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  1. My position on the Ashton repertory is very clear. I have the eccentric idea that if you say that the work of a particular choreographer is central to your company's artistic identity then you ought to consistently stage a good swathe of that key choreographer's work every season. But that was not the point that I was making in my last post. What I said or thought I had said was that programming a run of performances of one of MacMillan's popular narrative works can have an adverse effect on the corps' technical standards. The limited technical demands which the MacMillan ballet places on the corps was not a problem when the company danced a wide range of repertory during the course of the month or six weeks during which the MacMillan narrative work was performed but it is when there is very little contrasting classically demanding work programmed along side it .In abandoning the conventions and the stylisation of the Petipa style classical ballet MacMillan may have given himself greater artistic freedom but in doing so he eliminated the structural features which provide development opportunities for junior dancers and help maintain a company's technical standards. His chosen expressive style of choreography and his desire to infuse his narrative with realism does not provide much opportunity for divertissements or technically exposed sections of choreography for large numbers of dancers to perform in unison. It is the more artificial and stylised form of the Petipa classical ballet which provides them. Something which Ashton recognised and emulated, albeit sometimes in disguised form, in the structure of his own ballets. If you look at Romeo and Juliet. Manon and Mayerling and look at what the corps dance rather than what the leading dancers are given to perform you will find that while the choreography for the bulk of the corps may be theatrically effective it rarely provides any great technical challenges or exposes them to close scrutiny. Please bear in mind that Kevin can't give everyone what they want for their favourite dancer or dancers without being" unfair" to someone else's favourite dancer. So he can't win. For those of you expressing concern that Hayward was not given Odette / Odile this season I would simply point out that she has got a very nice selection of roles in the Royal Ballet's core repertory. I don't think that anyone who at the age of twenty six has Lise, Titania, Manon, Juliet, Giselle, SPF, Aurora, Alice, Perdita the ballerina role in Rhapsody, and who dances Vera and Princess Stephanie, which was created as a Principal role, has anything to complain about and nor do her ardent fans. Perhaps we should all be grateful that the company no longer treats dancers as the "flavour of the month" flinging as many new roles at them as possible for a short time, with no time to consolidate anything, only to drop them like a hot potato in favour of the next "flavour of the month" a short time later. I would ask those of you who seem to think that Naghdi has been given preferential treatment to stop and consider just how many core RB repertory roles she has been given. Juliet, Mistress, Aurora, SPF, Giselle, Perdita and Odette/Odile as well as a lead role in Emeralds a side dancer in Symphonic Variations, plus Tarantella and the tricky classical pas de deux in Anastasia. She is to dance Gamzatti and Kitri for the first time this season while so far the only new role announced for Hayward is the Young Girl in Two Pigeons, acquiring yet another plum Ashton role this time one created for Seymour. Personally I think that management is being remarkably even handed. Remember as far as all the recently promoted dancers are concerned getting promotion is the easy part. The hard work begins after promotion when a dancer has to prove that they deserve their position in the company every time they go on stage. A Principal dancer has to display total command of the repertory they have been given and the ability to make it their own. All of the new Principals need the opportunity to consolidate and develop their interpretations of the roles they have been given. The ability to give consistently good performances is far more important than the number of new roles a dancer is given in any one season. In a programme shown at the time of Fonteyn's death Moira Shearer said that the true secret of Fonteyn's greatness was not her artistry although she was a great artist but the consistently high quality of her performances. She said that while other dancers might have been able to dance as well as Fonteyn and on occasion surpass her but their performances were far more variable in quality her strength was that you were guaranteed a high quality performance whenever you went to see her. From a purely practical point of view unless everyone writes to Kevin pointing out who should be dancing with whom he will have no idea what his casting should look like after all he is only the Artistic Director. Personally I think that Kevin is being very canny with some of the pairings in the casts announced. I can't help wondering whether he is hoping to generate more ticket sales. Finally a general point about height. Wayne Sleep once said that if he had been taller he would have got into the company with a decent technique. But when he asked what he needed to do to get into the company he had been told that because of his height he would need to jump twice as high and be twice as good as anyone else so he took extra classes and worked really hard. Being short is generally far more of a problem for male dancers than for female dancers. Remember you need to add a few inches onto a female dancer's to take account of the her height when on pointe . For a short male dancer the difficulty is that he is likely to be far less adaptable and useful as a dancer as there will inevitably be female dancers who are too tall for him to partner and a company may find it difficult if it has to make special arrangements to find suitable partners for several short men.The company made arrangements to secure a petite dancer as a partner for Ivan Putrov. It did something along the same lines for McRae. It is not clear that it has done the same thing for Campbell and while some may wish to see him dance with Hayward there are probably some who would prefer to see her dance with Hay or Sambe. That not everyone can be satisfied is one of the basic facts of ballet going.
  2. I think that we have to remember that Kevin has said on a number of occasions that he wants to give his dancers a wide range of roles and opportunities to develop their careers even if he can't give everyone promotion. As the company collects more and more talented dancers the question of "Who does what?" will become more of an issue if Kevin sticks to that policy with the repertory which the company currently dances. The problem is that while the company's nineteenth century repertory and much of the Ashton repertory offer opportunities for a wide range of dancers to show what they can do and give the corps real choreography to dance the big MacMillan narrative works which are big earners for the company and popular with both audiences and dancers only offer juicy roles for a handful of dancers leaving significant numbers of the company underemployed as moving scenery each with an individual back story which is not quite enough. Tripping around the stage as a townsperson in Romeo and Juliet or playing a whore in Manon and Mayerling is not beneficial to the artistic or technical development of dancers. The paucity of developmental opportunities which these ballets offer was not an issue when performances of them were interspersed with plenty of other repertory but when they occupy week after week allocated to ballet performances as every Principal dancer gives us his Romeo and her Juliet sometimes three times over and a couple of junior dancers are given their first crack at the roles it does not leave a great deal of room for others to develop as dancers or as artists. Lengthy unbroken runs were introduced under Dowell's directorship presumably because they make day to day planning easier and they offer opportunities to senior dancers to go and guest elsewhere without disrupting things. They have become so much a part of how the company operates that it would be extremely difficult to change the system even if management saw advantages in doing so and wanted to make the necessary changes. The current state of the company will at the very least mean that in the future very few company members are going to dance every role in the company's vast repertory. Whatever Kevin says and does for the development of his dancers as individuals his overriding duty is to the company as a corporate entity. This is likely to mean that roles originally created for Principal dancers which became the sole province of junior dancers are likely, for the foreseeable future, to be performed by dancers at levels of seniority ranging from soloist to Principal dancer without the casting giving any indication of who is up and who is down in the estimation of the management. If you look at Hayward and her career so far she seems to be an extremely lucky dancer being in the right place at the right time joining the company when the age profile at its most senior levels made it clear that there would be opportunities for promotion in the immediate future which might not come again for some years. It is a sad truth but however well managed a company is and however devoted to giving every dancer a good career it is impossible for every talented dancer to get the breaks or the roles when they need them. The" right time and place" will for some dancers mean having the right potential and aptitude when no one more senior seems to have them in other cases it means the ability to learn quickly and deliver a performance it always involves the capacity to work extremely hard and having an AD who is prepared to take a calculated risk. Now it is quite true that Hayward was given a range of roles virtually from day one and her performances have clearly pleased the AD sufficiently for him to promote her to Principal dancer. During 2016-17 season , her first as a principal, saw Hayward make her debut in four core RB repertory roles, as Lise, Titania. SPF and Aurora and also in Vertiginous Thrill and Tarantella. I tend to assume that Kevin is fully aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the members of his company and if he is going to be as even handed as he says he intends to be he is not going to build his repertory for each season around a mere handful of his most senior dancers; those whom he considers most talented , his most promising or his most recently promoted principal dancers. If he sticks to the regular churn of the MacMillan and Petipa repertory then there are going to be more opportunities for some dancers in one season than in another. If he were to add some of the longer Ashton works to those which get a regular airing that would almost certainly create opportunities for a greater range dancers than the regular diet of MacMillan big three does. I am not convinced that Kevin has any reason to be disappointed with any of the dancers he cast in major roles last season. As far as I recall Hayward appeared in major roles in four ballets in which she had previously made her debut that is as Alice, Perdita , Manon and SPF and added the role of Giselle to her repertoire in another successful debut. She also appeared in Pita's The Wind and, If her debut in that work was less than outstanding, this I think, had more to do with the work itself than any failure on her part or of anyone else involved in performing what proved to be an overly literal staging of Griffiths' film as a ballet. As far as Swan Lake is concerned perhaps Kevin thought that at this stage, Naghdi, his newest principal was more in need of a new role to add to her repertory than Hayward who already has an impressive haul of significant roles. I have no doubt that the ballet will be back in the repertory pretty soon so it does not necessarily mean that Hayward will never dance Odette/Odile. Hayward looks as if she is set to be a significant Ashton dancer, if not the significant Ashton dancer, of her generation. She has several major Ashton roles created for dancers famous for their technical prowess in her repertoire and is now set to acquire a role created for an Ashton dancer famous for her expressiveness. I suppose that there are some here who would decide that she had been slighted in some way or had fallen from favour if she were to be cast in the romantic pas de deux in Les Patineurs rather than as one of the girls in blue but then perhaps we no longer think that casting the right dancers in the right roles is of importance when it comes to casting Ashton's ballets.Naghdi' s significant debuts last season were as Giselle. Odette/Odile and Mistress in Manon which was created as a principal role. She is now getting a series of debuts in what might be described as the technical exhibitionist end of the company's repertory. Perhaps we should be more worried about that and fear that she might be in danger of being type cast and confined to the flashier types of role than worrying about what Hayward has been given to dance? As far as the danger of Campbell being overlooked is concerned he is guesting in Australia which will mean that he is not only unavailable for performances scheduled during his absence but unable to prepare some of the ballets which are due to be performed on his return. I should have thought that there are enough opportunities for Hayward, Naghdi, Ball and many other promising dancers in the company in the repertory announced for this coming season. There are plenty of unannounced roles in Don Q; Les Patineurs ; The Concert and the rest of the ballets to be danced to enable anyone and everyone who likes to speculate about what casting decisions really mean, other than being decisions about who will dance specified roles, and likes to interpret them as having far more significance than they have in reality, to have a field day.
  3. The cast list is far from complete. It looks as if we are only being give very limited information about who will be dancing in Les Patineurs and the other ballets scheduled for performance in the Winter booking period. I can understand the company wanting to keep casting details to the bare minimum they think that they can get away with if only to save themselves issuing detailed cast slips indicating extensive changes from the originally published cast at every performance. As there are so many featured roles in Don Q that approach makes sense.There may be considerably fewer featured roles in Les Patineurs but again keeping everything to a bare minimum makes sense. Those missing from the published casts for Les Patineurs include the girls in blue who dance in the pas de trois with the Blue Skater; the two girls in red and the couple who dance the soft romantic style white pas de deux which was created by Fonteyn and Helpmann. It will be interesting to see who Kevin casts in the bravura roles and who in these more lyrical ones in this ballet. I should have thought that Hayward and perhaps Stix-Brunell will be cast in that pas de deux and that Bracewell is a possibility as well. I would add Ball as a possibility if the dates don't clash with his stint at Sadler's Wells. As far as the double bill which combines Asphodel Meadows and Two Pigeons is concerned aren't the first four names all involved in the revival of Scarlett's ballet rather than the Ashton work.? At the end of the day the unpublished casting details are likely to prove just as interesting as the limited details we have been given. You need to remember that the approved coaches for the Balanchine and the Robbins will have some say in who is to dance in the ballets they are coaching and that may not be finalised until much closer to the date of the performances.
  4. I think that it might be time to resurrect this thread as it contains several interesting suggestions about old recordings you might find on the internet of repertory with which you are almost certainly already familiar. There is a recording of The Dream with Dowell and Park in the lead perhaps some of you remember seeing the ballet in 2017 ? I wonder which version you think is the more likely to be authentic ? There is also a short film in which Ashton coaches Sibley and Dowell in the reconciliation pas de deux and they in turn coach some younger dancers. Then there is a recording of a cut down version of Cinderella edited for American television which dates from the early 1950's. It has an interesting group of dancers among the Season's Fairies and with MacMillan performing the Helpmann Ugly Sister. I hope that some of the recordings mentioned in the earlier posts prove to be of interest to you Richard and to others who have joined the Forum since this thread was last active.
  5. Alison, Yes that is the site. There is some very interesting material in the video section which includes lectures and excerpts from Ratmansky reconstructions which for many is the closest we will get to the work he is doing. As I understand it he is reluctant to issue recordings as he feels that his work is very much work in progress rather than the finished article. It is better than nothing and if more people knew about it there might be greater interest in it and what it says about how far removed so much of what we see is from the Petipa originals. Richard. At one time I would have said that I have nothing against reworkings of nineteenth century ballets as long as they , in Ashton's words "retain the poetry of the original" and they are honest by which I mean we are told what has been altered. I now find myself saying that I think that a company with a history like that of the Royal Ballet should have at least two versions of works like Beauty and Swan Lake which it could revive at regular intervals. You see I assumed when I first started my ballet going that both the original Swan Lake and Beauty must have been lacking in something or they would not have been reworked so frequently. But having seen Ratmansky's reconstructions of both ballets in the theatre danced in period appropriate style they reveal the original versions. or at least as close as we can get to them, to be works of enormous charm, musicality, lightness and speed and so far removed from the slow motion monuments to classicism that we have become used to as to be totally different works which everyone who is remotely interested in ballet should be able to see. Having seen them I now appreciate far more fully than I once did the style and quality of some of the early performances by the RB across a range of repertory which have been preserved. However I found the final incarnation of the Helpmann Swan Lake which both MacMillan and Morrice had adjusted very appealing and I am sure I still would still do so if Kevin had the courage to test the current technical standards of the company by staging it . Shorn of its unnecessary Prologue with the pas de trois restored to act one and the pas de quatre opening act three it was and I think would still prove to be an exceptionally theatrically effective staging of the ballet. It was a staging of grandeur undertaken by two men of vast theatrical experience and true sympathy for the mood of magic and mystery essential to a successful staging of the work. The overall structure of the original and the contrasting choreographic styles and textures between acts and within the world of the first and second acts were retained while the white acts were splendidly romantic whether you saw Ashton's fourth act or the Ivanov original. I also find that the company's current production of Beauty when danced at the correct speed is a rather fine and sympathetic staging of the work and unless you are able to find someone who could do at least as good a job as de Valois did with her 1946 production which is essentially what we have at present or her 1977 staging my recommendation would be to change nothing and concentrate on dancing it regularly, every year if necessary, so that it is in the company's bones; dancing it well and dancing it at the tempi indicated in he score. I would start with getting the Fairy Variations right. They are not bravura knock' em dead solos but they certainly should be danced with greater musicality ,charm, individuality, character and expansiveness than they are at present and that could simply be a question of coaching rather than anything else. In my mind its more a question of theatrical effectiveness than anything else. I certainly would not contemplate letting either Liam Scarlett or Christopher Wheeldon loose on a new production. Performances of these ballets from the 1980's onwards became increasingly ponderous, slow and boring as leading dancers indulged themselves in displays of technique which had little to do with the choreography as originally set and its relationship with the music to which it is set. The problem for me is that I think that Tchaikovsky was a great composer. rather than a mere ballet composer whose works are to be treated with contempt, and that his tempi should be respected in performance. The 1981 recording had its controversial aspects as Markarova cut the mime and danced the second act at a speed which at the time was regarded as painfully slow and self indulgent. The ultra slow versions of these ballets distort the flow of the choreographed movement often making the female leads look as if they are wading through treacle. Eventually the "Go Slow" Swan Lake turned the second act into a two speed experience. One in which the corps danced at a speed close to one that both Ivanov and the composer might recognise with Odette apparently appearing in a totally different. much slower, ballet. Dancing Odette at Markarova's speed came to be thought of as taking the choreography at a lick while the performance norm came to be to dance the role as slowly as you possibly could. This approach treated the chorography intended to establish Odette's character through her soft, musical,romantic style choreography .as a mere opportunity for the ballerina to dispaly her technique and rather than setting her interpretation of Odette in opposition to her characterisation of Odile as expressed in the technical display of the third act it ignored the ballet's structure and all but eliminated its poetry. Revealing the "artist's " obsession with display and her indifference and lack of understanding of the ballet's carefully crafted structure as a whole and that of the second act in particular. Thus transforming the ballet which Legnani said had made her an artist by using her technique for purposes other than bravura technical display into one which dancers of the late twentieth century pressed into the service of displaying their raw technique.
  6. Richard L H your position is an interesting one. If what you say is correct it would seem that all those involved in the shift in the performance style of the great Petipa ballets which came to dominate the performance of his works during the last twenty years of the twentieth century and continues to hold sway had a greater insight and understanding of his musicality as revealed in the relationship between his choreography and the music to which it is set than the great man himself. I am afraid that I stick to the old fashioned view that Petipa expected his choreography to be performed at the tempi which the composer indicated in his score. Another unfashionable opinion that I will readily admit to is that I think that ballet is a theatrical artform and that the performance of ballets by choreographers like Petipa, Ivanov, Ashton and Balanchine is not about the execution of classroom steps to music played at a speed which accommodates their performance in perfect classroom style where the most theatrical element in performances is that they are performed on a stage in a theatre. Ballet is a theatrical art rather than a display of technical perfection which is concerned with performing dance works in which the choreographer has often deliberately chosen to modify those classroom steps requiring them to be performed with varying dynamics and at the speed dictated by the tempi of the score to which they are set. We are all free to make our own decisions about what performance style we prefer to see when ballets created in the nineteenth century are danced. But I think that it has to be understood that the modern style of performance is a recent "tradition" which would almost certainly leave both Petipa and Ivanov struggling to recognise their ballets in performance. If you are interested in getting an idea of what ballets like Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake look like when danced with their original musicality rather than having an alien musicality and aesthetic imposed on them you might like to go to the Marius Petipa website which has excerpts from Ratmansky's reconstructions of both Beauty and Lac. Ratmansky's work was prompted by the thought that it might be good to see what Petipa's balletslooked like in performance rather than other choreographer's modifications of them. He bases his reconstructions on the Stepanov notations of the ballets which record not only the choreographed movements but their close relationship to the music to which they are set.Another source of information about a performance style which is far closer to what Petipa would have expected to have seen can be found in recordings of Ulanova and Fonteyn in performances recorded in the 1940's and 1950's . They were filmed long before the great Petipa "Go Slow" took hold in both East and the West. Another source of information about performance style thought by Ratmansky to be closely related to Petipa's own can be found in early recording of the Ashton repertory. As an eminent critic said neither Petipa nor Ashton benefit from being performed slowly. As far as the clip shown above I would simply point out that when it was filmed,in I think 1981 as part of the company's fiftieth anniversary celebrations, Coleman must have been forty and was still part of the company's first cast for the pas de trois as he had been for years. I mention this not to get a sympathy vote for Coleman himself but to suggest the company was already in its long decline when the recording was made. All of the recordings which include Coleman show him in decline rather than at his best. Conley's and Whitten's performances are well worth watching. But Coleman even caught perhaps five years too late was, even in 1981, in this role and several others considerably stronger technically than the majority of his juniors. The recording is of a modified version of the Helpmann production. Its first act demanded rather more good classical dancers than the Dowell production which replaced it. I have always thought that Dowell's interest in choreographic archaeology was prompted as much by the technical state of the company as an enthusiasm for authenticity.
  7. Thank you for pointing out my error about the last time that Enigma was performed. Of course it was danced during Mason's final season as Artistic Director as Lady Elgar was one of her important roles.2011 is seven years ago and as we know what is programmed for the 2018-19 season that means that there will have been a gap of at least eight years between revivals if Enigma were to be staged in the 2019-20 season. Enigma is a major Ashton achievement and while I don't expect it to be danced every season it was I think the first time that a choreographer had tried and succeeded in portraying real people rather than fictional characters on stage. Elgar's daughter seems to have thought that Ashton succeeded in portraying them as they were in life saying words to the effect that they were all awful. The ballet was the only one of Ashton's works which Lincoln Kirstein wrote about in his book Music and Metaphor, not I accept a reason for staging it, but it gives an idea of its significance in the development of ballet in the twentieth century. Perhaps there is no need to worry as given another ten years or so and it will probably be all but impossible to revive it and make it live on stage as all the links with the original cast will probably be lost. As our knowledge and understanding of the repertory is largely in the hands of a company's artistic director as it is he/she who controls our knowledge by his/her choices of repertory and casts I can't help wondering what sort of choreographer Ashton will have been created by 2031 when the company celebrates is centenary. I suspect that by then he will have been reduced to MacMillan's harbinger and the purveyor of light amusing ballets.
  8. I shall proceed on the basis that there are at least one or two people who have not been adversely affected by the heat and are reading this thread out of interest in the repertory rather than for the sake of being "clever" and that not everyone believes that all is for the best in this best of all ballet worlds. Thank you for the sanity of your comment about petit allegro Lin MM. You are clearly someone who wishes to discuss rather than score cheap points. While it may be comforting to believe that the Ashton works which have been staged since Kevin became director represent the best of the man's output and that the frequency with which they are performed is a good indicator of their quality I have to point out that it is not only the lesser works which have been neglected. Unfortunately the number of revivals which an individual Ashton work receives and the regularity with which it is staged by the RB and other companies across the world is not necessarily a reflection of its quality. If it were Marguerite and Armand would be Ashton's towering masterpiece rather than merely a star vehicle. I accept that there are works in the RB back catalogue which are of only local historic interest such as de Valois' Job, Rake, Checkmate and The Prospect Before Us and that MacMillan's "shabby little shockers" such as The Invitation, The Judas Tree and Valley of Shadows could be filed away as only to be revived on very rare occasions such as significant anniversaries. But equally there are major works which should be maintained as part of the company's living repertory regardless of the cost involved in staging them. Works like Les Noces which only survived because Ashton persuaded Nijinska to stage it for the company should be treated as an integral part of the company's core repertory as should MacMillan's Song of the Earth and Ashton's Daphnis and Chloe. These works all merit more than the occasional revival. A number of works have been cited as evidence of Kevin's commitment to the Ashton repertory or rather the " Ashton heritage works" as most people seem to prefer to describe them presumably because the use of the word "heritage" makes the works in question seem quaintly irrelevant to the company's twenty first century corporate and artistic image. One of the reasons Ashton's works are not taken as seriously as they should be is that they are difficult to dance well and with the new improved technical standards which the company now boasts of it is easier to describe Ashton's works as " camp" or "fluff" than admit that the company cannot dance them properly, let alone dance them well. There are individual dancers who can dance them at something like the right speed and in the right style but sadly not enough to always do his works justice in performance. The position is not irremediable, There are still dancers around who worked with him to act as coaches but are their recollections, coaching tips being recorded in anything like a systematic way ?There is an Ashton Foundation but it has a ridiculous amount of work to do to make any inroads into the task of securing the repertory's future after thirty plus years of neglect of it by those who "own" the works. There is a very simple solution to the problem but given that the Royal Ballet is almost as ambivalent towards its Ashton repertory as the Danes are to their few remaining Bournonville works I hold out no great hopes that the necessary action will be taken by Kevin during his directorship and by the time he retires it will probably be too late. Management has to demonstrate its commitment to its Ashton repertory in the way that the Webbs have in Sarasota rather than simply talking about it. Management needs to programme a greater range of his ballets; ensure that works like Cinderella and Fille are performed as regularly as they once were (as they both make the same sort of technical demands on the company that the Petipa classics do) ; ensure that works like Sylvia, Pigeons, Daphnis and Chloe, and Enigma Variations are performed as regularly as The Dream and Month are currently staged; cast all of the Ashton repertory with greater care than at present; possibly introduce special classes in Ashton technique and style similar to the special Bournonville classes introduced in Denmark for those dancers who were not trained in the Bournonville tradition and finally make it clear through programming and promotion that the ability to dance Ashton well is not an optional extra but essential for those who want to be seen as the company's leading dancers in the future. In large part the secret of the successful revivals of the MacMillan cash cows is simply that they are revived so frequently. Regular timetabled revivals ensure that works are retained in the company's collective memory which means that they become easier to revive successfully each time they are programmed simply because the majority of the company have a real feeling for how the work in question should go. As the Ashton repertory has been subject to an excessive degree of approximate casting since before the turn of the century the company needs to take care to cast dancers according their suitability for roles so that everyone has the opportunity to see exemplary casts in his works. While I recognise that it is impractical to delay revivals of ballets like Daphnis, Scenes and Symphonic until absolutely the right cast is available the company needs to take greater care with pragmatic revivals intended to keep works in the company's living repertory . Most of the works whose revival was cited as evidence of the company's commitment to the works of its founder choreographer have been indifferently cast and indifferently danced with limited understanding of the style, musicality or mood of the piece as originally performed. The last revival of Scenes de Ballet was a total disaster. It is a ballet which has a ballerina role in it. Ideally it requires a genuine ballerina rather than a senior Principal dancer to perform it. That is it requires a dancer who is an exemplar of the style, one who possesses sufficient command of the choreography to perform it with musicality, playfulness and wit . It also calls for a leading man who is capable of dancing his choreography with ease and heroic command. Without them as a starting point you really don't have a performance. The decision to put both Scenes and Symphonic on the same programme the last time they were revived either revealed Kevin's lack of feeling and understanding of the challenges which the choreography of Scenes presents or his indifference to them. But then no one during Ashton's lifetime would have contemplated putting both Scenes de Ballet and Symphonic Variations on the same bill as either the lead man in Symphonic or the man who took the Brian Shaw role in Symphonic would be needed for the Somes role in Scenes. White Monotones when last revived seemed to be performed with photo opportunities galore rather than as a flow of movement. Finally I have had the misfortune to see recent revivals of in Voices of Spring in which no one seems able to dance it with the ease and wit the choreography requires. The men strain away at the lifts which were originally performed with consummate ease and no one seems to realise that it is not Ashton's attempt to create his own version of Spring Waters but an affectionate tongue in cheek comment on the entire genre of Soviet gala display pieces. I wonder has an audience who has seen an indifferently cast and indifferently danced performance of a particular ballet actually seen a performances of the ballet in question? It is not just a question of the number of Ashton ballets which the company says it has danced since 2012 or that it intends to dance in the forthcoming season. It is a question of how they are danced. Are they danced with an easy command of Ashton's choreography, his musicality, his speed, his dynamics and an understanding of the work's mood and purpose? There has to be something wrong if a ballet which is full technical challenges such as Rhapsody clearly is looks like a mere display of technique and more like the balletic equivalent of a show jumping course in which technical challenges are addressed and surmounted one after another. Rhapsody should look effortless and elegant in performance. If in a ballet such as Les Patineurs a dancer can't do particular steps in their allocated role the dancer in question should not be dancing in it. I would guess that Fille is the only Ashton ballet which is seen with sufficient frequency for the audience to have a real grasp of what it should look like in performance enabling them to distinguish between a bad performance and a weak ballet. Just for the record there are some major works missing from the evidential list such as Enigma Variations which was last performed at Covent Garden in 2004. It is a sublime piece if cast well and unbearable if it is not. It was danced more recently by BRB who manged to serve up both forms of revival at successive performances. Daphnis and Chloe which was also last seen in 2004 is another neglected masterpiece which needs the right cast rather than MacMillan style acting to make it work. Then there are works like a Wedding Bouquet which I recall enjoying a great deal in the past;Façade which managed to retain its place in the repertory from 1931 to 1994 before being abandoned; it used to be seen as a great way to end a mixed bill. Then there is Jazz Calendar another dessert style entertainment to bring a mixed bill to an end. I should like the opportunity to re-evaluate works such as Walk to the Paradise Garden which the late David Vaughan described as a little masterpiece and Les Illuminations. The point about all of this is that it would be possible to restore Ashton to his proper position as one of the major choreographers of the twentieth century if the company which he helped to establish had the will and the commitment to do so. But the RB has to want to do it and there is little evidence that it is sufficiently interested. If anyone is interested in what is missing then you might like to search out an earlier thread about Frederick Ashton's ballets and style
  9. As to the damage which extended runs of MacMillan can do. Some years ago the company danced its usual quota of Romeo and Juliet which always seems to go on interminably for weeks. At the end of the run they danced a mixed bill which included MacMillan's Concerto and a right royal mess they made of it. Now Concerto is a piece which MacMillan devised during his time in Berlin to save him having to go and watch daily class but still enable him to identify those who needed to work on their technique. Because of the way in which the dancers are lined up at certain points of the ballet those dancers whose technique is not up to the mark stand out like a sore thumb. One critic who should have known better expressed surprise that the company were struggling with its choreography as they had just finished dancing Romeo and Juliet, She did not seem to see the possibility of the link between all those Romeos and the company's sorry state. Somehow tripping about the stage as a townsperson with an individual backstory is not quite enough to keep your technique where it should be.
  10. CherwellMaker The answer to the question of why I want the Nureyev staging is quite simple. It is the staging in which Fonteyn herself actually danced. It is a self contained staging which ends in a sunburst with Solor and Nikiya at its centre. I recall it being exceptionally beautiful and far grander with its thirty two shades than the twenty four shades version of the Markarova staging. Needless to say it is far more of a test of the corps de ballet ability to dance as one without wobbling because of the eight additional shades who have to descend the ramp. In 1975 it was the version which the corps performed when it was awarded the Evening Standard Award for achievement in classical dance, who at that time were described as dancing "as a single entity with shared style and ideal unity". They danced it with a wonderful combination of Russian style and Ashtonian epaulement and arabesques. It is impossible to describe how extraordinary it was and went on being for years. fashionista I really think that one of the problems which the Ashton repertory faces and the MacMillan repertory does not is that MacMillan is rarely, if ever, consigned to the heritage box. His works are part of the company's living repertory whereas most of Ashton's ballets are "heritage" repertory only to be staged under duress. So although the company has a number of works like Les Rendezvous which helped create the company and its style in the early days of its existence and would certainly sharpen up the corps de ballet today they are not pressed into service. A failure which the late David Vaughan used to comment on quite often. As to the lack of a good Lilac Fairy or Myrthe. I am unsure whether the problem is essentially one of casting, coaching or a combination of the two. Perhaps everyone has managed to persuade themselves that roles like Myrthe, Lilac Fairy and the Fairy Variations were originally danced by senior dancers in the company because they were the only ones with sufficient technique to be capable of performing them and that everyone's improved technique means that such roles should no longer be seen as anything other than secondary roles to be danced by the up and coming and dancers otherwise difficult to cast because of their height. Everyone seems to have lost sight of the fact that they were created for leading dancers. In 1890 the Fairy Variations allowed Petipa to display the skills of the company's own leading dancers to the audience before they saw the guest star. They are ballerina roles not roles for the hopeful aspirant. They were created to display the dancer's exemplary style and command of the choreography. As far as the Lilac Fairy is concerned ideally she combines the commanding technical skill to dance her solo effortlessly and the stage presence of a great character dancer which Bergsma certainly did. I am not sure how these roles have gradually come to be treated or seen by the company as a whole as essentially secondary roles which should only be allocated to dancers at a certain level in the company but that is what has happened which I guess means that they don't get the rigorous polishing which they need. You get the occasional good performance of one or two of the Variations but never a complete set. Beryl Grey's unscheduled intervention at an Insight Evening was a real eye opener. Perhaps it is as much a question of not being coached by the right people as not being cast with sufficient care and not getting enough performances to consolidate and never having seen an exemplary performance of the role. The company's continuity in experience of good and great performance of works like Manon seems to work wonders as far as establishing and maintaining standards in the performance of the major Macmillan narrative works is concerned . They are revived regularly and there are so many performances of them that the occasional casting mistake has no impact on the reputation of the ballet or its maker. Programming six performances of an Ashton mixed bill with sometimes three different casts does not help maintain standards or style. If you go to a performance of an unknown work which has been allocated to well known popular dancers who will you blame if you find the performance less than adequate? Will you blame the management who miscast the work? This is unlikely as you have never seen the ballet before . Will you blame the dancer or dancers in question? Of course not they are your favourite dancers. They are the reason why you booked in the first place and being wonderful they can do no wrong. That only leaves the choreographer. It has to be his fault and here is the evidence . The ballet has not been revived for years. There must be a reason for its neglect. I saw a bad performance of course it's the ballet which is the problem. That is what happened with the revival of Pigeons the best cast was the last one who only got a single performance.
  11. We now know what the 2018-19 season holds in store for us and I am far from sure that it is really the sort of repertory which the company should be dancing if it is to become a truly great classical ballet company once more. Putting the quality of the corps de ballet to one side for one moment and apologising in advance if this is an unpalatable statement but neither Royal Ballet company has a really good Lilac Fairy let alone one with the technical command and stage presence of a Bergsma or a Grey nor an outstanding Myrthe either. Part of the problem is the choice of repertory which is far too wide in terms of style and choreographic content to enable the company to concentrate on the technical and choreographic basics which are fundamental to becoming and remaining a world class classical ballet company. But of course it does not aspire to be only that it also aspires to be a company at the forefront of creativity and innovation. As the artistic world in which many choreographers seem to work today is one of asymmetry, extreme physicality and extreme non classical movement it places every member of the company who participates in the creation of new works in the two competing aesthetic worlds of classicism with its emphasis on balance, symmetry, musicality, nuance and effortlessness on one hand and modernism on the other and inevitably the modernism seeps into and is absorbed into the company's performance style across the board. One of the reasons why the company achieved so much artistically in the first fifty years of its existence was not simply that the chosen core repertory which it was dancing regularly was a very demanding one which presented and continues to present technical challenges to every subsequent generation of dancers because it exposes their skills to close scrutiny, it was the fact that its first three directors were choreographer's who believed whole heartedly in classical dance and went out of their way to cast those ballets with care and ensured at each revival there was at least one exemplar cast performing it. This approach ensured that the entire company and its audience knew what the ballet in question should look like in performance. The aim was to achieve the best performance of a work that the company could manage rather than performances which were good enough.Now of course I know that casting people according to the relatively lax rules of employ which the company used to apply is deeply unfashionable but it is far less damaging to the quality of a performance which the audience experiences than proceeding on the basis that when it comes to casting anyone can do anything. If you operate on that basis for any length of time than you reduce the audience's ability to distinguish between an indifferent performance of a ballet and an outstanding one. If you think that I am being unfair search out and watch the recording of Ashton's La Valse made more than fifty years ago with a cast which included Park and MacLeary and the company's more recent recording of the same work. Here is my suggestion for the 2019-20 season. As Kevin seems to need an excuse to stage any Ashton ballet except Marguerite and Armand perhaps he could use the Fonteyn centenary as his excuse for reviving a wider range of the founder choreographer's works than he can usually summon up the courage to stage. The company could programme most of the works which were danced at her final performance namely Birthday Offering, Symphonic Variations and Façade. I don't think that Salut d' Amour which was created for the occasion should be included as it was far too dependant on Fonteyn's presence to be effective with any other dancer. It might be a short evening but it would be one which would reveal quite a lot about the company and its state of technical health. A second mixed bill of Daphnis and Chloe, Scenes de Ballet and Les Patineurs ; another including Nureyev's staging of La Bayadere with a full compliment of thirty two shades, A Wedding Bouquet and a ballet in which Fonteyn would have appeared in her early years Les Rendezvous plus the following full length works Cinderella, Sylvia and Sleeping Beauty.
  12. Livia, I don't think that you need to set out your credentials in order to be permitted to express the opinion that there are things that are missing in a company's performances. It should be sufficient for everyone that you are able to describe what you think is lacking particularly in performances which everyone has lauded to the skies. I am not suggesting that you should be critical for the sake of criticising. I am merely saying that you should not feel constrained to be silent or to say nice things about performances by popular dancers which you think were not up to the mark. I think that it would be helpful if you felt able to do so as it might teach all of us to look more carefully and critically at what we are watching on stage rather than being swept up in a wave of unthinking adulation. As far as I am concerned while the Royal Ballet looks in a much healthier state than it was ten years ago and unrecognisable when compared with what it looked like twenty years ago that does not mean that there is not room for improvement or that Kevin has found a winning formula which guarantees continued success and improvement in perpetuity.I can't help thinking that the real problem is that the company is trying to be all things to all people by being a classical company and a modern dance company sometimes being both in the same week. I think that at some point the Artistic Director is going to have to decide what the company's true identity is to be and set about programming ballets accordingly. If it is to be an outstanding classical company rather than a company which dances a wide range of repertory and dances the nineteenth century repertory to an acceptable level then it needs to dance a lot more performances of its core nineteenth century repertory than it does at present and not in block performance either. If I had any control over the repertory I would certainly ensure that all five of de Valois' classics were staged regularly and I would ensure that instead of merely paying lip service to Ashton as being "central to the company's artistic identity " ;telling amusing stories about him and staging the occasional all Ashton programme to salve the corporate conscience they actually danced his works regularly. A few exemplar casts rather than casts composed of dancers who are unsuitable but need to be given something to occupy them would be a good starting point,
  13. I seem to recall that the company announced the promotions before they set off for their Japanese Tour in 2016 so it's not completely unknown for this information to be given pre-tour rather than after the season has ended. As far as promotions in future seasons are concerned it really does depend on when senior dancers decide to retire and the over all size of the company's salary budget. As the RB has no fixed retirement age it makes succession planning somewhat more speculative than say at the POB where they retire at the age of forty two. Clarke has added quite a few major roles to his repertoire during the course of this season but presumably not quite enough core repertory pieces to make him as useful as Bracewell obviously is. I have no doubt that Clarke will add Romeo this season and might get a crack at the Creature in Frankenstein as well. But he might have to wait until he has added Siegfried to his repertoire before he moves to First Soloist and that won't happen until the 2019-20 season at the earliest. Promotion to the rank of Principal and First Soloist generally depends on vacancies occurring due to retirement and departures rather than the creation of new positions at those levels in the company. There are a handful of senior dancers in their mid to late thirties and early forties whose departure will create vacancies but there are not going to be places for everyone who aspires to be in the senior ranks of the company. This was why Kevin spoke about hoping to keep his dancers happy and occupied with interesting repertory to dance as a way of keeping them in the company. Some dancers , perhaps James Hay is one of them, may have to be content with being a First Soloist for the rest of their careers. Sometimes the level of seniority a dancer is able to attain within a company's hierarchy has as much to do with how close they are in age to more senior dancers in the company as it has to do with their technical abilities; their artistry and how useful they are likely to be to the company as a whole. Hay is unfortunate because the company already has two short male principal dancers who need their partners to be carefully selected for them and his need for a petite female partner may prevent him progressing any further. Clarke on the other hand may have to wait for a bit, but even without his obvious talent, his height alone makes him an exceptionally useful dancer as a partner for the taller girls in the company, some of whom are likely to make it to the top in future years.
  14. Lindsay, I must have expressed myself very clumsily. I had thought that by saying that Gailene Stock's success in raising standards at the school had caused its own problems was sufficient indication that I thought that some ballets which might have been staged for the RBS main stage performances in the past were no longer suitable for that purpose and was sufficient indication that I recognise that some works no longer provide enough suitable roles to show case the school's pupils and graduate year. I agree that Fille is unsuitable for RBS main stage performances but then I have never thought that it was suitable, There are two reasons for this. First the exceptional virtuoso demands of its demi-character style choreography, even though current company performance practice seems to have considerably reduced this element, replacing it with a sort of all purpose "Ashtonian classical blandness" and secondly the limited number of roles it provides. I would add that Two Pigeons is no longer suitable because of the lack of roles and the uber- Ashtonian style of the choreography. I know that Les Patineurs was danced by the school not that long ago and that Les Rendezvous was recently staged but the point that I was trying to make was that I think that something by Ashton should be a regular element in the programme rather than an occasional, as, and, when element. I think that Gailene Stock said that the RBS could no longer see itself simply as the feeder school for the two Royal Ballet companies and that it had to be a school which provides training which guarantees employability rather than one specialising in the so-called "English style". I have a feeling that at one time during Park's directorship the school's graduate employment rate was somewhere about fifty percent.By the way when I wrote about the school programming something by Tudor I specifically referred to the works he created for students .There is no way I would suggest that the school's students should appear in Lilac Garden, Dark Elegies or any of the other works he created for mature professional dancers although the students who did appear in Lilac Garden the last time the school programmed it were considerably better than the last RB cast who performed it. The RB cast seemed to have been selected on the basis of improbability rather than suitability.
  15. I can't help thinking that it is far easier for a school with students aged from sixteen to nineteen which is not regularly called upon to swell the ranks of a fully professional company to put on a show for its end of year performance than it is for one with the age range of the RBS pupils . Of course the RBS could turn its main stage performance into a show exclusively for the Upper School but that would disappoint a lot of parents and supporters as well as presenting practical problems for the Upper School whose graduating year is often depleted to meet the needs of the resident company in performance. There are no easy solutions to the problem which is no doubt why the range of works danced by the Upper School varies so much from year to year. It is not as if there are no suitable repertory works for young dancers. MacMillan's early works such as Danses Concertantes have been danced by the school in the past as have Ashton's Les Rendezvous and The Dream, although the latter is only do-able if the cast, and a couple of covers are readily available and Balanchine's Serenade, which was created to demonstrate to students the difference between classroom steps and the same steps used in performance. which went on to become one of his most performed ballets. it was in the programme danced in the year when Chadwick graduated. She appeared in it.Now there are plenty of other early ballets which could be pressed into service by the school such as Ashton's Capriole Suite, Façade and Les Patineurs and MacMillan's Baiser de la Fee and Solitaire which were created for young dancers and then there are the ballets which Tudor created for students. The problem is that the bulk of these works were created fifty or more years and so are likely to be dismissed as being too old fashioned; too obviously classical; too closely connected to the Royal Ballet and its style; failing to provide roles to show off enough of the pupils ; not being modern enough in style or musical sensibility (ie not being sufficiently asymmetrical; dancers spending insufficient time on the floor and not being performed to loud. repetitive recorded music) and finally, although this will never be said openly not modern enough to dispel the idea that the school teaches classical dance which is probably the last thing that the RBS feels it should stress too much if it wishes to convince those who need to be persuaded that it provides training for every style of dance which its graduates are likely to encounter during their professional careers as members of a ballet company as only this degree of adaptability guarantees their employability. By the way I was not suggesting that the annual performance should revert to the British national dances format for the Lower School although I am sure that they still do their job as an element of the school's curriculum by encouraging fast clean footwork and identifying the less than musical dancer at a time when remedial action can be taken. More works specially created for dancers of their aptitude and age are the obvious answer for the Lower School. As for the Upper School I have, I think, made a few constructive suggestions. Perhaps the performances after Christmas of Scarlett's new work for the RBS will provide a few more answers. I assume that it will be exclusively for the Upper School on the bass that the Lower School will have had weeks experiencing the main stage when appearing in The Nutcracker.