staged with the help of Hilary Mitchell a student of Nina Yushkevich, a ballet dancer and choreographer from Nijinska's company. I suppose it depends on how many people you think might be engaged in restoring lost ballets from the early twentieth century and Nijinska's in particular but I would be surprised if the performance shown here does not derive from that source as well. I don't have a particularly strong recall of what we were shown in London. I recall discussing it with a friend and we agreed that some of the grouping of the corps looked like Nijinska but we were more dubious about the choreography for the lead dancer but then the ballet was created for the Ida Rubinstein company and Ida Rubinstein was not a trained dancer.There are elements in the choreography for the lead dancer in this recording that look different from what I recall seeing in the theatre and yet they are familiar. Those familiar elements are in the dancer's epaulement which are curiously close to some elements of the epaulement that Ashton included in his own version of the Spanish dance in act 3 Swan Lake which is preserved on the Dowell Markarova recording of the ballet . Ashton and Billy Chappell had both danced in the Rubinstein company and that is where Ashton met Nijinska and was permitted to watch her in the rehearsal studio. As for the difference between the choreography for the female lead shown in the recording of Bolero and what I saw in theatre that may well be attributable to the circumstances in which it was performed and the dancers performing it.The recording shows dancers in a graduation performance and as such is likely to conform to what has been set as the restored text which they had been taught. The performance in the theatre was given by an experienced dancer who for whatever reason seemed to be dancing in a style that looked closely related to the sort of Spanish dancing epaulement that is seen in the Bolshoi's Don Q and it did not look much like Nijinska.
  22. Amy thank you for your account of this production. You have told me far more about it than I have managed to get out of other people who have seen it. Are you able to say with absolute certainty that this production contains the original choreography for the act 1 waltz rather than a patch job "choreography in the style of Petipa" by Ratmansky? I ask because I seem to recall that when Dowell's Swan Lake was first performed we were told that the original choreography for the act 1 waltz was lost. That was certainly the justification given for the insertion of a chunk of rather uninspired choreography by David Bintley at that point in the ballet.
  23. Here are the answers to the easy questions. Hamilton is on a second leave of absence at Dresden during the 2016-17 season. It will be interesting to see where her future lies long term. While she shines in some areas of the repertory she has had problems with some of the really exposed classical roles that she has been given and she was too slow in Symphonic Variations. The recently announced promotions to First Soloist of Naghdi and Stix-Brunell who are both making their debuts as Sugar Plum Fairy at Christmas gives a clear indication, I think, of who are in the running for promotion to Principal in coming seasons. They have both had a very good season and Stix- Brunell partnered by Matthew Ball gave the best account of the Girl in the Two Pigeons that we saw during the entire run. Given the number of Beauties programmed for 2017 it is being assumed that Hayward and the two new First Soloists are likely to make their debuts as Aurora during the run. As far as Yanowsky is concerned I think it unlikely that she will repeat her role in Rubies. About five years ago she said that she thought that she had about five years left. She may continue for years no one knows. As far as the casting of Emeralds is concerned it has an elusive mood, all French elegance and evocations of Lyonesse and at the last revival it eluded them . It is the most difficult of the three ballets to get right. I missed Benjamin but not Galeazzi. We shall just have to wait and see who the powers that be select. There is plenty of talent at all ranks of the company. The two new First Soloists will be in the running this time.
  24. We did not need visas to go to France, Belgium or anywhere else in Western Europe before we joined the EU. I shall be very surprised if there are problems about visiting the Continent or people from Western Europe coming here as tourists. There should not be any change for at least two years after the UK gives notice it wants to leave the EU. It has not given notice yet. The difficulty comes when you think about the British expats resident in places like Spain and Malta and EU citizens living and working here. The Brexit campaign had a very simple message. Leave and we shall regain control of our borders and be able to govern ourselves.The problem is that it is much more complicated than that. None of the models for our trading relationship with the EU has really been thought through. We have had three potential models set up each of which proves to have serious flaws. But that sort of thing does not matter when a significant number of people are fed up with the government and fed up with being ignored by all the major parties. Each party has spent the last thirty plus years ignoring its natural constituency and core supporters in favour of the swing voters in the key constituencies which actually win and lose in General Elections. Our political parties discovered salami slicing and we are all going to pay the political and economic price for that discovery. As far as I can see the referendum has been decided by people living in those parts of the country that have lost their industries and decent well paid jobs. They, no doubt, feel that they have shown the governing classes what they think of them and given David Cameron a boot up the backside. A minute's pleasure to be paid for by years of no one is quite clear what? But why should we worry if the decision has been based on empty assertions and simple emotional appeals to love of country and belief its future? It must be right because Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage are with us against the political establishment. No one seems to have noticed that they are actually part of the political elite themselves. The decision is a bit like having an unsightly boil on your little finger and deciding to lop off your entire arm to cure it.
  25. Nastasia105, The company last danced Jewels in December and January during the 2013-14 season. As quite a bit has changed in the company since then. It will be interesting to see who is cast in each of the three sections. I am particularly intrigued by who might be cast in Emeralds as that always seems to me to be the most difficult to get right in terms of style and mood. It will be particularly good if some of the promising junior dancers appear in all three sections. I am afraid I can't see what the problem is with Fille coming back so quickly. At one time it was an annual fixture. I just think that it is a pity that it is not being performed at a more child friendly time. As for Anastasia. It works when it works. It will be interesting to see who, if anyone, succeeds in the title role. It's one of those ballets that should really only be revived if management knows that it has at least one dead cert for the title role. As for the rest of the season we shall have to be patient and see who the casts are going to be.
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