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  1. We are now entering a very interesting stage in the life of this ballet as some of the very experienced dancers on whom the ballet was created are replaced by new, younger dancers. Where a ballet is created on a dancer by an experienced choreographer it fits them like a glove and, while it may challenge them and push them a bit, it will display their strengths. While their interpretation will deepen and develop the more they perform the role its salient points will register from day one. Where a dancer takes over a role the process is different. An experienced dancer performing a role that was not designed with them in mind may occasionally give a revelatory performance of it but the most usual experience for the audience is to feel that what they have seen is work in progress rather than a fully rounded account of the role. When we see new casts in a nineteenth century classic dancing Giselle or Albrecht for the first time we know that we are seeing their first encounter with the role, that it is unlikely to be a fully formed account of it and that it will develop and grow with each performance they give. They may have to compete with recent performers of the role who have left an indelible impression on the audience's collective memory, but they do not have to struggle and compete with the the audience's memory of performances by the roles' originators. When I first saw Mendizabel's account of the role of Paulina I was disappointed by it. She reproduced the choreography but it seemed to be empty; the shell of the character or a sketch of it rather than a portrait Paulina herself.She has had time to digest the role and last night she gave a fully rounded account of her Paulina. Now while both Paulina and Polixenes are secondary roles they are as important to the drama which Wheeldon created as the roles of Hermione and Leontes are. They were cast with senior dancers when the ballet was new and I assume that as Wheeldon has been involved in this revival he has had some say about who should take on these roles. I think that the decision to cast some of the company's most promising young dancers as Polixenes is a bold step. It challenges all of the men cast in the role and it will develop their acting skills and their stagecraft. I accept that neither Ball nor Bracewell are going to be Bonelli or even Hristov as they don't have their years of stage experience but I found both of the new Polixenes effective in the role. I did not feel with either of them that there was a hole in the drama where Polixenes should have been and I think that we can be sure that they will develop their interpretation of the role. I was a little surprised that Bracewell seemed to manage partnering his Leontes with greater ease than Ball did but I also noticed that there was a little bit of a fumble when Hirano was partnering Cuthbertson. This suggests to me that perhaps it was Hirano's late substitution for Watson which was the reason why the first night did not go quite as smoothly as might have been anticipated.As far as missing Florizel's swagger is concerned that aspect of McRae's account of the role has always struck me as a false note.I know that the role was created on him but princes don't need to swagger so for me the substitution did not disappoint.
  2. A short comment about the act 2 lifts in Giselle. I recall Markova appearing in a series of BBC2 programmes in which she coached David Ashmole and Margaret Barbieri in Swan Lake, Les Sylphides and Giselle. When it came to Giselle she said that originally there had been no overhead lifts in act 2 as Giselle does not fly she floats and that what the audience had originally seen was Giselle being held slightly off the ground as if she was floating above it. She did not say much more about it but I suspect that what Albrecht was required to do in the original version or at least the late nineteenth version which N. Sergeyev had taught Markova was not only far less spectacular than the press lift (aka Bolshoi lift) which the RB uses today but also more difficult for the man, a bit like the dead weight lift which according to the Ratmansky reconstruction of Sleeping Beauty occurs in the first act of the ballet. In his version one of the princes holds Aurora about a foot off the ground straight in front of him at the point where we are used to seeing Aurora lifted to perch on the prince's shoulder. In both cases the original lift is less spectacular than the RB's current version of the choreography but it is extremely challenging for the man as in both cases the earlier form of the choreography requires the man to hold his partner in front of him in a dead weight lift. A type of lift which Dowell said that Ashton liked using and which Dowell on one occasion described as a "forklift truck" lift.
  3. The reality is that we none of us know whether what we have read is an accurate account of genuine problems within ENB or a story manufactured out of information which while factually correct has been carefully assembled to create a wholly inaccurate picture of the internal relationships within the company. We need to remember that coincidence and causality are two very different things but that fact is unlikely to stop a journalist in search of a good story from passing off a series of unconnected coincidences as having an obvious causal relationship. Just because events occur in a particular sequence does not mean that there is a genuine causal connection between them. I think that we need to remember the story published at the time when Muntagirov joined the RB about Kevin "poaching" him from ENB written by a journalist whose area of "expertise" was writing about show business celebrities. I am not attempting to gloss anything over. If there has been harassment or bullying that needs to be dealt with effectively whoever it is who has been engaged in such behaviour. Organisations not only need HR systems which address these behaviours adequately and effectively on paper but ones which are applied whenever such allegations are made whoever is involved. The dynamics of a small specialist division in any organisation is always altered by the presence of a new recruit and those dynamics will be greatly altered if not turned upside down if the newcomer is exceptionally talented. Some of his or her immediate colleagues may have their noses put out of joint by finding themselves displaced in the pecking order and not achieving the positions which they had thought were rightfully theirs. Something like that happened to David Blair when Nureyev appeared on the scene. But as far as the implied allegation of favoritism is concerned it seems to me that if Hernandez were not in a relationship with the director he would still be getting the roles and the billing which he receives at present because of his talent. It is not as if he always gets first nights or is being cast in roles for which he is manifestly unsuited. I do not know whether or not Hrnandez is given opportunities to appear as a guest with other companies and whether his opportunities are comparable to those offered to other dancers in the company.Something which Yonah Acosta is reported to have said in interview suggests that they are not. Research tells us that most people find their partners at their place of work and that research is generally concerned with people who work standard office hours and have ample opportunities to meet people outside the workplace. It comes as no surprise to discover that those who work unsociable hours in more confined self contained communities such as hospitals tend to find their partners in the workplace so why should anyone be surprised that dancers tend to find theirs in the workplace as well ? As far as the turnover of personnel at ENB is concerned it did appear to be higher than is usual at the end of last season but the reasons for it may have little or nothing to do with the director's management style. A company may expect to loose a few dancers each year for personal reasons which have nothing to do with the company or its management such as the wishes and needs of the dancer's partner or family not all of which can be met over long distances.Whether a dancer stays or leaves a company may have little to do with whether they are happy where they are working and everything to do with their partner's ability or willingness to move connected with the partner's family or employment. If a company recruits a large number of really talented dancers it can not hope to hang on to them unless it can offer them the development opportunities and the range and type of repertory which they need and want. ENB's business model does not enable it to offer the wide range of repertory which other companies are able to provide which means that at some point some of its dancers are likely leave for other companies unless they are able to undertake activity outside ENB such as being allowed to appear as guests with other companies. At the end of last season there was an added pull factor the new director at Munich. Having lost or dispensed with the services of a large number of dancers who served under his predecessor Zelensky was actively recruiting new dancers. I suspect that this was a far more significant factor in the personnel changes which occurred at ENB than has been suggested in the article which prompted this discussion. The problem is that the most likely explanation for what happened at ENB lacks the vital element required for a good newspaper story there is no sex in it.
  4. For those who are interested the Mark Morris Dance Company's website gives the dates on which it will be performing at Sadler's Wells as 13-17 November 2018.
  5. Dancers rehearse during the day for a number of forthcoming performances and productions but a dancer with a scheduled evening performance has a two hour break between the end of their rehearsals and their evening performance. On non performance days dancers generally rehearse until 6.30 pm. I do not pretend to have any insider information about cast changes, illness or injury but it seems to me that bringing Hirano into the first night cast only a few days before the performance is due to take place may well require a bit of additional rehearsal time which may only be available by dropping one of Cuthbertson's Giselle performances. Remember the company is not just rehearsing Giselle and The Winter's Tale with additional rehearsal time required for Lamb and Muntagirov as Perdita and Florizel. The Bernstein Mixed Bill must also be in rehearsal and that has a lot of announced cast changes and then there is Manon which opens in March. Rehearsals for Manon will soon be underway, if they have not already started, and depending on what is wrong with McRae there may be cast changes to be announced there as well.
  6. It seems to me that he most obvious reason for Cuthbertson not dancing her Giselle this Thursday is the fact that she and others need studio time to rehearse with Hirano who is replacing Watson as Leontes in The Winter's Tale which opens in just under a week.
  7. Thank you for bringing this to my, and other's attention but don't you find it somewhat dispiriting that of the two listener's comments one took the time to ask why the station was wasting its time on ballet dancers as "no one goes to the ballet" adding the comment that the station will be doing something about gymkhanas next? It reinforces the idea that for so many, if not most people, who pay taxes to support the arts that ballet is not something in which real people,meaning people like them, are interested because no one they know is. I doubt that anyone would have made that sort of comment if it had been a couple of women stonemasons who had been interviewed for the programme. It simply underlines the fact that for all the outreach work undertaken by ballet companies and the streamed performances given by the RB, ballet is now seen by the bulk of the population as something in which ordinary people are not interested and as irrelevant to them as gymkhanas because of the cost. After the war there was a big popular following for ballet because so many people had been exposed to it as accessible entertainment during the war. This contry's ballet establishment is not doing a good enough job in making the art form available to the public at large. The odd programme presented by Bussell or Rojo is not enough to create converts to the art form and then maintain interest in it. I do not understand why the 2016 documentary about staging the Nutcracker at Covent Garden was not followed up when it was repeated this year by a screening of one of the many annual performances of Nutcracker which have been streamed into cinemas in recent years. I can't help thinking that Kevin could do a lot more with the company's streamed performances than he in fact does. I suspect that the new Swan Lake will, if it is reasonably good, be streamed into cinemas with almost as much regularity as the company's Nutcracker now is. What is to stop Kevin offering the occasional streamed performance from time to time for subsequent televising or, even better, allowing the BBC to bring its cameras into the House to film the occasional performance ? I bet that the results would be better lit and less obsessed by unnecessary close ups than the streamed performances tend to be. 2019 is fast approaching. If the problem is thought to be lack of recognition of dancers apart from Nunez by the general public then Kevin can fall back on the Fonteyn centenary as a starting point for resuming televised performances. I hope that we shall see a lot of repertory associated with Fonteyn staged during 2019 including major Diaghilev repertory which is associated with her such as Firebird and Le Tricorne which was premiered in London in 1919 as well as Ashton repertory with which she is asociated such as Daphnis and Chloe, A Wedding Bouquet, Sylvia and Cinderella. If Kevin were to permit the Beeb to televise a Fonteyn based gala of one act works with which she is associated and that were to be followed up with at least one annual televised performance by one of the country's major companies it would increase the art form's exposure to the general public. I don't think these televised performances should be the exclusive preserve of the RB. I,for one, should love to see more of Scottish Ballet's Darrell repertory such as his Tales of Hoffmann, his Nutcracker and Swan Lake and his Shakespeare themed one act Such Sweet Thunder and that is just a beginning.
  8. I find the idea that somehow RB is a business while ENB, BRB and Northern Ballet are innovative dance powerhouses existing in a state of artistic purity untainted by any of the basic requirements of a business such as covering their costs hugely amusing and more than a little misleading. Each of these companies has its own corporate character developed by its history and experiences of facing financial difficulties. The experiences of RB management during the 1990's with the massive failure of Tharp's Mr Worldly Wise marked it for the next twenty plus years as did the suggestion that the company should be disbanded and be replaced with one which did not guarantee full time employment.I suspect that these two experiences combined with the pressure management faces from being subject to almost continuous scrutiny by professional critics goes a long way to explain its attitude to staging new works and the type of works it chooses to stage.Opera house audiences tend to be conservative and the minute you get business involved it adds to the tendency towards conservatism. Now I know that many of you complain that company's outside London rarely see a national critic but this can be something of an advantage as while it means that a company's successes do not receive much coverage it also means that its failures don't get that much coverage either.There are plenty of reasonably competent choreographers about but in any generation there are very few touched by greatness and if there were a really great choreographer out there I am pretty certain people would be standing in line to sign them up. Now I am sure that David Bintley has made a lot of very useful ballets for BRB but I remember while he was at Covent Garden he made rather a lot of uninspired ballets with the occasional work such as Tombeaux which was worth repeated viewing. I think that I need to ask just how David Bintley is being innovative at the present time? True he makes new ballets for his company at regular intervals and they help develop his dances but how many of them are anything other than useful works? Just how much of his output at Birmingham is likely to outlast his directorship? Hobson's Choice perhaps but not much else I think. As far as other companies are concerned ENB's strongest card is the fact that it is not the RB and up until now it has been a useful stick with which to beat the RB. Rojo has made some good finds as far as her commissions are concerned but will her artistic honeymoon with the press last much longer? Perhaps someone will begin to remember the good work that Eagling did with the company, The real problem is that there are not enough really good choreographers about at the moment and you can't create choreographic greatness by willing it or wishing for it. The fact that Bourne is a dramaturge rather than a man of great choreographic vision and ability is a sad fact which suggests to me that we will not be seeing his work at Covent Garden any time soon.
  9. I wonder whether it is BBC reluctance to broadcast ballet performances or the ROH's decision to stream some of its performances which is the reason why the only ballet we get on the box is in the form of dance documentaries ? I can see that the company might be concerned that televising ballets might reduce the audience for its streamed ballets but I am not convinced that it would and the company could always stipulate that the ballets shown on terrestrial television either had to be specially filmed for television broadcast or had to be recordings of performances which had been streamed four or five years ago. Of course it could be that any BBC filmed performance might show up the quality of Mr Dowson's efforts both as far as camera work and lighting are concerned. As far as arrangements with other companies such as Sky or Medici are concerned, Sky is not exactly active in the field at the moment and Medici is not available here. As far as the BBC is concerned its charter may require it to inform,educate and entertain but "entertainment" does not seem to extend to screening ballet performances. Perhaps the BBC worries about its audience's attention span or perhaps it fears being accused of foisting elitist entertainment on its unsuspecting and trusting viewers .I don't know. A documentary shown on the BBC a couple of Christmases ago about televised ballet in the 1950's, when it was not sneering at the very idea of watching ballet on television, made it pretty clear that those televised performances did not materialize out of thin air. It suggested that de Valois pushed for them and stated that she took some control over how performances were shown to the viewer. Interestingly some of the company's televised performances during the 1960's and 70's were undertaken in the context of the development in television technology. The Sibley, Dowell Cinderella shown in 1968 was, I believe, one of the BBC's first, if not the first, televised outside broadcast in colour while a programme of ballets shown under the title ""The Royal Ballet Salutes the USA" was the first to be televised direct to the US via satellite. Now I know that many can remember the days when the BBC had Dance Months but an awful lot of that output, like the Diaghilev documentaries was attributable to the enthusiasm of individuals like John Drummond who was an "unapologetic elitist" who thought that other people might have an interest in the arts, if they knew about them, and that they had the right to access them. It was far from being a corporate interest at the time. It would now seem that many in a position to make decisions about content and programming at the BBC see the average audience member as someone who only wants brain deadening entertainment. As to performing rights and repeat fees I am pretty sure that the RB's dancers gave up their rights to additional payment for filmed performances and repeat fees in the 1990's at the time when the company was threatened with closure. In the talk Morera gave to Ballet Association in 2007 she referred to the company being given new contracts at the time it was out of the House and that losing their rights to payments for broadcasts was part of the price the dancers paid for their continued employment. If I recall correctly it was suggested by the powers that be that the simplest solution to the company being out of the House would be to disband it during the theatre's closure and establish a new one operating on seasonal contracts similar to those which American companies have. Anthony Russell Roberts said that at the point that it was being proposed that the company should be disbanded and reestablished as a part time one when the House reopened was the point at which Dowell and he began to investigate whether the company's royal charter required them to be resident at the ROH. As he said neither Dowell nor he wanted to be responsible and remembered for destroying de Valois' creation, Britain's first full time ballet company. So it seems to me that the reason that there is little ballet on television other than documentary is not additional costs but a lack of imagination and will on both sides but that the BBC probably should take more of the blame because it has already decided what its audience wants and what it does not want and it has decided that unlike endless repeats of the Old Grey Whistle Test their audience does not want ballet. But the really stupid thing about it is that the BBC actually needs reasonably priced product much as it did in the 1950's and the RB could do with more carefully managed exposure to the general public who contribute to its costs through their taxation.
  10. Some years ago Wayne Eagling explained the finances of ENB by saying that the company lost £100,000 each week it was on tour and that it relied on its London seasons to put money in its coffers. Basically the London performances subsidises its touring activity. As far as the Royal Opera House is concerned as Anthony Russell Roberts explained it nearly twenty years ago the ballet company had for years kept the opera company afloat financially and its extensive North American tours had been undertaken to keep the opera company in business. At some point he had reason to question the costs being allocated to the ballet company's operations and had discovered that instead of merely covering its own overheads the Royal Ballet had for years been paying some of the opera company's running costs. This had occurred because the cost of the operations of both companies had been aggregated and then allocated to the two companies in proportion to the number of performances that each company had given As a man who had worked at the Paris Opera Ballet Russell Roberts had a very good idea of the costs of staging ballet and opera performances. He had taken action by insisting that in future the ballet company would be responsible for covering the costs of its own operations and the performances it had actually given rather than paying a proportion of the costs of the entire ROH organisation, including the aggregated costs of the two companies, allocated on the basis of the number of performances that each company had given. As Russell Roberts explained it from that point onward each company became responsible for its own costs and merely had to cover them.Although I understand that there is a requirement that a fixed percentage of the seats for each of the ballet programmes has to be sold the company is only required to cover its costs not to make a profit. I trust that this arrangement is still in place as the opera company has been playing to plenty of empty seats this season. As far as the low prices for mixed bill are concerned I think that it was Mason who decided that the full length works should be used to subsidise them as a way of inducing the public to attend them. I think that we all need to to remember that the bulk of the great twentieth century ballets are one act works and a ballet world devoid of them would be a very sad place. As to the relative successes of ENB and RB when it comes to commissioning new works I am not sure that either Rojo or O'Hare have particularly high batting averages. Commissioning new works is an expensive gamble even when you are able to commission a choreographer with a good track record as Kevin learned when he commissioned Arthur Pita to make the Wind. The problem is that making a ballet for the Covent Garden stage is a very different thing from making a new ballet for the smaller stages on which most choreographers' works are usually shown. The new work will have to stand up not only against the other works which are on the bill, some of which may be acknowledged masterpieces, but other works which have been seen there recently. In addition it will be subjected to far more critical scrutiny than if it were to be premiered on a smaller more obscure stage. At the moment the only remedy seems to be to keep commissioning new works in the hope that the demand for them will draw in people who have real choreographic talent. One thing Kevin could do is to exercise a little more oversight over what he is paying for. Acosta's Carmen might have been improved if someone had had the guts to point out how derivative it was. Scarlett's first full length ballet would have benefited from someone asking some searching questions about its structure and its content. insisting on significant cuts to the prologue and on the reconfiguration and the refocusing of many of the scenes. I can't help wondering whether Rojo intervenes in the creation of her new commissions.
  11. Sharon thank you for reminding me about these recordings from nearly sixty years ago. They are fascinating records of a very different approach to performing Petipa's choreography. I am not sure that there are many people around who are in a position to defend Michael Somes as a dancer. Those who saw him in dancing roles rather than character roles such as Juliet's father must be few and far between today. My mother thought that he was a wonderful, virile and handsome dancer but then she saw him before the war when he was very young and considered something of a virtuoso. Somes was born in 1917 so by the time he appeared before the camera in Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty he was in his forties, had been through a war, served in the army, and I seem to recall that I read somewhere that been badly injured falling from a lorry while he was in the services. When the company went to Russia in the early 1960's Somes was recognised there as a danseur noble, a type of dancer who had all but disappeared from the Soviet stage by that date and is rarely seen here today either. Perhaps we should rely on what people who saw him dance said about him and the roles which Ashton created for him. His created roles don't look spectacular but they are very difficult to perform well and the combination of steps seem designed to expose technical weaknesses. I recall reading Karsavina's comment about Somes as a partner. She said to Fonteyn "I only had Nijinsky as a partner but you have dear Michael ". Now while she could just have been being polite she had no need to be. Somewhere in Sibley's biography there is an account of de Valois announcing that Sibley was going to make her debut in Swan Lake in a matter of days but being assured that there was no need to worry as Somes would be her her partner. It would seem that he was highly regarded not simply as a safe pair of hands but for his knowledge of the repertory and his abilities as a partner by those with whom he worked and balletomanes generally. I am interested in what you regard as Somes' "roughness" in partnering. Do you mean that there is no lingering in finished poses; that he does not use both hands and paddle when Fonteyn pirouettes or do you mean something else? The one handed pirouette where the man supports the girl on one side, she turns and the man stops her, is clearly how this type of pirouette was performed in the West at the time. It is not incorrect. It is how Balanchine expected to see them performed and Ratmansky incorporated this style of performing them in his period appropriate performance style reconstruction of Sleeping Beauty . It is so easy to assume that there were no changes in performance style during the twentieth century except for high extensions in its final decade. But that is clearly not the case. A great deal changed in terms of speed and musicality during that time.What we are used to seeing today when we see classical dancing is slower and far more deliberately finished than Petipa would have expected to see because for the main part it is performed in the style promulgated by the Vaganova system of training. The former dancers who taught Fonteyn and Somes were themselves, for the main part, the products of the school attached to the Mariinsky Theatre. They were trained there in the last decades of the nineteenth century under the tutelage of the likes of Christian Johanson. They were Agrippina Vaganova's contemporaries not her pupils. That makes a considerable difference to the style of performance preserved on these films as does the fact that Fonteyn had been taught her role by Nicholai Sergeyev who had been responsible for staging revivals of the Petipa ballets at the Mariinsky. If you look at the performances of Brian Shaw and Antoinette Sibley as the Bluebird and Princess Florine on the 1959 BBC recording of Sleeping Beauty you see a very different approach to the choreography than the one which prevails today. Their dancing is lighter faster and flickeringly impressionistic rather than the deliberately finished form we have become used to seeing. It seems to me more obviously connected to the nineteenth century French school and in many ways much closer to the way in which Bournonville was danced at the beginning of the twentieth century than the way in which Petipa is generally danced at the beginning of the twenty first century. What happened to change things after 1959 is the arrival of Nureyev in the West and the assimilation of many of the changes in the aesthetics of ballet which had occurred in post revolutionary Russia such as the demand for the active princely hero and an approach to Petipa's choreography in performance which seems to emphasise the weight of the classical heritage, its grandeur and its perfection with dancing in which steps are performed considerably more slowly and more deliberately finished than the choreographer who created them would have anticipated.
  12. As so many people from Tamara Rojo,to Luke Jennings and people posting on this site have offered the suggestion that some of the older ballets such as those by Ashton would be improved and be more likely to be performed if they were given modern designs I begin to wonder what people think the function of ballet design is. When you go to a ballet do ever you notice the design? Are designs merely a way of decorating the stage and clothing the dancers or does design fulfill other important functions?
  13. Yes.Nothing by McGregor. I think that he is a vastly overrated choreographer of limited range with a great propensity for repeating himself. Do you leave the theatre after a performance of one of his ballets with clear images of what you have just seen ? Because I rarely do. I tend to remember more about the design than the actual movement which he has devised. For me the best of his works don't really bear repeated viewings as his dance vocabulary is not sufficiently varied or interesting. He will survive. The company has given him a big enough shop window to display his wares. I am far more interested in choreographers with real imagination such as Crystal Pite . At the moment I think that Kevin owes a duty to his dancers and his audience to secure and stage the full range of the company's Ashton repertory, its significant Diaghilev repertory, and the MacMillan works which Lady M tends to ignore because they reveal her late husband to have been a fine classical choreographer rather than a rebel challenging the dance establishment's conventions which he was in her imagination rather more than he was in real life.I would much prefer to see a revival of de Valois Job than to see a MacGregor revival next season. But the caveat is that these revivals have to be cast and staged with real care and sufficient time has to be taken to get the performance style absolutely right rather than an giving an approximate account of it. There is more to Ashton, Fokine or Nijinska than styles which are so superficial that they can be put on and taken off like an overcoat
  14. The company has somewhere in the region of 130 performances on the main stage each year and a large number of those will be allocated to the cash cows in the repertory such as Romeo and Juliet, Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake. I have a funny feeling that we shall see rather a lot of Scarlett's Swan Lake during the 2018-19 season whatever it is like. I hope that it proves to be satisfactory as far as both text and design are concerned as we may be stuck with it for a long time. Dowell's production was heartily disliked but it was the company's Swan Lake for the best part of thirty years. There are some who saw it once and vowed not to watch the company in Swan Lake again until it was replaced and they have had a long wait. As people on this website get very exercised by the prospect of dancers moving from ENB to the RB I am rather surprised to see that there are suggestions that the RB should muscle in on works that have always been part of ENB's standard repertory such as Etudes and a work that seems to have become part of it namely Suite en Blanc. Surely ENB should be allowed a few twentieth century ballets which are uniquely theirs rather than being in competition with the RB over performing them? There are certain ballets which will be common to both companies as no self respecting classical ballet company can hope to be taken seriously if it does not have its own productions of Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Coppelia, Nutcracker and Giselle. But apart from these ballets which both companies have in very different productions, it is ballets like Etudes which has been part of its repertory for decades and the Markova Les Sylphides which gave ENB its special identity. I am in favour of keeping the two companies separate and instantly rcognisable because of their repertory and for that reason I should not like to see the RB acquire a twentieth century production of Le Corsaire. The RB has more than enough nineteenth century ballets in its repertory and I would happily sacrifice both Acosta's Don Q and Markarova's Bayadere if that meant it would give more time to maintaining its Ashton repertory in as healthy a state as it keeps the MacMillan money-spinners. Romeo and Juliet, Manon and Mayerling .The place to start would be for the company to establish a timetable for the regular revival of the Ashton two and three act ballets. As 2018 is Petipa's bicentenary I think we shall get Sleeping Beauty as well next year. According to the MacMillan revivaL timetable we will also see Romeo and Juliet next season. Now I hope that we get Cinderella next season. If Kevin feels that he needs to justify its revival he has two. It is sixty years since it was first staged and Ashton is clearly putting his "private lessons with Petipa" to good use in producing a modern take on classical ballets like Sleeping Beauty much as Prokofiev does with nineteenth century ballet music.So if he needs even more justification he can pass Ashton off as a in Petpa's bloodline if not actually his pupil. Karsavina described Ashton as a "link in the chain". I think that something needs to be done about the ugly sisters who are performed like pantomime dames rather than characters. I know that that de Valois was not that keen on men in frocks and that for a time in the 1950's they were played by women perhaps that would be enough to tone them down, restore them as characters and restore the dance jokes in the choreography. The current designs are a complete failure the Ugly Sisters' costumes invite coarseness while Cinderella's first act costume is of such clean,pretty ballerina style rags that it does nothing to assist the dancer playing Cinderella to establish herself as a downtrodden girl who is treated as a skivvy by her step sisters. There are other problems with the current designs the Jester's make up is so thick that it is impossible to see his facial expression, and yet as created by Ashton , the Jester is a character who suffers loss during the ballet and not the Soviet style a leg machine to which he has recently been reduced. Whatever happened to the corps de ballet's act two masks which used to make the end of the second act far more sinister than it now appears? Ashton seems to have intended the audience to experience the chimes of midnight with Cinderella and feel its nightmarish quality. So for me its back to the original Macles designs with the Bardon as second choice. May I ask am I the only one who feels uncomfortable with the idea that Kevin seems to feel the need to provide a reason for reviving major works from the company repertory particularly if they are by Ashton rather than just getting on and staging them? It is as if while the MacMillan money spinners, the Dream and Month are simply repertory everything else needs an excuse. It does not seem to be enough that they are exceptionally good works and each generation of the company's dancers has the right to appear in them. Here are a few suggestions,Two Pigeons with either Les Rendezvous, in the Chappell designs, or Les Patineurs would make a great mixed bill and provide some money for the RBS as Derek Rencher left the rights to both of them to the school. As far as other possible Ashton revivals are concerned much as I love Month I think that it is about time we saw works which are not revived so frequently. Daphnis and Chloe is a great but neglected work. It would be at the top of my list for revival as it has not been revived since 2004 and the company has a number of potential casts who would, I think, do it justice. My only caveat would be that the entire cast has to be selected on the basis of their suitability for the roles rather than their seniority or the need to give a particular dancer something to do. The reason for its neglect is nothing to do with the quality of the work and everything to do with its cost. It requires a large orchestra and the opera chorus and the chorus does not come cheap. Enigma Variations would be wonderful as would A Wedding Bouquet. Then there is Les Illuminations which is so outside the range of works which people associate with the Ashton repertory. I should like to see the company dance Birthday Offering again with a cast selected on the basis of their suitability and willingness to dance the variations in the appropriate style rather than their seniority.The 2012 revival was ghastly. It looked as if the dancers had been selected by drawing names out of a hat. It suffered from the same problem that afflicted the senior casts in the Kchessinskaya pas de deux in Anastasia with dancers so fixated on the technical challenges the choreography presented that in words attributed to Fonteyn's in connection with a staging of Birthday Offering. "They did the steps but forgot to dance the ballet". If the company is to strike the right balance between its nineteenth century ballets, its Diaghilev repertory,the works created for it and its new works then it needs to ensure that the Diaghilev works are all performed sufficiently frequently to ensure that they are part of the company's collective memory and that the entire Ashton repertory rather than a mere handful of his ballets are performed regularly as part of the churn. If anything the company needs more performance time to ensure that it has the time to tend to the five nineteenth century ballets which de Valois selected for it, its Diaghilev ballets and the works created by Ashton and MacMillan. With the exception of La Sylphide which de Valois wanted for the company it does not need any more full length nineteenth century ballets and perhaps it could do with losing a couple. I for one should be happy to lose Acosta's Don Q which requires a sort of bold brashness which does not really suit the company and Markarova's La Bayadere which I would happily replace with Nureyev's one act Kingdom of the Shades with a full complement of thirty two shades. So here are my suggestions for revivals and re-acquisitions for the 2018-19 season on the assumption that the season will include more performances of Swan Lake with young casts, Sleeping Beauty and that Romeo and Juliet will be revived next season. Bournonville's Konservatoriet Cinderella instead of Nutcracker Coppelia Ashton The Two Pigeons Les Rendezvous in the Chappell designs Daphnis and Chloe in the Craxton designs Enigma Variations Facade Les Illuminations Birthday Offering A Wedding Bouquet Please note this list of Ashton revivals is not exhaustive it ismerely a starter list Balanchine Apollo The Prodigal Son Liebeslieder Walzer Serenade Symphony in C De Valois The Prospect Before Us Fokine Firebird Petrushka MacMillan Agon Dance Concertantes The Four Seasons Nijinska Les Biches Les Noces Nureyev The Kingdom of the Shades with a full thirty two shades Robbins Dances at a Gathering Scarlett Asphodel Meadows Viscera Wheeldon TGV
  15. I suspect that as a general rule when it comes to the nineteenth century ballets most people book for the female lead and that few people worry themselves too much about who her partner is going to be unless there is someone to whom they have a complete aversion. In those ballets it is the woman who is the star not the man. If you did not want to see Takada's debut as Giselle you are unlikely to have seen his Albrecht. The reason you did not see him during the 2016-17 season was that he was off injured. The ballets created by Petipa or revised by him were devised to display the Mariinsky's Italian stars who as guest artists were given choreography which emphasised their technical prowess which was the product of exceptional training and technical advances in shoe construction in Milan. Male technique had not advanced to the same extent and as these ballets are all about showing off the star ballerina the male lead's duty in performing them is to support and display his partner to best advantage without drawing too much attention to himself as he does so. In these princely roles unobtrusiveness in partnering is a virtue while effortless elegance is more than sufficient when dancing solos. Princes should not look as if they are trying to draw attention to themselves by setting the stage on fire in these roles. That is the province of the demi character dancer in roles designed for them not for someone dancing a prince which in these ballets is essentially a danseur noble role. Kish may have been brought into the company to dance with Yanowsky but he has danced with plenty of other dancers and he is clearly seen as a safe pair of hands. Whether or not you have seen him in previous seasons probably has more to do with whom he was dancing than anything else. Being a safe pair of hands sounds as if I am damning him with faint praise. I am not. It is not fashionable today simply to be an attentive, self effacing partner in these roles like Macleary was. Perhaps this is because today there are far more dancers appearing in these roles who in previous generations would have been excluded from them because they were demi character dancers who were unable to adjust their performance style from bravura technical display to princely elegance. There is obviously a difference between being technically compelling but restrained and simply going on stage to show how strong your technique is and how well you can jump and turn.Very few dancers seem capable of displaying brilliant technique while retaining the character of a prince by apparently making no effort and by finishing everything very elegantly. Both Dowell and Wall could, Muntagirov certainly can, and Hay suggested he can in Sleeping Beauty. Seeing too many princely show offs can blunt our appreciation of those whose ideal is the display princely effortless elegance in dancing and unobtrusiveness in partnering.