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Royal Ballet 2016-17 Season

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While it will be interesting to see who management chooses to replace Polunin Marguerite and Amand is only of real interest in those performances which, for London audiences, mark Yanowsky's retirement as a member of the company. The choreographic substance of this mixed programme lies in the first two ballets on the bill, The Dream and Symphonic Variations. Marguerite and Armand is merely a vehicle. although it is currently said to be the most frequently performed of Ashton's ballets. The management has a number of options as far as casting a replacement Armand is concerned. They could ask if the Mariinsky could possibly spare Xander Parrish but if they were being really brave they would take a chance on someone young and exciting from within the ranks of the company such as Matthew Ball who has come on in leaps and bounds during this season. Clarke is unlikely as he is already cast in the Some's role in Symphonic Variations.

 

Both Clarke and Ball are cast with more senior dancers next season. Clarke is to dance Aminta to Cuthbertson's Sylvia  and is due to partner her SPF in Nutcracker while Ball is due to partner Choe at he beginning of the run of Nutcracker and Naghdi towards the end of the run. In addition there is considerable speculation about whether either Naghdi or Hayward will be making their debuts in Giselle in the new year.

 

I will finish by writing briefly about the run of Sleeping Beauties which ended in mid March with a performance by the husband and wife team of Bonelli and Kobayashi. Bonelli's prince was, as usual, wonderfully elegant and Kobayashi's account of Aurora has visibly matured and improved. As I had expected it provided an opportunity to see a few more debuts including, the somewhat unlikely casting in the act 3 pas de trois Florestan and his Sisters of Reece Clarke who is 6 ft 3 ins as Florestan. It is one of those apparently innocuously simple pieces of Ashton choreography which undo those who do not have a secure technique. It is generally something of a challenge for tall dancers but while it is generally better suited to dancers who are more compact it is a role in which many dancers struggle. As originally cast he was to dance with two tall dancers but due to illness or injury he ended up with a tall sister in Stix-Brunell and shorter one in O'Sullivan.It could have been less than special but it turned out to be very good and rather stylish.

 

 

Edited by Ashton Fan

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Thanks for your insightful posts throughout the season,  Ashton Fan! Did you have the opportunity to see the recent new works by Crystal Pite (Flight Pattern) and Liam Scarlett (Symphonic Dances)? If so, any thoughts?

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Natalia, The following post  is one which  I hope will answer your questions.

 

I  did see the Symphonic Dances mixed bill and I started a separate thread about it which has the unoriginal title "Symphonic Dances Mixed Bill 2016-17 season"..

 

I also saw the mixed bill which included the new Crystal Pite,called "Flight Patterns" which you asked about.It also included Dawson's "The Human Seasons" and Wheldon's "After the Rain". As far as this mixed bill is concerned it proved to be surprisingly controversial not because of the new work but the Dawson piece which was first seen at Covent Garden in 2013 when,while it was not universally liked, and was criticised by some of the professional critics for the way in which the women who danced it were handled it passed without too much adverse comment.David Dason has been pursuing a successful career as a choreographer in Germany. "The Human Seasons " is not the only ballet of his to be seen in London as ENB have staged "A Million Kisses to my Skin" and his "Faun" was shown as part of a recent Diaghilev inspired programme. Perhaps I am missing something but I have not found any of them to be the sort of ballet that I would travel any great distance to see.

 

The Human Seasons is one of those almost interchangeable abstract works which you feel you have seen somewhere before almost as soon as the curtains open and the dancers begin to move.It is the sort of ballet which seems to have been created and staged, to fill a gap in a mixed programme rather than because the choreographer has had an original idea.There is a certain amount of running around for no obvious reason; the relationship between the music and the dancer's movements is not always clear;the costume design and lighting has the effect of making the dancers disappear into the background and it is never entirely clear whether this is a deliberate effect or not and it contains a certain amount of choreography in which the  women in the cast seem to be treated as objects rather than people. The casts seen in this revival  were all new to the work. For some reason the professional critics seem to have taken more notice of it this time than they did when it was new or perhaps less of their criticism was edited.At this revival there were complaints about its lack of choreographic content and the way in which it seemed to involve a great deal of physical manipulation of the women including the men dragging them across the floor and swinging them around face down near the floor.

 

I found it a rather tedious piece which did not do anything to hold my interest. I never found out how it was  connected with the Keats poem which was reproduced in the programme. After the less than enthusiastic reviews from the professional critics everything got very heated. The stager took to twitter and suggested that the dancers involved had not been fully committed to performing the ballet. The choreographer announced on twitter " I have decided not to show my work any longer, in London, if I can help it." which he subsequently withdrew replacing it with a more emollient message about the pleasure he derived from working with the company. Presumably he thought about the damage he might be doing to himself if he ruled out possible future links with the company. At least one person who appears to have no known connections with ballet in the UK weighed in and wrote a scathing attack on the Royal Ballet comparing it unfavorably with the Royal Ballet of Flanders, accusing it of failing as a classical company and being out of touch with the latest choreographic developments. As far as I could see the dancers had done all that was humanly possible with the choreography, but the ballet failed to engage me intellectually or move me emotionally.

.

It seems to me that Wheeldon's "After the Rain" has been seen a bit too often for its own good. At this revival the first section did little for me it was well danced by the casts I saw which included Calvert in the first cast and Heap in the second cast.I think that for many in the audience it was the second part which had most impact. In the first cast this section was danced by Nunez and Soares in the second cast it was Yanowsky and Clarke who danced it.Nunez and Soares danced the choreography very beautifully but while we were given a series of beautiful images and poses it was all a bit too slick and devoid of any real feeling. The Yanowsky, Clarke pairing was totally different and entirely involving. I don't think that this was just because we knew that we would not see these two dancers together on many more evenings. It was  because of their artistry. Watching them dance together it is difficult to believe that Clarke is a relatively inexperienced

 junior dance. They danced exactly the same choreography as Soares and Nunez but somehow it seemed to have far greater emotional depths to it rather  than

simply being a carefully contrived, well constructed piece of choreography or a slick production number it seemed to have many layers of meaning to it. .

 

Then we had the final piece the first work which Cristal Pite has created for the company. Perhaps I should say that hers is not the first "refugee themed" ballet which has been staged in London during the last couple of seasons.

 

Hofesch Schechter created a dull worthy piece called "Untouchable" in which a large group of dancers are moved across the stage in one direction and just when you think it is all over they move back to where they began from and then they are moved back across the stage again for the last time. It is very exciting as the dancers shout something inaudible which I was assured was about Nigel Farage a local politician.This masterpiece which some of my friends have taken to calling "Unwatchable" and others "Unspeakable" is due to be revived next season.

 

Akram Khan has given London his modern reworking of"Giselle" in which the heroine is a migrant seamstress. Many claim to have been immensely moved by it but its emotional impact escapes me entirely.

 

Wayne McGregor has given us his entirely forgettable Multiverse . It begins with a pas de deux in which McRae and Kay rush jump and turn at great speed until the point of exhaustion.This second section includes a set ion which fragments of the Raft of the Medusa are projected and the corps de ballet seems to be in danger of being crushed. I have told you this so you will appreciate that the ballet audience which saw Flight Patterns has seen more than its fair share of refugee themed dance works.in the same way that since 2014 the opera audience has been plagued by First World War themed productions.

 

Pite's Flight Patterns was totally different from the earlier refugee themed dance works which we have already seen.It was entirely effective as a piece of dance theatre . The designs and the lighting were excellent and when sections of the stage were left in darkness you were not left thinking that it was either incompetence on the lighting designer's part or an attempt on the company's to cut its electricity bill.Kristen McNally led the cast and while there were other dancers who were given tiny sections when they stepped out of the corps only McNally and Sambe had choreography and movement which could be described as solos.It centres on the communal experience of being displaced and homeless. The dancers are a group who for the audience are virtually indistinguishable as they shuffle slowly across the stage, first in one direction, then in another in what seems to be an endless numberless line of refugees. McNally breaks out of the crowd she appears distraught and seems to be holding a child in her arms which turns out to be a coat. the other dancers fill her arms with their coats. Eventually a gap appears at the back of the stage it seems to be snowing there. The dancers slowly all pas through the gap leaving Sambe and McNally behind, Sambe moves and seems to hesitate about whether he should leave her.He begins to move away from her.It does not sound like much but it is a very compelling dance work. Pite and her designers seem to understand how to create compelling images which will resonate with an audience a gift which few others engaged in making dance works seem to share..

 

And now for something completely different.I  don't think that I need to say anything more about Mayerling except that the finest performances which I saw during this run were given by Bonelli and Morera. While companies rarely remain in a stable state for any length of time when a dancer like Yanowsky announces her retirement it brings home how short a dancer's career is and raises the question of how long it will be before Morera announces her departure. Neither dancer is the standard ballerina type and yet it is difficult to imagine what the company would have been like without them.

 

 

Edited by Ashton Fan

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10 hours ago, Ashton Fan said:

Akram Khan has given London his modern reworking of"Giselle" in which the heroine is a migrant seamstress. Many claim to have been immensely moved by it but its emotional impact escapes me entirely.

 

 

But not audiences nationwide,  standing ovations have been reported in all the provincial theatres the work played in before coming to London.  The next run at Sadlers Wells sold out months ago, the minute the tickets went on sale.

 

The UK classical choreographic scene leaves much to be desired with the best works being on the modern side, Khan is the finest choreographer in the country and his move into the classical milieu facilitated by Tamara Rojo is to be celebrated.  His Giselle is a masterpiece and hopefully will get a wider audience when the promised DVD is made.

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21 hours ago, Ashton Fan said:

The Human Seasons is one of those almost interchangeable abstract works which you feel you have seen somewhere before almost as soon as the curtains open and the dancers begin to move.It is the sort of ballet which seems to have been created and staged, to fill a gap in a mixed programme rather than because the choreographer has had an original idea.

...

At this revival there were complaints about its lack of choreographic content and the way in which it seemed to involve a great deal of physical manipulation of the women including the men dragging them across the floor and swinging them around face down near the floor.

...

After the less than enthusiastic reviews from the professional critics everything got very heated. The stager took to twitter and suggested that the dancers involved had not been fully committed to performing the ballet. .... As far as I could see the dancers had done all that was humanly possible with the choreography, but the ballet failed to engage me intellectually or move me emotionally.

...

Akram Khan has given London his modern reworking of"Giselle" in which the heroine is a migrant seamstress. Many claim to have been immensely moved by it but its emotional impact escapes me entirely.

...

Pite's Flight Patterns was totally different from the earlier refugee themed dance works which we have already seen.It was entirely effective as a piece of dance theatre ... Pite and her designers seem to understand how to create compelling images which will resonate with an audience a gift which few others engaged in making dance works seem to share..

 

 

Lots to think about here.  I've only seen a couple of Dawson's works live (Pacific Northwest Ballet does A Million Kisses and Empire Noir), but 'm familiar with the choreographic style you mention here (filling a specific need in a mixed bill).  I don't think that's always a recipe for mediocrity -- many resident choreographers (including Balanchine) have worked under those constraints and made some beautiful things.  He may have a different approach for narrative work (I watched a video coaching session of Swan Lake where he made very good use of a character arc) but his abstract ensemble work seems to have an ongoing, driving quality with big influences by Forsythe, especially in the partnering.  The women give as good as they get, but it is highly athletic and if someone was struggling with the mechanics, it might feel too harsh.  Watching it here in Seattle, and listening to the local response, I can say that the audience is very caught up in the physicality of it.

 

I'm very sorry to hear that there was a public controversy about the work and the company.  Social media being what it is, we hear a great deal more about the backstory of working life than we used to.  I'm not so sure this is a good thing all the time.

 

I'm hoping to see Khan's version of Giselle -- like Bourne's version of Swan Lake, I think that classics can be re-tooled in multiple ways, incorporating all kinds of elements that show us new things about the work, or about our own times as viewed through a different lens.  They are certainly not replacements for the original work, but can be a fascinating shadow. 

 

And Pite -- she's really having her time right now, and I'm glad to get the chance to see some of the work she's been making.  She herself was a very compelling performer, and she often makes astonishing solo parts, but give her a big group and she will give you something amazing.  It sounds like she's managed that here with Flight Patterns, and I'm very jealous of your look at it.  Thanks so much for the details!

 

 

11 hours ago, Mashinka said:

 

But not audiences nationwide,  standing ovations have been reported in all the provincial theatres the work played in before coming to London.  The next run at Sadlers Wells sold out months ago, the minute the tickets went on sale.

 

The UK classical choreographic scene leaves much to be desired with the best works being on the modern side, Khan is the finest choreographer in the country and his move into the classical milieu facilitated by Tamara Rojo is to be celebrated.  His Giselle is a masterpiece and hopefully will get a wider audience when the promised DVD is made.

 

A DVD -- I am so excited!  It's highly unlikely I'll see this work live, and I'm so curious about it.  Many thanks for the good news!

 

Edited by sandik
nitwittery

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I absolutely agree with Mashinka about the Khan Giselle.  I saw a preview performance, the official world premiere and one other performance - all in Manchester.  I was completely blown away by the performances I saw (and I was fortunate to see 3 casts).  All three performances I saw earned a standing ovation.

 

However, one friend walked out of a performance at the interval and another refuses to discuss the performance we saw together in case she upsets me!

 

The very brave Tamara Rojo is bringing this Giselle to Liverpool in the Autumn and I can't wait!!!  I say brave because the Liverpool audience is notoriously conservative and because Liverpool and Manchester are close together and most people do not go and see a production more than once in a short period of time.

 

I was unable to get to the recent ROH triple bills so can't comment on them but I think the company is looking on wonderful form at the moment.  Yanowsky is a very great artist who will be much missed but there is a heck of a lot of young talent coming through.

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The RB's season ended several months ago. Before I say anything about the Ashton mixed bill I will say that it seems to me that the most significant events this season have been Yanowsky's retirement as a company member and the appointment of four character principals. Yanowsky is the last of Dowell's Principal dancers and her retirement as a company member marks the end of an era. She had an extraordinary wide range of repertory and it is difficult to imagine anyone will have the opportunity to emulate her because of the artistic choices being made by management which ignore major works in favour of new pieces of very variable quality.

In terms of length of tenure Nunez has become the senior Principal dancer but while she can turn in technically impeccable accounts of the roles which she performs, like Zerbinetta, she always plays herself. She rarely manages to take the audience to the heart of a role in the way that Yanowsky did in performance after performance. Where they shared roles, as they did in the case of Odette/Odile, Nikiya, Myrthe, Manon, Black Queen and Sylvia, Yanowsky's performances always had the edge. She presented the audience with a performance in which the choreography was danced as part of the creation of a vivid character rather than simply being a technically flawless reproduction of the role's choreography enhanced by the occasional bit of freeze framing.Somehow I can't imagine Nunez in roles like the Hostess in Les Biches, the Bride in Les Noces and Lady Elgar roles originally danced for the company by Beriosova which became Yanowsky's  unchallenged  property. But as O'Hare seems in thrall to the creators of new dance works and shows only limited interest in the great works in the company's back catalogue  we may not have to worry about who comes to own the roles in Biches, Noces and Enigma Variations as they have all been out of the repertory for far too long. 

It has came as something of a relief to learn that the company's management has had second thoughts about ending the appointment of character principals. Articulating the idea that such dancers were superfluous to requirements seemed to begin at about the time that it was announced that the RDB was letting a number of its older dancers go which suggested that the idea had emerged at one of those events at which artistic directors from across the world get together to discuss  developments and mutual problems in the world of dance. I don't think that many of the regular audience thought that it was a viable option but you never can tell with artistic directors. Bennet Gartside  gave an interesting account of how the proposal was handled when he spoke to London Ballet Association. His immediate response was that he assumed that the company was planning to change its repertory completely as the proposal was not an option unless they did.The announcement that Arestis, McNally, Gartside and Whitehead  had been appointed character principals was not only recognition of their undoubted talents but the clear statement that full length narrative works which were created for companies which understood the value of character dancers are not to be dropped from the repertory any time soon..

The absence of Kish and Golding from the ranks of active principals during the season did not seem to adversely affect the quality of performances but it did provide valuable development opportunities for a number of the younger men who have been rewarded for their efforts by promotion. Ball, Clarke and Sambe all progressed a rank.  The season also gave Anna Rose O'Sullivan the opportunity to show what she can do.Her performances in a wide range of purely classical soloist roles has indicated that she is one to watch.

 It was disappointing that Kevin sounded as if he found it necessary to refer to significant company anniversaries in the context of the revivals of Sleeping Beauty and Symphonic Variations. It began to sound increasingly as if he thought that he needed to justify his decision to stage the older works he had selected for performance.

 

 

 

 

 

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Unfortunately when a new work is commissioned there is no guarantee that it will be successful and I'm not sure that it is fair to criticize Kevin O'Hare for persisting in encouraging creativity as that is the life blood of every company.  He has presided over spectacular hits such as Wolff Works and dismal misses such as Strapless.  He has also embarked on a programme of furthering the careers of young dancers reversing the casting policy that under the last two directors was too reliant on casting according to seniority rather than suitability.

Ms Yanowsky is over forty now but her career is not entirely over as I understand she will continue giving occasional performances.  Ms Nunez is massively popular with the London public and her technique has always been impressive however a small cabal of RB fans tend to be very vocal in support of personal favourites and frequently embarrass themselves by airing their prejudices against those they dislike, often performers of outstanding abilities.  Favouritism dressed up as measured criticism has always existed but social media etc. can give a platform to ugly prejudices.  As far as Mr O'Hare is concerned he appears to be doing a very good job, certainly my own outings to see the RB have increased under his tenure,  

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Or, there could be people who genuinely dislike a dancer who enjoys wide popularity.  And they are allowed their opinions, with social media meaning that these opinions can be voiced by others than published critics, whether or not we find them tiresome.

I don't get to see much of Royal Ballet dancers, but I've seen both Yanowsky and Nunez and find each exquisite in her own way.

 

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Dear Mashinka

I don't criticise O'Hare for commissioning new works. I do not criticise him because quite a few of his new commissions have proved to be turkeys but I can see no reason for reviving those that prove to be duds. It is almost as if Kevin hopes that if the audience sees works like Raven Girl, Strapless  and Untouchable enough times we will be persuaded that they have been transformed into swans. 

Commissioning new works is always a bit of a gamble but you can improve the odds if you exercise a degree of control over your commissions. In an Insight event held in Australia during the RB's summer tour Kevin said that he does not like to intervene in any way with the works he has commissioned. I think that this amount of artistic freedom which sounds very good in the context of the creation of a work like a Winters Tale does not sound quite so good in the context of works like Strapless or Carmen. This lack of supervision goes a long way to explain how works like the Wind and Carmen make it onto the stage at all and how a work like Frankenstein which is a curate's egg of a ballet find their way onto the stage in the form they do. Bits of the latter work well but there are bits that would have benefited from considerably more oversight than it in fact received. 

There is a continuum of involvement in a commission by the person who is paying for it from oversight to interference. Oversight can often be helpful. I suspect that Mim Rambert's high success rate with the new works which she commissioned was because she exercised a degree of control over what her creatives were doing and what she was paying for. I fear that Kevin's patchy record is in large part attributable to the fact that he just lets his creatives get on with it.

 

I also criticise Kevin for failing to get the balance right between the company's twentieth century masterpieces and its new works. I too welcome his more adventurous casting policies and his attempts to make the company the creative force it was set up to be. However I do not share, what I take to be, your optimism about the likely  success of the  2020 season when we are promised a programme of works created since he took over the directorship of the company. I am sure that everyone on this site would be interested in your views of the current state of the RB .

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I think Yanowsky's talent and range speak for themselves and don't need to be emphasised by putting Nunez down - they are totally different dancers and I have the greatest respect and admiration for both of them.

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3 hours ago, Helene said:

Or, there could be people who genuinely dislike a dancer who enjoys wide popularity. 

Practically the story of my ballet-going life. From my experience, it's a state of chronic frustration, so I'm not inclined to think that people do it for the sake of being contrary. 

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8 hours ago, Ashton Fan said:

It was disappointing that Kevin sounded as if he found it necessary to refer to significant company anniversaries in the context of the revivals of Sleeping Beauty and Symphonic Variations. It began to sound increasingly as if he thought that he needed to justify his decision to stage the older works he had selected for performance.

This seems to be a trend across the field -- it concerns me when foundational works are too long out of performance, and are relegated to "specialty" status. 

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48 minutes ago, sandik said:

This seems to be a trend across the field -- it concerns me when foundational works are too long out of performance, and are relegated to "specialty" status. 

Translation:

"specialty" = Oh, no, we need revenue stat

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The Royal Ballet organization has existed for getting on for a century now and has always concerned itself with new work along with the classics, the back catalogue is huge and everyone has opinions on what should and shouldn't be revived.  I personally am very happy about the current revival of Sylvia for example, but if 'foundation works' means the classics, they are absolutely not ignored.

Worth remembering that repertoire is often dependant on works that fully exist, it's not unusual to discover sets and costumes for a significant work out of the rep for a long time moth infested and nibbled by rats.  Or worse, the notations are missing and no one remembers the choreography.  All dancers love having new work created on them and the bottom line is that the Royal Ballet has always been a hive of creativity and I hope it stays that way.

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2 hours ago, Helene said:

Translation:

"specialty" = Oh, no, we need revenue stat

Snark!

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I agree with Mashinka.  O'Hare (and Mason before him) have never failed to programme at least one of Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake and Giselle each season.  Sometimes more than one of those and usually Nutcracker also.   Other 'warhorses' like Don Quixote and Bayadere, with their requirements for classical technique also crop up from time to time.  So while there is room for debate over whether the balance between the MacMillan and Ashton full lengths should be better managed or whether we need to see quite so much of the Wheeldon full-lengths, I think it very unfair to accuse O'Hare of  having "only limited interest in the great works in the company's back catalogue".  

Indeed, there are some who would argue that his recent revivals of works that the "regulars" have been agitating about for decades, such as Two Pigeons, The Invitation and Anastasia have been less artistically successful than many of the new commissions.

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I take it as read that, if only to ensure that the company breaks even financially each year, we will see a number of nineteenth century ballets each season and that unfortunately one of them will almost inevitably be Nutcracker. What I take issue with is management's failure to ensure that the company's twentieth century masterpieces are given a regular airing. I specifically referred to the company's twentieth century masterpieces because I was thinking about the totality of its twentieth century repertory and not just the works created for it by Ashton and MacMillan. The imbalance between  the time allocated to the performance of the Ashton and MacMillan repertory is a problem. Some works seem to be far more fragile than others when it comes to reviving them after a relatively long period.

However it is not just those works that concern  me, the major Diaghilev works are also neglected. It would be a dereliction of duty if works like Les Noces and Les Biches which Ashton pulled back from the brink were lost on Kevin's watch through neglect. Les Noces did not seem as tight theatrically as it used to be when it was last revived for the simple reason that the dancers' movements were not always as connected to the music as they need to be. For years successive directors appeared  to understand that works like Noces , Biches and even Song of the Earth need regular airings if they are to remain part of the company's living repertory. The last time that the company danced Song of the Earth it was programmed twice in the same season and it was only towards the end of the second run that it began to hold together as an effective theatrical piece.     

 

 

Edited by Ashton Fan

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I wouldn't say that Song of the Earth is in much danger - it gets danced every few years and is in the repertoire of other companies also.  Nor is the Royal the only, or even the primary, keeper of the Diaghilev legacy in the same way that they are the primary 'guardians' of the Ashton/Macmillan works - one might easily argue that the the Russian companies are better protectors and preservers of ballets like Les Noces.

Having come to ballet watching as an adult a mere 20 or 25 years ago, I have had years of listening to people bemoan lost 'masterpieces' which, when they were finally revived, I didn't think were anything of the sort.  I believe there is such a thing as "justly neglected" work.  If Ashton had made another piece as good as Fille it would never have left the repertoire for long and other companies would have clamoured for the rights.   It is the same with classical music (in which I have a professional interest) - people are always trying to push the "overlooked" composer who would/should have been greater than Beethoven - usually it is no more than an attempt by that person to demonstrate that they have more refined sensibilities and sharper insight than the average person.    

  Edited to add: Which isn't to say I don't have any issues with the directorship at the RB - I think some commissioning and casting decisions need a serious look from an ethical perspective, especially with regard to casually misogynistic choreography and lazy racial sterereotyping  (I don't think there is a dark-skinned dancer in the company who hasn't danced the caterpillar in Alice).   However, I think accusations of jettisoning the heritage are misplaced.

Edited by variated

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1 hour ago, variated said:

If Ashton had made another piece as good as Fille it would never have left the repertoire for long and other companies would have clamoured for the rights.   It is the same with classical music (in which I have a professional interest) - people are always trying to push the "overlooked" composer who would/should have been greater than Beethoven - usually it is no more than an attempt by that person to demonstrate that they have more refined sensibilities and sharper insight than the average person.    

I have to disagree:  there are masterworks and less-than-masterworks that are dropped for many reasons, and not simply because they aren't quality works.  There is lesser Balanchine that blows most contemporary creations out of the water, and there is lesser Balanchine that is interesting just to see what ideas he was bouncing around.  There are great works by Ashton and Tudor that look less than they are because they rely upon continuity in coaching and style and when there are huge gaps, the works are diminished, and, in the case of Ashton, the training has changed significantly enough that the dancers aren't capable of the style or choose to dance the ballets in their own style.  In some cases, like late Petipa and Ivanov, we have the notes, notations, reviews, photographs, and artwork to understand the originals.  In some cases, like in much Balanchine, the ballets are built like trucks and can withstand stylistic abuse, whereas in the case of Ashton and Tudor, they wither.

I also disagree that it is the same with classical music:  Mozart's music was pushed aside until Mahler revived him, and Mahler was until Bernstein revived him. Composers can be tossed aside for decades because of changing tastes, and it doesn't make their works lesser because they don't gibe with current sensibilities or a penchant for the new.  And simply because there were lesser-known composers who aren't as great as Beethoven doesn't mean that their work doesn't merit revival, and their scores can shatter the myths we have of great composers by showing that certain ideas that we assumed were completely original were in the air/page and that they might very well have influenced the composers we consider great.  

Unfortunately, we don't have anything close to documentation for most lost ballets.

 

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I was typing this when Helene beat me to the punch. But I will weigh in anyway. First to say I agree with everything she wrote.

Ballet directors have tough, not to say impossible jobs. So let's put O'Hare to one side. I don't see the Royal regularly in any case and some of its most characteristic repertory speaks to tastes different from my own. But dance in general and  ballet in particular is just fragile enough that great ballets can be lost--as indeed they have been--and even notation and video do not entirely solve the problem. One needs a sensitive, musical stager familiar with the stylistic qualities that made the ballet great in the first place and dancers who can enter into those qualities. I'm not dogmatic about everything looking as it once did--far from it--my Natalia Petrovnas don't have to be exactly like Seymour (though it might not hurt :))--but the stager and the dancers need some insight into where the ballet is coming from...Living performance traditions matter.  

To take an "almost lost" example that came to my attention in just the last year though I had seen it once before decades ago...If it weren't for Farrell's recent staging of Gounod Symphony in her pick up company (which after this month's performances is closing shop), then who knows when it would have next been seen--if at all--and under what kind of stager's guidance? It hasn't been danced at Balanchine's home company in years--decades even--and then only rarely. Certainly nowhere else. I fear for the ballet's future now her company will soon be no more and firmly believe some smart "regional" company (Atlanta Ballet please?) should immediately hire her to stage it for them. Of course, people can and will debate the ballet's quality, but count me firmly on the side of "major work" and, exactly as Farrell has said, unique in Balanchine's oeuvre for its use of the ensemble. The audience I saw it with was gleeful as the dancers wove in and out of their patterns at top speed. Balanchine's oeuvre has enormous institutional weight behind it and generations of acolytes trying to keep his heritage alive...yet this terrific ballet barely survives. 

I am very glad that Sylvia was not left behind as "unsuccessful" Ashton. It doesn't have to be as perfect as Fille to be a marvelous work of art. Nijinska's heritage seems to me quite fragile and not by any means because it isn't worth keeping around. I'm not sure that without Ashton's efforts Les Biches or Les Noces would have entered the International repertory even to the small degree they have. What I enjoyed about seeing Les Biches at the Royal was that the link to Ashton was clear--in that sense Nijinska belongs to British tradition because she belongs to the tradition that includes Ashton--so  I would be delighted for the Royal to keep her ballets in its regular repertory. Not up to me of course and, as I already indicated, I don't doubt ballet directors have an impossible job...As it happens, I read about many things at the Royal I would love to see and if my plans pan out, then I will see the company's new Swan Lake in June. And I kind of hope it includes the Ashton pas de quatre in Act III (i.e. the ballroom scene).  

Edited by Drew

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That isn't surprising, because while Diaghilev and almost all of his dancers, choreographers, and composers were Russian, the ballets that survived were not a mainstay of the Soviet performance or coaching legacy, and they were performed by the post-Diaghilev Ballets Russes companies that toured extensively throughout Oceania, the Americas, and Western Europe and which were manned increasingly over time by dancers who were not Russian or Soviet.

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On 12/1/2017 at 10:05 AM, Helene said:

Unfortunately, we don't have anything close to documentation for most lost ballets.

 

What she said.

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13 hours ago, Helene said:

That isn't surprising, because while Diaghilev and almost all of his dancers, choreographers, and composers were Russian, the ballets that survived were not a mainstay of the Soviet performance or coaching legacy, and they were performed by the post-Diaghilev Ballets Russes companies that toured extensively throughout Oceania, the Americas, and Western Europe and which were manned increasingly over time by dancers who were not Russian or Soviet.

Still missing the heritage rep at the Joffrey...

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