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Mixed Programme

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Hi, Maria! I'll be eager to read your comments.

Here are two reviews of the program (filched from our Links forum today):

The Royal Ballet offered an all-Balanchine program for the choreographer's centennial.

The Royal Ballet is now an international company, and it dances Agon in several different accents. (Conductor Paul Hoskins's sludgy rhythms don't help.) The corps of girls tend to small-scale primness. Soloists, especially those returning to the ballet, strike out more strongly. Zenaida Yanowsky is getting bolder with every Balanchine role she dances. Her account of the ballerina role had always been forceful, if a little correct. This time she's found more contrast, more scale and much more glamour in the great pas de deux. Johan Kobborg's steps, still cut- glass, are freer.

With Prodigal Son, feted ballerina Sylvie Guillem is the Siren to Carlos Acosta's Prodigal. In fact, Guillem is the evening's weakest casting. As the Siren grips the Prodigal between her thighs, their duet is sexually explicit and icily stylised. It's eroticism at its cruellest, but Guillem prettifies it. She looks overstretched by those dances — she gives full value to the sky-high legs, but skimps on weighted gestures.

Agon (1957) needs no help from its dancers — its lean elegant moves and cool ironies look as if they were made yesterday. But Wednesday's cast served it superbly. The four men forced their baiting, competitive variations to an edge of pure arrogance while Lauren Cuthbertson remained wittily poised throughout her tough choppy solos. It was Zenaida Yanowsky though who pushed herself to the most extraordinary place. On one level she handled the choreography like a personal armoury, every arabesque sprung for killer potential every dip of the torso modulated for effect. Yet there was a remote wistfulness behind her gaze that unlocked whole other layers in the ballet.

But I'll second Maria's call for comments from the Board. :flowers:

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I have to say I was surprised by how much I enojyed the Balanchine triple bill (Thursday 29th Jan 2004)!! Usually it takes me about 3 or 4 attempts at watching his ballets before i can fully understand/ apperciate/ enjoy them.

Agon, a (in my eyes) typical balanchine piece, classroom clad in leotards and tights, the dancers having to be perfectly 'in time' or risk messing the whole thing up for themselves and the other dancers! I personally have had a go at dancing the solo in the 2nd pas de trois (bransle gay) and appriciate just how difficult it is., but Lauren Cuthbertson (who replaced Jaimie Tapper, who was injured) looked like she could have danced it in her sleep! PERFECTO!!!!! Edward Watson also danced as wonderfully as he always does. I must say that i liked the the Sarabande, Galliard and coda, I know it was Johan, and i'm biased, but it really was fab. Clear timing, clean footwork but not a smile in sight. Generally Agon was danced well, performed well and recieved well (by me at least).

Prodigal Son, danced by Carlos Acosta was 'dramatically' performed- was i think it should be. I must admit, however, this kind of ballet really isn't my cup of tea. A little too amusing, with the funny tribes men (apparently 'drinking companions) and the siren (Guillem) who looks so out of place, it almost seems as though she acidentally walked on to the stage from a rehearsal of 'Come follow the Band'! But it was watchable, for sure!

Symphony in C was 'ab fab'! The first movement featuring Cojocaru and Putrov would have been great had it not looked as though Putrov was more interested in the audience than in in his partner. None the less, still the usual sparkling performance from the Romanian RB balletrina! Now Lauren Cuthbertson, she was stunning. Clean, precise, full of life and youthful vigour. In the end sequence where the the 4 balletrinas are in a line at the front, dispite both Cojocaru and Rojo being in the same line, I could not take my eyes of Cuthbertson. I can't wait to see her in R&J with Watson, It'l be the 1st time the RB audeince will see her as a character or as a human being- in opposed to a season! Its all very exciting......

Morera looked as if she'd gone out on a windy day and smiled, it was stuck! Her dancing was great, dispite having what looked like 'disagrements' with her partner Urlezaga! Rojo and Watson, danced the 4th movement. I find them a strange pairing, but they danced well together! I hope Watson will at some point learn to control his flexabilty, don't get me wrong it can look great some times but at othertimes its better to play it down a little- this is, of course, the skill of the great dancer- otherwise he will just be known as Watson - the flexy guy!! :thumbsup:

How did everyone else feel about the Mr.B bill????????

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Thank you danciegirlmaria for the review. It's interesting in all the reviews of this program I've read, nobody wrote about the 2nd movement ballerina in Symphony in C, which is usually the first thing people at NYCB talk about, it's a sacred role. So, danciegirlmaria, who did the melting 2nd movement and was she not so memorable?

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I wouldn't say it was an evening of Balanchine, any more than one would say that one of those cheapo bottles of knock off perfumes you buy from street vendors are anything like the real thing.

I got what I expected. I said I'd write a review on ballet.co and then I'll copy and paste it here in case anyone's interested.

I wasn't that annoyed really, I got what I expected. However, I will say a so-so night fell to pieces in Symphony in C which was extremely bad. The company just didn't have what it takes and it was ill-advised for the Royal to mount a Balanchine production which requires so much technique polish and panache from the corps. If they'd stuck with 4 Ts or Apollo they might have pulled it off as an evening. Cojocaru was atrocious by the way, and with many ingenues who suddenly find themselves "stars" she is taking huge liberties with choreography and musicality. Also the weak feet are getting worse and severly hamper her ability to pull off Balanchine.

The highlight and triumph of the evening was Yanowsky. Now there's a Ballerina

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who did the melting 2nd movement and was she not so memorable?

That was Lauren Cuthbertson, Dale. No, she was not so memorable. That's the Farrell section if I am not mistaken? I saw a video of Farrell performing it at Lincoln Centre library and she was blinding. Cuthbertson not so.

Much has been made about the deluge of "principals" performing that night. And this was another problem with the night, a lot of principals not evincing much "star" quality.

Cuthbertson must get an honourable mention though as earlier in the night her shoe came off and she had to adjust it onstage which can't have made her feel too great about the whole affair. But I do think that casting a young and promising dancer who is still very green in such a pivotal role with such a deep history behind it was a bit of a wrong decision.

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Out of curiosity, what version of Symphony in C was set and who set it? (Specifically, do the leads do double saut-de-basques in the third movement or single chasse en tournant?) Simon, Farrell didn't create the role in Symphony in C, (Paris - Toumanova, NY - LeClercq) but she is strongly associated with it. She is the one who first put her head to her knee in the arabesque penche, which is omitted in some settings and by some ballerinas.

I'm OK with a no-smile Agon. It shouldn't be dour, but it's not a smiley ballet.

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From what I remember from the programme notes last week, there was no mention of anyone from the Balanchine Trust being responsible for staging "Symphony in C". (It's the same version which the Royal Ballet danced in the 1990s with costumes designed by Dowell.) Patricia Neary was listed as the stager for the other two Balanchine ballets - Agon and Prodigal Son.

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You had to feel sorry for Lauren Cuthbertson. She's still a teenager and has been given a huge amount to do this season - 12 new roles at least, to culminate in Juliet next month. As Simon says, she'd had a problem already in Agon, and in Symphony in C she didn't get anything like the support she needed from her partner - it would have been interesting to see how she got on with the advertised but absent Jonathan Cope - and she looked noticeably happier and more confident when she was dancing on her own. Though I don't think she's ready for this role yet - she was the 4th choice, with Bussell, Tapper and Yanowsky all having disappeared for one reason and another - she's doing every performance inthe run so it will be interesting to see if she can improve by the end of it. There's no doubt about her promise.

I seem to be at odds with alsmost everyone else in that I didn't enjoy Guillem's Siren in Prodigal Son - I don't know it it's that she doesn't carry, or what, but I didn't see anything of the erotic or exotic flavour that has so excited others - she looked totally unsexy to me. But I guess this may be literally a case of 'whatever turns you on'. And I do agree that Yanowsky was terrific.

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I seem to be at odds with alsmost everyone else in that I didn't enjoy Guillem's Siren in Prodigal Son - I don't know it it's that she doesn't carry, or what, but I didn't see anything of the erotic or exotic flavour that has so excited others - she looked totally unsexy to me. But I guess this may be literally a case of 'whatever turns you on'.

You're not at odds with me Jane, I thought she hardly lit up the stage with anything akin to the eroticism or ambivalence the role needs.

It's interesting seeing Guillem in this late stage of her career, it's as if she's trying to recast herself as a grand tragedienne, especially in roles created on notable great dramatic ballerinas: Petrovna, Marguerite etc. Yet she still seems obliged to pull out the technical tricks and extensions which made her name and what you get is an odd hybrid which doesn't work. There was quite a nice bitchy quote about Gwyneth Paltrow I read in the Guardian yesterday that she is "a reputation in search of a basis" and this I think fits Guillem too, or rather fits the dancer she is trying to become.

The Siren is not an easy role, she must encompass a raging sexuality with total ambivalence, she is a cypher, yet at the same time make an impact in her own right. She doesn't do to the Prodigal what she does because she's sought him out, because she's singled him out etc she does to him because it's in her nature, almost like a scorpion stinging; rampant, destructive desire doesn't motivate her - it is herself. On top of that of course you can put a whole wealth of detail, it's a plum role, but to attach any great import of intent to her ironically destroys her as a dramatic convention. Again the problem with the Millennium Guillem - she's thinking too much.

Carlos Acosta, really irritates me in terms of his dramatic interpretation. He is to the nostril what Roger Moore is to the eyebrow. And all this BS in every review about his "Latin Fire", all that smoke clouds any depth of interest for me. I saw Edward Villella on film perform this role - his career was kind of over before I was born - and even on film it set a benchmark for me as to how this role should be. You have to care about the Prodigal's downfall and with Acosta I just don't care.

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Thanks to Maria, Jane and Simon for these -- it sounds like a bumpy night, although not without interest.

Simon, I was struck by your comments about Guillem the Tragedienne (I've seen her "Month in the Country" and her Marguerite -- she's not my idea of an Ashton dancer. I think she's interesting in those roles only as they are an extension of herself -- Natalia P, married to a rich man, yes, but stuck in the country what a bore -- and a courtesan who is suddenly selfless. I would have thought she'd make a good Siren -- tall, thin and icy, but I'm also not surprised she's not.

But the Tragedienne -- is it because this is the career path for end of career ballerinas? Men find their way into modern dance. Women cling to Giselle and her sisters like grim death.

I'm curious about Edward Watson too -- a dancer I haven't seen much of (and never in a major role), but who's often mentioned as one of the Boys Most Likely. Maria liked him in Agon -- others?

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I'm curious about Edward Watson too -- a dancer I haven't seen much of (and never in a major role), but who's often mentioned as one of the Boys Most Likely.

Yes Alexandra, the Boy most likely to join a circus if a vacancy for the rubber man ever comes up.

Watson is supple, Zakharova, Vishneva, Kowroski supple. And this flexibility hampers any chance of properly assessing him as a dancer away from that hyper mobility.

Lynn Seymour coaching him as Romeo said in the rehearsal room "It's fine just everything seems blanded down nowadays.

He's also not a boy any more he's 30 and at the stage where unless a dancer really wants to change their technique is pretty much set as what works for them and this also severely hampers Watson's progress as a ballet dancer.

He works very much in the modern rep where his hyper extensions can be seen to effect. His face is a constant blank and it all really falls apart in the classical rep. The problem with that much flexibility is that the muscles are not able to cope with the dense batterie, tours and enchainements that are required in the classical variations. I've seen him screw up the peasant pas de six big style several times. Also his strength in controlling those extensions is not iron clad, he wobbles, a lot.

Balanchine's men need an imperious control, they also need to bring different qualities to the dance from the women, for whom Balanchine really pushed the boat out in terms of exploring the extension and its means of expression.

Watson being a product of the RB school and one of the few thereof to have actually risen through the ranks gets a lot of attention for this, also his flexibility developed to awesome extremes is his calling card. After two mintues of watching Watson dance though one thinks "Yes, okay, you're loose. When are you going to start dancing?"

I'm sorry Maria, but I find Watson very much a one trick pony and that trick has very little to do with dancing.

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Maybe you misread but id said of Watson:

I hope Watson will at some point learn to control his flexabilty, don't get me wrong it can look great some times but at othertimes its better to play it down a little- this is, of course, the skill of the great dancer- otherwise he will just be known as Watson - the flexy guy!!  :P 

By sometimes i basically ment modern works, and i do agree with your comments although they are rather harsh! At the end of the day RB obviously think he's worth keeping, and he's paid to do what he does so to speak, so if the company really disliked him they'd sack him!

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I didn't inted it to be harsh, just honest. The problem with Watson is the problem with the RB as a whole, or rather the RB as a roster of principals and little else. Each principal is becoming a parody of themeselves, each principal seems to dance to their own rhythm with very little awareness of their fellow dancers or the nature of the choreography.

I have a book from the 1950s which discusses the RB, which at that time was considered to be the greatest company in the world AND boasted a roster of stars trained in the school and company. But in the book it spoke of Fonteyn saying it believed her greatest triumph was in Symphonic Variations where the ballerina must tone down her own personality to be a part of the whole, it went on to say that this was truly the hallmark of greatness.

Symphony in C is just such an incredible ballet so so so so SO beautiful but it needs a corps who are cohesive, it needs a set of dancers who though taking principal roles are willing to sublimate status and ego to the piece. What we saw Maria the other day wasn't Symphony and its wrong of anyone to judge the piece as Balanchine.

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I think Romeo is going to be a real make-or-break test for Watson - even apart from his technique, the stamina and partnering skills it needs are of a different order from anything he's tried before. I've always thought he had an outstanding if extrememly idiosyncratic talent (I first saw him almost exactly 10 yearrs ago, when he was still at school - he surely can't be 30, Simon?) and I was constantly astonished that Anthony Dowell left him for something like 5 years in the lower ranks of the company without giving him anything to do. I personally think he's amazing in things like the recent Wayne McGregor piece, but whether there's enough in the repertoire for him we'll know better after his Romeo. (Incidentally I'm not at all sure that it's a good idea to put him on with a new Juliet, Lauren Cuthbertson - unless they're going to strike sparks off one another and become the next great partnership I'd have thought they'd both be better making their debuts with a more experienced partner.)

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I am really looking forward to the Watson/Cuthbertson Romeo and Juliet-I have my fingers crossed that it will be a night to remember! (Jane, I think he is about the 30yr old mark-eek!)

As for the Mixed Bill, I have only managed to see the rehearsal but it was still pretty good. I enjoyed Agon until I saw Symphony in C which I enjoyed so much more. I thought that there was real sparkle to some of the performances, especially Isabel McMeekan and Deidre Chapman.

I really loved The Prodigal Son, but I agree with you, Simon, about Carlos. I find his personality comes through too much in a role, I can't seem to get away from seeing Carlos on stage rather than the character he is playing.

That said, he does have a fabulous jump and I thought he and Sylvie worked well together. She was in excellent form. Has anyone seen the other cast for this with Zenaida Yanowsky/Ivan Putrov- it's not a partnership that I can see working, especially that lift with the Siren holding the Son with her thighs?

Rebekah xx

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I saw the second cast last night - the Putrov/Yanowsky pairing did give rise to a few giggles: I thought Acosta/Yanowsky and Putrov/Guillem would have worked better than the other way round.

Star of the show, I thought, was Yoshida in the first movement of Symphony in C. Cuthbertson was noticeably better than last week - her musicality is starting to show and there were some really lovely moments.

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Yoshida is having an excellent season - after some years of partial eclipse she seems to have re-emerged in 'senior ballerina' mode. Both here and in Cinderella she has an air of someone showing all these young things how it should be done - not explicit in any way, just a feeling that she's totally in command and can make her point with a wonderful economy of effort. I haven't seen her in such good form since she was a girl and zipped through Theme and Variations as if it were no trouble at all.

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I just HAD to pop in here when Yoshida was mentioned. She has not been a favorite of mine but I saw her in "Giselle" Friday (yup, I was in London. 5 nights of ballet!) and was truly impressed. Saw Cojocaru the night before, and although Act II belongs to Cojocaru I actually enjoyed Yoshida's Act I more. She nailed her final solo!

Maybe more later; I have terminal jet lag.


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