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Royal Ballet 2017-18 season

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Did anyone notice that Sergei Polunin is back?  He is.  Check out the Dancers on the RB website.  Not sure what or how much he'll be dancing, but Sergei is not listed as a guest artist as Roberto Bolle is.  Sergei is listed as a Principal Dancer.  I'm very happy for the RB and for Sergei.  I only wish I lived closer... sigh...

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I thought his stronger statements came in much earlier interviews. Have there been more recent statements?


Defamatory seems a very strong word to me--he wasn't happy at the Royal for sure, and doesn't bother being polite about it (in those earlier interviews that I am thinking of at least...) But even at his most negative, a lot of what he said made it perfectly clear that he was driven by his own demons. Indeed, some of his most "defamatory" statements had himself for target ... He didn't say Monica Mason was doing illegal drugs or that his partners were bored with performing or that the company press office lied about his reasons for leaving. At various point, he says all of those things about himself. (He doesn't use the word "lie" but in one interview said that some of what he had been saying in an earlier wasn't true.)


But in any case, he was very young, and he is very talented, and he now has something of a track record showing up for performances etc. If the Royal is willing to give him another chance, good for them and, I should think, good for their audience. Perhaps no dancer should be given infinite chances, but some dancers certainly merit more than one or two. And, from what I can tell, he is very popular in London--elsewhere too of course.

Edited by Drew
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I would also think there are people throughout the company who care about him. If I were to talk trash about my parents, relatives and even some close friends due to my own problems, they are likely to forgive me and know I lashed out because I was going through a lot. Some may not forgive and forget. Some would.


There are no black and white ways to react when dealing with relationships even business relationships.

Edited by Birdsall
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At the time Polounin walked out on RB, was Monica Mason still in charge?  The change in leadership may be an essential part of the equation here.  Also, the current management seems to think very highly of Osipova, and she may have some influence on laying some groundwork for Polounin to have a relationship w. RB again.

Edited by abatt
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3 hours ago, Drew said:

Defamatory seems a very strong word to me--he wasn't happy at the Royal for sure, and doesn't bother being polite about it (in those earlier interviews that I am thinking of at least...) But even at his most negative, a lot of what he said made it perfectly clear that he was driven by his own demons. Indeed, some of his most "defamatory" statements had himself for target ... He didn't say Monica Mason was doing illegal drugs or that his partners were bored with performing or that the company press office lied about his reasons for leaving. At various point, he says all of those things about himself. (He doesn't use the word "lie" but in one interview said that some of what he had been saying in an earlier wasn't true.)


Talking about his own drug use wouldn't be defamatory because it's an admission of something that's true. Polunin gave a spate of interviews about a month ago in connection with his Polunin Project and the Dancer film, and Luke Jennings took issue with Polunin making "wild accusations" about the Royal Ballet, and also with the journalists reporting on the interviews for failing to do fact-checking.



The Royal Ballet is the best paid company, but the dancers get nothing. The stage crew get paid three times more than the dancers, and they have a job for life – dancers only have 10 years.



I seriously doubt any of these statements is true.



I couldn't believe the industry could have gone so low. I worked 11 to 12 hours a day, six days a week and the money was bad. Before dancers were treated well – they were looked after; they could afford houses. Now we live like children. Dancers live in shared houses with three or four others; you don't have enough money to buy your own flat or to pay for dinner.


A footballer in three weeks earns what a dancer makes in a year. I wasn't allowed to work with other dance companies – they were all so competitive with each other and art shouldn't be.



I dare say not many people can afford to buy a flat in London these days. (And footballers make in three weeks more than practically everyone else, too.)



The company is so jealous. They won't let you work elsewhere. They won't even let you use a style from elsewhere. You work so hard: 11 hours a day, six days a week. It isn't human. I didn't know what life was.


If the Royal Ballet is so inhuman (present tense), I'm amazed he would want to step foot inside the ROH, or the studios of any ballet company:



"Some people go crazy. It’s constant pressure. People don’t eat well. They work a lot. There’s no rest. People lose their mind by 30. They really go crazy – especially ballerinas. It triggers something.” School is like the army, he says, and then at theatres the competitiveness remains. “It’s not nice. I can’t say people enjoy it. You can’t love or have fun or experience things. It’s not healthy to be in that environment.”


That's not exactly an accurate reflection of reality either.


At least one reporter did ask the Royal Ballet for comment, but apparently it declined to respond.

Edited by volcanohunter
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I did not know about this recent interview -- I better understand what you were referring to...and thanks for the quotes.


Some of what Polunin says (about the unhealthiness of the atmosphere especially) reminds me of issues I have seen raised over the years by dancers and students from a range of schools, and traditions. (And indeed encountered in my own ballet student days.) Some companies and schools have tried to address them in some fashion without sacrificing the necesary rigors of ballet training and performance. Which is not an easy circle to square.


So, without believing that Polunin is giving a balanced picture, I wish I could say I thought it was all UNbelievable or all his own personal anguish being recast as external problems. I don't think I do.


It certainly does not surprise me that he still chooses to dance. Even without this interview it is easy to see he has a love-hate relation with the art. And many people have a love-hate relation with what they do. And if he still chooses to be a ballet dancer, and can muster the discipline for it, then I wish him well.


He surely is not the first 'difficult' or maverick artist the Royal has had as a guest artist or even a principal dancer!

Edited by Drew
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The season has been announced, including a new Swan Lake staged by Liam Scarlett. (No pressure.)


There is a major focus on Kenneth MacMillan's ballets to mark the 25th anniversary of his death. (But is a revival of Judas Tree really necessary, ever?)



Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
27 September—28 October 2017

Choreography: Christopher Wheeldon
Music: Joby Talbot


Jeux (part of MacMillan: A National Celebration)
18–24 October 2017 (Clore Studio Upstairs)

Choreography: Wayne Eagling after Kenneth MacMillan and Vaslav Nijinsky
Music: Claude Debussy

As part of Kenneth MacMillan: a National Celebration, The Royal Ballet dances Wayne Eagling’s short ballet inspired by MacMillan’s re-creation of Nijinsky’s lost Debussy work.


Concerto / Le Baiser de la fée / Elite Syncopations (part of MacMillan: A National Celebration)
18–19 October 2017

Choreography: Kenneth MacMillan
Music: Dmitry Shostakovich / Igor Stravinsky / Scott Joplin
Performed by: The Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Northern Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Scottish Ballet

Dancers from the UK’s five leading ballet companies perform two of MacMillan’s sunniest works alongside a new production of his dark, classical fairytale, as part of Kenneth MacMillan: a National Celebration.


The Judas Tree / Song of the Earth (part of MacMillan: A National Celebration)
24 October—1 November 2017

Choreography: Kenneth MacMillan
Music: Gustav Mahler / Brian Elias
Performed by: The Royal Ballet and English National Ballet
The Royal Ballet and English National Ballet present two of Kenneth MacMillan’s most complex and important works, in the second programme of Kenneth MacMillan: a National Celebration.


Sea of Troubles (part of MacMillan: A National Celebration)
26 October—1 November 2017 (Clore Studio Upstairs)

Choreography: Kenneth MacMillan
Music: Anton Webern and Bohuslav Martinů
As part of Kenneth MacMillan: a National Celebration, Yorke Dance Project performs Kenneth MacMillan’s powerful short ballet inspired by Shakespeare’s Hamlet.


Gloria / The Judas Tree / Elite Syncopations (part of MacMillan: A National Celebration)
26–27 October 2017

Choreography: Kenneth MacMillan
Music: Francis Poulenc / Brian Elias / Scott Joplin
Performed by: The Royal Ballet, Northern Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Scottish Ballet
Leading UK dance companies perform three ballets that show the range and versatility of MacMillan’s muse, in the third and final programme of Kenneth MacMillan: a National Celebration.


The Illustrated 'Farewell' NEW / The Wind NEW / Untouchable 2x WORLD PREMIERES
6–17 November 2017

Choreography: Twyla Tharp / Arthur Pita / Hofesh Shechter
Music: Joseph Haydn / Frank Moon and Christopher Austin / Hofesh Shechter and Nell Catchpole


23 November—16 December 2017

Choreography: Frederick Ashton
Music: Léo Delibes


The Nutcracker
5 December 2017—10 January 2018

Choreography: Peter Wright after Lev Ivanov
Music: Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky


19 January—9 March 2018

Choreography: Marius Petipa after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot
Music: Adolphe Adam revised by Lars Paine


The Winter's Tale
13 February—21 March 2018

Choreography: Christopher Wheeldon
Music: Joby Talbot


NEW Wayne McGregor / The Age of Anxiety / NEW Christopher Wheeldon 2x WORLD PREMIERES
15 March—13 April 2018

Choreography: Wayne McGregor / Liam Scarlett / Christopher Wheeldon
Music: Leonard Bernstein
The Royal Ballet celebrates the centenary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth with an all-Bernstein programme from the Company’s three associate choreographers, Wayne McGregor, Liam Scarlett and Christopher Wheeldon.


29 March—16 May 2018

Choreography: Kenneth MacMillan
Music: Jules Massenet


Obsidian Tear / Marguerite and Armand / Elite Syncopations
14 April—11 May 2018

Choreography: Wayne McGregor / Frederick Ashton / Kenneth MacMillan
Music: Esa-Pekka Salonen / Franz Liszt / Scott Joplin


17 May—21 June 2018

Choreography: Liam Scarlett after Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov
Music: Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky

The Royal Ballet presents a new production of Tchaikovsky’s magnificent classical ballet, with additional choreography by Liam Scarlett and designs by John Macfarlane.


The Royal Ballet School Summer Performance 2018
8 July 2018

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I'm most looking forward to the Macmillan rarities, especially BAISER DE LA FEE. I wonder how it will compare to the two versions I've seen, i.e., Ratmansky's & Kasatkina/Vasiliov's? 


On the other hand, only one Ashton ballet? Gee, even Sarasota tops that.

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I suspect Sarasota Ballet routinely performs more Ashton than the Royal Ballet.


There is Marguerite and Armand in addition to Sylvia. However, since the former is being performed this season as well, it might have been better to choose something else when so little Ashton is on offer.

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Unfortunately as 2017 marks the twenty fifth anniversary of MacMillan's death it was inevitable that we were going to have rather a lot of his ballets programmed during the entire year. I am just grateful that we have had so few of his "challenging" works scheduled for performance and that Lady M. has not managed to persuade the management to disinter Isadora.


As far as the Ashton repertory is concerned I am not sure that It has been specifically singled out for neglect as we have not seen much of the Diaghilev repertory either since Mr. O'Hare became AD. It would seem that he is more concerned with commissioning new works for the company, most of which have turned out to be second rate, than performing and maintaining the company's repertory of twentieth century masterworks, or acquiring as regular repertory pieces any of the major works created elsewhere in the last fifty years. Strangely in all this MacMillan's three successful full length ballets have not suffered neglect. The company has proved itself capable of programming revivals of them with such regularity that there seems to be a timetable for their revival which raises the question of why something similar can not be done for the company's founder choreographer?


It must be difficult for any AD running a company with a significant repertory of masterpieces to get the balance right between encouraging the creation of new works and maintaining the historical repertory I can't help thinking that an AD who wanted to achieve a balance between new works, the nineteenth century classics and twentieth century masterpieces would find a way of doing so. What makes the whole thing so frustrating is that Mason pulled so many ballets back from oblivion and now O'Hare is letting them drift back into the shadows.I have heard one or two people suggest that this is because the current AD is more concerned about his legacy than he is about his duty to make the historic repertory available to the current audience but then perhaps the problem is that while the new works don't look too bad if they are seen in isolation when they are seen in close proximity to major works they tend to look weak if not inept.I hate to think what the 2020 season will look like if Kevin only programmes new productions and works created during his directorship. A season which includes Acosta's Don Q possibly his Carmen;Scarlett's new Swan Lake,Frankenstein, Sweet Violets and The Age of Anxiety; Wheeldon's Winter's Tale, Strapless, In the Golden Hour and After the Rain;McGregor's Woolf Works, Limen, Infra and Live Fire Exercise; Dawson's Human Seasons and Schechter's Untouchable does not seem that attractive to me and could prove to be a very cheap season.


It seems to me that the real problem as far as the Ashton repertory at Covent Garden is concerned is that his works suffer from not having the active advocate that MacMillan has in Lady M..I am pleased to see that Sylvia is being revived but I can only guess at why Marguerite and Armand is back again so soon.It suggests either that someone significant is retiring and wants to dance it or that someone has agreed to dance in that ballet as a guest artist.From something that Francesca Hayward said in interview last night it would seem that the ballet has now become a work that dancers want to appear in as she said that she hoped that she would have the opportunity to dance it when she is older.We shall discover the reason for its inclusion in the 2017-18 season when the casting is announced, at the moment it just seems part of a very odd mixed bill.


It is good that Giselle is being revived as it should mean that some of the dancers who should have been given the opportunity of working with Peter Wright when it was last revived may now have the chance of doing so but in many ways I wish that his production were less of an edited highlights account of the ballet.I find the Skeaping production which the ENB dance is far more satisfying.As far as the new Swan lake is concerned from the notes in the handbook for the 2017-18 season it seems that some of Ashton's choreography will be seen in Scarlett's new Swan Lake I assume that this means that at the very least we shall see Ashton's Neapolitan Dance but I hope that  we get his Waltz , his dance of the prospective brides and his Pas de Quatre as well.


Having just seen the Ratmansky reconstruction of Swan Lake in Zurich which was delightful because its period appropriate performance style gives the audience has an opportunity to experience something approaching what Petipa and Ivanov intended their audience to see I think that a company like the RB should really have at least two productions of the ballet in its repertory. One a scrupulous reconstruction danced in period appropriate performance style and a second more modern version with whatever choreographic interpolations the company has acquired over the years.In the RB's case their second version  would be a version of the ballet as danced in the 1970's probably the one danced during Morrice's directorship which included Ashton's Act I waltz which requires twelve good classical dancers,in Act III his dance of the prospective brides, his Pas de Quatre, Spanish Dance and Neapolitan Dance and Maria Fay's Czardas, and his Act IV. 


 As in earlier years the new season will, no doubt, look considerably more interesting when the casting is announced and even if the new Swan Lake proves to be less than choreographically ideal there will be debuts and the debuts of dancers like Hayward, Naghdi, Stix- Brunell, and possibly Heap as Odette/Odile  and Ball,Clarke and Hay as the Prince will persuade me to buy tickets. As Scarlett has ,so far, chosen good designers for his ballets there is every hope that the new Swan Lake will not be the bling laden design disaster that Dowell's production proved to be. 

Edited by Ashton Fan
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As someone pointed out to me during the lengthy run of Sleeping Beauty the company has been short of two male Principal dancers during the entire season and yet I don't think that anyone has really noticed their absence as far as the quality of the company's performances is concerned. What the audience probably has noticed is that a number of obviously talented young men have been given their first opportunities to dance the princely roles in Nutcracker and Beauty.and some have had the opportunity to dance in Jewels as well. It will be interesting to discover whether these opportunities were part of a development plan for them or whether their appearances in these roles was simply a pragmatic response to the absence of the more senior dancers. Perhaps we shall find out when the casting for the first booking period is announced.


While I don't like making predictions I would not be at all surprised to find Hayward cast in the performance of Alice which is due to be streamed next season.  She made a very successful debut in the role when it was last programmed and both Cuthbertson and Lamb have already been seen in streamed performances. Perhaps Bracewell will be given a shot at dancing Jack and the Sugar Plum Fairy's cavalier.


I think that we will almost certainly have debuts in Sylvia.There are not that many performances of the ballet but if management means to keep the ballet as part of the company's living repertory then we should see one, if not two, debuts in the title role during this run.It might also decide to try out Ball and Clarke as Aminta. Given the way in which O'Sullivan danced in Sleeping Beauty as Fairy of the Songbirds and Golden Vine, Florine and one of Florestan's Sisters I shall be surprised if she is not given a debut as Sugar Plum Fairy over Christmas.


In 2018 we have revivals of Giselle and Manon, with any luck that will mean debuts by both Hayward and Naghdi in Giselle and Naghdi making her debut in Manon. I can't help wondering whether Watson will dance Manon with Hayward as he did when she made her debut All in all the season is bound to become really interesting once the casting is announced.


As far as the new Swan Lake is concerned it is announced as having choreography by Petipa and Ashton. What that means is anyone's guess merely the Neapolitan dance or some more substantial bits of his choreography ? We have a long time to wait for the answer. I just hope that if it is bad news we don't have to endure it for too long. A production using the choreographic text from the Dowell production with Bintley's pedestrian waltz replaced by one of Ashton's versions and the restoration of the Peasant girl's pas set by De Valois would be more than acceptable but an occasional outing for Ashton's last act would be better. If it ends up with even more Ashton in it then I think that the London audience will probably see it as a tribute from one great choreographer to the man who he said gave him "private lessons" whenever he watched the Fairy Varitions

Edited by Ashton Fan
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I am not sure whether I would describe the bulk of the works to be performed during the MacMillan fest as rarities, although Sea of Troubles certainly is one.It was made for a small company that was run by a dancer called Susan Crow who danced with SWRB/BRB before branching out on her own. I wonder what Baiser will look like after all these years? Unfortunately I don't recall much about it except being slightly disappointed by it when the RB danced it years ago. It would be nice to think that it turns to be a piece of real interest, if not a masterpiece, but as someone pointed out to me a significant number of the twentieth century's major choreographers have had a go at making a ballet using Stravinsky's score beginning with Nijinska and including  Ashton and Balanchine, none of which have survived in the repertory, it suggests that there is a problem with the score.


The most interesting thing about this celebration is that companies other than the RB are involved in it with ENB dancing Song of the Earth, Northern Ballet dancing Gloria, BRB dancing Concerto and Elite Syncopations being danced with dancers drawn from the RB and from the other companies involved in the celebration.Looking at ticket sales for the main stage MacMillan mixed bills it would appear that the only programme which is nearly sold out is the one which does not include Judas Tree. This suggests that the ballet going public is not as sure about the artistic status of Judas Tree as Lady M and that it was somewhat unwise to include the work in two of the mixed bills which are being performed.  I wonder whether it will be necessary to reduce ticket prices for those two programmes to shift the tickets?


So far the ballet company seems to be doing somewhat better than the opera company as far as ticket sales for the Autumn booking period are concerned. It would seem that ticket sales for  La Boheme have been incredibly slow as advertisements for performances have already begun to appear on Tube stations. While I might anticipate that it would be necessary to advertise a revival of a very old production or a production which was badly received by the critics and not much liked by the public when it was new, it is really incredible to see advertisements for a new production of such a popular opera. The general opera going public is not normally that  fastidious about new productions when the opera is a staple of the repertory composed by Puccini. 


Edited by Ashton Fan
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A multi-company festival is one way to get that much more of the work on stage and, I suppose, make a point about Macmillan's impact on British Ballet altogether not just the Royal....


Other, perhaps, than Song of the Earth, the Macmillan ballet I would most like to see revived is the Faure Requiem. Sorry not to see it in the lineup--I wonder if anyone anywhere will be reviving it? 

Edited by Drew
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Requiem was last seen a few years ago in an outstanding cast led by Leanne Benjamin and Carlos Acosta, both dancers have now retired however.  I wonder if they will revive it in Stuttgart?


I totally agree with Ashton Fan's comments regarding Judas Tree, it is an awful thing and if it has any admirers I've yet to meet them, the only redeeming feature was Leanne Benjamin's portrayal of the Madonna/whore figure.  To have it in two programmes is indefensible, including it in one is bad enough and I guarantee the RB regulars will be sitting it out in the bar rather than watch what is in reality a blot on MacMillan's memory that should be binned.  For me it is an outrage that so many of KM's ballet's appear to be irretrievably lost whereas his turkeys get regular revivals, many are wondering if this has something to do with Lady MacMillan's pervasive influence, but it does nothing to enhance her husband's reputation.

Edited by Mashinka
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Until now MacMillan has generally been the preserve of the RB and to a lesser extent the BRB as far as UK companies are concerned. As the Royal Opera House Board refused to agree to MacMillan making a ballet using a major orchestral score he was forced to create The Song of the Earth in Stuttgart. Although the work was almost immediately staged by the RB and acknowledged as a masterpiece he encountered problems from the same source when he wanted to create a ballet to Faure's Requiem, this time because of the work's supposed religious content. As a result the works were created in Stuttgart and are part of that company's historical repertory as is My Brother My Sisters. Song is occasionally revived by them. As far as the likelihood of seeing Requiem is concerned it is not usually out of the RB's repertory for any length of time so I expect to see it back in the not too distant future.


As far as seeing MacMillan's ballets in the UK today is concerned Lady M decides which companies should be permitted to dance her late husband's work. Perhaps she has not deemed other British companies worthy or perhaps they just have not approached her about staging some of the works which don't need a cast of thousands. The first and most obvious thing is that you need to know of a work's existence if you are going to think about staging it and then you have to decide whether the work is viable today.The longer a ballet is out of the repertory the more likely it is that people will assume that there must be something wrong with it  or a company somewhere in the would be dancing it . When the neglected ballet is by an eminent choreographer who has an active advocate the stronger the assumption will be that there is good reason for the work's neglect and that it must be deeply flawed. Unfortunately as Mashinka has said Lady M promotes MacMillan's turkeys aka his "challenging" works and fails to revive works which would enhance his reputation and might even appeal to the directors of other companies who might contemplate reviving them.  


It seems to me that Lady M has done her late husband few favours by promoting his "challenging" works like Judas Tree and Different Drummer and neglecting his more accessible, more audience friendly, classically based works such as Solitaire; Soiree Musicales created for the School , but surely capable of being a fine ending to a triple bill; the quirky Danses Concertantes; Triad; Verdi Variations which eventually became part of Quartet, or Concerto which looks so innocuously simple and yet exposes every technical flaw in its cast and the large scale Four Seasons which was hailed as a company show case at the time of its premiere but has not been seen for the best part of forty years.I suspect that one of the reasons for the neglect of Seasons is the demands it makes on a company as it calls for ten principal dancers to do it justice. By the time of its second production the company was in decline which no one involved with the company seemed able to arrest and reverse. It is only recently that the company has had the strength and depth to contemplate reviving it but it does not look likely that this will happen.It must have been notated and members of the original cast are still around and compos mentis but if they leave it any longer it will, I assume be deemed incapable of revival. What these ballets have in common is that they reveal MacMillan to have been a a fine classical choreographer which does not exactly fit the image of the man which Lady M seeks to promote.


If a wide range of MacMillan's works are to be seen they need to be performed

and it seems to me that this MacMillanfest is something of a missed opportunity.Lady M has got other companies involved which means that people in the rest of the country may get the chance to see some MacMillan in live performance, but apart from Baiser de la Fee and Sea of Troubles, both of which I am pleased to see, there is nothing which has been out of the repertory for any length of time. Perhaps this event will encourage one or two companies to ask about some of the missing MacMillan repertory and think about staging it but I have no great hopes that this will happen.


While there are some works like Playground, My Brother My Sisters, Valley of Shadows and Rituals which have been undisturbed for some time and should never be revived there are at least two others which should be consigned to oblivion, Different Drummer, which shows what ballet can't do and Judas Tree which shows what ballet should not do and is, as Mashinka says, "an awful thing". If reviving Winter Dreams is the price we have to pay for their perpetual retirement from the repertory, I for one would be prepared to pay it. There are several works which I think deserve to be revived such as Solitaire, Triad, Quartet, Verdi Variations as a gala piece, Soiree Musicales, and The Four Seasons and some which need to be reassessed such as Danses Concertantes; Symphony and Fin du Jour, which defeated the company when it was last revived.


Perhaps some of MacMillan's neglected classically based works will not prove to be neglected masterpieces but we should at least have the opportunity to see them while their revival is still a practical option. I am sure that I am not the only one who thinks what we are permitted to see of MacMillan's output is too skewed towards Lady M's assessment of her late husband's place in the development of British ballet. The problem is that by concentrating on a limited range of works and emphasising the way in which he differed from Ashton in taste and output and portraying him as an unappreciated genius not only is our understanding of his work distorted but Lady M is failing to explore and exploit the full range of his legacy. It seems to me that by ignoring MacMillan's

work as a classical choreographer she is doing the ballet audience and her late husband a great disservice.




Edited by Ashton Fan
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I agree with pretty much all of that, MacMillan was hugely prolific with an impressive back catalogue, but were all his ballets filmed/notated?  Apart from the works Ashton Fan lists, I'd very much like to see a full length Images of Love, the innovative work he created inspired by quotations from Shakespeare.  The pas de trois was revived a few years ago in a tribute to Nureyev programme and was admired by those seeing it for the first time.  House of Birds (1955) was a kind of modern dark fairy tale, that got regular revivals up until his departure to Berlin, another worth reviving although it was written off as a flop at the time because of putting dancers in costumes that made them disappear into the scenery, was his 6.6.78 which should in my opinion be reassessed.    Gloriana Dances, danced so memorably by Lynn Seymour and Wayne Eagling shouldn't disappear into oblivion either.  Although I never saw it, older ballet goers still enthuse about his version of Agon.


The music from La Fin de Jour was played at Macmillan's remembrance service in Westminster Abbey, both the RB and BRB revivals were failures of what was once one of his greatest works, the steps were reproduced without any consciousness of what was behind them, I'm afraid this ballet has died with him.


ENB dancing Song of the Earth surprised me as they performed Rite of Spring with new sets and costumes extraordinarily well under Wayne Eagling's directorship and I would have thought it would be a cert for revival as Rite will sell to music lovers as well as ballet goers.   Although I can see Corrales as Messenger of Death, it might not prove that easy to cast and putting it on a double bill with La Sylphide strikes most people as bizarre.


All in all I feel that this anniversary year is a missed opportunity.

Edited by Mashinka
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Solitaire was performed by BRB during midscale last year in the North and this year in the South.  It has been performed by them in the recent past too.


Just to mention that it is Scottish Ballet who are performing Baiser.


Northern Ballet (I think for the first time in their history) is performing a triple bill of MacMillan works in Bradford and Leeds - Concerto, Las Hermanas and Gloria.

Edited by JMcN
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There is an article on the RAD website about MacMillan and Benesch notation which suggests that all but seven or eight of MacMillan's earliest ballets were recorded in Benesch notation and are capable of revival. The first MacMillan ballet to be notated was Solitaire in 1956 everything he created after that was recorded in Benesch notation much of it by Monica Parker. Both House of Birds and Danses Concertantes dating from 1955 were notated when they were revived in 1963.


The existence of a physical record means that a ballet like House of Birds could be revived if a company and Lady M wanted to stage it .The problem is that I don't think that there is any great evidence that anyone is that interested in bringing back any of MacMillan's early works apart from Solitaire which gets dusted off very occasionally by BRB. Presumably it was deemed suitable to mark the current MacMillan anniversary because it is part of the company's history as it was made for one of BRB's predecessor companies. That early connection might well have persuaded Lady M that it would do her husband's reputation as a choreographic rebel little or no harm. As there are people working for the company who remember Solitaire from their own time as dancers and the company has not departed as radically from the work's original musicality and performance style as the Covent Garden company has done I imagine that BRB made a good job of the revival. However giving Solitaire an occasional airing to mark a significant MacMillan anniversary does not make it a repertory piece. If I am right about Solitaire's current status then the next time it will see the light of day is in 2027 when MacMillan centenary is celebrated.


I first saw  Danses Concertantes when it was danced by the RBS during the 1970's as part of their end of term main stage performance. It was still a Royal Ballet repertory piece as late as 1995 so there are plenty of people around who danced in it which means that it should be relatively easy to revive it. A  snippet

was used at the last Genee Competition held in London. The young South African who won the gold medal was the only one to dance it in competition and he made a very good job of it. I have memories of seeing MacMillan's Agon in the 1970's. I remember rather liking it . I think that it had disappeared from the repertory some time before the company acquired Balanchine's ballet of the same name. As far as 6.6.78 is concerned I know that I have seen it but I remember nothing about it.


 I wonder how much of a problem the resident company's current performance style would present in successfully reviving one of MacMillan's early works ? The company which originally danced The House of Birds was one whose repertory was firmly classically based and whose house style was Ashton's. The company's current performance style, musicality and dynamics are very different from what they were  when the bulk of MacMillan's ballets were created. You don't have to look very hard to find evidence of the effect of this shift in style in ballets which have remained in the repertory. The company dances far more slowly than it did in the 70's and 80's and not everyone has the musicality, clean footwork, or ability as a terre a terre dancer which its dancers then had . Many of its non RBS trained dancers seem to prefer to execute steps in classroom style rather than as the choreographer modified them and few of its dancers are brave enough or have the ability to dance in what must feel like a dangerously off balance fashion or use their upper bodies as expansively as the RB's dancers once did.  The result is that we rarely see Symphonic Variations with the Brian Shaw role danced as it should be with the dancer doing off centre turns as he gazes to the heavens and we rarely see MacMillan's Mercutio as he choreographed it. Eliminate  the off centre turns and the other quirky and unusual elements in Mercutio's choreography and you eliminate MacMillan's carefully  crafted character and turn Merctio into a conventional classical role which is little more than a plot device and about as compelling and interesting .


Neither Ashton nor MacMillan could have anticipated the changes in performance style and musicality which have taken place since the 90's. If MacMillan's neglected ballets were to be performed in the company's current performance style the audience would not necessarily see the connection which MacMillan created between the music and his choreography which was what made the works so worth watching when they were new. I suspect that few people recognise the importance which musicality plays in the ability to to dance Ashton and MacMillan really well. It's not a question of counting but of listening to the music.


I wonder whether Fin du Jour failed to work when it was revived because it was too much of its time and place or whether it was other factors which were at play?  I know that at a time when the company as a whole had been trained to listen to the music to which they were dancing Park, who was in the original cast, was always picked out as being exceptionally musical and I always thought that Penney was very musical.  I don't recall that the RB's revival cast struck me as particularly suited to their roles and that the men had extreme difficulty in executing the lifts which both Eagling and Deane had tossed off as if they were nothing. As a result  I wonder whether the reason for the failure of both revivals was not the work's weakness but is attributable to remediable factors such as casting and/or inadequate rehearsal time and/or perhaps a failure to get anyone who had been involved in the original performances into the rehearsal studio ? Any one of these factors would have been sufficient to explain the failures. I have to admit that Fin du Jour would not be on my list of works requiring urgent revival. I fear that my comments about the possible causes of the failure of Fin du Jour's revival apply to a revival of pretty much any ballet created before 1990.


The fact that the powers that be at the RB don't want to make the older repertory seem dated by demanding that the dancers perform them in period appropriate style and permit performers to dance the works in the currently fashionable,slow,high extension, stop, start,freeze framing style means that few of them are danced in a style which their creator's would recognise. With their  musicality, dynamics and use of body distorted and their architecture askew only the floor plan of some of the works is accurate in performance .




Edited by Ashton Fan
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