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Did the PDD's Work Well as Part of a Program

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Upon consideration, the trouble with the Pdd portion of the Royal's 1st Ashton program was that all of the pas's were more or less presented as vehicles to showcase the virtuosity of the pairs of star dancers cast in them --

This was, I think, a matter of intentional presentation, i.e., that was the way they were danced, framed, conducted, billed -- but also, IMO, this is also something implicit in the form --

And that's an interesting point. Isn't it difficult to see such excerpted pas de deuxs otherwise, whether Ashton or not? Each excerpted pas is, by nature, an out of context, hugely dramatic moment for the principal dancers in each ballet it is taken from -- It plugs right into the post-Soviet Ice Skating aesthetic and nearly invites the audience to react to the spotlit principal dancers more than would be usual in a full dramatic offering. We live in a Starstruck Age and I very much doubt that the general run of the audience can see them as other than Star vehicles.

What's particularly interesting is that Ashton is very subtle in his dramatic climaxes and never loses sight of his characters and of the dramatic situation -- This could, of course, have been the point -- but really, I think it's at best an after the fact rationalization. What the Royal was really doing there was throwing some red meat to the Ice-Skating-Aesthetic audience, showcasing its stars, and by the way pandering to the lowest common denominator of contemporary ballet taste.

Why not? Interesting debate there.

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No, I don't think the excerpted pas de deux worked very well--Thais and Voices of Spring were exceptions, because they were choreographed as stand alone pieces. I guess it was easier to bring a few short pieces (less rehearsal, no scenery, etc.), and of course any Ashton is better than none. But it did a disservice to the kind of choreographer he was, I think. Think of how much less effective the pas de deux from The Dream would be performed on its own without sets--that is probably what happened to the piece from Ondine. If they wanted to showcase their company, they could have danced the whole of Birthday Offering! Of course, the pas de deux might be considered previews of coming attractions, but I'm afraid it was really leftover crumbs.

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I don't mind a pas de deux program to show off a company - we hadn't seen the Royal Ballet in New York since 1997 and there are many new faces all through the ranks. A similar approach was taken in (I think it was) 1999, when the San Francisco Ballet opened its run at City Center with a gala with pas de deuxs and short pieces. I felt it worked well then because SFB had so many interesting dancers. I cannot say the same thing about the Royal this time around, I'm affraid. On the July 14 program, Scenes de Ballet was a joy, even if I think Cojocaru was just a little weak. In fact that was the problem with many of the duets - I didn't have confidence in the dancers. Only Darcy Bussell in the Birthday Offering pas de deux gave me a feeling of confidence and peace. I was underwhelmed by Jamie Tapper in the Awakening pas de deux and Mara Galeazzi in Thais. Leanne Benjamin and Inaki Urlezaga were fun in the Voices of Spring, but I didn't think it was a nuanced star turn. Sylvie Guillem and Massimo Murru were a disappointment in Marguerite & Armand for reasons Mary Cargill mentioned in her Dance View Times review. When I watch Guillem on video, I'm facinated. When I see her live, I'm surprised at how underdanced her performances are. As a dance actress, she is hampered with a small face that has difficulty transmitting emotions. But on the whole, Ashton's work doesn't seem to lend itself for a program that yanks the pas de deuxs out of context. The Royal would have been better served to have a regular mixed-rep. program, maybe Scenes, the entire Birthday Offering, and Marguerite.

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