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Scarlett to stage new Swan Lake for RB?


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Please tell me it ain't so. Or may be I'll be pleasantly surprised that Scarlett is brushing up Stepanov notation.

Per forum rule I can't post the link but it's in today's Guardian.

I know long-term Royal Ballet fans who have vowed not to return to Swan Lake until this production is replaced.

After 28 years, theyre going to get their wish. The whisper is that Liam Scarlett has been entrusted with the new production, a decision that has caused much nervous fluttering of wings in dance circles. Scarletts best work to date is Asphodel Meadows, an abstract piece created in 2010. Subsequent commissions have confirmed his choreographic flair but raised questions about his grasp of narrative structure. Scarletts success in recreating Swan Lake will be in direct proportion to his humility. A heritage company such as the Royal needs a great Swan Lake. What it doesnt need is creative egotism or a new concept.

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I know that a lot of balletgoers here will be pleased to hear an official announcement that Dowell's production is at last to be pensioned off. It has been heartily loathed by many since its premier. Some claim not to have darkened the doors of Covent Garden to see a company performance of Swan Lake since 1987. It's not the choreographic text so much as the designs and the coarse stage business in the Petipa acts that people object to. Updating the action to the end of the nineteenth century was a big mistake as it brought the work into the world of realism.It is interesting that Dowell now says that he originally thought it was going to be a medieval production and that it was the designer who came up with that bright idea.

.Attempting to restore the choreographic text was laudable in theory but it had disastrous results in practice. The attempt to restore sections of dance and business that are described but not recorded led to the removal of the Ashton waltz and its replacement with limp uninspired dances with stools and a maypole by David Bintley. The stage business in Acts I, II and III introduced coarse, boorish behaviour and a tutor whose actions suggests that he should be on the child protection register.It has also led the corps, who by definition tend to be young and impressionable, to treat the first act as if it was a work by MacMillan. The chaperones behave as if they are characters in Manon and even the " supers" who are older and should know better have decided to join in the dance action . It also had the unfortunate effect of souring relations with Ashton which meant that Dowell was unable to use the Ashton choreography he did want to include..As a result the Neapolitan dance was not restored until after Ashton's death.

The production is" bling" laden with gold everywhere you look.I think it is fair to say that the majority of those who are old enough to have seen the old production with its clean atmospheric designs, clear action and Ashton choreography felt let down by what replaced it. On paper attempting to restore action and dance which is not in the Stepanov choreographic notation seems like a good idea but in practice it meant losing an act which was coherent and ordered with two sections of substantial choreography in the Ashton waltz and the pas de trois,replacing it with what is best described as an incoherent mess of undistinguished choreography and unnecessary stage business. It could be that the original choreography for the section which includes the waltz was not recorded was because it was not that good. It is noticeable that it is the Petipa acts of this ballet rather than the Ivanov acts which have most frequently been altered. Did they lack the quality and inspiration of Ivanov's work? It does seem as if Petipa having seen how good Ivanov's initial staging of the lakeside section was decided to get in on the act when it came to staging the ballet in St Petersburg. But wisely he only choreographed the court scenes.

Looking back at the Dowell directorship it is pretty clear that design was not his strong point. The effect of his Sleeping Beauty and his Swan Lake were both undermined by their scenery and fussy costumes. While Russel Roberts and he managed to kill the choreography of Daphnis and Chloe with costumes which destroyed the amplitude of the movement. I find it strange that so many people professionally involved with dance seem indifferent to the overall visual impact that a work has on an audience and fail to ask simple questions about visibility. In the case of the soon to be jettisoned Swan Lake it would have helped if Dowell had challenged the designer's vision more often. There is a very simple reason for the lakeside scenes being white acts .It is not just because the audience has to be reminded of the dancers' dual nature as swans and women. The scenes take place at night and the white costumes ensure that the dancers are visible.Unfortunately no one seems to have thought about the visibility of the dancing in Act III where the floor is dark and so are most of the costumes which can makes it difficult for example to see see the prince's choreography.

As to who gets to stage the new production we shall see what we shall see.At the moment Scarlett seems a better option than the other in house choreographers.And remember the company is unlikely to ask Ratmanskey or any other Russian to mount the work as the Royal does not do Jesters and has its own performance traditions. After the Ross Stretton Sleeping Beauty staged by Markarova which lasted a nano second and was loathed by balletomanes and critics alike I do not think that a director would dare make that sort of "inspired"choice again, at least I hope not.


Whoever gets the job they will have a lot of choreographic choices to make. Restoring an Ashton waltz, there are two, a pas de douze for the main company and a pas de six for the old touring company, would be a good start.Keeping the Ashton Neapolitan Dance is non negotiable. Kevin O'Hare will be in for a lot of public criticism on the ROH website if that disappears again. In fact restoring all the previous production's choreography using the Ashton and Ivanov Act IV in alternate seasons would leave most people very happy.But I know that it is not going to happen. As long as it does not turn into Siegrfied's drug induced dream (Peter Darrell) and is not subject to any other reworkings, bright ideas and concepts I shall be reasonably happy that is until I see it.Then who knows? What do they say about getting and not getting what you wish for? There is only one thing worse than not getting what you wish for and that's getting it.

But one thing that will make this production very different from the current one is that the audience will not feel that they have to suffer in silence if the choreographic text is poor or if the designs and lighting are inadequate. The website is likely to crash with adverse comments if the new production is not up to the mark.

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The Royal may well choose not to invite Ratmansky for all kinds of reasons, but to equate him automatically with Sovietisms such as the jester seems odd to me. That is hardly what his productions of the classics are known for,,,

In all discussions of how much people hate Dowell's production, I feel that far too little value is placed on his respect for the choreography...especially Act IV. I am desperately hoping that whoever stages this new production s/he shows the same kind of respect for Petipa/Ivanov.

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Having sat through a couple of performances of Sir Anthony's Sleeping Beauty I did not go again until it was replaced..I did not find the Markarova production much of an improvement although it did not give the impression that the palace had hit a rock, was listing and about to keel over and sink beneath the waves. I think that at one stage it was a striking visual metaphor for what was proposed for the company.

The problem with Markarova's production was that the choreographic text was not the one we were used and then there was that twee child. I know that Balanchine recalled taking that role as a student but that was not seen as sufficient excuse. for the role's inclusion in a Royal Ballet Beauty. The production was seen as the worst example of Ross Stretton's ignorance of and indifference to the Royal Ballet's history and repertory.I know that the day that Mason as Acting Director came on stage to announce a cast change she only got half way through introducing herself before the house broke into spontaneous applause. You would have thought that she had announced that Frederick Ashton had risen from the dead.

As to who gets to stage the new Swan Lake we may find out in April when the new season is announced although it would be odd if they did Swan Lake next year even if it is a new production. I think on the basis of what I have seen of the revivals that Ratmansky has been involved in that he has too much respect for the nineteenth century classics and the men who created them to add the Soviet accretions of a Jester and a happy ending to any production of Swan Lake in which he was involved . I feel that looking to someone with no connection with the Royal Ballet to stage the new production would be seen as a rejection of the company's history and a dereliction of duty on O'Hare's part .Scarlett may not be such a bad choice. I can certainly think of worse. We may find that we are all pleasantly surprised by the choice of stager and the staging itself. It is an expensive gamble whoever mounts this long overdue new production..

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Not all London fans have a parochial attitude to SB and for those of us familiar with Russian versions of the ballet there was much to admire in the Markarova version, the sets were particularly attractive. As the RB is tax payer funded I feel it should be a little more responsible regarding how money is spent and not throw aside a perfectly acceptable production as a response to internal politics.

The Dowell SL was a disaster from day one and most of us stay away, had someone had the nous to do something about the first act things might be more tolerable but nobody seems to have had the guts to demand changes. Against all the odds Kevin O'Hare is proving an excellent director and his jettisoning of this RB embarrassment shows that he has good taste and sound judgement. As to who actually stages SL it seems to be speculation at the moment as no official announcement has been made to the best of my knowledge.

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Not all London fans have a parochial attitude to SB and for those of us familiar with Russian versions of the ballet there was much to admire in the Markarova version, the sets were particularly attractive. As the RB is tax payer funded I feel it should be a little more responsible regarding how money is spent and not throw aside a perfectly acceptable production as a response to internal politics.

I have always wondered about the fate of the sets and costumes from this production. David Walker's designs from the 1970s are still in circulation, currently owned by Boston Ballet, I believe. Whatever became of Luisa Spinatelli's designs? No doubt they cost a small fortune, and I presume they didn't suffer all that much wear and tear during the mere 12 months they were in use.

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