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Frederick Ashton Foundation Master Classes


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The Frederick Ashton Foundation has been holding a series of masterclasses in which members of the Royal Ballet are coached in extracts from some of Ashton's lesser known choreography such as The Dance of the Blessed Spirits ; an extract from the choreography created for the staging of La Rossignol; a section of the Raymonda Pas de Deux  and The Walk to the Paradise Garden. The coaches include Anthony Dowell, Donald MacLeary and Merle Park. The masterclasses were filmed and are now available on the foundation's website under the heading "News and Events",

The dancers being coached include William Bracewell, Anna Rose O'Sullivan and Reece Clarke.

Edited by Ashton Fan
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I got a little ahead of myself the masterclass with Bracewell and O' Sullivan in Rossignol was held in November last year and has not yet been put on the site.

The following masterclasses are on the site;-

1) Prince Florimund's act 2 solo. Reece Calrke coached by Anthony Dowell on whom it was created.

2) The Dance of the Blessed Spirits. Vadim Muntagirov coached by Anthony Dowell on whom it was created

3) Walk to the Paradise Garden. Meaghan Grace Hinkis and Ryoichi Hirano coached by Merle Park one of the dancers on whom the ballet was created.The others were the late David Wall and the late Derek Rencher.

4) Raymonda Variations . Marianella Nunez and Federico Bonelli  and Anna Rose O'Sullivan  and David Donnelly  are coached  by Darcey Bussell with assistance from Donald Macleary . 

The coaching sessions offer fascinating insights. For anyone familiar with the prince's solo which forms part of the royal Ballet's act two text of Sleeping Beauty the masterclass reveals how the details which were originally intended to express the prince's longing and his sadness have gradually been smoothed down and turned into generalised classical ballet gestures. While the modern style of performance which tends to emphasize and display each individual step turns what was originally a lyrical flow of movement into a hazardous technical minefield which for many dancers is only to be approached with extreme caution which of course undermines its effectiveness.

James Hay, who you don't see in any of these masterclasses, seems to have found the solution to the technical problems which Ashton's choreography presents. In a recent interview he said that at some point you just have to stop worrying about the difficulties and just get on and dance Ashton's choreography.

 

Edited by Ashton Fan
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Thank you for posting this the coaching is wonderful!    Is it so interesting to see how much difference where the dancer looks has on the shape of the movement.   I could be wrong, but to me the Ashton coaches seem taking more care with focus than we often see.

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5 hours ago, Ashton Fan said:

 While the modern style of performance which tends to emphasize and display each individual step turns what was originally a lyrical flow of movement into a hazardous technical minefield which for many dancers is only to be approached with extreme caution which of course undermines its effectiveness.

Interesting. If you look at the old videos of Balanchine's company and compare them to how he is danced now you see something like this, too. 

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20 hours ago, Ashton Fan said:

The Frederick Ashton Foundation has been holding a series of masterclasses in which members of the Royal Ballet are coached in extracts from some of Ashton's lesser known choreography such as The Dance of the Blessed Spirits ; an extract from the choreography created for the staging of La Rossignol; a section of the Raymonda Pas de Deux  and The Walk to the Paradise Garden. The coaches include Anthony Dowell, Donald MacLeary and Merle Park. The masterclasses were filmed and are now available on the foundation's website under the heading "News and Events",

The dancers being coached include William Bracewell, Anna Rose O'Sullivan and Reece Clarke.

Thank you so much for posting this. There is so much Ashton choreography that I've never had a chance to see, so it's a great treat.

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As I understand it these events are being arranged and recorded to provide archive material for the Ashton Foundation. I find it interesting that the 2016-17 master classes included the Prince's solo from Sleeping Beauty which is an element in the company's standard text of the ballet when the other pieces of choreography being coached in these master classes are real rarities. But when you see Clarke being coached in the solo you realize how much essential detail has been lost and how necessary it was to record the solo being coached by the first man to dance it. 

I am fortunate enough to have seen all of these pieces and while I am particularly pleased to see The Walk to the Paradise Garden being coached by Merle Park I can't help regretting that it has taken so long for this to happen and thinking about what has been lost in the meantime. Like everything else it is probably a mixture of lack of money and the shortsightedness of the rights holders who did not recognise the need to protect and preserve what Ashton had left them which has led to the current state of affairs. But then the company's ambivalence towards its Ashton repertory has contributed to the situation and has no doubt influenced the rights holders view of the artistic worth of Ashton's legacies to them.

Ashton said that he did not think that his works would outlive him and most of the rights holders seem to have  shared his assessment of their likely future viability and contributed to it as until recently they have taken little or no action to ensure that the ballets left to them would be performable in a recognisable form after they were unable to stage the works themselves.

The good news is that the foundation now has artistic control over three of them. Brian Shaw's ballets were left to the Royal Ballet School by Derek Rencher and are managed by the foundation which has been able to buy Daphnis and Chloe but the rest are to a greater or lesser degree at risk. At present I would think that Fille is in greatest danger as it now belongs to Alexander Grant's partner who is a non dancer.  

As the foundation was only established in 2011 some twenty three years after Ashton's death there is rather a lot of work for it to do. So many dancers who should have been involved in the project of coaching and recording ballets being coached died long before it got off the ground.

Edited by Ashton Fan
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23 minutes ago, Ashton Fan said:

 At present I would think that Fille is in greatest danger as it now belongs to Alexander Grant's partner who is a non dancer.  

 

Most of the rights are now in the hands of non-dancers and I don't see that this is necessarily bad news.

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It really depends on what the non-dancers think they have, and what their responsibilities are.  I imagine that the Limon family thought they were doing the right thing with his repertory, but they didn't really understand the complexities of concert dance in the 20th c -- they missed a lot of opportunities, and we've lost a significant chunk of the work.

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