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Robert Johnson in the Star-Ledger

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Ari posted this on Links, but I wanted to move it here for discussion.

Robert Johnson has a very long, thorough preview piece on the Ashton Celebration, the logistics, the reason for it, and some great quotes.

Here's the piece:

Celebrating a giant of dance

and here are some quotes:

From David Eden, whose idea this was:

Eden looks forward to wallowing in this abundance with his fellow balletomaniacs. But the Ashton celebration also has a more serious purpose. The world of classical ballet, Eden acknowledges, is "built on tradition and innovation within that tradition." Without the present example of Ashton's creative neo-classicism, he says, the art form may become diminished.

He believes young people need to experience Ashton, as his own generation did, and to enrich themselves from his works, just as Ashton found inspiration in the ballets of 19th-century choreographer Marius Petipa.

Ashton came under the influence of Ballets Russes choreographers Bronislava Nijinska and Léonide Massine as well. Yet he developed a powerfully original voice. Says Eden, "Ballet is a very great art form, and when someone has a mastery of the classical idiom, as Ashton did, the possibilities are limitless."

From Monica Mason, on Ashton's style:

"Once you've been in a room with Frederick Ashton you can't help but know the qualities that he admired in dancers," Mason says, remembering the choreographer's intensity and his readiness to critique a performance frankly.

"First of all, he loved romance," Mason says. "He loved theatricality and glamour on the stage, and he loved lyricism and beauty. He wanted women to be like women, and men to be like men. He was extremely musical himself, and he expected his dancers to be very musical. He wasn't interested in someone who couldn't phrase things. He loved sparkling, fast footwork and an ability to move very, very quickly and also very slowly. He loved contrast."

Speaking of the Royal Ballet's challenge today of dancing Ashton's ballets as he would have liked, Mason says: "We strive very much to keep the upper bodies mobile. As the legs have gone higher and higher, it gets harder to move the bodies freely. But, certainly with Ashton, he didn't like very high legs. He wasn't interested in them. He was interested in the whole picture, and he wanted the whole body in movement. He loved seeing people move with great freedom and agility.

[emphasis added; it's the clearest explanation I've read about another reason, besides distortion of line, that today's high extensions are not always appropriate; thank you Ms. Mason!]
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Alexandra, I read the article and it was wonderful. I love the why they talk about the creative process of Sir Frederick and how much he loved American audience and how we love him and his works. If I didn't already have tickets for the performances and certainly would have gone to Lincoln Center and buy me some after reading the article. I'm looking forward to the festival.

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I think there's a wonderful artist's credo hidden in the last quote of the piece:

"[Ashton] lived in dread of boring anybody, and I think he had the ability to know exactly how long his ballets should be. So he [...] left you wanting a little bit more."

Hello, Wagner...

(May I grouchily say it's not the most elegantly written piece I have ever seen, what with the RB behemoth occupying the Met "in solitude" etc?)


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