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Royal Ballet 2018-19 season

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On 11/29/2018 at 12:14 PM, Ashton Fan said:

One of the newspaper critics who is clearly not a fan of classical choreography  gave Unknown Soldier a fairly positive review and simply dismissed Symphony in C as a " tutu ballet " saying nothing about the cast's performance.. Presumably in her eyes Balanchine's response to the Bizet score is far too full of  joie de vivre, if not down right frivolous, to be considered acceptable company for the other works in the programme.

 

 

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Which review was this, please? I've read most of those with online links and don't remember anyone putting Symphony in C down like this!

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I

22 hours ago, Jane Simpson said:

Which review was this, please? I've read most of those with online links and don't remember anyone putting Symphony in C down like this!

 

I am similarly puzzled. There is a comprehensive listing of fifteen reviews of this programme on the Ballet Association web site. 

http://www.balletassociation.co.uk/Pages/news.html#Unknown

I can't see in any of those one which lauds Unknown Soldier and dismisses Symphony in C as a tutu ballet and without any mention of its cast.

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I have never understood "tutu ballet" to have negative connotations anyway; I've always considered it purely descriptive.

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I think at best “tutu ballet” is reductive, and in most contexts trivializing. And in what serious sense could it be descriptive—is the grand pas from Paquita really the same genre as Symphony in C? And as description, even of costumes, it’s also imprecise (romantic tutus are tutus too) though I think people are probably just thinking of the flatter, shorter, or “pancake” tutus. 

Context certainly makes a difference to how one might understand the term...and perhaps there are examples where I wouldn't find it reductive or trivializing ... but it’s hard for me to conjure them.

Edited by Drew

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Thiago Soares has announced that the 2018-19 season will be his last as a full-time Principal. (He will be a guest Principal next season but doesn't specify what that will entail):

 

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The Royal Ballet has announced the casting for their Summer Season 

https://www.roh.org.uk/mixed-programmes/the-firebird-a-month-in-the-country-symphony-in-c

On Opening Night:  Yasmine Naghdi will dance The Firebird partnered by Edward Watson, making his comeback after a long absence. The title roles in "A Month in the Country" will be danced by Marianella Nunez and William Bracewell. In "Symphony in C" we'll get Natalia Osipova and various other dancers. 

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A very substantive exciting program all round. 

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could be used It would appear that the ROH still has not managed to put the limited amount of casting information it has deigned to make available on its website into any semblance of order. At present it is simply a jumble of names with what appear to be the cast for Firebird, in no particular order, plus a few randomly selected names with no indication as to what those dancers might be performing. Anyone who is interested in who is dancing what could do a lot worse than to look on the Ballet Association website where casting for all the performances of the three ballets to be danced is given in full

l think that the announcement of Soares' departure at the end of the season and his Guest Principal status next season simply means that there is nothing in the company's repertory from now until the end of the season which could be used to mark his departure rather than an indication that a continuing professional relationship with the company is on the cards . His announcement at the end of last season that he was going to concentrate on dramatic roles suggested that at that point he thought that he had a few more seasons left in him. I suspect that management did not consider his retirement imminent when the current season was being prepared. If Bussell's and Yanowsky's departures are anything to go by long serving Principals who intend to retire at the end of the following season are asked what they would like to dance as their last performances. Soares' departure will no doubt prompt a great deal of speculation as to who else is likely to retire soon and who will replace them from within the company as it is all but certain that any new Principals will be internal appointments.

The current management  was seemingly taken by surprise by the Fonteyn centenary this year. There was no announcement pf any special event or performances to mark it when the season was unveiled last year. A "Fonteyn Gala" has belatedly been announced  which it would appear is being cobbled together from what is readily to hand. The gala programme will include the  Firebird which is programmed in the final mixed bill of the current season and I suspect that the  ballet excerpts associated with Fonteyn which are to be included in the company's mixed bill in Japan will be pressed into service for the Covent Garden celebrations. It has been announced that the "Tribute to Fonteyn" to be danced in Japan will include the Rose Adagio so presumably we shall be treated to a preview of the excerpts to be shown there which makes the "Gala" seem more like an open rehearsal than anything else. As to what else will be included we shall of course know on the night itself but I think that it is safe to assume that the "Tribute" will be used as an opportunity to display the range and depth of the company's current Female Principals. If this is the case the Sylvia grand pas de deux will be included as the  company has four Principals who have that in their repertory and three who have danced the full  ballet. Other possibilities include the Ondine pas de l'Ombre; the Cinderella ballroom pas de deux and the closing pas de deux from Daphnis and Chloe, The balcony pas de deux  from Romeo and Juliet might be controversial even now as it still raise hackles among older ballet goers in London who feel that Seymour and Gable were robbed of the opportunity to dance at  the premiere.

 

 

Edited by Ashton Fan

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On ‎11‎/‎29‎/‎2018 at 6:14 AM, Ashton Fan said:

The problem with Infra is that . . . you worry about the long term effects on the dancers' bodies of appearing in his dance works. Interestingly so far Mr Muntagirov has not appeared in any of his works. If it is his decision not to appear in MacGregor's works  it shows a great deal of common sense on his part and that he has the artistic clout within the company to decline the offer. Being concerned about the long term consequences for dancers of performing  MacGregor's choreography  and moving in his choreographic style using his dance vocabulary is clearly not confined to a particular age group as former dancers who enjoyed thirty year injury free careers and young choreographers working in the classical style are equally concerned..

I've been thinking about this post for a while and it home again today with the news that former Birmingham Royal Ballet and Royal Ballet principal Miyako Yoshida will be retiring this year at the age of 54 (!):

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20190130_27/

In her very long career, did she ever do any contemporary dance at all? If not, does that explain (at least in part) her amazing longevity?

Edited by miliosr

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is As far as I am aware Yoshida's entire career has been spent dancing classically based choreography. Her repertory was essentially the Royal Ballet's core repertory of the nineteenth century classics, Ashton and some MacMillan. While she was with BRB she danced in works by David Bintley  but he is not a choreographer who rips up the rulebook and devises strange movements without any apparent underpinning anatomical knowledge or understanding of the strains he is placing on a dancer's body. He certainly is not working with a relatively unprepared body. McGregor's choreography seems to be driven by what he can do physically without any apparent system of physical preparation for mere mortals in the company who have to perform it. Bintley is a choreographer who stays well within the range of movements learned and then perfected in the classical classroom. Indeed some would accuse him of being far too conservative in that respect. Yoshida is an exemplar of what you can do with a solidly based technique, a profound understanding of different choreographic styles and true artistic imagination.

Guillem danced a far wider range of styles than Yoshida and retired at fifty but she insisted on time between performances of classically based repertory and  contemporary works to enable her body to adjust to the different demands they make on the body and so avoid injury. She had the advantage of fame and seniority which gave her enough artistic clout to  insist on this transition time but that is not true of the majority of dancers in the company who during the course of a day will move from rehearsal to rehearsal and style to style and then perhaps dance in a completely different one in the evening .

Some female dancers have exceptionally lengthy careers because they are in a position to select their repertory and demand time to transition between styles. I lost count of exactly how old Leanne Benjamin was when she retired because she has admitted that at one point she took a couple of years off her age because she thought her real age sounded a bit too old to be dancing the repertory she was performing. Her strategy was to drop the really exposing classical roles retaining only Giselle and then to concentrate on her major MacMillan roles while appearing in a wide range of new works including some by McGregor. By the time she took on works by McGregor and other contemporary choreographers she had already had a very full career; she knew what her body needed to prepare for the new repertory and she  would have had nothing to lose if she had suddenly been forced to retire through injury caused by dancing works in contemporary style. This is far from true of the majority of dancers. Of course all female dancers have one advantage over their male colleagues. They are not required to lift other dancers. I am not sure that many male dancers will ever be able to  emulate Alexander Grant who was still dancing Alain, as opposed to performing walk on character roles, on his fiftieth birthday. It was a fully rounded portrayal as opposed to an edited highlights account of the character and his choreography. But  while the dance vocabulary was classically based it was being used to create character and express emotion rather than being presented as an example of technical beauty and perfection.

 

Edited by Ashton Fan

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Leanne Benjamin suffered a muscle tear that led to her retirement, it was particularly troublesome, had she not I suspect she might still be dancing.

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Miyako Yoshida did dance in a variety of mixed programmes during her time with SWRB/BRB.  Who could ever forget "License my roving hands".  I can't even though I would like to!

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The Royal Ballet is live streaming Carlos Acosta's "Don Quixote" rehearsal,  tonight at 7:30 UK time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mx77D8113cM

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"New work New Music" turned out to be a wasted evening for me.  Performed in the newly revamped Linbury Theatre, I found that I had a ticket that although not designated a restricted view, allowed so small a view of the stage that I might as well have stayed home.  To make matters worse the music was excruciating and I left half way through.  Apparently the complaints about the new Linbury concern not just the dreadful sightlines but also severely restricted leg room.  Another example of 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' as there was nothing wrong with the performing space this one has replaced.  Unbelievably it has been built in a horseshoe shape, a configuration abandoned years ago as patrons no longer go to the theatre to ogle those sitting opposite rather than looking at the stage.  Heads should roll over this.

Meanwhile on the main stage, a new work from Liam Scarlett specifically created for the students of the Royal Ballet School.  The Cunning Little Vixen uses Janacek's music in an arrangement by Peter Breiner. and more or less follows the story of the opera, but excluding the human elements, also when the vixen is shot she doesn't die but recovers.   Scarlett has created a work using a large cast thereby offering stage opportunities to as large a number of students as possible, all of whom acquitted themselves well.   It's a pleasant enough ballet and it would be nice to think it has some sort of future as an educational tool to get younger children interested in the art form.  I doubt however it will merit a place in the RB's permanent rep as dancers imitating animals tends to be a pet hate of many ballet goers,  Indeed when the frog came on I thought Tales of Beatrix Potter, when the butterflies appeared I was thinking Piege de Lumiere, the chickens Fille, and so on.  Nice as a one off but perhaps not for the grown ups.

In a double bill with vixen was Ashton's evergreen Two Pigeons, it's second recent outing after a long period of neglect at Covent Garden.  It is a dancer-proof piece and even survived the OTT attempts at comedy by Yasmine Naghdi who was also over extending in places which certainly isn't Ashton.  Her partner, the always likeable Alexander Campbell, looked a natural as the young man and Fumi Kaneko made his decision to run off with the gipsies perfectly understandable.  An enjoyable evening on the whole, but it seems strange to criticize wonderful Ms Naghdi, though let's face it there are very few dancers that can do everything.

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I agree Mashinka "The Cunning Little Vixen" is ok as a one-off, as a Ballet School performance, but certainly isn't one destined to be performed by the professional dancers of The Royal Ballet. 

I enjoyed Yasmine Naghdi as the "Young Girl" in Two Pigeons. Her very individual interpretation of the role and her Act 2 "Reconciliation" Solo and Pas de deux were beautiful, velvety, very moving and tear inducing. She was a "Thoroughly Modern 21st C. Millie", a "Young Girl" with a mind and personality of her own, she wasn't easily going to give in to her boyfriend's wishes simply to please him, she was not a shy young woman, easily intimidated, but she stood up, strongly, against the Gypsy Girl attempting to seduce her boyfriend. Naghdi's modern take and interpretation didn't please everyone but I found her portrayal utterly refreshing and she gave Ashton's Two Pigeons a modern look, she brushed away aged, dated cliches.

This role is not really a ballerina role, the role suits soubrette-style dancers better. Naghdi's physique lends itself naturally to the grand ballets such as Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, Sugar Plum Fairy to name just a few. She is far too classical for soubrette-style roles. Nevertheless it was lovely to see her partnered by Alexander Campbell as well as James Hay and bring Two Pigeons into the 21st C.

I certainly can't wait to see her dance Kitri in Carlos Acosta's "Don Quixote" in two weeks time.

Edited by Katia Kapustin
Typo

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 It was noticeable that all the casts were far more at home in The Two Pigeons than they were when it was revived in 2015. Indeed the corps now seem to be enjoying their choreography rather than approaching it with an air of caution. I hope that ticket sales have been good enough to ensure that it is revived in future seasons as it is a gem of a ballet and at these performances it began to look as if it was part of a living performing tradition rather than something which is only half alive and requires more committed performances.

Morera  still stands head and shoulders above the other Gipsy Girls because she has the choreography so embedded in her muscle memory that she has the freedom and time to make the choreography live by varying its dynamics within the music. Magri is pretty good in the role as well.  The Takada, Hay cast is very well balanced and captures the essence of the ballet.Takada dances the Young Girl and uses her arms in a way which reminded me that the role was created on a genuine ballerina rather than simply on a soubrette. Hay is a wonderful dancer everything he dances is beautifully finished and in character.

I don't think that the Young Girl is a natural role for Naghdi in the way it would have been for Hayward. Fortunately by the Saturday matinee Naghdi had toned her portrayal  down quite a bit. Whether the role is not for her in the way that Lise was not for Sibley because as Ashton put it she was "too sophisticated" for it or whether there are other reasons for it not reallly working only time will tell. I should have thought that she was more suited to Ashton the classical choreographer of Cinderella and Sylvia than the lyricism of Two Pigeons. It seemed to me on Saturday that Naghdi  was still trying too hard to flesh out her character and acting, with a backstory, rather than following the instructions on the tin. Perhaps if you grow up with MacMillan and dance far more of his choreography than you do that of  the "Founder Choreographer"  it is difficult to break the habit of acting a role rather than simply dancing it in the appropriate style. I seem to recall that Cojocaru was criticised for acting as if she was in a MacMillan ballet when she tackled Chloe in 2004. It probably did not help that Naghdi was preparing Kitri which is as far removed from Ashtonian lyricism  as you can get while she was preparing for her debut as the Young Girl. One of the problems is that only those  who saw Stix-Brunell with Ball in 2015 or saw her with Clarke this season have seen accounts of the Young Girl and the Young Man  which really  get to the heart of the ballet. Stix-Brunell is pitch perfect as the Young Girl and sufficiently irritating to make  the Young Man's departure feel inevitable without making her totally obnoxious. Unfortunately at her first performance Naghdi made the Young Girl so irritating it came as  something of a surprise that Alex Campbell's Young Man chose to return to he/

How the mixed bills were dealt with by the dance critics at the Guardian and the Financial Times does not auger well for the  future of dance criticism directed at the general reader rather than a specialist reader. Instead of giving the reader an impression of what the performances of The Two Pigeons were like we were told that the ballet should be dropped.Both the newly appointed dance critics appear to be on a mission to reform the tastes of London ballet goers as they were happy to dismiss Ashton's Two Pigeons as old fashioned and demanded it should be put back in storage and forgotten. It would appear that they want us to see earnest works which are challenging and  relevant which sounds to me like more Pina Bausch and Wayne McGregor and little or no Ashton. Fortunately if Kevin is to pay due tribute to Fonteyn's centenary, if somewhat belatedly, next season he will be forced to stage more Ashton and with any luck we might get to see Daphnis and Chloe again.

Edited by Ashton Fan

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I very much enjoyed reading your erudite post Ashton Fan, thank you. You have a valid point where you refer to Antoinette Sibley who was not considered suitable for the role of Lise in "Fille mal Gardee" because Ashton found her  "too sophisticated".  That is I think the case with Yasmine Naghdi too. She has danced in many MacMillan ballets but few Ashton ballets. The Ashton ballets in which she did shine were in his abstract works "Symphonic Variations" and "Monotones". 

As you say: "Perhaps if you grow up with MacMillan and dance far more of his choreography than you do that of  the "Founder Choreographer" it is difficult to break the habit of acting a role rather than simply dancing it in the appropriate style. I seem to recall that Cojocaru was criticised for acting as if she was in a MacMillan ballet when she tackled Chloe in 2004."

...and how often does the Company dance Ashton? Not so often.

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I happened to see Sibley as Lise a couple of weeks after her debut, and I noted at the time that 'at the beginning of the ballet, though her dancing was exquisite, occasionally she seemed to be forcing the humour, and she smiled too brightly and too often... but in the last act she was marvellous... she danced the lovely pas de deux with melting lyricism and a touching sense of quiet rapture'. It does sound rather like Naghdi's problems with Pigeons.

(Though shouldn't a coach be pointing a debutante in the right direction?)

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Clearly her coach must have approved of her very individual interpretation. I really enjoyed her take on this role and she was very different to anyone else who ever danced it.

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On ‎2‎/‎18‎/‎2019 at 3:36 PM, Ashton Fan said:

How the mixed bills were dealt with by the dance critics at the Guardian and the Financial Times does not auger well for the  future of dance criticism directed at the general reader rather than a specialist reader. Instead of giving the reader an impression of what the performances of The Two Pigeons were like we were told that the ballet should be dropped.

I'm shocked, I gave up reading the critics some time ago due to inaccuracies and dull writing style.  No idea the papers are recruiting philistines that actively dislike classical ballet.  Funnily enough I ran into a former critic a few weeks ago and he was bemoaning the current standard of dance writing, now I realize how low it's sunk.  Drop Two Pigeon's?  Unbelievable!

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If there was a LIKE button on your post Mashinka I would press LIKE several times.  UK ballet criticism is at an all time low! 

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On 2/19/2019 at 7:17 PM, Mashinka said:

I'm shocked, I gave up reading the critics some time ago due to inaccuracies and dull writing style.  No idea the papers are recruiting philistines that actively dislike classical ballet.  Funnily enough I ran into a former critic a few weeks ago and he was bemoaning the current standard of dance writing, now I realize how low it's sunk.  Drop Two Pigeon's?  Unbelievable!

 

On 2/18/2019 at 3:36 PM, Ashton Fan said:

 How the mixed bills were dealt with by the dance critics at the Guardian and the Financial Times does not auger well for the  future of dance criticism directed at the general reader rather than a specialist reader. Instead of giving the reader an impression of what the performances of The Two Pigeons were like we were told that the ballet should be dropped.Both the newly appointed dance critics appear to be on a mission to reform the tastes of London ballet goers as they were happy to dismiss Ashton's Two Pigeons as old fashioned and demanded it should be put back in storage and forgotten.

Do you mean the Financial Times ? Louise Levene gave the double bill 5* and her comments on Two Pigeons were not ill informed I thought ...... 

Whilst maybe the mainstream critics are not always worth reading there is still excellent dance writing to be had in niche online websites like Dancetabs - Jann Parry and Classical Source - Gerald Dowler (although increasingly less frequent). 

 

 

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Don Quixote isn't my favourite ballet and with the Bolshoi bringing it to London  later this year, I only went to a couple of performances, but the quality of what I saw would explain why the Bolshoi's Don Q. is selling so abysmally.  Why bother with expensive visitors when the home team is so exceptional?

It's pretty much a given that Osipova dazzles as Kitri, in London it's the role that made her famous. amazing balances, hops on point that spanned the width of stage and gasp inducing fouettés, she delivers every time.  Her partner on this occasion was Vadim Muntagirov, that prince among princes, though not in my opinion a natural for Basilio, a bit of Spanish fire wouldn't have come amiss,  his dancing was superlative and it would be churlish to consider him miscast.  If that wasn't enough to send you straight to ballet heaven, Fumi Kaneko was the Dryad Queen. elegant, regal and assured, I never saw that from the Bolshoi last time around.

Newcomers to their roles, Yasmine Naghdi and Marcelino Sambe, were a total joy in this ballet, I really must shake off my preconception of Naghdi being primarily lyrical, she is so much more and her technique is formidable.  She actually  matched Osipova's fouettés triple for triple and double for double.  What a girl!  As Basilio Sambé exuded confidence (one handed lifts still held perfectly after the music had stopped) and panache in the first full length I'd seen him dance, I marked him down as a future star the first time I saw him and he really looks the part in this role.  He is an excellent match for Naghdi and I enjoyed both their shared sense of fun and their more romantic moments.  Claire Calvert was Dryad Queen for this performance and apart from one unlucky glitch, was otherwise on top of the challenging role.  An honourable mention has to go to Anna Rose O'Sullivan's animated Amour, but I'd have liked her even better in the traditional tunic rather than a tutu. 

Not everyone likes Acosta's production but it's worth bearing in mind that the company looks far more comfortable in it than it ever did with the previous versions by Baryshnikov and Nureyev, a new generation to be sure, but it's strange that the always classical RB never shone in the two more traditional productions.  The music is the worst thing for me, using a very weak arrangement, but that could be changed.  To sum up, a good time was had by all. 

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Sounds terrific all round and from everyone. I loved Fumi Kaneko when I saw her last summer and can picture her as a beautiful Dryad Queen.

I am also a huge Osipova fan but STILL have never been able to see her as Kitri. I fear my window of opportunity is closing.

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