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Thanks everyone for your wonderful input. I am interested in hearing everything anyone has to say about this rare ballet.

Many years ago, when I first saw Joffrey perform "Monotones I & II", I was in love with the 2nd (white) one. It was serene and beautiful. Kevin McKenzie was in the cast with Robert Thomas and an exquisite woman- Ingrid Fraley. Pamela Nearhoof was the original white girl at Joffrey. I believe she was the first dancer outside the Royal Ballet to perform the ballet.

Now, twenty something years and several incarnations of "Monotones I & II" later, I very much appreciate and love the first (green) one.

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Paul, thank you for that beautiful post. According to David Vaughn's biography of Ashton, he did see Cunningham's "Septet" and "Monotones" was his response. Which raises an interesting question -- that's a very unusual thing to do, one great choreographer seeing the work of another great choreographer and setting a very similar work -- same music, similar atmosphere, similar costumes. AND that the second work, the "copycat" work would also be great -- I can't think of another instance of that. (There are instances of lesser choreographers copying, of course, and of copying something that the home audience would not have seen. But in this case, I think everyone in Ashton's world would have seen "Septet" and I don't think he made any secret that "Monotones" was a homage.

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Rodney, I think the remakes of the 19th century story ballets are in a different category from Ashton's homage to Cunningham (as are his and Balanchine's twiddling with and revising Petipa). Nearly every 19th century European ballet company had a version of "La Sylphide" and "Giselle" and the other standards of the day; Bournonville also did a Don Quixote (before Petipa), much the same way that nealry every company has a "Swan Lake" and "Dracula."

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I take your point, Alexandra, but I wonder if one shouldn't distinguish between Petipa's remakes of apparently humdrum ballets like Corsaire--which was probably a remake in toto, with extensive musical insertion--and the much more tactful kind of redaction we find in Giselle, to which the comparatively limited musical tinkering (two inserts only, and not very substantial cuts) bears witness. Perrot was an acknowledged international master when Petipa tackled Giselle for the first time, and his (Perrot's) version (I think, though I would need to check facts) probably had the sort of authoritativeness that Ivanov's Lac II enjoys today. Even Graeme Murphy, apparently, has had to include bits of the latter in his new version of the ballet. I sense that the Petipa Giselle (which has a rather different look from the lithographic and engraved record of the Coralli/Perrot--not that that's very reliable one) was a kind of homage to the Romantic ballet but made with Petipan resources, just as--apparently--Ashton did homage to Cunningham in the language of points and turn-out. (I have seen neither ballet, but that's what I have gathered from you and Paul.)

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I think Petipa and Bournonville adapted, as balletmasters of the day did (and I think Petipa's changes to Giselle were quite substantial; the grand pas classique in Act II). We can't compare the originals, since Perrot's Giselle and Taglioni's Sylphide are lost. What Ashton did was different. I probably erred in calling it a homage, actually. I think he saw an idea, liked it, but wanted to do his own version (and I think it goes beyond putting it on pointea nd turning it out. Ashton is about continuity of line). To me, these are two different things.

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You are right, of course, about the suppositiousness of any comparison between Perrot and Petipa, or Bournonville and Taglioni, though I like to think that the best of both are somehow ingested and lodged within the surviving texts. In the case of the Cunningham/Ashton scenario, it might be appropriate to factor in the possessiveness (if that's the right word) that A felt toward music that he believed he could choreograph well to. I base this on the fact that Lambert actually offered Les Patineurs to Dame Ninette, and she might already have begun choreographing when A overheard it and said, more or less: "It's much more MY kind of music than HER kind." And so the change was made. Ashton only infrequently worked with commissioned scores, and, it seems, was never at his best with them. He chiefly had eyes for the music of others--Sylvia, Two Pigeons, Fille etc etc.

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Just watched an old taped off of tv video of Monotones II.

I have "Swan Lake" with Makarova/Dowell and then "Monotones II", "Five Brahams Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan" (Lynn Seymour is still nothing short of amazing), and "Romeo and Juliet" balcony pas with Leslie Collier and Antony Dowell all on the same video. All of the performances are given at the Royal Opera House.

In Monotones II I'm pretty sure the woman is Vergie Derman but does anyone know who the two men are?

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Sorry I can't answer any of the questions...

Just thought I'd give a "heads up" that San Francisco Ballet has Monotones I & II scheduled in their 2004 season. It will be performed w/ Symphonic Variations (SF Ballet premiere) and Elite Syncopations in April. Got this info. from the company's website.

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indeed this cast is quite familiar as it was telecast in '78, on a program as follows:

The Royal Ballet salutes the U.S.A. 1978.

(140 min.) : sd., color

Performance by the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, telecast live by satellite on WNEW-TV/Channel 5, New York on July 22, 1978. A BBC presentation in association with Metromedia Television, New York. Producer: Brian Large. Television directors: Colin Nears, Bob Lockyer, and Brian Large. Host: Gene Kelly.

CONTENTS. - Elite syncopations. Choreography: Kenneth Macmillan. Music: Scott Joplin. Costumes: Ian Spurling. Performed by Vergie Derman, Monica Mason, Alfreda Thorogood, Michael Colemen, Wayne Eagling, Stephen Jefferies, Wayne Sleep, Jennifer Penney, and Derek Deane. Four Schumann pieces (beginning) Choreography: Hans van Manen. Music: Robert Schumann (String quartet in A major, op. 41, no. 3) Designer: Jean Paul Vroom. Performed by Anthony Dowell, Jennifer Penney, Wayne Eagling, Lesley Collier, Julian Hosking, Wendy Ellis, Michael Corder, Marguerite Porter, Mark Silver, Wendy Groombridge, and Derek Deane. - Four Schumann pieces (conclusion of 3d movement; 4th movement) La fille mal gardée: Fanny Elssler pas de deux. Choreography: Frederick Ashton. Music: Ferdinand Hérold. Performed by Wendy Ellis and Michael Coleman. The sleeping beauty: Bluebird and Princess Florine pas de deux. Choreography: Marius Petipa. Music: Petr Chaikovskii. Performed by Jennifer Penney and Wayne Eagling. Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Choreography: Frederick Ashton. Music: Percy Grainger. Performed by Lesley Collier, Wayne Sleep, and Graham Fletcher. Monotones II. Choreography: Frederick Ashton. Music: Erik Satie. Performed by Vergie Derman, Derek Deane, and Mark Silver. Brahms waltzes in the manner of Isadora Duncan. Choreography: Frederick Ashton. Music: Johannes Brahms. Performed by Lynn Seymour. Solo piano: Philip Gammon.

Romeo and Juliet: Balcony pas de deux (beginning) Choreography: Kenneth Macmillan. Music: Sergei Prokof'ev. Performed by Lesley Collier and Anthony Dowell. - Romeo and Juliet (conclusion) Brief commentary by Clive Barnes at end.

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I going to have to resign from my "organizational duty" on the Monotones get-together. I'm leaving for an extended trip the day after the weekend Monotones is being performed by SFBallet, and won't be able to attend. Aaaagh; that makes 2 out of 2 since I was supposed to go to Chicago for it too. One person has a ticket for the matinee Saturday, April 17th. Either she (lurking at the moment) or others should plan to get together.

And, or course, I'll be green green green.

And packing.


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