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No door, many sighs. (Soupirs and the Royal Ballet)

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Tonight was the expected "surprise" performance by Sibley and Dowell. They got a lovely reception -- many people had come down from New York just for this.

"Soupirs" ("Sighs," and my title is an attempt at a joke on Balanchine's La Porte et le soupir) is a very sentimental pas de deux, even for Ashton, and I don't think it's up to the "sitting solo" he did for Fonteyn, where he reprised all of her roles in snapshot moments of head, arms and shoulders. Two former lovers meet on a park bench and discover they're reading the same poem -- a poem they had both once loved. They dance (she wore heels). They part. Dowell saved it from being completely sentimental, I thought, by looking embarrassed (having his character look embarrassed, to be clear) at having let himself get so emotional. Their hands, their gestures, their expressions were lovely, and Sibley still has a gorgeous backbend.

Dowell (on tape, I'd bet) introduced the duet by saying that Ashton had told them to keep dancing, and make any changes in his choreography they needed to make. "And, Fred, if you're looking down on us, we're taking you at your word!"

For devotees of curtain calls, they got a spontaneous standing ovation. The house could hardly have been more warm and loving. Lots of flowers (two bouquets for her and a wreath for him, then more flowers, and someone threw a bunch). AND a good old-fashioned "walkie" -- Dowell led Sibley across the stage to the other side of the house for a bow.

Jonathan Cope danced Armand tonight, and I liked his characterization -- more from the book than after Nureyev (young, naive, sincere). He also danced the first solo quite slowly, and walked into rooms instead of dashing, so perhaps that is part of the new revival? (If so, why?) I've always thought him a wonderful partner, and did so tonight. (Friends thought him dull; I did not.) I thought the duets had more passion and looked less awkward, that he handled her very well.

I also liked "Les Rendezvous" and "Symphonic" tonight. (The man behind me referred to "Symphonic" as "Symphonic Vibrations," a great title for a new dance.) I honestly don't know whether they have found their stage legs, or I've gotten used to them -- several friends whose first look at the company was tonight had the same impression I'd had on opening night. I thought "Symphonic" was more gentle and more musical, and held together very well. I thought "Les Rendezvous" less frantic, and I loved Yoshida's solo this time; the arm movements were beautifully fluid.

Many of the dancers are new to me, and I find the company very appealing. But it's hard for me to get past how different it looks, and I don't think the level of principals is what it once was (either technically or, for lack of a better term, in presence. Aside from Guillem, there are no etoiles. As for Ashton style, when the company was last here, Lesley Collier danced The Dream, and several people commented that she was the last real Ashton dancer, the last to have his style. She was never my favorite, and I don't think she was a great ballerina, but I'd agree with that. I thought Cope was dancing in Ashton tonight, and Sarah Wildor was also, in "Symphonic." Otherwise, it looks like an international company, which is what the management has wanted.

On the way out, I heard an interesting comment from three young women. The only ballet they really liked was "the first one, with the polka dots." One liked "Marguerite and Armand," but another said, "Yes, but we saw that last night." I had to ask what they meant (inquiring minds, you know) and the answer -- "Moulin Rouge!" Maybe Dowell's timing of that revival was better than we thought.

[ 06-10-2001: Message edited by: alexandra ]

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This was my first RB in Washington tonight, and I enjoyed the performance. The leading dancers looked strong. My favorite was Yoshida in "Les Rendevous." She's not particularly "showy" but that genuineness in her dancing always appeals to me because she's so honest and natural. Of course, her technique is impeccable. Symphonic is not my favorite choreography, but I think the dancers came together well. Cojocaru is not yet a "star," but all I can say at the moment is that she has a very bright future ahead of her. One of my "revelations" was Jonathan Cope tonight. He never left any strong impressions on me previously (but previously was about 5 years ago...) but tonight, I thought he was just simply beautiful. Now I can see why Guillem always praises him so much. Guillem's acting was strong but her partnership with Cope really became the "heart" of the performance.

And Soupirs was so so touching -- I just wanted to see more!! It's really too bad I couldn't see them during their prime years.

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I agree with practically everything that Alexandra wrote (except for my assessment of Cope's Armand)...plus the following 'quick thoughts':


*Best rendering by far...perfection, for me!

* The fleet-footed Pas de Trois...stellar! Tapper/Meissner/Howells never let up for a beat! Lord, I love this number...

* Miyako Yoshida, as the lead girl, was once again brilliant. Loved her facial and hand mannerisms...those "rolling arm" movements in her solo. Great "backward chugs" again, during the finale/coda.

* Kobborg's training in Bournonville-Ballon was once again in evidence. Bravo!

* The corps ladies made the most of the florid Ashton hand movements, accentuated nicely by those ultra-bright short gloves.

* That wacky "Toreador Pas de Dix" for the male corps stole the show... dropped to the floor 'in-synch' at the end...Ole!

THAIS pdd:

* For the 3rd night in a row...Heaven on Earth! Audience around me sighed...and cheered

* What *things* can be done with a scarf!!!


* Another fine performance...but, tonight, my eye landed--and remained--on one of the "side girls": Tamara Rojo. I dont think that Ashton meant to focus on one of the side girls...but Tamara is a powerful dancer. Odd casting...

SOUPIRS (special pdd - tonight only):

* Well, the audience went crazy...instant standing ovation in all tiers, after this incredibly poignant performance

* Sibley/Dowell gave us a good dose of the Old Magic...breathtaking!

* Antoinette Sibley remains incredibly agile...Sir Anthony was the perfect cavalier

* Lucious blue-purple dress with assymetrical hem...and heeled shoes for her...boureed in spots, making me think that this role was originally performed in pointe shoes by the woman

* Wonderful opening speech by Dowell...reminding us that Ashton used to tell him: (close paraphrase) "Change whatever you must in the choreography to suit your capabilities...and we will be doing that tonight!" Big laugh from audience. So the steps were changed to suit Sibley/Dowell's current capabilities...big deal..it was still stunning!


* Cope's DC debut in the role...replacing Le Riche, who danced it on the first two night...Cope is a gorgeous dancer, with perfect long line...pity that he was a bit lacking in the emotional department

* Cope's lack of passion (in my eyes) resulted in an altogether different performance by Guillem...not that she wasn't good, mind you...just different from the two nights with LeRiche

* I left the theater hungry, even though everything that preceded M&A was indeed filling...ah, well...

Still - I'm celebrating the Royal Ballet. Britannia rules the stage in DC On to FILLE!

[ 06-08-2001: Message edited by: Jeannie ]

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Welcome to Washington, Terry! You really travel a lot to see ballet :) I'm glad you could be here for such a special night.

I forgot to mention Guillem (not that she'd notice :) ) To me, "Marguerite and Armand" on opening night looked like a run through. Timing was off, I thought, and the ballet didn't look taut. Last night I thought the ballet as a whole was much tighter. And I loved Guillem tonight. I liked her with Cope. I didn't see a lot of passion; I thought he was young and restrained, but I hadn't seen it in LeRiche either. (Passion may well be in the eye of the beholder :) ) I thought Guillem was fresh, I loved her playfulness, I thought her dancing was light and beautiful.

There is one small change that makes no sense to me. If any of our British posters are reading this, perhaps you could tell me if there was comment on this in the British press? At the end of the scene in the country, Armand was tired after his solo with the whip (not to mention the pas de deux) and went to lie down. They embraced several times, and Armand began to fall asleep. Marguerite sat with him and watched until she was sure he was asleep before leaving. Neither LeRiche nor Cope did this. Both watched Marguerite leave (which makes no sense dramatically. She has promised his father she will leave him, but she cannot let him know, or he'll stop her. The whole point of the white pas de deux is for Marguerite to convince Armand that nothing is wrong -- which I thought Guillem did beautifully. She runs off when he is asleep so he will think she deserts him.) Having him wave bye-bye to her makes no sense.

On to Fille, I believe that Howells (from the Les Rendezvous pas de trois which I also liked very much tonight) is the one so many people in England were excited about as Alain. If that's right, he'll be doing it Friday night, and the buzz was that his interpretation -- not at all like Alexander Grant's, but very, very good -- revived a part that is too often played a bit over the top. (If I'm mixing him up with someone else, I hope someone will correct this. I don't want to raise false expectations :) )

[ 06-09-2001: Message edited by: alexandra ]

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