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  1. It is not just Insight events where inattention rears its ugly head. I used to attend a great number of training events in a professional capacity and we trainers used to wait for the daft questions keeping our fingers crossed that whoever it was who asked the daft question or questions was not someone whom we had been directly involved in training that day in one of the subgroups doing the case studies and that it was not someone who came from the centre at which we worked on a daily basis.
  2. Although it is true that the Ballet Association enables its guest speakers to check the official account of the meeting at which they spoke in order to edit out indiscretions before the text of the meeting is made available to members I don't think that is the reason why the question and answer section of the Insight events are edited out. I suspect that the real reason why the question and answer sessions at the end of Insight events are cut is not to encourage free debate or eliminate indiscretions but to save audience members embarrassment as these sessions tend to reveal that a lot of the nice middle class people who attend them can not readily distinguish between questions and statements and do not know how to transform a statement into a question. I don't go to many Insight events because I don't find them that insightful but on the rare occasion that I do attend one the questions that are asked would tend to suggest that very few people listen that attentively to what the speakers have had to say. Of course just occasionally an audience member comes up with a question that the speaker can't answer immediately and unlike professional trainers and lecturers that can completely throw the non-professional speaker. Someone asked about the original score of Swan Lake at the Petipa Insight evening because he had noticed marked differences between the entire ballet score as played in the concert hall and the revised score used by Petipa in his 1895 production of the ballet which is the form in which most of us hear the score in ballet performances today. The speaker was not expecting the question and I thought she floundered a bit in answering it.
  3. oaodan and Sophoife, The fact that the RB has a group of Principal Character dancers suggested to me that reasons other than mere expediency had led to David Yudes being selected to replace Philip Mosely as Sancho Panza and the performance that he gave more than confirmed that opinion.Yudes is an exceptionally talented dancer and it would seem a very versatile one. He clearly is not going to be side-lined playing older character roles in perpetuity with little opportunity to dance as his debut as Sancho Panza on Friday evening was followed at the Saturday matinee by his second appearance as the Gypsy Boy in Two Pigeons. I imagine that he will turn up in the virtuoso role of Kolia in A Month in the Country at the end of the season. I did not find myself being distracted by a mismatch between his youth and the role he was playing, From where I was sitting his makeup was very effective in disguising his youth and his portrayal of the character was spot on. This Sancho was a bit of a rogue,full of peasant guile and unlike Moseley far from boring. Yudes did far more than simply going through the motions. He was not merely reproducing the stage business while failing to create a character which is a fault which has crept into too many of Moseley's character performances.It made a pleasant change to see all of the role's choreography performed so crisply and so completely in character and revealed what a hole there is in the action of the ballet if the role is not performed to the hilt. The decision to cast Yudes as Sancho Panza is unlikely to be the result of a lack available mature dancers. Kevin O'Hare has said on several occasions that he recognises that he can't give everyone the promotions they deserve but that he intends to make their careers as interesting and artistically rewarding as possible. Giving younger dancers opportunities to perform roles which are generally given to more experienced performers is a policy which benefits both the company and the individual dancer as it develops the dancers' artistry and expands their range. At the last revival of Winters' Tale the role of Polixenes , which had up until that point been performed by mature Principal dancers, was given to three young men Reece Clarke, William Bracewell and Lukas, Bjorneboe Braensrod all of whom acquitted themselves well. The decision to cast Yudes as Sancho even if prompted by Moseley not being available should, I think , be seen in the context of that policy and it paid off. I hope that management think very seriously about casting him in the many roles created for Alexander Grant and those he inherited, As far as Don Q is concerned it is far from being my favourite ballet. I find so much of what passes for its comedy laboured and barely amusing so I was pleasantly surprised by the first night of the run in which the details of the staging which had seemed awkward when the production was new looked far better organised. I wonder how much of a role Christopher Saunders has had in tightening it up as he is credited with the staging. Great performances all round almost converted me to the ballet. Kaneko was a fine Queen of the Dryads making the challenges of her choreography look simple and straight forward by dancing it so elegantly.; O'Sullivan a charming Amour; young Sissens and Dixon outstanding among the Matadors with Morera, Nunez and Muntagirov full of character and making all of the choreography look ridiculously easy. If the company maintain this standard throughout the run I might even become a convert. For the first time in decades they had to bring the houselights up to persuade the audience to leave the auditorium.
  4. K Dawnstar, With the benefit of hindsight Monica Mason's failure to sign up Muntagirov seems incredibly ill-judged but you have to remember that he was not the only talented dancer to have come out of the school, if I recall correctly Polunin gradated in the sane year, Of course one can never be certain about management decisions on recruitment except to say that if the director has any concern for the morale and the good will of company members they will generally be as much concerned with the needs of a company in its entirety as they are about individual dancers and their potential. Basically a company the size of the Royal Ballet, which has ninety plus dancers; a broad active repertory and an even bigger back catalogue can not have too many dancers being fast tracked at the same time without upsetting the company's delicately balanced eco-system and running the real risk of putting a lot of noses out of joint. Management has to strike a balance between those who have served their time in the ranks, working their way up through minor supporting roles who are now ready for leading ones and the exceptionally talented inexperienced youngster. An Artistic Director who loses sight of the need to reward the hardworking versatile dancers who are the backbone of any company with juicy roles is storing up trouble for the organisation he or she is leading. Appearing only to use experienced company members who are ready for leading roles themselves as the supporting cast for big name guest stars and a few favoured company members can have an awful effect on company morale in a very short space of time. The best way to send company morale through the floor is to make casting decisions involving company members which seem to be at the expense of equally talented mature dancers with greater experience and stylistic suitability for the roles being cast. Side-lining experienced dancers and favouring young inexperienced ones who were not ready for the roles with which they were entrusted plus accusations of casting decisions being made for sexual favours led to Ross Stretton's early departure as director. Now to the question about why the company did not recruit Muntagirov when he graduated. At that time, perhaps because of the problems which ignoring seniority had caused, the company was run on a far more hierarchical basis than it is at present. Seniority really counted when it came to casting. The company had a large number of big name dancers in its ranks all of whom expected three or four performances in leading roles in a run of a ballet like Romeo and Juliet. At the point at which Muntagirov and Polunin graduated the Royal Ballet was already in the process of launching the careers of Steven McRae and Zachary Farouk. As McRae and Farouk are only a couple of years older than Muntagirov and Polunin the company would have struggled to accommodate two more dancers who were going to demand fast tracking. As it is Mason signed up Polunin while Wayne Eagling was able to outbid anyone else who was interested in securing Muntagirov's services by offering him Albrecht in his first year with ENB, ironically almost certainly because the company's repertory in any one year is so limited with the result that giving a young talented dancer a couple of performances of Giselle was going to be far less disruptive of the company's delicate eco system than allocating the same dancer performances in a company which mounts twelve different programmes in a season where the fans of each Principal dancer will expect to see their favourite appear across as wide a range of the repertory as possible. My earlier comment about the opera and ballet audiences interest in a wide range of repertory was comparing the relative interest of opera and ballet audiences in really unfamiliar repertory. I was not talking about the umpteenth new productions of an established opera which while it may not have been seen in London for twenty or more years gets regular outings at one or more of the truly major opera houses of the world. I am not talking about staging operas such as Le Conte Ory which enjoy a sort of half-life on the outer fringes of the standard repertory receiving the occasional airing at a summer opera festivals. I am talking about staging works like Janacek's Osud or Rossini's Ermione both of which were famously failures at their premieres ; staging works by composers who are no longer fashionable such as Mayerbeer and his L'Africaine or going right back to the origins of opera and putting together performing editions of works by composers like Cavalli. I really don't think that there is a balletic equivalent of that sort of repertory or rather the balletic equivalent of that sort of repertory would consist of half of the major choreographic works of the twentieth century rather than works which belong to an earlier period. The average ballet goer seems to be far more satisfied with a remarkably limited repertory than the average opera would be. Even a work like Two Pigeons still counts as a rarity which is to be approached with caution if ticket sales are anything to go by. I am far from convinced that people would rush to buy tickets if Kevin were to stage a Fonteyn themed programme at the beginning of the 2019 -20 season consisting of Birthday Offering last staged in 2012, and Daphnis and Chloe and A Wedding Bouquet both of which were last seen in 2004. Is the problem that Kevin's obvious lack of interest in the historical repertory is contagious or is it something else? It is easy to naively assume that the artistic director of a company with a repertory as extensive as the Royal Ballet's is, will ensure that the company's audience sees a full range of the repertory and that ballets which are neglected deserve that fate. Is it simply that his enthusiasm for new works has blinded him to the strengths of the entire Ashton output and works of great choreographers like Tudor and Nijinska or is it simply that he has dubious taste ? Perhaps it is simply that he is far too trusting of the abilities of those he commissions. I admit I still find it difficult to understand how he ever let Acosta's Carmen reach the stage .
  5. I will begin by asking everyone who posts on this site a very simple question and it is this. If you had never heard of Asphodel Meadows or the Two Pigeons and you knew nothing about either of them would anything on the ROH website have induced you to buy a ticket for the programme ? I recall when Pigeons was revived after a thirty years absence from the Covent Garden stage sitting next to a lady who said that she had never heard of the work and yet she claimed to be a great fan of Ashton's works. She said that she came to see his ballets whenever they were staged and yet at the same time she said that she had hesitated about buying tickets for the Two Pigeons because she thought that its lengthy neglect suggested that it probably was not going to be that good. The sad thing is that there are plenty of other Ashton works which are capable of revival which are also being neglected which will need a bit of help to get people to buy tickets for them when they are next revived. Daphnis and Chloe and Illuminations will both need a bit more than an announcement that the Royal Ballet will be dancing these long neglected works if people are to be persuaded to buy tickets to see them. Why is it that the minute that the average balletgoer reads that a neglected work is to be revived their response is so different from that of the average operagoer faced with similar news ? Operagoers seem to be far more adventurous as a group and their initial response is most likely to be where is it being performed? Can I get to it? Who is singing? Perhaps this is because they understand that whether or not a major work becomes part of the core international repertory is often a matter of luck and that an unsuccessful premiere can condemn a work to decades if not centuries of unjustified neglect. Of course it could be that there are more obsessives and completists among operagoers than among balletgoers. Setting aside the fuss about the limited number of tickets made available to the public for the Forza performances which are to be sung by Kaufmann and Nebtrebko perhaps it is that the average opera goer is at least as interested in hearing unfamiliar works as he or she is in hearing specific singers. I don't find a similar adventurous approach among the average balletgoer indeed it is difficult to persuade some people to step outside the perceived safety of a full length work to try a mixed bill. Even the argument that the vast majority of the greatest ballets of the twentieth century are one act works cuts little ice. So the sad fact is that the announcement that Daphnis and Chloe is to be revived is unlikely to prompt a firm resolution to see the rarity unless the casting is peppered with the names of popular dancers who may or may not be suitable for the roles they are to dance or it is included in a bill of more familiar works. What the announcement is likely to do is to prompt a lot of people to ask themselves what is wrong with it and whether it might be wiser to buy a ticket for something safer ? It is after all reasonable for someone who does not realise how much bankability and the AD's personal tastes play in repertory selection to suppose that works which are neglected are weak or defective in some way and that works that are any good will be performed with some degree of regularity by the companies for whom they were made. As far as the Saturday matinee performance is concerned I have always found that matinees tend to sell very well particularly if the ballets to be performed are ones which people have heard of as there are any number of older people who do not like going to evening performances because they don't like walking home in the dark. The one problem that the specific performance presented for me and others I know is that Two Pigeons has to be saved from being perceived as a cutesy ballet which means that the Young Girl should not be played as an adorable character because to do so is bring the work perilously close to the twee and cutesy. It is as bad, as far as the balance of the ballet is concerned as making Widow Simone a sympathetic "Mumsy" character. As far as the cast changes are concerned, I am disappointed that Bracewell is off injured but I do not intend to complain about Naghdi's two new partners. It will be good to see both men who are exceptionally good as the Young Man dancing with a different partner. We don't see enough of James Hay and anything that gives him another shot at the role can not be entirely bad.
  6. The Insight event at the end of January was a talk about Petipa and Ivanov which was not, in my opinion, half as insightful as it should have been. It was on a par with the talk which Alistair Macauley gave years ago on the Sleeping Beauty. I am sorry that I can't be more positive about the January event but in both cases I felt that I had wasted my time and my money on non-events.
  7. The one mystery about Asphodel Meadows is why, after its very successful first outing it took the company so long to revive it ? The score is Poulenc at his quirky best and Scarlett's choreography certainly rises to the challenges which the music presents to the dance-maker. In addition the choreography is actually memorable and I can't say that of much of the new choreography which the company has staged of late. It might be a bit early for a full evening of Scarlett but a programme which included Viscera,Asphodel Meadows plus something of a real contrast in the form of a neglected Ashton work, of which there are far too many, would be welcome. Having said that I should rather like to see what Symphonic Dances looks like a couple of seasons after its premiere. As far as Two Pigeons is concerned it is good to see it back and to discover that all of the casts are making far more of it than they did when it was first revived. It is sad that it has been selling so slowly and that the Marketing Department is doing so little to boost ticket sales. I hope that it sells well enough to guarantee it will be revived in future seasons. I assume that marketing is far too busy re-categorising seats and playing jiggery-pokery with seat prices to actually try to persuade people to buy tickets for this and other slow selling programmes. So what of the Two Pigeons or, as the database insists you must call it if you want to read the incomplete account of who has danced in it on the Covent Garden stage," Les Deux Pigeons" ? It may owe it origins and its music to Merante's balletic account of de la Fontaine's allegorical poem but what is being danced is pure Ashton with its narrative elements pared down to the essentials. It may not be "realistic" in the way that MacMillan claims for his characters and their narrative experiences which seem far closer to the big emotions of verismo opera than anything that people experience in every day life. Ashton's approach is smaller scale and I think more emotionally truthful than is generally served up in a MacMillan dram-ballet. Ashton's relies on the audiences' recognition of characters their emotional states and situations. None of his characters are ever going to end up dying in a Louisiana swamp or in a suicide pact and his Romeo and Juliet is far more concerned with the personal tragedy of the young lovers than presenting the narrative as an epic opera house-scale tragedy. In this revival no one has presented us with a generic portrayal of a young girl which might be pressed into service by someone asked to dance the lead role in Coppelia but I have quibbles about some casting choices. Cuthbertson has managed to make her Young Girl seem less grand and emotionally mature than she appeared when she first tackled the role but to me she is still too sophisticated and a bit too much like Aurora having an off-day to be totally convincing in the role. She is not sufficiently irritating and lacking in self knowledge to be convincing however beautifully she reproduces the steps. She is a wonderful Sylvia and perhaps Kevin should accept that she is more suited to ballerina roles than ingenue ones. We need to see the girl's immaturity; that she lacks insight; is incapable of understanding the emotional situation in which she finds herself; that she is tiresome and that she is totally impotent when it comes to dealing with the threat which the Gipsy poses.It is a comedy about immaturity and recognition of the mistakes everyone makes when they are young. The point at which she removes the chair which the young man is about to sit on is not a simple piece of slapstick, as some would see it, but an action which encapsulates the state of the couple's relationship. Of the casts I have seen so far the one which has given me greatest pleasure, and I think, has come closet to capturing the couple who Ashton created was Stix-Brunnell and Clarke largely because she makes the girl really irritating. Again I can only express regret that the pair have only been given a single show.. Morera is the best thing about the Cuthbertson, Muntigirov cast. Although he is far less princely than he was when he first danced the role being an ordinary young man does not come as easily to Muntigirov as it does to dancers like Clarke and Ball. I thought that Campbell was wonderful as the young man but Choe is still a bit too grand and does not do frustration and impotence convincingly.If I can't have another performance by Stix-Brunell and Clarke then the next best thing is a performance by Hay, Takada and Magri who get the characterisation absolutely right. Magri's Gipsy revels in her allure and her power over men and comes closer to Morera's account of the role than anyone else I have seen in the role in the last twenty years. I look forward to the rest of the run and in particular Naghdi's debut. There was a discussion further up the thread of Hay's suitability for other roles and his appearance with Naghdi in the classical pas de deux in MacMillan's Anastasia. I will simply say that I found their account of the choreography far more convincing than any of the other casts who appeared in it during the run as it was only their performance which came close to Andrew Porter's description of it as looking like a piece of choreography from a long forgotten Petipa orientalist ballet. It certainly looked that way in the ballet's early days when it was performed by Sibley and Dowell for whom it was made but current performance practice and in particular freeze framing breaks up its flow and seems to emphasise its technical challenges. There was one lift that did not come off that well when Hay and Naghdi performed the pas de deux and that is where the man holds his partner pressed to his chest as she makes a curved poisson shape but I would not swear that anyone else made a much better job of it. The great thing about the Naghdi, Hay performance which I only saw by chance was that they performed the pas de deux as a continuous flow of movement and the choreography looked all the better for that approach. Their performance was very impressive given the amount of time they must have had to prepare it. The more senior casts' indulgence in modern performance practices such as freeze framing at regular intervals made the choreography look choppy and awkward in performance.
  8. I can't help wondering what those who have paid ridiculously inflated prices on the re-sale market for the privilege of hearing Kaufmann and Nebtrenko are likely to react if the "stars" withdraw at an early stage in the run? Both of them have form for cancelling. The fact that the second cast are scheduled to sing so soon after the first night suggests that the ROH has made contingency plans to deal with the possibility that one or both of the "stars" will either go home early or not turn up at all. In answer to an earlier enquiry I suspect that the reason that the ROH doesn't sell the entire season in one go is because most people, or rather the proles aka "the little people who pay taxes" would have to take out a second mortgage to fund their habit or habits which would lead to even more accusations of elitism and exclusion than at present. As long as the arts organisations resident in Bow Street receive public subsidy they have to go through the motions of being accessible even if the marketing department with its sleight of hand; recategorization of seats programme by programme and general jiggery-pokery with prices seems to be doing its best to make them accessible only to a monied elite. If the entire ballet programme were to be sold in one go would not the ballet audience complain that they were being required to buy tickets for performances by the Royal Ballet rather than performances by individual dancers? Is not lack of casting details something about which there are all too regular complaints at present? As far as the lack of performances of Britten operas is concerned remember maestro Pappano clearly believes that a true opera lover burns to hear the third rate verismo repertory which is generally confined to provincial opera houses in Italy rather than Britten. As far as Pappano's conducting is concerned the fact that so little Britten is programmed may be no bad thing as he managed to make Peter Grimes sound more like Berg than any other conductor I have heard. The centenary village hall style staging of Gloriana suggests to me that there is little empathy or understanding of the composer and his works to be found among the current artistic management of the "opera company". Alex Beard gives me the impression that he is merely a front man who has no real power and no understanding of how an opera or ballet company should operate. He never seems to be there in the evening to see the curtain go up and deal with emergencies in the way that Tooley and Isaacs did. His job is simply to deliver the script that he has been given however far removed from reality his scripted statements may be.
  9. Xandra you make it sound as if Polunin was given opportunities which he did not deserve. He was by far the most gifted dancer that I think anyone had seen in decades. He seemed to have it all in terms of physique, technical ability and artistry. The only other male dancer I can think of who was made a Principal so early in his career was David Wall. Wall was also given a swathe of leading roles early in his career but the essential difference between them is that Wall's relationship with the artform was a committed one, once he had decided it was what he wanted to do, whereas Polunin's relationship with it, is to say the least, an ambivalent one. Wall had great talent, did not have to travel abroad to train, and embraced ballet as his career. Polunin was possibly even more naturally gifted but found himself tied to something which he clearly did not enjoy and resented for all sorts of reasons including having to leave his family and the break up of his parents' marriage. When comparing the careers of Polunin and Parish we have the benefit of hindsight which those making decisions ten and more years ago did not have. It is easy to forget that an opera house based company of the size of the Royal Ballet does not have the luxury of being a company of stars and no stars particularly when its senior dancers are well established and they and their loyal followers will expect them to be given the lion's share of performance opportunities. In those circumstances those with obvious talent are likely to be given opportunities while those whose talents are not so obvious are likely to be overlooked. Although I have to admit that I thought that Parish's height was something which would lead to his career taking off at some point. Ballet whether we like it or not is a competitive world, even where the competitiveness is masked by good manners and behaviour . It is above all a world in which career progression is based on personal taste and opinions. I think that it is always difficult for a dancer to get on who does not obviously stand out as having something special about him or her, be it technical ability; partnering skills; stage presence which enables them to make a mark through their artistry in a minor role; being the right height as a partner for a more senior dancer or catching the eye of a choreographer who brings out something in the dancer which no one had noticed previously. It helps if you have some sort of support or sponsorship from decision makers inside a company. I suspect that obvious technical aptitude and strength are essential assets today as artistic directors and audiences now seem more interested in technical skills than may once have been the case. So much so that it is almost certainly the case that a man of average height can no longer expect to have much of a career if his technique is merely average while one who is taller than average has to have something more than height to offer management . The days of casting roles on the basis of a dancer having just enough technique for a role while having the right looks, absolutely the right stage personality and artistic aptitude are over for both sexes. I am not going to indulge in the "Mason made a mistake" line of argument because Parish's career did not develop under her directorship as it seems a pointless exercise. I will simply suggest that the way in which a number of male dancers have come to the fore with the company suggests that it is often a matter of chance and being in the right place at the right time which counts although it is possible to make your own luck. Donald MacLeary who turned out to be an extraordinary partner got his break because of his height. Beriosova who was considered tall needed a partner and chose him. David Wall was recognised as a great talent from the outset whereas Dowell does not appear to have been. Wall was sent off to the Touring Company to learn his trade and given a wide range of leading roles before returning to Covent Garden as a Principal. As far as Dowell is concerned he does not seem to have been marked out in the same way. Possibly because he was not in the established danseur mould. Sibley said their partnership came about by accident. She wanted to practice a supported step, he was nearby and that she realised almost immediately that everything felt so easy with him because they were the right height for each other. Soon afterwards they discovered that they heard the music in the same way. Of course it helped that Ashton cast them together in the Dream and in doing so created a new expressive style of choreography for the male dancer. Some thirty years later Pennefather said in interview that he had worked hard on partnering and eventually plucked up enough courage to ask Guillem if he could dance Paris with her. She had agreed and he had developed the reputation among the other female Principals of being a safe pair of hands. I think that Parish has been very fortunate to be discovered and nurtured as he has been and that given the talent coming up behind him there is no guarantee that O'Hare would have seen things any differently.
  10. I wonder whether these two and three day flying visits are what is required to retain the company's current audiences and are sufficient to attract and build a new one? They do not seem to give much opportunity for the dancers' personal career development. Acosta's repertory selections certainly do not seem to respect the company's history and its artistic traditions as the works chosen from the company's "heritage " repertory are the safe, standard works which any ballet company has to perform at regular intervals if it is to be taken seriously as a classical company. They are all three pretty much guaranteed to sell themselves. As far as the Acosta Don Q is concerned I hope that he recognises the need to revise it. It will be interesting to see whether Acosta's appointment and more particularly the repertory announced for the 2019-20 season leads to changes in the company's personnel. I am prepared to give Acosta the benefit of the doubt for his first season but it looks very much as if BRB's reputation as the custodian of a considerable number of major works of historical and artistic importance is about to come to an abrupt end. It will be interesting to see if Acosta's name is sufficient to sell tickets for his own production and his new repertory. It will be even more interesting to see just how long his honeymoon period with the press and the Board will last.
  11. I think that the answer is that the marketing department does not know how to sell anything of an artistic nature and would be much happier if they were selling something that was standardised and could be packaged and sold without any real effort on their part. Something along the lines of " The Opera House Experience" with a buy line of "Dine in style. Experience the opulence and grandeur of the Royal Opera House's magnificent mid-nineteenth century auditorium. See a show. All you have to do is indicate whether you wish to see a) Opera; b) Ballet; or c)Either . Tell us your price range; the size of your party and the date or dates you require and we do the rest". They could probably just about manage that but when it comes to telling people why they should attend a particular opera or ballet programme if the brand won't sell tickets then they are all at sea. But then I believe that few, if any theatrical marketing departments, are held in particularly high esteem by those who work in other departments in the same organisation. Those employed in marketing are generally perceived to have little interest in the art form let alone the product they are supposed to be selling and completely lacking the ability to inform, persuade or to provide links which might entice someone to buy a ticket.
  12. Here are the names of a couple of petite female dancers who appear to be having successful careers with the Royal Ballet at present. Francesca Hayward who at 5ft 2 ins seems to be doing reasonably well with the company and Yasmine Naghdi who I am not sure is that much taller than her. In addition here are three names from the past of Principal dancers none of whom were that tall, Ann Jenner, Leslie Collier and Brenda Last. I will only write a little bit about Brenda Last as I assume the names of Jenner and Collier may strike a note of recognition. At five foot Brenda Last was the shortest female Principal dancer the Royal Ballet companies have ever had.She won the Genee gold medal and worked for Ballet West for some time .While performing with them she was seen by de Valois who invited her to join the company which was something of an irony as it is said that the RB's founder had originally rejected Last because of her lack of height. She was a dancer with a very warm stage personality who seemed to tell the audience that they were in for a great time the moment she stepped onto the stage. Her technique was extraordinary then and would still be seen as outstanding today as her footwork was very fast , crisp and clean . She was as outstanding as Coppela as she was in the Peasant pas de deux in Giselle; a superb can-can dancer in Boutique ;a extraordinarily funny Poll and as far as the Ashton repertory is concerned she danced Lise even more times than the role's creator did clocking up a total of 101 performances and although she might not have been obvious casting for the Gipsy Girl she was wonderful in the role as she was in the pas de trois in Les Rendezvous where she gave the finest danced and timed account of it that I have ever seen. She had her career at a time when the RB companies danced very few body revealing leotard-clad abstract works and far more demi-character works such as Massine's La Boutique Fantasque and more of Ashton's early ballets than they do today and that must have helped. But the fact that Francesca Hayward and Yasmine Naghdi have made it to the rank of Principal makes it clear that being five foot two or thereabouts is not a bar to recruitment or promotion. I suspect that the advice given to Wayne Sleep who was only five foot two that in order to get into the company he had to be twice as good as the men of average height holds true for the shorter woman as well.The older dancers whom I have named were outstanding technically and more than equal to the artistic and technical challenges of the roles which lay within the range of roles for which they were thought to be suited through physique and temperament.
  13. to For those unfamiliar with the Firebird there are only four named characters in the ballet. 1) The Firebird herself. This is a ballerina role created by Karsavina and first danced by Fonteyn in 1954. She was coached by Karsavina and in turn coached Mason. 2) Ivan Tsarevitch who captures the Firebird and finally destroys Kostchei and releases all who have been enchanted by him. This dancer needs to look convincing even when apparently doing very little. He needs to be able to act and partner well but is not called upon to display other aspects of his technique. This role is suited to a male dancer whose technical skills are on the wain but retains the capacity to command the stage by his mere presence. Somes performed the role for years after he had stopped dancing the leading male roles in other ballets. 3)The Beautiful Tsarevna essentially a character role which may be taken either by a character dancer or one who performs classical choreography.The company's first Tsarevna was Beriosova who was then beginning to be a significant member of the company. I suspect that she was chosen for the role because she looked the part as also happened when Nijinska selected her as the Bride in Les Noces. 4)The Immortal Kostchei a character role originally taken by Ashton himself when the company first performed the ballet in 1954. Ernst Ansermet who had conducted at the ballet's premiere conducted when the company first danced the ballet and is reported to have said that he was so taken by Ashton's performance as Kostchei as he struggled to resist the Firebird's spell which forces the Immortal's entire entourage and then the Immortal himself to sleep that he was unable to concentrate on the music. The first four names may look jumbled as they are not set out in any consistent order but having said that they look suspiciously like the type of dancers you might cast in the Firebird either because they look right for the part or because a specific role would provide the opportunity to give a specific dancer a bit of a send off at the end of their time as a member of the company. I have no prior knowledge but I would not be at all surprised to learn that both Watson and Crawford., are to retire at the end of the season. As for the other odd names they look as if they could well be first thoughts on casting for A Month in the Country. Osipova has already danced Natalia Petrovna so perhaps Cuthbertson and Nunez are in line for the role although I have to admit I can't really imagine Nunez making much of a success of the role but I should be happy to be proved wrong. There again the names could be a series of notes for Symphony in C as to availability as both Osipova and Nunez have international careers as well as commitments to the Royal Ballet. If I am right about those first four names that would give a first night cast who I assume will be appearing in the Fonteynfest gala of Firebird Naghdi Ivan Tsarevitch Watson, The Beautiful Tsarevna Arestis, The Immortal Kostchei the wicked sorcerer Avis A second cast of Firebird Mendizabal Ivan Tsarevitch Kish The Beautiful Tsarevna Calvert The Immortal Kostchei Saunders A third cast of Firebird Heap Ivan Tsarevitch Hirano The Beautiful Tsarevna Crawford The Immortal Kostchei Marriott As far as the prices are concerned it looks suspiciously to me as if the marketing department has been told to sweat the assets of the ballet company to keep the opera side of the operation afloat financially. The drop in the value of the pound plus the cut in ACE funding would have made a big hole in the opera's finances anyway but those effects have been exacerbated by the number of productions which it has managed to stage, particularly during Holten's time as Artistic Director, which did not deserve to make it to the stage in the first place and certainly should not be inflicted on an audience a second time. This reduces the opera to a big hole into which large sums of money are thrown at regular intervals with nothing much to show for the expenditure. Ticket sales for the revival of Cosi are pretty poor as are sales for the new production of the Queen of Spades. As a friend said to me a couple of days ago what is said to be an international opera house seems to be in a similar state artistically to the ballet company about twenty years ago.
  14. I did not interpret the press release as an exercise in obsfucation as it seems to me that the text as translated by the programme embedded on the company's website is simply producing a literal translation of the original text rather than a prepared text in English which takes account of the difference in idioms between German and English. The gist of the message is that they are taking the whole thing very seriously as in the days of social media an individual's personal views and comments posted on social media are no longer private views expressed to a handful of people but have a much wider currency which could affect the company itself. They want to speak to Polunin before any full decision is made. The company expect him to dance in Raymonda on the advertised dates. I don't think that this is anything other than a holding position. They want to speak to Polunin to hear both sides before a final decision is made. The fact that Zelensky's name appears on the press release, does not, it seems to me place him in a situation in which he will be faced with any conflict of interests. It would be a very sad day when saying that an individual's comments published on social media may have an impact on a company and that there is a need to investigate and hear from both sides debars an individual from undertaking the investigation and making a final decision.
  15. Sorry you are right it was Derman not McGorian in the recording. Much as I admired Yanowsky I thought that it was not really her role and the two men who danced with her in Monotones 2 looked distinctly terrestrial probably as a result of all their bulging muscles. The dancers in both ballets should appear totally unaware of the audience almost as if they are performing a sort of ritual and in White Monotones in particular they should appear serene, remote celestial beings. Unfortunately Nunez does not do "remote" and always seems, to me at least, totally aware of the audience and the effect that she is creating. Perhaps Dowell needs to look at the early recordings in order to remind himself of the detail which has been eroded over the years. The company certainly needs to look at the early commercial recording of La Valse before that ballet is revived again. It would reveal the detail that has been lost and might turn what now looks like a vague gesture in which the three leading female dancers stroke their arms into the three women adjusting their long gloves. .As far as Guillem's non- involvement in Monotones is concerned all I can say is that we should all be truly grateful for it. Her limited involvement in the Ashton repertory did not enhance her reputation or that of the choreographer as she seemed tone deaf to his choreographic nuances. Her Marguerite in Marguerite and Armand was dire as she danced roughshod over its choreography and distorted everything to suit her own "artistic vision" and very modern aesthetic.
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