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  1. I saw it in London. Unfortunately I missed the first ten or so minutes of 'La Valse' which was upsetting as I love Ravel's brilliant and disturbing music, but thankfully I caught the thrilling ending. The ballets on display, Valse, Voices of Spring, 'Meditation' from Thais, Monotones I and II, and Marguerite & Armand showed Ashton's incredible range and power, and this privileged cinema experience allowed close-ups when they were most valuable (particularly in Marguerite & Armand). Given the choice I would have omitted 'Thais' which I've always thought of as a bit of romantic flimsy. She burrees on, mysteriously veiled, continues burreering round the man for a bit, removes her veil and swoons into his waiting arms a few times; he lifts her up and swings her around a few times, and so on. I know I'm being unfair here because there's some quite exquisite dancing by the ballerina (Leanne Benjamin) but I've never liked this particular piece of Ashtoniana. The outstanding piece on the programme was for me Monotones, particularly Monotones I. It is quite an astonishingly sculptural work, and must have seemed light years ahead of its time when first seen (1965); it still – nearly fifty years later - feels ahead of its time. Although the dancing, seen in close-up, wasn't perfect (the women, Akane Takada and Emma Maguire, seemed at times a little shaky, though the third dancer, Dawid Trzensimiech, was a sturdy and stabilising presence). The whole, to Satie music, had an eerie other-worldly feeling as if taking place on a distant planet lit by a different moon. Quite, quite wonderful and hard to get out of the mind. A revelation too was Marguerite & Armand, choreographed by Ashton for Fonteyn and Nureyev (all three of course now deceased) and intended by him to be danced by them and by them only, recent performances having apparently been in direct contravention of his expressed intentions. If he had seen this performance by Tamara Rojo and Sergei Polunin however, my guess is that he would have been as swept away by the power, energy and pathos they brought to his work as we, the cinema audience were. Rojo and Polunin simply made sense of this overwrought opera melodrama (which is what the story really is). Rojo in particular was believable in her shock and pain at Armand's furious public rejection when he discovered her true profession (this is where those privileged cinema close-ups really came into their own). It was Rojo's last Royal Ballet performance and I think she was in tears at the prolonged, adoring ovation the audience gave her. In fact, it seemed odd for us in the cinema not be joining in - the fact that we didn't was probably because we were aware that it was a filmed record of a performance that had taken place months earlier. There'll be a DVD of this performance issued at some point - it will surely be worth buying and treasuring, .
  2. Is it too late to add a UK radio obituary for Ms Tallchief? The BBC's Radio Four has recently launched an excellent on-air obituary programme called 'Last Words' and last Friday's included a piece on Maria Tallchief, with contributions from her daughter and from the FT's veteran dance writer Clement Crisp (who has nothing new to add to what is already known about her but whose words are nevertheless intersting). The piece is second to last in the half-hour programme - there's probably a way to skip to it but I'm not one of nature's tekkies, so I can't advise... lastword_20130426-1226b.mp3
  3. Hamorah, I saw POB's 'Manon' many years ago (in the mid-90s, I think, when it was newly-acquired by the company) and had exactly the same reaction as you; I found it perfectly, exquisitely danced but utterly 'bloodless', lacking in any emotion or excitement. It was unforgiveably 'polite' in comparison with the Royal Ballet's sex-drenched, blood-spattered, disreputable and wickidly enjoyable version. I do remember that the only part I thought the POB did bettter than the Royal was the beggar boys' dance - they were so realistically filthy-looking that, sitting in the stalls, I found myself actually covering my nose in case they smelt! (Funny how these details stay with one). That, as I said, was years ago and 'Manon' has become so popular with the Paris ballet audience that POB have performed it many times since so they will have become more at ease with it and probably now dance it with less respect and far more abandon, which is exactly what it needs. And Nanarina, you mention that you consider Tamara Rojo's Mamon too technical, but - technical or not - to me she is the most interesting of all the Manons I've seen (and I think I've seen about ten by now); she alone showed what the character in Le Prevost's novel really was: calculating and just a tiny bit cruel with the adoring Des Grieux.
  4. Mashinka, how could you not detect misogyny in 'Triad'? It screams at you! I don't mean in physical violence towards women, or in using them as blatant sex objects (things not uncommon in MacMillan's work), but in that other more insidious way - that 'women-are-destroyers' way, ie in this case, destroying a relationship between two men. It's hard for me to say this, as I am a huge admirer of a lot of MacMillan's work, but I don't think his misogyny can be ignored. It was unconscious, probably, but all the worse for that.
  5. Mashinka – Surely ‘The Judas Tree’ is not performed ‘far too often’? It‘s scarcely performed at all as far as I can see - hardly surprising considering its subject matter. It’s a shame that this was the last full-length work MacMillan created – personally I prefer to remember him for another late work, the lovely ‘Winter Dreams’. Although I didn’t entirely like his ‘Prince of the Pagodas’, I can’t help wondering if Americans ballet audiences might have felt differently about MacMillan had they been given a chance to see this work . With its often lovely choreography, it’s stunning sets and its other-worldly fairy-tale theme, there would surely have been nothing for them to dislike (though admittedly the Britten score is not to everyone’s taste). Whatever the reason, I do think it ‘s sad that this uniquely gifted choreographer is so dismissed by the important American audience.
  6. Cygnet, Bart, I absolutely agree with you about ‘Mayerling’ – an over-complicated mess of a ballet - MacMillan’s ambition outstripped his abilities here. I have no idea why it ‘s still so popular with UK audiences, but it is. Whetherwax, As far as I know, the Kirov (Maryiinsky), POB , Australian Ballet and the Royal Danish Ballet all do Manon , though I understand it has now been withdrawn from the Kirov repertory because of problems with the rights holder. Apart from the Royal Ballet, the Australian Ballet is the only company to have issued a commercial recording (the Royal’s is by far the best, in my opinion). The POB performance I attended several years ago was a huge disappointment; despite wonderful dancing the whole thing was over-polite and rather gutless – as one critic aptly put it, they danced it ‘as if they were dancing ‘Sleeping Beauty’ ‘. Next month, the Royal will be starting a run of ‘Manon again and I’ve booked to see two casts; this Autumn English National Ballet will be performing it for the first time. I can’t wait.
  7. Sandy, I simply mean that he deals in the reality of human life instead of the fairy-tale stuff which makes for most of classical ballet. His ballets (some of them anyway) show sex, violence, jealously, death etc. - he's interested in the dark side of life, and he can choreographic it stunningly. Even his lovely 'Romeo & Juliet', which has to be one of the most swooningly romantic ballets ever choreographed, didn't shirk from violence and bloodshed nor, I have to say, from the subjugation and humiliation of women, another aspect which - regrettably - was never far from MacMillan's work. I could go on, but it's 1 a.m. here in the UK and past my bedtime....
  8. '..>Manon is more popular and liked in Europe than in the USA<...' A bit of an understatement, Bingham. As far as I can recollect from much earlier threads here, 'Manon' is (to put it rather mildly) actively disliked in the US, as is most of MacMillan's work apart from 'Romeo & Juliet'. I can only suppose that this is because MacMillan is too starkly realistic for American tastes, at least as far as classical ballet is concerned. A pity, and an especial pity in the case of Manon, because no matter how many times I have seen this often luridly over-the-top ballet, I find myself heedlesly swept along its drama, and never fail to find new and surprising things in it. A younger, newer US ballet audience will judge Manon quite differently, I think.
  9. Ann

    Nikolai Tsiskaridze

    I saw the Ballet Boyz absorbing documentary too. I thought Tsiskaridze, who came across as a particularly tiresome diva in the early rehearsals of Wheeldon's piece, redeemed himself later by being thoroughly charming - and rather endearing - when entertaining the boyz to tea in his apartment. Of course, cynically, I have to wonder if they didn't just show him the earlier clips and he thought he'd better redress the balance somehow.... Whatever, it all made for very entertaining TV and I hope US ballet fans will get a chance to see it too.
  10. As I recollect, Paul Taylor's 'Speaking in Tongues' is both creepy and frightening - I'm not surprised it isn't performed very much these days...
  11. Robert Helpmann as Spartacus Mukhamedov as the 'Spectre de la Rose' Wendy Whelan in 'La Fille Mal Gardee'
  12. ..and there's Paul Lightfoot, an RB trained dancer who is now resident choreographer for Nederlands Dans Theater.
  13. My apologies then. As you say, Dale, I was probably misled by the Trust’s refusal - for perfectly understandable reasons - to let the Royal Ballet dance Apollo in the early 90s, but I also have a memory that at about the same time the Kirov ran into problems with the Trust over ‘Scotch Symphony’. (I may be wrong in this too, of course.) However, it does seem to me that on the whole many more companies worldwide are now dancing Balanchine, which can only be a good thing for ballet lovers everywhere. And to get back to the Perm company, I am envious that it has that most mysterious of Balanchine’s works - ‘La Sonambula’- in its repertoire; I only wish one of our UK companies would acquire this fascinating ballet.
  14. I was interested to read in today's Links that the Perm Opera Ballet are to perform (or maybe already have performed) Balanchine's 'Serenade' for the Golden Mask Awards in Moscow. Does this mean that the Balanchine Trust is relaxing its rules somewhat? Balanchine's works are now more or less regularly performed by companies worldwide, whereas until a few years ago one had the impression that they were rather choosy about who they let perform his works. I'm not suggesting that the Perm company are in any way unworthy of dancing Balanchine (I've never seen them perform) but I was surprised. I was also pleased; it's gratifying to watch the Russians catching up with Mr B's works and realising what a extraordinary genius their countryman was.
  15. Leigh, you're spot on in identifying the two best affordable viewing points in the ROH - Stalls Circle standing and front row middle seats of the Amphi. Stalls Circle standing tickets are usually about $14 (£8) and front row seats in the Amphi are approximately $67 (£38). As far as the Stalls Circle standing is concerned, I'm lucky at my age to be able to stand comfortably for a full performance, but of course it's always better if one can nip into an empty seat as the house lights go down. In the Amphi front row, the view down to the stage is excellent and of course the overall view of the dance patterns is actually better than the seating on the lower levels. The drawback to the Amphi for me, however, is its height - it seems so high that making my way down the steep steps to the relative safety of the front row is a bit of a nightmare. I actually keep my eyes shut until I'm safely seated! But that's just me. If you still in London at the weekend, Leigh, I'm going to the matinee of the Ashton triple bill on Saturday, standing in the Stalls Circle at D34.
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