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Simon G

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Everything posted by Simon G

  1. Leigh, as you know, Onegin is a ballet I cannot STAND. It is, for me the worst example of ballet taking on a story and losing. But the most interesting thing about Onegin is how little dancing there actually is in it. Made on the nascent Stuttgart, a company which had at that time only four principals of any note, this is evident in the paucity of any choreographic material for the corps or soloists. The one thing that is very interesting to me regarding Onegin is that the first time I saw it I was very young, but Lynn Seymour was dancing Tatiana. The moment with the mirror at the beginning, when Seymour saw Onegin reflected she jumped up and rocked across the stage as if she had been given the most tremendous shock. It made the ballet for me. I've seen it several times since with some very very good ballerinas (Cojocaru was far too young to be given Tatiana) and they all played this scene in a very sedate way. The first time I saw a Tatiana just jump up and look away in a very sedate manner I thought she'd missed the choreography, however all the other Tatiana's I've seen since have treated this seminal moment in Tatiana's development in the exact same manner. The thing is Seymour's reaction was not choreography but it coloured the choreography or lack thereof throughout the rest of the ballet and gave it gravitas to me. It's been mentioned on these boards before that Balanchine on seeing Onegin for the first time assumed that the dancer on whom Tatiana was choreographed couldn't dance as she spent practically all the ballet being lifted. As bitchy as this comment was it does have a ring of truth. Not that Haydee couldn't dance, that she certainly could, but in the impression the role gives of the ballerinas capabilities. Having seen several other Cranko's including Pineapple Poll, Shrew etc I have to say although Cranko did love a story I don't actually think he had the choreographic arsenal to expand that story, certainly not over three acts. Interesting things that occur to me when seeing Onegin are that he had obviously seen the Bolshoi and the Graham companies prior to making Onegin. In Onegin we see the ecstatic Bolshoi lift and in Lensky's solo prior to being shot he dances his grief through a series of backward falls which I very much doubt Cranko could have gotten from any other source than Graham, whose company had made its first trip to London prior to Cranko's departure to Stuttgart. However, lifted verbatim both the lift and the fall as used by Cranko don't add as they are not reinterpreted in a way that becomes individual to Cranko, rather they become bathetic as they are extreme movements from other choreographic sources plagerised. What does anyone else think about this theory?
  2. I think that's the problem with modern three act works, conforming to the format in length but not technique of classical ballet. The thing we all know about classical three act works is that the stories are hokey beyond belief, however the elements of classicism have a definite format which is followed through whichever the ballet may be: pas de trois, six, grand pas de deux, court dances, coda etc etc. The story or total lack thereof, are the framework within which classical ballet as a form exists. The modern three acter by eliminating much of the classical technique or format in which it is used seeks to replace classical form with modern choreography in the ballet mould. Unfortunately the onus is totally on the story and the need for endlessly inventive choreography over three hours plus, which doesn't just fill up space, where each movement carries a literal psychological and sematic weight. In ballets in the modern three act format which nonetheless attempt to put back some elements of the traditional classic form the effect jarrs awkwardly with the dramatic realism of the ballet. For me the best example of this is the pas de deux between Tchessinska and her partner within the second act of Macmillan's Anastasia. Curiously it was in a ballet it was the last place where one expected to find a ballet.
  3. Is the story worth telling? I have believed since childhood that most ballet stories I've seen are not worth telling. So often it's escapist entertainment. On the other hand, even escapist entertainment touches on some fundamental truths of our humanity, within a certain range. Sorry Citibob, let me clarify. I meant by that, is the modern ie very modern R&J, Anastasia, Mayerling, Manon, Onegin etc etc story one worth telling. Or rather is it worth telling in the expanded 3 Act format. Ashton did a very lovely chamber version of R&J which is the antithesis of the Macmillan epic version. Lavrosky did a 3 acter also on an epic scale. However, especially with adaptations of texts is a mere translation into a ballet of equal length the best approach? When Ashton did Month in the Country he condensed the dramatic narrative down to 45 minutes to extract the essence, whereas with Onegin Cranko made a ballet of equal length to the play which loses all the weight and depth. But especially with the large Macmillan works where a story ballet has been made out of a factual life does the format actually support the story? Was the story one worth telling and was it even told well choreographically? My thought behind this was a quote by Clive Barnes regarding the three act works of Macmillan: Barne's once a champion of the youthful promise of Macmillan as choreographer said of his three act work, "Macmillan became the Andrew Lloyd Webber of ballet." I think perhaps that's the essence of my question does the choreography justify the length and subject matter?
  4. Hello everyone. I'm starting this topic in relation to Frederick Ashton, whose work I love. I'm British and over here you'd be very hard pressed to know that Ashton is unequivocally one of the few choreographic geniuses of the 20th century given the way his work is represented or rather underrepresented by the Royal the company he defined and led to greatness. As Alexandra has rightly said in an email to me, the problem is that Ashton is hard to qualify and quantify, the majority of his work being one acters, pieces d'occasions, and linked to a definite style and school of ballet that takes time and effort to restage and get the nuances of. Reading the postings on the NYCB board on balletalert, I see however, that this is a criticism of the Balanchine canon too, that the spirit of the modern Balanchine rep has lost the flavour and nuance of the originals. The other problem with Ashton is the lack of bankable 3 Act ballets he created, also three acters linked to Fonteyn who is irrreplacable. The other problem is that, here in the UK especially because of funding and financial necessity the Royal presents a constant turnaround of the bankable Macmillan three acters (which I must admit I loathe and the classics, which I love when presented with integrity and wit.) Balanchine insisted that the three act ballet was out of step with the modern world, as did Kirstein, as indeed did Ashton, who refused after Ondine, to make any more. Balanchine of course recognised the financial gains of the three act story ballet and created several, but it is his Jewels, which for me is a modern masterpiece, being as it is a brilliant evocation and reinvention of the classic ballet forms for the new world. The other problem I have with three act ballets is that of the story. Is the story actually one worth telling? For that matter if it weren't for Macmillan's R&J, Manon and Cranko's Onegin there would be no modern ie post 60's three act story ballets in the reps of companies the world over performed on a regular basis. How do you feel about the three act ballet? And by that I mean those apart from the classical canon.
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