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Ashton around the world

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I found this to be both shocking and depressing.

Is this really all the Ashton that's being performed worldwide? I notice that the Royal Ballet's performances of Monotones II are missing. Perhaps other performances have also fallen through the cracks? Nothing in Asia or south of the equator?

Edited by volcanohunter

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You can add to the list performances of Marguerite and Armand which are included in a mixed bill called "Alina at Sadler's Wells" which will be performed at the Wells between the 20th and 23rd February 2020. I find the fact that today this work is said to be the most frequently performed of Ashton's works almost as unsettling and unbelievable as the fact that so few of his works are being programmed.

Mr. O'Hare clearly understands the need to perform the company's nineteenth century repertory and to do those works justice in performance but when it comes to the twentieth century repertory he is, at best, ambivalent. He understands the need for regular performances of MacMillan's successful full length works as they generate a regular income for the company and certainly attract dancers to it but another reason for their regular revival is that  they benefit from the presence of an active advocate for them. MacMillan's works  are not thought to need excuses or explanation when it comes to programming them and they most certainly do not fall into the "heritage works" category whereas it would seem that with the exception of Symphonic Variations and perhaps Fille, Ashton's works do. Their presence in a programme requires an explanation about the importance of "heritage works" to the company's artistic identity. 

The problem is that it is perfectly possible to have an insight event about the importance of Ashton to the company without apparently recognising the need to perform his ballets on a regular basis. I suspect that Kevin would think that the loss of a few Ashton works through neglect was a price worth paying for the presence in the company's repertory of a handful of reasonably successful works by MacGregor. As it is MacMillan is seen as far more important to the company than Ashton could ever be. No one seems to be that concerned about devising some sort of plan that would ensure that Ashton's works and other major twentieth century ballets such as Les Noces and Les Biches were performed on a regular basis and were part of the regular churn of the active repertory. If Kevin had thought about the Fonteyn centenary, rather than adding a gala as an afterthought , he might have used it as an opportunity to publicise some of the Ashton repertory and followed it up by including a couple of the ballets  from which excerpts were shown in the following season's repertory. I feel sure that there were plenty of people who would have loved to have seen revivals of Ondine and Daphnis and Chloe this season. However next season should be exciting as it seems that it is going to be full of works which have been made or acquired since he became Artistic Director. I am not sure how that is going to work financially but perhaps that is the explanation for the exceptionally high ticket prices for much of this season's repertory.

 

Edited by Ashton Fan

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I am reading a great book by Dominic Gilbert about Ashton ballets and it seems the handwringing over his lost repertoire was already happening in his lifetime before MacMillan.

This is what Margot Fonteyn had to say about Dante Sonata:

"Dante Sonata was a marvelous ballet when it was done, in 1940, but it was revived after the war with dancers who didn't live through that period and really didn't know what it was about. It wouldn't keep." 

Maybe that could be a discussion, why so many Ashton ballets are so fragile and "won't keep" while Balanchine, Robbins, and MacMillan made warhorses that different companies could do year after year.

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The Royal Ballet has a further mixed bill in the Linbury in mid May 2020 which is supposed to include an Ashton piece. Details are very thin - this was announced in the season press release but it isn't on the ROH web site at present. 

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1 hour ago, Lynette H said:

The Royal Ballet has a further mixed bill in the Linbury in mid May 2020 which is supposed to include an Ashton piece. Details are very thin - this was announced in the season press release but it isn't on the ROH web site at present. 

This might be one of the Monotones, as these are being performed around that time, in place of Ratmansky's Preludes, which was scratched from the early-summer triple bill at the ROH. Just a guess.

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On ‎10‎/‎5‎/‎2019 at 12:20 PM, Ashton Fan said:

He understands the need for regular performances of MacMillan's successful full length works as they generate a regular income

They are done to death though.  Empty seats at Mayering and rows of empty seats for Manon last Saturday.

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7 hours ago, Roberta said:

This might be one of the Monotones, as these are being performed around that time, in place of Ratmansky's Preludes, which was scratched from the early-summer triple bill at the ROH. Just a guess.

Monotones I and II are on in the main house , 3 - 13 June. The bill in the Linbury is different,  it's in mid May. 

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15 hours ago, Lynette H said:

Monotones I and II are on in the main house , 3 - 13 June. The bill in the Linbury is different,  it's in mid May. 

I know. That's why I mentioned it...it's an "easy fix" (after the Ratmansky Preludes work was cancelled for the June triple bill at the main house). Monotones and More Monotones. Hopefully not.

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The Ashton Foundation presented another Masterclass on 27th October. This time it was Christopher Newton and Ursula Hageli rehearsing Royal Ballet dancers in Foyer de Danse (1932), and Wayne Eagling rehearsing Calvin Richardson in Le Papillon variation (1975 ). It was filmed so in time it should show up on the Ashton Foundation website. 

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I think that the real problem with the Ashton repertory is the personal tastes and artistic vision of the artistic directors of the two Royal Ballet companies who decide  which ballets we shall be permitted to see each season.  If they were doing a good job of programming the full range of his choreographic output by ensuring between them that all of the major ballets were revived on a regular basis and even the minor pieces were given the occasional airing then perhaps other companies might wish to stage more of them. The problem is the programming policies  of those two directors ensure that only a bare handful of Ashton ballets enjoy anything like core repertory status.Kevin O'Hare seems to want to go down in company history as a director who added to the company's repertory rather than as a conservator of the non MacMillan works in the company's twentieth century back catalogue. David Bintley as an active choreographer has seen his company as a vehicle for his own sub-Ashtonian creations rather than as a repository of choreographic treasures and curiosities , The neglect of the works which BRB has brought back from near oblivion is little short of scandalous since both he and his predecessor Sir Peter Wright have been responsible for award winning revivals and restorations of important works from the thirties and forties. Only time will tell what happens to the older ballets in Birmingham's repertory when Acosta takes up the directorship there in January 2020. Will he be at all interested in ballets which he has never seen which would not have suited  him as a dancer or will he start staging works with which he is familiar from his days in Cuba?

The great advantage that both Balanchine and Robbins enjoy is that there is a consensus among the US dance community devoted to classical ballet about the quality and significance of their dance output. Although there  may be doubts about the quality of individual works no one who wants to be taken seriously in the world of dance has, to my knowledge, ever suggested that the bulk of their works are old fashioned and should be shelved in favour of works by the current generation of choreographers. Balanchine has the additional advantage of being almost synonymous with classical ballet in the US. Things are somewhat different when it comes to the Ashton repertory in the UK where he seems to be far game for those who would much prefer that the Royal Ballet were dancing works by MacGregor and his contemporaries.Indeed there are some critics who can't resist describing Ashton's  works as old fashioned whenever the opportunity presents itself as it has in the last couple of weeks with the company's latest triple bill of Concerto, Enigma Variations and Raymonda Act III. "Sepia coloured" and "old fashioned" were pressed into service to criticise rather than describe the rarely revived Enigma Variations which rather misses the point that the ballet is a late 1960's portrayal of the characters whom Elgar described in his score and an evocation of the late Victorian world.

You might ask whether this process of downplaying the Ashton legacy was deliberate or accidental and perhaps a meeting which Jeremy Isaacs, General Director Covent Garden 1987 -1996 , described in his autobiography provides some  sort of answer. He says that soon after Ashton's death in 1988 he had a meeting with Kenneth and Lady MacMillan at which she pressed her husband's claims to have  his work given preference in programming as he was still capable of creating  new works for the company.  She added that Anthony agreed to this. This, I think, marks the point at which the company which Ashton had helped to establish and whose artistic and stylistic reputation he had forged became the company whose MacMillan repertory became more important to its artistic identity and its financial stability than that of its Founder choreographer. Then there were those who wanted to speed up the process of reducing Ashton's influence on the company's performance style. Speaking at a conference about Ashton and his works held in the late 1990's, John Percival reported that dancers were being encouraged by their colleagues to "camp up" their performances of Ashton's choreography. That sort of thing does not help Ashton's cause nor does the fact that few if any of his works are danced at the right speed probably because the school abandoned teaching the Cechetti system years ago. Unfortunately Ashton danced too slowly becomes heavy and stodgy and fails to capture the imagination.. 

 

Edited by Ashton Fan

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In his lifetime, though, there were plenty of people who thought that Balanchine was old-fashioned, and that the Robbins rep was contemporary and should have more prominence.  I remember reading a review in Time or Newsweek just after Davidsbundlertanze premiered which was another in a string over many years on the theme of "The Old Man still has it in him," as if this were a surprise.  Even if Robbins had been focused on the Company consistently, as erratic as he was, Kirstein was still there to guard the henhouse and stack the Board.  Ashton was in a much more vulnerable place.

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3 hours ago, Lynette H said:

Wayne Eagling rehearsing Calvin Richardson in Le Papillon variation (1975 ).

To the best of my knowledge this was created as a one off for a gala, a sensational piece, I remember it still.  Wayne Eagling was labelled as a MacMillan dancer, but he always looked very at home in Ashton's ballets, e.g. Fille and Cinderella.  Papillion was very much crafted to match Eagling's unique abilities, I rather think Sir Fred admired Eagling as much as MacMillan did.

 

2 hours ago, Ashton Fan said:

Only time will tell what happens to the older ballets in Birmingham's repertory when Acosta takes up the directorship there in January 2020. Will he be at all interested in ballets which he has never seen which would not have suited  him as a dancer or will he start staging works with which he is familiar from his days in Cuba?

Hard to say, but he always seemed very happy dancing Colas, so I imagine that ballet at least will stay in the rep.

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10 hours ago, Helene said:

I remember reading a review in Time or Newsweek just after Davidsbundlertanze premiered which was another in a string over many years on the theme of "The Old Man still has it in him," as if this were a surprise.

I've been watching some of the Foundation's interviews and Jacques d'A said there was a similar "golly" at the premiere of "Who Cares" -- there was a portion of the audience who thought that Balanchine was past it, and were surprised at the work.

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50 minutes ago, sandik said:

I've been watching some of the Foundation's interviews and Jacques d'A said there was a similar "golly" at the premiere of "Who Cares" -- there was a portion of the audience who thought that Balanchine was past it, and were surprised at the work.

It apparently surprised the dancers too. Balanchine was in a funk after Suzanne left the company. They thought he'd never be the creative genius he was again. When he came out with Who Cares? company members were shocked at how quickly he pulled himself out of that funk.

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On 10/30/2019 at 2:07 PM, Mashinka said:

  Wayne Eagling was labelled as a MacMillan dancer, but he always looked very at home in Ashton's ballets, e.g. Fille and Cinderella.  Papillion was very much crafted to match Eagling's unique abilities, I rather think Sir Fred admired Eagling as much as MacMillan did.

 

 

Eagling said at the Ashton Foundation event that his most favourite of the entire ballet repertoire is Symphonic Variations - though he didn't much enjoy dancing it. He also recalled being told by Michael Somes one day to go into the studio as Ashton was rehearsing and wanted him to stand in for Nureyev - with Fonteyn - so I guess Ashton did like him!

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The contents of Royal Ballet Heritage programme in the Linbury 14 -19 May 2020 have now been published. They are

Solos from Job (de Valois)

Dante Sonata (Ashton, performed by Birmingham Royal Ballet)

Sea of Troubles (MacMillan, performed by Yorke Dance Project)

Valses Nobles et Sentimentales (Ashton).

 

 

 

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Oh, that does sound prime -- wish I could be there!

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Posted (edited)

It's a bit better than that. We have just had a really exceptional revival of Enigma Variations with three separate casts in which only a couple of dancers, at most, were definitely miscast and really should not have been on stage. This compares very favourably with the last revival of the ballet at Covent Garden when it seemed to me that very few of the dancers involved were suitable for the roles they had been selected to dance. In addition to Valses Nobles et Sentimentales which I believe was thought lost until  it was revived and  performed in London as part of the celebrations for Ashton's eightieth birthday and his Duncan influenced wartime work Dante Sonata we are also to have the opportunity to see both parts of Monotones as part of the final mixed bill of the season.

I am pleased that we are being given the opportunity to see these works this season but the fact remains that the performances of Monotones are only there to replace a previously announced work that had to be shelved. I would feel far more certain about the future of Ashton's ballets as a part of the Royal Ballet's active repertory if there was some evidence that its artistic director was committed to regular revivals of Ashton's ballets and that his most important works were timetabled for regular revival as part of the turnover of the company's active repertory. 

We are told that we can't have Daphnis and Chloe because it is expensive to stage,although I am told that there is a version of Ravel's score which does not use a  chorus. We are told that Cinderella is a problem because of the designs, presumably this is some sort of difficulty between the rights holder and the company, and there are rumours of problems with the current owner of Fille. I can't help thinking that that if the company was as committed to its Ashton repertory as it claims to be that the problems would have been resolved with some alacrity. The fact that they are not sorted out suggests that they are a useful excuse for not reviving the works in question.

Edited by Ashton Fan

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13 hours ago, Ashton Fan said:

the current owner of Fille.

With Grant gone, who holds the rights to the ballet?

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Posted (edited)

Alexander Grant left Fille to his partner Jean-Pierre Gasquet and Facade to his brother Gary Grant. All the details of who owns what can be found on the Frederick Ashton Foundation website. With the exception of the gift to Tony Dyson Ashton's specific bequests seem to have had more to do with the recipients' association with the ballets left to them than the possibility that they would provide an income for the legatee.  Ashton's nephew is the residuary legatee but seems to do very little to exploit the ballets left to him by pushing for their revival.The potential for problems to arise with these legacies increases as they pass from  the original legatee into the hands of people who have little or no direct connection with Ashton or the world of ballet. I seem to recall that one of the Foundation's expressed aims was to acquire his works but to do that it needs to generate income. 

Brian Shaw's ballets Les Patineurs and Les Rendezvous were left to Derick Rencher who in turn left them to the Royal Ballet School. The Ashton Foundation looks after their staging and revival on behalf of the school.The Foundation was able to buy Daphnis and Chloe which had originally been left to Fonteyn but that work was not a money spinner because it costs so much to stage as the original score uses a full chorus. Fille on the other hand does generate an income and would be much more costly to acquire.

 

Edited by Ashton Fan

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I think that I need to clarify what I said about the ownership of Les Patiners and Les Rendezvous as the Foundation's website states that it owns them. My understanding is that the Foundation looks after the ballets on behalf of the Royal Ballet School which receives any income the ballets generate through being performed. Wendy Ellis and Antony Dowell both own valuable ballets. It will be interesting to see what they decide to do with the ballets left to them when the time comes to make provision for their subsequent ownership and management.Will they do what Derick Rencher did with his ballet which ensures that the works he owned are safe from revision and tinkering or will  they leave them to people who might believe that as owners they have the right to revise and tinker with them ?

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At some point someone is going to do a big study of these foundations and trusts, and see how they've affected the various repertories.  I wait for this with great interest.

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No doubt when they will do that, they will find a wide difference in the effectiveness and outcomes of each of the organisations they study. I don't get the impression that many of the Foundations are undertaking something approaching  a last ditch effort to preserve an entire repertory but that is what the Ashton Foundation seems to be engaged in doing. The main problem in the years immediately following Ashton's death was that Dowell, Grant and Somes, who had been left the most valuable ballets in terms of their potential earning power, do not appear to have seen the need to co-operate and make long term plans for their legacies possibly because theirs were the Ashton ballets being performed. They may have been influenced in their attitude by Ashton's own pessimism about the likely life span of his works after his death. Whatever it was that delayed the creation of an organisation to safeguard Ashton's ballets the fact is that the Foundation was established very late in the day with the result that many people who might have made valuable contributions to its teaching resources died before they could be filmed coaching the roles created on them or explaining what Ashton wanted in performance.

At the moment I think that the Ashton Foundation is playing catch up and doing some very basic work that should have been done some time ago. The Foundation website lists various activities which are intended to preserve the Ashton repertory and ensure that it is capable of being revived and performed in an authentically Ashtonian form and style. Of all these initiatives the one that will almost certainly prove to be the most important is its decision to develop repetiteurs for his ballets through a shadowing scheme. In spite of the fact that the Foundation's first potential repetiteur to participate in the scheme, Cervera, has since been recruited to teach at the Royal Ballet School this initiative seems to be the first real attempt to try to secure the Ashton repertory for future generations. There is a pressing need to ensure that there is a second generation of Ashton repetiteurs capable of taking over from the first generation who worked in the studio with Ashton creating and reviving his works and have extensive experience of dancing his choreography. As Leslie Collier has pointed out dancers of her generation inevitably became Ashton dancers because whether they were dancing in his ballets or in Sleeping Beauty or Swan Lake they would find themselves dancing his choreography and performing in his preferred understated ultra musical style.This was true of the entire company including those dancers on whom MacMillan created his best works.

I think that it is possible to argue that the Royal Ballet became Ashton's company in terms of its performance style and aesthetics in the mid thirties when he became the company's resident choreographer and that it was still largely a company conforming to his aesthetics at his death. Although he had worked for the company creating works for it for many years the company's active repertory did not come to be dominated by MacMillan's ballets until after Ashton's death. It seems to come as a shock to those who ardently proclaim themselves to be MacMillan adherents to be reminded that, with the exception of the works he was forced to create in Stuttgart , all of the  MacMillan ballets created for the Royal Ballet were made on dancers who had been formed artistically by dancing Ashton's choreography.Jeremy Isaacs records a meeting with Lady MacMillan soon after Ashton's death at which she pressed her husband's cause arguing that his works should be given greater prominence in the repertory as he was capable of producing new works for the company. I think that it was at that point that the Royal Ballet became MacMillan's company as after that time his works seemed to be given much more stage time and suddenly we entered the world of extended runs of MacMillan's dramballets  as casting policy seemed to require that every female dancer of note, if deemed suitable by the master choreographer, would give the audience "her Juliet" and "her Manon" every time those ballets were revived.

1988 was a significant year for the Ashton repertory. Not only was it the year of Ashton's death it also marked the point at which his aesthetic influence over the company came to an end; it was agreed that the MacMillan repertory should be given precedence in programming and Guillem danced her first Giselle for the  Royal Ballet and became its most influential dancer artistically and aesthetically since Nureyev's arrival there more than thirty years before. I find it  interesting that when David Bintley made Tombeaux his final ballet for the main company as its resident choreographer he made a work which he later described in interview as prompted not only by wanting to mark Ashton's death but to mark what he saw as the death of the "English style". The ballet which uses the Fred step in a number of inventive ways was premiered in 1993 and by then the company's cultural revolution was well under way. It was indisputably MacMillan's company rather than one in which choreographic honours were shared fairly evenly between the two men and their works. It seems to me that it became acceptable, if nor fashionable, to compare Ashton's technically rigorous works unfavourably with MacMillan's output. The former's works were "twee" and "camp" while the latter's with their "realistic" scenarios and action and their expressive choreography were outstanding examples of choreographic art. This view of the relative merits of the two men's dance works was exacerbated by Dowell's  decision to stage The Tales of Beatrix Potter which Ashton had created for the cinema. As Ashton had predicted years before it made it look as if he had gone "ga-ga".

The fact that Ashton's ballets were often less than ideally cast and subjected to inane new designs which destroyed floor plans or restricted the dancers' movements while the school seemed to have increasing difficulty in producing the sort of dancers able to do justice to Ashton's choreography did not help his cause or his claim to be regarded as one of the twentieth century's major choreographers. Although there has been a move to rehabilitate and restore a wider range of Ashton repertory to the stage under the current director and his predecessor there is still a long way to go. The Two Pigeons was recently restored to the Covent Garden stage after an absence of thirty years Such revivals are still often marred by casting decisions based more on the need to give big names stage time than their suitability for the roles they have been given. All of these mistakes and miscalculations add to the difficulties which the Foundation has to surmount if it is to restore the fullest range of the Ashton repertory to the stage. Last year's Fonteyn Gala was such a missed opportunity to create an audience as there was no follow through with revivals of works included in it programmed in this season. I suppose that we have to be grateful that Kevin is replacing the unavailable Ratmansky piece with Monotones i and II in the final mixed bill of the season and that a very small number of people are to have the opportunity to see both Dante Sonata and Valses Nobles et Sentimentales in the Linbury . It really isn't enough.Once a performance style has ceased to be part of a company's artistic DNA it is extraordinarily difficult to revive works created in that style.Of course the Foundation has no control over what either company stages and not every  Ashton ballet is destined to be part of the core repertory of either Royal Ballet company but the fact that neither company has any sort of programming policy which would ensure that the bulk of Ashton's ballets are given a regular airing leaves them very vulnerable, after a period of neglect people start to believe that there must be sound reasons for the neglect and after that all it takes is a badly cast revival to all but settle a work's fate. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Ashton Fan

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If the fate of the nineteenth century ballet repertory is anything to go by, what survives for future generations is a matter of chance in which prestige and artistic reputation count for very little. One thing that is certain is that nothing in the repertory stands much chance of survival if it is not exposed to public view. In order to survive a choreographer's works at the very least need company managements who are committed to staging a representative range of their output ensuring they receive regular revivals coached by those who understand the individual choreographer's musicality and performance style and have the aptitude to convey what the choreographer wanted to see in performance to those who are to dance it.  

The Ashton Foundation has just posted videos from its coaching events on You Tube. They give you an opportunity to see sessions on Ashton's choreography for "The Walk to the Paradise Garden "coached by Merle Park; two sessions on "Raymonda Pas de Deux" coached by Darcey Bussell with interventions from Donald MacLeary in which Nunez and Bonelli work on the pas de deux and Anna Rose O'Sullivan and David Donnelly work on the solos and Gary Avis coaches Donnelly ; a session on Foyer de Danse and finally there is the choreography Ashton created for a staging of Le Rossignole in which William Bracewell and Anna Rose O'Sullivan are coached by Anthony Dowell.

I hope you find the coaching sessions of interest . I leave it to you to decide whether the Foundation is justifying its existence with the work it is doing. It would be great if these events were to prompt the revival of at least some of the works shown.

 

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