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Golden Jubilee Gala

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The performance to celebrate the Queen's 50 years on the throne was relayed to the Piazza outside the ROH, the Linbury Studio, and the Clore Studio where I sat. I think out of the three, the Clore definitely must have been the worst. Protected from potential bad weather for sure (warm and muggy last night), but as there are only 150ish people it's lacking in atmosphere and very wierd to have people applaud and bravo when there is no one to applaud to. But it was for free and if I'd lived in London then it wouldn't have been a bad deal. The Vilar Floral Hall was completely decked out in flags and red and blue lighting - very beautiful. And there were crowds of people lining the streets in Convent Garden just to cheer on the Queen!

I guess it was partly great, partly disappointing. Birthday Offering which began the evening started with a huge hiccup when the screen covering the stage got stuck 10 feet from the floor as it was being lifted. The dancing was quite nice but I'm embarssed to admit I actually can't remember much from it. I read about these wonderful ballets and I wonder what to do when I am so underwhelmed. I think I would have liked to have seen more of all seven couples rather than just Darcey Bussell and Jonathan Cope's pdd. Of the others I glimpsed Cervera and Gartside - Lolly, did you see who else was there?

And then, oh dear, The Vertiginious Thrill of Exactitiude followed - not just an excerpt like so much of the rest of the gala but the WHOLE thing. The quality of dancing is great of course - Tattersall, Yoshida, Yanowsky, Maloney and Watson looked very sharp and it's an interesting vehicle for demonstrating their technical strengths. But I don't find the Schubert music very exciting. Frenetic dancing gets weary after about 3 minutes, and it's bloodless, absolutely without soul. And the silly costumes! Those lime-green disc tutus for the girls, the magenta backless shirts and shorts for the guys! It was good to see Jenny Tatersall one last time though (she's just left the RB). But I'm disappointed that this is all Yoshida got to do. She obviously is as good as she's ever been and it would have been nice to see her in something that can really showcase her talents.

I feel the same way about Remanso - again the whole ballet. The physicality of the dancing is fun to watch and Bolle, Cope and Watson make the twisting, turning choreography seem so effortless. It's very impressive the way they turn their body inside out in one direction, the without any effort leap in a completely different direction. I just would rather have seen a short except.

I think it was Marguerite & Armand which followed - the last two scenes where Armand is disgusted with Marguerite and throws money at her, and then when they are reconciled before she dies. I love this ballet and Liszt's music so much. It was a little disconcerting to start right in the middle but the dancing from both Sylvie and Le Rice was so beautiful, so very, very convincing. Sylvie's expressions in the close-ups were so heartfelt, so natural - I don't care what anyone says, she is a tremendous actress. And that lift when Armand swoops in at the end, where he lifts here upside-down, then changes position so she's across her shoulders, and then again so they're face to face and her legs are flying, all the while spinning her around - wow!

Definitely the highlight of the first half was Marianela Nunez and Carlos Acosta in the Don Quixote pdd. Nunez has replaced Rojo in the current run of Don Q, and it seems that they are doing Cojocaru and Kobborg's performances as well. I can understand why - Nunez is fantastic. She's so young, only 20, and yet she has such charisma, such total command of the stage, to the point of nearly outshining Acosta. Acosta's solo - wow. He does these jumps where in the air, he's a 45 degrees to the stage, and sort of crosses one leg over the other at the knee and turns at that 45 degree angle before landing. Is there a name for this?! And I liked the smooth changes in position he made mid-pirouette, in complete control. A great show-stopper - a pity that the lighting was so rubbish! It seems like most of the gala was performed in darkness and it's made much worse when you're watching from a blurry screen!

Second half was much better. Started great with Scene I, Act III from Onegin, the ballroom scene. I was very surprised and happy to see that Nathan Coppen was dancing. I thought it was so great he got to do this after missing all his Onegin performances this summer due to injury. Okay, it's not a great solo, but it's just nice to see him back. Mara Galezzi's pdd with Chistopher Saunders followed and again, she was so lovely and graceful. I'm disappointed that it didn't follow with the final pdd but they haven't danced it togther before.

Leaves of Fading next, with Cojocaru and Kobborg. I don't think anyone will ever dance this as well as these two. Kobborg looks younger than I remember! I feel a bit sorry for him - he had lead roles in the whole of the Australia Tour (Leaves, Giselle, Swan Lake) as well as here (Onegin, Don Q, Coppelia), I imagine he might be a bit tired!

I'm a bit muddled about the order, but I think it was Ivan Putrov as the Golden Idol in La Bayadere, and then Bussell and Bolle in the R&J balcony pdd. And at some point Bussell and Cope danced the Tryst pdd which was controlled, languid, and absolutely terrific.

Then my favourite - a huge excerpt from Carmen, from where the soldiers light up, the pdd with Carmen (Guillem of course) and Jose (Murru), M's dance (Yanowsky), and Escamillio (Cope) and his golden hotpants. I don't know why, but I just love, love this! The humour is so appealing and the choreography extremely imaginative. I can't claim to understand half of what's going on or why dancers do what they do though! I remember reading that Mats Ek said there's great meaning behind each movement, so I want Carmen explained! And I love how the dancers really seem to throw themselves into it, the way the seem to be really enjoying it. I don't know, maybe they're just being very professional. But it looks like so much fun to dance. But I don't know what the Queen and Prince Philip made of it. They all dance like they've gone nuts - the vulgarity, the screaming, Carmen's splayed legs, Carmen pulling scarves from various parts of Jose and Escamillo's anatomy. I would love to have been a fly on the wall in that royal box. :)

It ended with a défilè with the artists and staff of the RB, choreographed by Christopher Carr. Very nice, especially seeing some dancers dance in costume, and others dance in their evening wear for the reception afterwards!

As soon as it was done I ran outside to see the main dancers take their bows to the crowd in the piazza and meet the Queen. Suffice to say that this part was probably the most exciting for me out of the whole evening. Some of the excerpts were a bit strange for a gala. And I missed Robert Tewsley. Plus watching on a big screen is a poor substitution for watching live - everything is dulled down. I agree with the critics that it wasn't a terribly inspiring gala for the regulars but I'd much rather Stretton not risk the dancers with further injury by rehearsing new work.

Did anyone else go?

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Sylvia, I have to say I think you're being too kind to the company! If they'd given this programme at the start of the season, at low prices, to give a taste of what was to come and persuade people to buy tickets, I'd have thought it an excellent idea - but for people who've paid a LOT of money, not to mention that it was supposed to be in honour of the Queen's Jubilee, it seems to me really poor. It's not as if they were doing it out of the kindness of their hearts, either - the company will benefit to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

It needn't have taken all that much extra work to put on something more interesting: for instance, everyone would have loved to see something of Cojocaru's Swan Lake, which she's just been doing on the Australian tour. And as the gala was to raise funds for young dancers and choreographers, wouldn't it have been a good idea to show some of them? To look at the cast list, you'd have thought it was in aid of Our Enormous Bills for Guest Artists. And so on.

(No, I wasn't there - I don't much like galas in any case and this one seemed a complete waste of time.)

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It was FABULOUS!! I managed to get in after all, hurrah! I half agree with Jane that it would have been nice to see something new/different as I has already seen everything several times over the course of the season. I don't have a problem with the rich people going once a year to see and be seen - I can go all year round for bargain prices. I expect most of them hadn't seen it all before, and it was for the Queen after all, and she certainly hadn't seen it! But it was nice to see the whole company at once (though I thought it looked very small in the grand défilé!). It was a "best of" night for me, I got to see all my favourites dance my favourites! (Well except Carmen but I'll get to that!)

Birthday Offering was lovely. I have only seen a bit of it on a video so it was nice to see it properly. (Ivan was dancing too Sylvia! Sorry I was watching Darcey mostly so can't remember anyone else. I must pay more attention!) The costumes are so pretty too, and the music is perfect, you find yourself almost humming along!

Vertiginous Thrill was very exciting - I had hoped they would do Middle instead but I wasn't disappointed. The girls were lovely, especially Zenaida - she makes me feel so much better about being tall, that she can dance with to such small girls as Jenny and Miyako - and still look perfect. The boys were great too - I expected Edward to be good as this type of thing suits him, but Brian was astonishing (Sylvia, did you notice in class he is very good at petit allegro - it showed last night! Is a promotion in the offing after two good roles in a gala?). Yes the costumes are ridiculous but they go with the ballet so well! It is clean and neat and unexpected - the only thing which doesn't follow that is the pretty lyrical music, and it still is a perfect match - how does that work?! High praises anyway for this.

M&A was good - Sylvie was lovely, she really is growing on me now. I have never seen a dead person with such pointed feet as her Juliet and Marguerite though.;) The moustaches on the admiring attendants were so amusing I laughed when I saw them - what with this and Onegin, the ROH false moustache department must be very busy! I suppose it is childish but they look like they are all in disguise! (can't fool me, sorry!) Even though it was only part of the ballet it was moving nonetheless. Nicholas was good too, dramatic and sweeping with the cloak bit.

Remanso is strange. I do like it but it just doesn't seem motivated like the Forsythe - it is silly and funny and the dancers always look like they enjoy it - and it is a great idea to use a wall to move around. But much of it is just running around. The dancers were good and well matched I think - all tall and strong - the part where they climb on each other against the wall at the end was lovely, very physical.

Don Q was brilliant - I can't think of two better dancers to do this show-off piece - Carlos seems a handful at times but Marianela can more than cope and doesn't let him hog the stage! He was wonderful - I think you need the kind of almost arrogance that he has to pull this off. I even wondered if he started making jumps up this time - some of them were outrageous and there were lots of gasps. The same with Marianela's fouettes - the audience were delighted! The only thing I didn't like about this were the costumes -they wore the horrid white and orange ones from the current production, not the nice gala red and black ones.

After the interval was Onegin - I thought it was a funny extract to pick as Onegin doesn't do much but walk around the edge and look bewildered and Nathan didn't have much impact I'm afraid. He is handsome though. Christopher Saunders was great - he paid so much attention to Mara it was lovely to watch. I still love this ballet but it is hard to get involved with just a taste. I love the ball part with the lifts which cross from either side - so pretty.

The Tryst pdd was a good choice for the gala as there is little set anyway. I kept thinking, "Gosh, Darcey is just so lovely!" all the way through - it is sublime just watching her move. I still don't understand the end of the pdd where they watch something go overhead then roll along the floor though.:confused: I wished they had carried on and done the end with all the corps on stage, that was my favourite part, very structured. There is a picture of this in the programme with an orange background and the dancers are just black silhouettes - and I STILL recognised Johannes! I wish I had his posture - I'm going to work hard this summer on my balance and centre as it is something I ALWAYS notice in him.

Leaves was beautiful and Alina and Johan K were perfect. I really hope they never fall out, when they dance together they are amazing! I can't think of any more ways to say they were brilliant!

Ivan was next with the Bronze Idol - I had hoped he would do this! He was fabulous as you would expect, beautiful elevation, and painted gold into the bargain! (I wonder if dancers like doing this role?) He looked quite serious and pouty but that might be the gold paint showing his cheekbones, not sure.

The Balcony pdd was wonderful, Darcey and Roberto were so in love! They do look perfect together in this, the line when they are together is so natural they are a dream.

Carmen, well, I don't like it! Last night I was almost gleefully hating it as I was with a friend who hadn't seen it before and I had told her all about it. After a couple of minutes she turned to me and mouthed, "It's HIDEOUS!", I was almost enjoying it being vulgar and awful if I wasn't hating it for the same reasons! I just can't like it, even Johannes bellowing across the stage couldn't redeem it for me, although it is always nice to see your favourite dancers even if you can't stand what they are dancing. I don't see why Ek would want to make such a grand collection of beautiful people look so ugly! The dancers seem to enjoy it a lot though, and that counts for something in my book, so I forgave it. I am not sure what the Queen would have thought of screaming cigar smoking swaggering foot stamping women but my Mother told me she will have seen much worse so I shouldn't worry!:)

Then the défilé started with a polonaise - quite odd seeing half of them in costume and half in evening dress! I wasn't paying attention hard enough again but my friend spotted Donald MacLeary on stage.

I had a great evening anyway - I went outside afterwards too and for some reason it was almost more exciting to see the dancers outside than on stage! It is a shame they didn't wait for a couple of weeks to give it on the last night of the season, it would have made a grand exit for the company as they begin their holidays. Deborah Bull made a good compere too, introducing the dancers outside! She still looks lovely.:)

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It was for the Queen after all, and she certainly hadn't seen it!

I'm sorry but I can't get excited over that, this isn't the first time a tired old queen has been in the House sitting there out of a sense of duty and nothing else. And the prices (£5000 a seat in some cases, for our American chums information) were an affront to all that is good and holy in the universe.

Actually Sylvia's point about being underwhelmed with Birthday offering ties in interestingly with the other points about Onegin and its merits as a ballet and Cranko as a choreographer. BO (the ballet not the secretion) was made as a direct provocation to Cranko who had just choreographed Lady and the Fool in Stuttgart. Cranko's ballet was full of lifts in the pas de deux, Ashton wanted to create a work that a) was a showcase for seven brilliant ballerinas in the RB, 6 of which had danced Aurora that season, a showcase that would show how the RB was the greatest exponent of the Kirov tradition from which it descended and B) he choreographed the ballet without a single lift, a direct provocative statement to Cranko that virtuosity is in the steps in the construction in the phrasing and tone of a ballet. a subtlety that becomes increasingly hard to appreciate in today's "fling them by their necks till their dizzy and sick" aesthetic in pas de deux construction.

I feel very disappointed that Margeurite and Armand was revived, only for the reason that it stood as a love letter to a partnership, an era and a time that has passed. There's something romantic (and I mean romantic in the classsical sense a romance born of blood and death and mourning, not Hallmark sentiment that passes for romance nowadays) about a work that has been allowed to die as those who it was created for are dead and belong to an era a time that has also passed. It's like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when it became more than a TV series but a religion almost in series five when it crossed from being a television series to a religion, when Buffy was no longer played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, but Sarah Michelle Gellar became Buffy. At the end of the series Buffy died, sacrificing her life to save the universe, a moment that chilled the soul. However, the money men seeing how Buffy had a few more hundred million in her brought her back from the dead in series 6 (And very credibly too - much in the same way as Guillem has very credibly revived M&A). But the fact remains that dead, a memory M&A, like Buffy, stood for so much more than a work of entertainment, a work of art. Now the most precious elements it stood for have been lost

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Some people like to spend their money in this way though - some people are just so rich that £5000 is nothing. And if they want to support RB then it is great! Paying £9000 for a box, taking your family for a nice evening out and at the same time, donating to "the arts" - where is the harm in that? People wouldn't go if they didn't want to pay so much, and it looked full to me. If I could afford it I would pay too - if your ticket cost more than £1000 you got to have supper with the dancers! How cool would that be?

I find it very interesting you think, kb, that M&A should not have been revived - I want to think about that before commenting.:) It hadn't occurred to me that some works shouldn't be revived at all. Do you think that about any more ballets or is it just this one?

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Firstly I wonder how much of that money will end up in revivals of Ashton's work, promoting new choreographers as is the ostensible reason for the gala (and how many times has that chestnut been trotted out to justify overinflated prices) to bolster the crappy pay of the corps or whatever? Somehow, I think that money will go on paying bad celebrity photographers to make new brochures, more Ek and Duato in the rep and all the rest of it, oh the humanity.

Now. I have to say £9000 is morally wrong to pay for a box, human or otherwise. £9000 to pay for a show as stinky as the gala, is not only morally wrong but utterly insane. I mean the Queen, big whoop? Also, I don't want to harp on about ballet as an elitist art form and all the rest , but actually I think the real issue ballet has to face is not elitism, but egalitarianism, that's what it should aim for. There is a school of thought that argues that the RB as a creative force began to deteriorate, or rather began to be divorced from the society it was created for with the issue of its royal charter, and believe you me Lolly bear, if the RB had hit its sticky financial patch in the late 90's without its royal charter the likelihood is that it would have gone the way of London Contemporary Dance Theatre when it became cash strapped. But the fact is the Royal when it returned to the ROH promised that the new house would have a more equitable and egalitarian pricing structure, that it would be there for everyone, and what do we get? More expensive seats, less choice in seat pricing, yearly price rises of 10% and stinky stinky stinky ballets. Now if following the gala the prices are lowered by £20 a seat in the posh ones, and a bit less in the less posh ones ( all six remaining ones) then I shall eat my hat and say that charging £9000 for a box was a damn good idea, but until a UB40 comes with a 20% discount on seats at the ROH, egalitarian? I think not.

I didn't say that M&A shouldn't have been revived, I just wished it hadn't, it just stood for something special, maybe it wasn't all one builds it up to be in one's imagination, (the Nureyev and Fonteyn version I mean) but that's what's so special about the dream of legends, they are allowed to become what one wishes to make of them. Like Buffy, or Woodstock or the Sex Pistols, the Sex Pistols regrouping this year sans Sid, is a mockery of what they stood for, in fact even when they did stand for what they stood for they were a mockery, so scratch that analogy. But I think it's like Dali said of travelling "it's useless one can imagine it so much better in one's mind", and that's what I feel about M&A, it's a personal thing.

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Not that I was there, of course, but reading Clement Crisp's review made me feel that I was :)

Here's a taste (and the link):

Not a dish to set before a Queen

The Royal Ballet's gala in honour of the Queen's jubilee was, sadly, far from golden. Iron pyrites - fool's gold - was substituted for the 24 carat stuff, and the evening was both ill-conceived and ill-executed. It bore all the signs of hasty preparation, from the bunting that decorated the auditorium (which looked like a village garage en fýte) to the unconscionable waits while changes were effected to the minimal settings. The programme had the chutzpah to suggest that it offered a survey of the Royal Ballet's achievements during the Queen's reign. Not so. What we were shown was, to large extent, an unappetising selection of items from Ross Stretton's first and undistinguished year as director of the troupe. (Programming was reminiscent of those fraught moments when unexpected guests arrive for dinner: "Is there anything left in the ice-box? Can we use that tin of pýtý with some of those decrepit olives? Why is there never any good wine here when we need it?")

In the past, important royal galas have been joyous things, with festive commissions (but now we have no house choreographer) and thrilling guests from other companies. Well, nowadays the Royal Ballet has little but foreign guests to lead performances: on Tuesday Roberto Bolle, Nicolas Le Riche, Massimo Murru, Sylvie Guillem and Carlos Acosta joined those well-known products of the Royal Ballet, Alina Cojocaru, Marianela Nun~ez, Johan Kobbor and Ivan Putrov, in such gems of native choreography as Forsythe's Vertiginous Thrill, Tudor's The Leaves are fading, Ek's Carmen, Duato's Remanso and Cranko's Onegin. This is not the Royal Ballet whose activities duri ng the jubilee years we should have been celebrating. These are not works which tell anything about what a national ballet has done, nor what it should be doing, nor how it earned its right to a royal charter. Nor, in the glum presentation, does it say anything flattering about an opera house lately rebuilt and refitted at massive cost which cannot provide a smoothly functioning performance where minimal decors can be swiftly set and struck, and lighting is chancy.

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During the interval of Don Q at the RB last year, (Cojocaru and Corella) I heard two American men say "It's like ice skating without the ice" and this is I think is a pretty fair summation of what ballet, the RB and pretty much all ballet around the world has become or is becoming. At the ROH nowadays we are privileged to witness some of the best ice skating in the world. Souless, virtuosic flights of fancy.

I want to clear up the faceatiousness of my comparisons of the RB to Buffy and the Sex Pistols, yes I'm being faceatious, yes I'm being provocative but if these comparisons anger you, why is that so? Perhaps because in the glibness of comparing Sylvie's Margeurite and Armand one-woman showcase to a popular TV show showcasing the talents of a popular television actress, or comparing the rep of a once-great company to self-obssessed, provocative group of dubious rock musicians there is more than a grain of truth within the comparison.

Gelsey Kirkland in Dancing on My Grave said something very true and pertinent to the concept of virtuosity, she said that the steps alone did not contain the key. Now in every company unless the dancers do not conform to the Baryshnikov model for men, and the Guillem model for women they are seen to be bad dancers, to lack virtuosity, artistry - our companies are becoming shadows of a ideal of Russian virtuosity, or rather outmoded parodies of paragons.

What i find funny is that the whole "shock" value of Carmen is that a woman has a cigar in her mouth, feels up a man's crotch and that Jonathan Cope wore a pair of golden hot pants. Well you can see that in any specialist show in the Warmoestraat in Amsterdamn, you don't need to pay opera house prices for a front row seat in that kind of entertainment, or you can switch on the TV, watch Buffy, watch the Great Rock and Roll Swindle watch whatever, but pay £5000 to sit in a gala and watch it in an opera house? Are you nuts?

But this is the tone of "cutting edge" choreography nowadays, and it's stupid, it's naff, it's an insult to what ballet actually stood for and is all about - the distilling of deep emotional truths and sensation contained and conveyed through every muscle of the dancers being, every stroke of the choreographers pen, every second, measure and beat of the union between dancer, performer and music.

Who cares if Fonteyn and Nureyev were lor weren't lovers - their ballet M&A becoming an apotheosis of that bizarre, miraculous partnership, who cares if Nureyev became a symbol of the artist and man struggling to escape the tyranny of Communist Russia, who cares if his presence in the RB during Korea, Vietnam, the Cuban missile crisis placed the RB not only as a ballet company but a champion of the rights of the individual artist to have his voice heard, to be free of opression. Who cares that the Sadlers Wells during WW2 toured the troops putting ballet shows on for the soldiers facing death and peril. And who cares that the Royal has a repertory so rich and varied that it doesn't need to rely on the drivel of Duato, Ek et al. Certainly not the board of the RB, certainly not the corporate sector in the £9000 seats, certainly not the rosta of guest artists of startling ice-skating virtuosity from the bland to the blond of Corella and Stiefel. So why should we? We may as well watch Buffy - it's free at least.

I wish Don Quixote would just be stricken off company reps, how many times do we have to see that tired pas de deux trotted out at galas all in the name of establishing the fact that the company is still a "classical company", or in the RB's case to prove that the board can get in guest artists to prove that the company is still a classical company.

The most interesting thing for me about the Nureyev Don Q is how much of Nureyev's insecurities one can see in the steps. Nureyev's miraculous transformation from Tartar peasant with no technique to Kirov virtuoso is the cornerstone of his legend, as is the fact he did not start serious training till he was 17. His late start, and terror of losing his technique, his virtuosity were the chief bugbears of his performing life, whenever he choreographed he was known for the sheer impossibility of his combinations, the overabundance of steps, his reasoning being that as long as he could still perform the steps he could still dance. Whenever I see dancers performing his over-elaborate, virtuoso variations that's what I think of, how scared, terrified he must have been, how desperate to prove himself and keep on doing so. As if the steps contained the key to his virtuosity as an artist.

There is the aphorism about police forces, that a society gets the police force it deserves - if this holds true for arts organisations within society, what does that say about Britain and the RB, or rather which strata of society does the board of the RB deem deserving of the company? So, anyway until the RB climbs down from its ivory tower and starts to listen to the voice of the society it used to serve and create for, I may as well just stay home and watch Buffy.

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Perhaps kb the Queen's Jubilee was not meant for the balletomane but those corporate types who will pay an exorbitant amount of money to see "stars" of ballet.

One of the problems I find in ballet nowadays lies within myself. I always want better than what I saw last time and sometimes it ruins the illusion of why I'm there and that they are not just performing for me.

Buffy may be free on tv (and I'd debate the "talent" of any of the cast, but it seems to be more popular in the UK now as it's lost its edge here) but you pay for it in more ways than you may think. You also pay the high end salaries of "stars" or tv. Some might even refer to tv as "Souless, virtuosic flights of fancy"

Times are much different now then Nureyev and Fonteyn's and I think culture plays a different role to. And for that matter the boards of arts organizations.

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I think Balanchine's summation of ballet is very apt; "It's like coffee it always smells better than it tastes." But then you see something, Cojocaru's first Giselle, Seymour's "comeback" with ENB, Cunningham's Biped, Therese Cappucelli dancing Deep Song, and you realise on those very rare occasions it does smell and taste wonderful in equal measure. And so you go through countless mediocre, good, passable performances following the aroma, with the ideal of what it can be. (Incidnetally, I wasn't even born during the Fonteyn/Nureyev era - but I do think what the images of that era provide is the dream of an ideal, a dream you see on very rare occasions.)

But the RB now doesn't even attempt to live up to the ideal it has set, it is atrocious. The £9000 corporate crowd are also catered for by the fact that 70% of the ROH seats on "non-gala" nights are in the top price range, and the fact that in form and content the repertory isn't even attempting to emulate the smell of coffee, it's that nasty chicoree based synthetic abstraction.

I think though that as a metaphor for arts and especially ballet in Britain the gala was perfect. The Royal family is an object of ridicule in Britain, frought with scandal, public disinterest, peccadillos, self-obssessed intrigues and mercenary self-interest, divorced from the country, from the people racist and viewed as an institution with no integrity, direction or moral fibre. What better a tribute than the pallid programme presented on the occasion of the Jubilee, both to the Royal Family and the Royal Ballet.

It's not enough to say I am an artist so everything I do is infused with integrity, one has to prove it by the product one presents, otherwise it may as well be television, no one on Buffy or any other programme of that ilk would pretend that what they do is high art, good art, art whatever that may be. Yet a woman spinning around 32 times on one leg is insisted upon as being an artistic experience - and most of the time nowadays one can't even tell the difference.

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The skating analogy is a good one. I've been calling ABT's performances "an evening of championship skating" for years now. It's annoying in "Le Corsaire," but quite chilling in "Symphony in C."

A historical note, KB. Nureyev did not start serious training at 17, but much earlier. He went to a good, solid regional school before coming to the Vaganova Academy. One of his classmates (Alexander Minz) in an interview after he (Minz) defected said that he thought Nureyev truly believed he did not have proper schooling before 17, but that that wasn't how he was viewed by other students. What he got in Leningrad was polishing; he didn't start from scratch. I don't know why he crammed as many steps as possible into everything he choreographed -- perhaps it's a metaphor for his life. But I always wondered if he'd read all those critics who said "Agon has more steps in it than all of Sleeping Beauty!" as though Balanchine had set out to achieve just that, and quantity of steps made something great.

Back to the gala, the subject of this thread, the points that several of the British critics made, that a gala shouldn't be a slapdash sampler of what's gone on this past season, but, especially for a Royal Jubilee, should reflect the company's history is a good one, I think. At the 25th anniversary Jubilee, we got "Homage to the Queen". "Monotones" was another little gala number. The company's repertory was often enhanced by gala fare. (Ismene Brown had a good line, as she so often does: "A plate of this year's leftovers performed by any dancer still uninjured at the end of the season is not what I would consider up to the mark.")

On the other hand, perhaps we're lucky not to have gotten Stanton Welch's "Son of Homage to the Queen".

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I like the Royal family - now I do feel controversial! And the Queen was cheered after the gala, everyone waved their flags outside etc. The same goes for the two concerts she gave for thousands of people last month in her garden.

Does being passionately FOR something count for less than being passionately AGAINST something? It is a strange world.:)

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It certainly is a strange world Lolly! I must say it has been very interesting to read all about the gala and people's points of view before adding mine!

I was at the gala, and really enjoyed it-I am certainly a big fan of the Queen and felt the gala was a fantastic tribute to her and her reign.

I also appreciated the choice of ballet, I got to see a couple of things I missed the first time around (Wow to the Vertiginous Thrill, and Hmm? to Carmen for me!) and also to reaquaint myself with things I'd seen before. I alsways think the problem with such occasions as galas is you could always argue that one thing was more suitable than another because there is such a wealth of material to choose from! I prefer to ge with the choice and get down to reallly enjoying myself!

As to the pricing, I can see its caused some consternation but I have to admit that when I got my form through i was really pleased with the pricing structure chosen. I know the top prices are a lot- but then only people who can afford it will pay that-and the money is supporting such a good cause. There was still plenty of scope for the lower price bands for those of us who don't earn thousands, not to mention the free seats in the Clore, Linbury and outside.

Overall, for me at least an extremely enjoyable night out witht he bonus of the dancers going outside to the piazza. xx

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I wasn't at the Gala but Valerie Lawson's review for The Age sheds useful light on the choice of programme. "Why then, did the program not feature works from the past 50 years? I have no inside knowledge but my guess is this: firstly, as the Royal Ballet has been touring Australia for more than a month, returning home two weeks ago, there was no time to prepare and rehearse a comprehensive program. Secondly, was there sufficient money to spend on an ambitious event? Thirdly, the gala was wedged in the middle of a three-week summer season with Don Quixote given the night before and the night after. How much on-stage rehearsal time was available? Not enough, with the gala dogged by set-change problems."

Valerie Lawson's review

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In response to Lolly and Anoushka, well if you enjoyed the gala, all I can say is good, however with question to the RB as an artistic force and what it has come to represent in Britain today I see that the "Gala" stands as a fitting testament to how far from its ideals it has travelled.

If sitting watching a batterie of poor, mediocre "Modern" choreography sandwiched in between the usual gala pas de deux which have been trotted out again and again and again ad nauseum, is for you an exemplary display of what a great company is, within a theatre with horrifically overinflated prices, while the merry acolytes are crammed into hot theatres watching the "great and the good" on tv screens enjoy the "spectacle" within the hallowed hall of the opera house proper is egalitarian, is part of the RB experience, then I can't argue with what makes you happy, but I can argue that this is wrong, this is an insult to the pioneering vision that made the RB, at one point, the greatest ballet company in the world.

Firstly, the question of charity, the overinflated prices going to fund new choreography. I hate the term charity, it's a panacea, or should that be a placebo? Was there a list of the "charitable" institutions which the gala was to fund handed out at any point? Was there any indication of how the charity was to be handled, administered, how the vast prices of the seats would be translated into the germination of new choreographic pieces by young British choreographers? No, because charity like that other contemporary get-out-of-jail-free word, love, is so generic, so commonly used, so understood that its utterance will brook no come back, that no one dares to question its veracity or validity. I fancy that the ticket prices will be going to fund the new Sleeping Beauty production that Stretton is bringing in (the Bjornson production was so foul, I don't fault him wanting a new one) however, I'd like to know who exactly will benefit most from the charity on offer? I fancy it will be those in the top-prices house seats, which now accounts for 70% of the house, oh yes those poor souls in need of charity.

Now, the fayre on offer! Underrehearsed, atrociously staged on a worn out, exhausted disaffected company. Well, if you want to pay top dollar for that, it's not my problem. I'll just stop going to watch ballet, or the strain the RB practices nowadays. However, the commonly held truth that the company's first performances are now, due to chronic lack of stage time, a dress rehearsal is a severe and unforgivable insult to any paying audience member, whether they be in the cheap or expensive seats. A ticket is a contract, once your money is paid the contractual obligation on the part of the company is that you will be presented with a product fit for performance. In an interview Hubert Essakow said that his first night of The Dream, was actually his first time dancing the role on stage. It shows how much in contempt the management hold the audience in, that they won't notice, well I notice, I notice that I'm being served up luke warm attempts at dance pieces by dancers afraid to abandon themselves to the work because they are so unsure of the space they are performing in. The gala at £5000 a pop was an affront to a moral sense of decency that it was so shabbily presented that not even exit signs at the back of the stage were screened.

[paragraph on race redacted]

AS I have said the gala was for me perfect, a perfect example of an organisation created in the spirit of idealism which has long since closed its ears to the people it was created for.

And Lolly, one final thing, I would hope that by the tone of my postings you would gather that I am passionate, I'm passionate about dance, about the ideal of dance and its rightful place as one of the most everyman art forms on offer. And I am passionate that this diluted, innocuous abstraction the RB offers up is an insult to the ideal of Bayliss, De Valois and all that made the RB what it once was.

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Calliope, I think you're right, the politics of the gala belong elsewhere.

I also don't think we're in a position to comment upon the colour of dancers o our stage and whether they were home grown or not-we simply do not know about the intake of our national ballet schools and where their graduates go.

We should also perhaps be pleased that so many dancers from across the globe want to come and dance here?

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Brendan, re Valerie Lawson's review, I don't think the Australian tour is an excuse at all. (First off, why was there an Australian tour, which has aparently exhausted and injured the dancers? It sounds like a victory lap for Stretton, and a bit early, too. It is very unusual for a company to tour during the first year of a new directorship.)

Dancers rehearse works on tour. They could have rehearsed before they went on the tour. A gala as important as this one should have been planned for well in advance. During the 25th annivesary Jubilee year the company was touring as well, and that gala was not odd bits grabbed out of the refrigerator at the last minute.

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I didn't intend to express an opinion one way or another. But

I am told that the Australia tour was planned pre-Stretton and that it is not something he would have chosen to do in his first year. As it is, there seems to have been a considerable amount of rehearsal on the run for the Onegin/Don Q/Coppelia season.

Of this I am less sure: I have a sense that the Royal Gala crept into the diary quite late - that when this current season was being planned last year, no-one had any inkling of a Gala. The actual announcement, as far as I remember, was made only three months ago. Perhaps others can confirm the actual circumstances. The late planning may have been as much to do with the Palace as with the Opera House.

On the issue of royalty, I believe that social and political currents in the UK are relevant to the question of the RB's identity. While there is a touch of Swiftian saeva indignatio about kb's postings, he is not altogether off-beam.

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Why should we not discuss politics? Moreover, what do you understand politics to mean? Art is by its very nature a political statement, by this I mean the true nature of politics stemming from the Greek politkos - a citizen belonging to a society. If anything the gala was a political polemic, a soundless testament to the evolution of an arts organization and its alliance, or rather its removal from the ideal it was set up for to the current stance and political placement.

Lolly the statment vis a vis race is a strong and powerful one, whether you like to face it or not, funding for organizations within the UK is increasingly centred around ethnicity, or awareness of an ethnic remit laid down by Government watchdogs. If the Royal National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company or any other arts institution major or minor was so conspicuous in presenting a predominantly caucasian face to the public in the presentation of its material then it would have its funding seriously curtailed. I know the RBS and I know how few black and asian faces pass through its doors, and how few further end up on the stage.

You want to discuss the Gala? Well the gala was undivorcable from the arena of politics as it was there to comemmorate, "celebrate", mark an institution which has shown itself to be institutionally racist, divorced from the country as a whole. The ROH moreover has a duty to make its funding and allocation of resources a matter for the public domain. The scandals which ensued in the latter half of the nineties showed the ROH as an institution that had misplaced, sqauandered and abused public arts funding, taxes and grants. And yet when penurious and in threat of closure bleated with all the integrity and right of a spoilt child that its pocket money had been stopped.

You want to discuss the gala? Fine, Well the gala was there to also mark the path and progression of the ROH as an artistic institution, as a creative force within the UK. The poor showing of dancers nurtured within that institution, the poor treatment those same dancers are receiving within the organisation (and for this I do not blame Stretton alone, this started a long time before) is further testament to how far from the ideal of a national company, nurtured in a national style for a nation the company has become.

Art is political, if it has no awareness of itself as an organism, if it closes its ears to its public, its heritage and its ideals then it is worthless. This is seen by the eschewing of the repertory which placed it within the UK as a descendent of the Marinksy heritage, to take on the fools gold glamour of the current repertory.

To deny the political is to deny the art itself. Over in the General Discussion section of BalletAlert is a sociology paper damning ballet on several levels by a student from Wisconsin university. It is full of half truths, misconceived ideas, poorly written and researched and obviously conceived in bias and ignorance. However, it received an A grade, and is indeed interesting because it is a polemic to the predjudice which surrounds ballet as an art form, an art form divorced from society. All the criticisms the authour levies at ballet can be equally if not more so levied at any other profession, sector of society however, such shoddy research and scholarship would not be tolerated in a University Paper if say the subject was law, or medicine, or theatre even. But ballet is seen as being so lacking in moral or artistic fibre that such criticisms are taken as law, or truths. Now, one can poo poo the paper and ignore it, or one can study it, answer it give it all the credibility that it is undeserving of, because as a minority art form that is seen to cater for an elitist, exclusory section of society, ballet must do it. As must we lovers of ballet. Ballet must be a political body in the truest sense of taking responsibility for itself, only then is it an art form worth watching.

And Brendan isn't outrage better than apathy?

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On the Australian tour -- I have no idea at all when it was planned, but I cannot remember any instance, in any major company during my ballet going years, when an outgoing director planned a foreign tour to take place after he left office. That it takes place in the native land of the new director leads me to assume that this tour was planned by the current director. I am speculating, but it's an educated guess. Also, regardless of who planned the tour, it's the current director's responsibility to plan the entire season in the interests of the dancers, the audience, and the repertory (not necessarily in that order.)

In my experience studying opera house managements, galas such as jubilees and anniversaries (the Ashton, the MacMillan, for example) are penciled in years in advance. The details are worked out closer to deadlinle, but everybody knows they're coming up, and this jubilee was a biggie. They may not have known the exact date until close to the wire, but they knew it was this year.

TO KB: I have tried to do ths through email, but that obviously isn't working. Discussing politics is fine when it is relevant. Passion -- positive or negative -- is fine. Rants are not. Stay on topic, stay to the point, AND STOP BEING RUDE. Your posts are offensive to many people here, not for their ideas-- which, I'm sorry if this disillusions you, but they're not new and have been expressed here, and elsewhere, often -- but because of your tone and your dismissive attitude toward other posters. If you wish to continue posting here, you will abide by the board's rules and policies.

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Originally posted by kb:

And Lolly, one final thing, I would hope that by the tone of my postings you would gather that I am passionate, I'm passionate about dance, about the ideal of dance and its rightful place as one of the most everyman art forms on offer. And I am passionate that this diluted, innocuous abstraction the RB offers up is an insult to the ideal of Bayliss, De Valois and all that made the RB what it once was.
kb, you might have noticed that I am passionate too. However, I think we present our opinions in different ways - I just hope to give people a taste of what I have seen. I do not call other people's opinions "utterly untrue" as you have called mine.

Perhaps I am also more trusting than you (and perhaps naively so) that when something is in aid of a cause, then that cause is where the money will end up. I believe the money raised by the gala will fund dancers from the company in their choreographic pursuits - why would I have any reason not to believe this?

Originally posted by kb:

Lolly the statment vis a vis race is a strong and powerful one, whether you like to face it or not
I find that statement quite rude.
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kb - I removed the paragraph on race from your earlier post.

The ideas and thoughts are not forbidden, and you are welcome to restate them, but do it in a less incendiary manner that invites discussion rather than offense. I've got another job, as does every other administrator on this board, and I don't have the time to run after you every time you post, trying to deal with the potential fallout.

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