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The Ashton evening


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I saw it on Feb. 13. I very much enjoyed it being a dancer who has never seen any Ashton ballets with the exception of La Fille.

"Les Patineurs": This ballet was a very cute and enjoyable ballet. The scenery and costumes were great as was the choreography! Dancing-wise, it was very nice. They definetally did a very good job :wink: . There were also some definate standouts; Masayoshi Onuki with a great solo full of elevated but light jumps and multiple turns and much energy. Another was Deanne Brown who had a duet part. She had fantastic stage presence and mastered beautiful but strong 28 fouette turns with an occasional double easily in a solo moment!

"Monotones I and II": This started off with Monotones I and lead to Monotones II. They are both beautiful and interesting pieces. The cosutmes and lighting also added a cool effect. Monotones I was done nicely. I felt the two female dancers were a little off balance in some spots, but they (along with Calvin Kitten) made beautiful positions nonetheless. Monotones II was performed with nice musicality. The choreography obviously called for a flexible female dancer. The dancers all seemed very controlled in this piece and the music was great, too. These were probably my favorite of the whole performance.

"A Wedding Bouquet": I would like to say first off that I thought the narrator was a fun touch to this ballet. It was a lot of acting, not so much dancing and was very fun and playful. Deanne Brown was great again as the maid, Stacey Joy Keller had great presence as the bride, Britta Lazenga was very funny as a drunken Josephine, Elizabeth Mertz was a very dramatic (that it was funny as it was supposed to be I assume) Julie? Julia? (I don't have the program with me.) And Jennifer Goodman was so cute, playful, and joyus as the part of the dog! It was a very nice evening and I very much enjoyed it. :)

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We went Saturday evening (and will return next Sunday). I've been planning to write -- time got away from me.

Ballet-a-holic listed the pieces in the order in which they were presented. I think it was a good order.

"Les Patineurs" is easy to "get", a very pleasant, pleasing ballet. The movements really do mimic skating. I was especially taken with a small detail: the dancers sway their heads from side to side as they enter and exit, evoking the body's reaction to the push-and-glide of skating. We saw lots of jetés entrelacés, which looked a lot like skating jumps. And lots of arabesques. I was especially impressed by the unity of the dancing in the ensemble parts. The extensions on those arabesques was uniform throughout (or, occasionally, proportional, with the women a tad higher than the men, but all the women the same and all the men the same). It looked as though the piece had been carefully coached and rehearsed.

We saw Calvin Kitten as the Boy in Blue. If ever a part suited a dancer, this is it. His pirouettes á la seconde were fabulous. I did not care for his mannerisms, though, which seem a bit too coy or cute. The set, by the way, was lovely -- a gazebo-like fence defined the skating rink, and overhead arched a canopy of tangled bare branches, from which hung an assortment of paper lanterns. Very gay and delightful, but elegant too, in a simple way.

Dolphingirl and I split on the Monotones: she preferred I (green) and I preferred II (white). I wonder how much of it had to do with the fact that we each liked the one whose music we already knew? After our previous discussion of these ballets, I tried to watch the dancers' lines and bodies to see how well they matched. Alas, I could not reach an informed judgment. They seemed fine to me. I was interested in how the trios would split into a-pair-and-a-single every so often. I also liked the way the dancing is so closely spaced, and how the beauty relies on the line and the shape of the dancers' bodies, and their interactions, rather than on big motions. It -- they -- are very contained ballets. I found them immensely satisfying.

A small quibble (or perhaps not so small) -- I really do not like the Joffrey's lighting designer. He is terribly fond of patchy, blotchy lighting. It showed up again in Monotones, and I did not care for the way the dancers faces moved in and out of shadow.

"Wedding Bouquet" was weird. Really. As the curtain fell, we both turned to each other and said simultaneously, "That was weird!" Not that I think it was danced badly, it just was not my cup of tea. I'd like to see it on the same program as "Lilac Garden", except I didn't like that one either, so I probably wouldn't actually go see it.

I think the problem with it is that there was little real emotional connection among the characters. Maybe that was the point? Willy Shive's Groom was debonair, but had the program notes not told me he had had dalliances with nearly all the women present I certainly wouldn't have divined it from their interactions. I did, however, like the bride's (Emily Patterson) cheerfully naive ignorance of her bridegroom's past and present transgressions. Maia Wilkins played the mad Julia to the hilt -- stroking her unkempt hair (I'm told this was a play on Giselle, but the allusion passed me by as I'm not familiar with that ballet), and staring fixedly and vacantly into space. Deborah Dawn was hilarious as the inebriated Josephine. Fabrice Calmels also caught my eye -- hard for him NOT to do, as at six-foot-something he stands literally head-and-shoulders above the rest of the company. His dancing was very solid, very pleasing, and in a way, very light.

We had not known what to expect of the narration. That part was cool! The rhythmicity and repetition of phrases was enthralling -- like singing, but without pitch.

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Treefrog is right that we disagreed on a few things; here are my takes on the evening.

Though I definitely agree that Calvin Kitten was a little too boyish, I don't think it was all that horrible. It wasn't completely inappropriate for the role. I actually have to say, I think that Les Patineurs was my least favorite of the night. Too obvious, and possibly even too cutesy. Maybe I'm missing something, but there seemed to be much more depth and character in the the other two. That's not to say that I didn't like it, though. I definitely liked the fact that for the ice, and the ice only, there was white marley. That was quite realistic. One thing I did not particularly like was the color of the pink costumes. They were far too bright in comparison to the other costumes and seemed to call undue attention to those two dancers, one of whom seemed to routinely have a secebesque. That's just me being picky though.

For Monotones, I enjoyed both quite a lot. 1 just struck me as more interesting choreography, and I think the music might have something to do with that, though I'm not sure that it's the fact that I knew the music. I just liked the first music more, and the music itself seemed more inspired. I'd have to watch them both again to say exactly what about the choreography I liked better, but I think it was something along the lines of 1 being more fluid, and 2 being more shape to shape to shape. 1 also seemed a little bit more like my style of choreography, though much more developed, of course. I found myself deciding what I wanted the dancers to do next.

A Wedding Bouquet was certainly quite wierd, but actually, incredibly pleasing. I loved the narration, and found myself cracking up quite a bit. The little bits after each character listed in the program were funny too. While I'm thinking of it, on the same program Treefrog mentions, I might add Les Noces. It just seems right to me. I'm not even sure if I can explain why. As for the dancing and the choreography, I enjoyed both, but I guess maybe found it a little too unoriginal at some points, for such being pretty original otherwise. Some characters were well developed on stage, and some were not. Thus, at places where many characters were onstage together, I think there was less feeling being emanated. I did find Julia and her dog to be a particular highlight. My big question though, is whether or not that was a wig that Maia Wilkins was wearing. I'm not sure quite how she would have hidden her real hair underneath, because I know she has very long hair, but I'm also not sure how she would manage to make her blonde curly hair not just straight and red, but also limp and bodyless.

My impressions may change after Sunday, when I get a chance to see it again, but these are some of my main impressions.

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Dolphingirl, your instinct are good!

Ashton revived Les Noces for the Royal Ballet in the mid-60s, and he's one of the people who helped saved the Nijinska repertory from total obscurity. The work became part of the Royal Ballet style of the mid-60s as much as Monotones. As for a thematic link to A Wedding Bouquet, most certainly. Two very different marriages though!

Everyone's comments on the programs are so interesting; I'm thrilled we'll be getting some tastes of it this summer in New York.

Would anyone else like to report in?

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Here are some impressions after a second viewing (of the same cast):

I see exactly what Dolphingirl means about the two Monotones. II really does go shape-to-shape; I is more about the journey than the destination. I appreciated I much more this time. She's right, the flow is much more interesting in some ways.

I also got more out of Wedding Bouquet the second time around, and I'm no longer so quick to condemn it. I tuned out the narration this time, and paid more attention to the dancing -- a good strategy, as the narration (and I'm paraphrasing the program here) sometimes tells the story, sometimes comments on it, and sometimes has no overt connection at all. This time, I picked up on the Bridegroom's longing for Julia (his old flame), and his disdain and distaste for his bride. The latter, of course, remains cheerfully oblivious. Once I stopped trying to make sense of the story and accepted it as a series of vignettes, I was much more able to simply enjoy the dancing.

Three totally different ballets (four if you count the Monotones separately) -- and yet, strong choreographic links among them. The same lift appeared in each ballet, I think -- the man sticks out his right leg and rolls the woman upside down over his hip while she opens her legs into a split (but not a wide one). This lift appears repeatedly in Les Patineurs, once with an impish "Look Ma, no hands!" embellishment. But it's also in Wedding Bouquet, and, I'm pretty sure, in at least one of the Monotones. There was a short pas de trois in Wedding Bouquet that echoed something in Monotones I. I suppose all the similarity could be boring, but it was somehow satisfying to see the same elements employed to different rhythms and creating different effects.

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