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Ashton in other companies

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The one thing I'd like to see come out of the Ashton Celebration is to get some more Ashton out there for people to see.

In an email exchange, a friend who's seen Scenes de Ballet often said she'd like to see POB do it.

I know the look would change, especially the torso (French placement is so solid because the torso holds its shape from shoulders to hips) but I think the Parisian sense of chic could make for an interesting version.

I would rather not see ABT do Scenes. I think Rhapsody would be a good choice for them and also possibly The Two Pigeons It wouldn't hurt SFB to consider The Two Pigeons either. (I'd give a lot just to be able to see that more frequently!)

NYCB originated two Ashton works - Illuminations and Picnic at Tintagel. I think Ashton on the present company would look like a very different animal, but if the RB can do a few well selected works of Balanchine, could NYCB do the same with Ashton? If so, what would be the right choice for something that could be done within NYCB's style?

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I've liked ABT's Ashton very much -- more than anything else in their repertory, actually. Judging from photos only, I'd like to see San Francisco Ballet do Ashton. And I think they'd be interesting in "Illuminations," too. I think "Picnic at Tintagel" is a goner.

I'd second "Scenes" for Paris. They'd have the crystalline brilliance the ballet needs, and, According to Vaughan, Ashton was a great admirer of the French style.

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The first Ashton ballet that comes to mind when thinking about NYCB performing is Monotones I & II. Its a ballet that is plotless and abtract. I could see say Janie Taylor, Edwaard Liang and Stephen Hanna in part I and Wendy Whelan, Sebastien Marcovici and Robert Trewsley in part II.

I remember someone writing here about Kyra Nichols qualities as a dancer as being of the earth. I think they were right and because of those qualities I think Five Brahms Waltzers in the Manner of Isadora Duncan would be a magnificent showpiece for Nichols.

But the ballet I would really love to see NYCB try to perform would be Les Patineurs. A joyous and fun plotless ballet with a touch of characterization that would give City Ballet dancers an opportunity to let their hair down and have some fun. But that's not to say this ballet would not challenge them technically - this is not a ballet easily perform. This ballet I think could stitch them both technically and in term of character development. The Blue Boy is a happy go lucky virtuoso; the Couple in White are charmingly sweet; The Girls in Blue are dazzling show-offs; and the Girls in Red are deliriously goofy.

The Boy in Blue: Damian Woetzel, Peter Boal, Joaquin DeLuz

The Girls in Blue: Sofiane Sylve & Maria Kowroski; Jennie Somogyi & Miranda Weese

The Couple in White: Jenifer Ringer & James Fayette; Yvonne Borre & Stephen Hanna

The Girls in Red: Alexandra Ansanelli & Ashley Bouder; Amanda Edge & Carla Korbes

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I'm going to hell for this, but the last thing I want to see NYCB do, much as I love the company, is Monotones. Their training doesn't lead to it no matter how plotless and non-narrative it is. It would just end up leaving them exposed on the stage. They don't have those kinds of lines and that kind of strength.

Nichols could be quite interesting in the Duncan, and I think the company could do Patineurs.

re: ABT - I have liked their Ashton, especially Fille mal Gardee. But ABT's version of Symphonic Variations leads me to think Rhapsody is a better choice for them than Scenes.

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I would rather not see ABT do Scenes.  I think Rhapsody would be a good choice for them and also possibly The Two Pigeons

Funny, that's EXACTLY what I was thinking! I'd also love to see ABT revive their production of Les Patineurs, and tackle Monotones (the studio company did it last year, but I'd love to see the main company do it - the casting possibilities are endless).

On the other hand, who could argue with GeorgeB fan's desire to see Wendy Whelan in MonotonesII? Let's just hope the NY companies add lots of Ashton to their repertories this year! :yes:

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It would be interesting to see Illuminations again at NYCB. I saw it once, I think with Castelli as Rimbaud. Leland has danced Profane Love, so it is probably revivable. Millepied or Hubbe might be interesting in the lean role.

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Leigh, I'm surprise you don't think NYCB don't have the line or strength to perform Monotones. I think they could perform it. Granted I don't think they will perform as brilliantly as The Royal Ballet or The Joffrey Ballet for example, but I do think they could carry it off. But I do respect and in a way understand your opinion. :)

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GeorgeB - It's not that I don't think they have line or strength - it's that they don't have *that* line or strength. I was not entirely satisfied with the Joffrey's performances of Monotones in the Celebration for the same reason. It's not that they couldn't do the steps individually, but there isn't the same depth as with a company that does Petipa (and not Balanchine-Petipa, Petipa-Petipa of the English sort via Cecchetti. 37 arabesques down a ramp holding your leg at exactly 90 degrees Petipa). The daily class you take, the other ballets you dance - it all shows in what you are dancing that night, and I think that to do Ashton, you need to do Petipa regularly. I think Monotones would only scream "WE DON'T DO ASHTON!" if City Ballet did it. It would be like starting the Royal with Movements for Piano and Orchestra instead of Allegro Brillante.

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Miami City Ballet already has Patineurs in its rep and does it very nicely. I think they could also take on The Two Pigeons, A Wedding Bouquet (I'm guessing here, since I've never seen the ballet), and Cinderella.

Although ABT is always on the lookout for full-length ballets, I don't think Cinderella would be a good fit for them. Its charms are of the gentle, quiet variety, and ABT's style is big and brassy.

I wish some company would add Ashton's Romeo & Juliet to its rep, if only to keep the ballet alive. I don't think the English National Ballet, which has revived it in the past, has done it for many years. You'd think there would be lots of companies eager to snap this up, as R&J is box office gold, but perhaps it's hard to get someone to stage it. (?) How about the Royal Danish Ballet, for whom the ballet was made? They could give Neumeier's version (which isn't bad, actually) a rest for a while.

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Peter Schaufuss owns the rights to the ballet, as well as the sets and costumes. When he staged it in Copenhagen it was a bust -- it wasn't well staged. I love it, and would like to see it in repertory, but I think the chances are slim.

I'd rather see ABT do Ashton's "Cinderella" than Stevenson's (the version they had last). It would help them be less brassy :) They were in the right key for "The Dream" and "Fille," so I think they could do it.

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Leigh I know there was a reason why I respect your opinion. After reading your latest post I can see where you are coming from. NYCB may not be able to pull off the necessary lines and style its needed to perform Monotones. But I would still love to see them try! :)

By the way speaking of NYCB performing Ashton are any other choreograher's work, isn't there, or it seems at least, an unwritten policy in where they don't perform ballets that was not created for their company. Does anyone know if this is true or not?

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I think I would enjoy seeing Jennifer Ringer (and perhaps Ashley Bouder or Jenny Somogyi) in Les Rendezvous. However, I am working from somewhat dim memory images of the ballerina role and am not sure how the ballet would suit NYCB as a whole. Still, it might. When ABT did it some years back, several people noticed that one tour de force in the choreography for the ballerina was actually similar to something Balanchine choreographed for Merrill Ashley in Ballo della Regina. I am afraid I can't recall the exact steps--it involved a repeating echappe to second on point into (or out of) some sort of turn or jump. (There's a precise description.) However, I'd be happy enough to see the Royal revive it for Cojocaru or, at least read about them doing so since I probably wouldn't be able to see it!

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Drew, I hadn't read that about "Ballo" (and I don't remember the step, not that that means anything!) but the step you describe is also on the Elfeldt film (made in Copenhagen c. 1906) in a solo from an opera divertissement. This bolsters my theory that there was, onceuponatime, ONE ballet, c. 1646, from which all later ballets descend!

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A bit off topic--but it IS really fascinating to think about how certain choreographic materials get passed down. (Alexandra--Dance historians have their work cut out for them!)

To stay with Ashton and a fairly straightforward example: Karsavina shows him some of the pantomime she did in the Maryinsky La Fille Mal Gardee, presumably a Petipa or at any rate late nineteenth-century version and it ends up in his Fille--but how much really goes back to the late 18th-century "original" and whatever ballet (or boulevard/carnival theatrics) that may have hearkened back to...

I have an acquaintance who knows nothing about ballet who saw Ashton's Fille and assumed it WAS an 18th century ballet, which an English choreographer/director had, more or less accurately, revived. I corrected her, but found myself wondering if there wasn't a bit of "truth" in her mistake anyway.

Presumably, many ballet enchainments and images have been preserved, much more indirectly, perhaps through classroom syllabi, and long after the ballets were lost or forgotten. This in no way is a slight to Ashton (or any other choreographer)--most cultural histories work by way of quotations, citations, and revisions whether these are direct, indirect, conscious, unconscious, or, well, you get the idea...Still, it's very intriguing to hear about the genealogy.

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I think, too, that sometimes choreographers deliberately include things so that they are preserved -- including the mime scene that Karsavina taught Ashton. And David Vaughan notes in his book several examples of little scenes from Pavlova ballets that Ashton quoted. Balanchine, I've read, deliberately used steps that were otherwise in danger of extinction when he made ballets to 19th century music, especially Romantic-era music.

It's hard to find out, because dancers' memories of their art are like our memories of our families. Many of us can go back to our grandparents, but after that. ...whose turkey recipe was that? We don't know. There are gestures -- many of them stock, or that were stock at the time, taken from theater -- whose origins have also been lost. (One of my favorite stories is Father Menestier, writing in the mid-17th century, complaining that Italians today just aren't what they used to be. Why, we used to talk with our hands! he noted. Now everyone is so tame and quiet.....)

It always stuns me that there is not one single step left of Noverre. Bournonville actually did save some that he knew, that he had learned from his father, in a ballet "The Magic Lantern," but that didn't survive long enough to be notated.

And then there are the revivals where the restager "fills in" something that no one can remember with a quote from the time of the restaging. I think, unfortunately, that much of this is lost to history, unless the ballets were notated. Doug Fullington can speak to this -- I hope he sees this thread. From what people wrote about his restaging of "Jardin Animee" recently in Seattle, he could even tell the angle of head and roundess of line from the notation.

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I remember reading somewhere a description of Fanny Elssler's Lise that she danced in Russia, and the description of the mime (where she dreams she is married with 1 - 2 - 3! children) sounds very like the mime we see today, so it is possible that it is somewhat authentic. Even if it isn't, it is still one of my favorite moments in all of ballet!

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I'll chime in till Doug Fullington gets here -- yes, you can get significant amounts of information from notation, but the kind of information you get depends on the kind of notation you're working with. Feuillet notation (baroque era) is very specific about floor patterns and step patterns, and often vague about arm gestures. Stepanov notation (which Doug used to reconstruct Jardin) has much more detail about the upper body: curve of the art, tilt of the head, etc). More contemporary systems (Laban and Benesh) are even more specific.

On a different tangent, writing from the west coast, I'd be thrilled to see any Ashton at all! I was able to get to Portland to see Oregon Ballet Theater's Facade this spring, but San Francisco is a bit too far for an overnight trip.

I think Pacific Northwest Ballet could do a lovely Patineurs -- they did an excellent job with Todd Bolendar's Souvenirs, which has a similar narrative feeling.

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Hi all - the Stepanov notation system allows for notation of movement for body parts as detailed as wrists, ankles and necks. The Jardin notations (probably among the first notation projects in the 1890s) are uncharacteristically detailed. With most of the Stepanov notations, only legs and feet and direction of the torso are given, but with Jardin all three staves that can accomodate notational symbols are filled. Notations this detailed are very helpful when working with a less-detailed notated work. At least one has some viable options for editorializing.

What I love so much about working with the Stepanov notations is learning the vocabulary used for children, corps, soloists/principals. There definitely is a regular vaocabulary in use so when you find something unique it is all the more special.

The vocabulary is very academic and musically literal. I am reminded of Bach, who was a very academic composer. Like Petipa, he was considered passe at the end of his life, although later generations found his work expressive, as well as classical/academic. I feel the same about much Balanchine choreography.

Hope this hasn't strayed too far off topic.

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