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  1. challenging sThe music to which the ballet is set is overblown and overwrought but that is one of the reasons why it was chosen the other is that it is the work of a contemporary composer whose compositions can easily be seen as the background music of Franz Joseph's entire reign. I accept that both the scene of the "pleasant musical evening" and the hunting scene can seem unnecessarily protracted if they are not played for their full effect. I think that we would notice their loss if they were to be completely cut or simply edited down to what the editor, who would almost certainly be Lady M, might deem as the essential elements which further the action of the narrative. Her revisions of Manon make it clear to me that she is not the person to do it as she lacks any real feeling for the overall dramatic effect of the cuts, interpolations, re-orchestration and general slowing down of what was, in the form devised by her late husband, an effective high octane rush from murder to Manon's death in the Louisiana swamps. Whatever faults Mayerling may have, and I have an inconstant, if not an ambiguous relationship with it, the fault does not lie with Gillian Freeman's' libretto which is beautifully poised as far as trajectory and dramatic effects are concerned. However anxious we may be to cut to the chase the reality is that the dancer portraying Rudolf needs the occasional breather if he is to make it to the last scene of the final act and the audience needs contrasts and the occasional dampening down of its emotional responses if it is to experience the full effect of the impact which its choreographer intend the work to have. MacMillan's Mayerling is a sprawling work and not every scene is equally effective however well cast it may be but I am far from convinced that it can be improved upon without making the role of Rudolf impossible to dance which would be the most obvious effect of tightening it up and making it almost impossible for an audience to endure because there would be no respite from its high octane emotional effects. The whole point about the pleasant musical evening, which I have always taken to be Franz Joseph's birthday or his name day, it does not matter which it proves to be, is that it reveals the true state of the imperial family's interfamily relationships. We see that the Emperor is more interested in his mistress than his wife; his wife acknowledges this relationship by the gift of the portrait which she gives her husband; she in turn is more interested in her lover than anyone else; Rudolf is indifferent to his wife and is more interested in Larisch's abilities as a procuress than anything else. It is a very complex set of relationships to portray but one which the choreographer and his dramaturge deftly sketch by the choice of participants who are present in the scene and their actions. It goes a long way to disprove Balanchine' s famous statement about the impossibility of portraying complex relationships although its primary function is to prepare the audience very effectively for the scene which follows it. The meeting between Rudolf and Mary which follows it seems more real and believable and is made more acceptable to the audience because the united family which the musical evening is intended to portray is clearly a sham for public consumption only. I don't think that you can look at any scene in the ballet in complete isolation. You have to consider each scene in the context of what precedes it and what follows it. At the ballet's premiere the hunting scene was a stand out for me because it was so beautifully lit and it seems to me that as originally conceived it had a dramatic purpose. Remember MacMillan employed a dramaturge to create the libretto for his ballet and she created a narrative which was not all in one key and while there is little room for fun and laughter in this tale of doomed love the audience needs a bit of a respite from dark rooms and all that debauchery, despair and death. In its extended form the scene provided an opportunity to take the pressure off the audience and to give Rudolf himself a bit of a breather before the final scenes. Here was the opportunity to create an atmosphere of seeming tranquillity showing the Hapsburgs relaxing and at play with Rudolf apparently under little pressure from anyone and engaging in game shooting.an appropriate Imperial pastime, which is brought to a juddering halt by an incident which may or may not be a botched assassination attempt. Everything is ambiguous and the audience should be left wondering whether it really was an accident which it is being encouraged to ,misinterpret, in the way that those characters who have suspicions about Rudolf's activities because of his political affiliations, view it, or whether it really was an attempted assassination? Having eased the pressure on the audience the narrative now ratchets it up and the audience comes to appreciate that the increasing pressure on Rudolf leaves him little room for manoeuvre and makes his decision to kill himself in a suicide pact feel almost inevitable. In its original form the scene included a snowball fight which further lightened its atmosphere and gave the audience a vignette of the Hapsburgs at play rather than seeing them in stuffy rooms subject to court protocol or engaged in adulterous pursuits . The snowball fight was cut very early on which is a pity because it gave the apparently accidental death more dramatic impact than it has at present. At one point the entire scene was cut but that did not help the narrative. It was reinstated in a more truncated form not long after but now it seems to be there merely as a precursor to the accidental death. And so the unending tale of MacMillan's sprawling masterpiece continues. To cut or not to cut that is the question Personally I would leave the three cash cows as the choreographer left them and restore anything and everything that Lady M has chosen to cut or revise over the years. As for MacMillan being a towering genius it all depends on which ballets you look at. His output is far more variable than say Ashton's or Balanchine's although even the greatest choreographers have their off days. Let me put it diplomatically it is unfortunate that Lady M sees her late husband as essentially the creator of challenging dram ballets including all those challenging one acters such as Different Drummer and The Judas Tree rather than as a significant classical choreographer whose classically based works should be regularly revived, but that is how it is. It would assist MacMillan's posthumous reputation if she were to vow never to try to revive Isadora in any shape or form and she began to advocate for regular revivals of works like The Four Seasons and biennial revivals of Song of the Earth so that the company could do it full justice, it is after all, his greatest work. But strangely that seems unlikely, possibly because they don't generate as much income as a his three acters do.
  2. Capybara, Thank you for giving notice of this meeting although sparsely attended it was one of the best that the Circle has run, largely because it was not a Fanfest. It scored over what Ballet Association usually manages because the discussion was led by someone who does his homework rather than a fan thinly disguised as an interviewer. The report should make interesting reading. As you might have expected both the guest speakers were very good and they made a wonderfully informative double act agreeing about pretty much everything. Unlike the two former Royal Ballet School teachers who spoke to the Circle a couple of years they did not seem to be in disagreement about any of the fundamentals and Anita Young was very complimentary about de Valois and her teaching methods and said she used them on occasion. I was surprised about this as those earlier speakers had led me to believe that the reason that the de Valois system had eventually failed was because it had not been adequately recorded or remembered. Here is something to think about. Anita Young who as she described herself was both a turner and a jumper and as a Soloist would have had a heavy workload as you can be used as both a member of the corps, leading the Shades down the ramp,as a soloist doing very demanding solos and whatever else management needs you to do, enjoyed an injury free career. Her teachers were a veritable who's who of Cechetti teachers de Valois. Bedells et al, and her training was slow, steady, thorough and systematic. Elena Glurjidze also described a slow,, systematic approach to training in the Vaganova system in which for the first two years of training you work slowly and deliberately to acquire a correct basic technique and to develop stamina and strength. Both speakers made it clear that it takes time and patience to acquire the basic elements of technique and to build the strength and stamina which a dancer needs. There are no short cuts and no element of the training can be skipped . However boring the process may seem it takes time to develop core strength and a dancer's body. Blindingly obvious I know but then so is the concept that every student is unique, something which can often be overlooked, no one should try to run before they can walk and trying to emulate what you can see on the internet is dangerous. As far as finding a teacher is concerned go to someone who is a registered qualified teacher. Apparently there are plenty in the US and Japan who are not qualified. Whatever the alumni of the SAB may say Balanchine is a ballet style not a school and with a solid, secure technique and artistic sensibility and sensitivity to its nuances you can dance in any style which may be required of you.
  3. The Guardian does not always send critics to attend the first nights of core ballets which are programmed so regularly and so often that they seem to be revived to timetable. In such circumstances the Guardian and the FT often allocate their time and column inches to review debuts in major roles. If that was the plan with this revival then their critics may well have seen Ball's matinee debut on the thirteenth when Hirano was due to perform Rudolf for the first time but may have had difficulty in acquiring tickets for the Saturday evening performance when they could have caught up with Hirano's interpretation. So perhaps it is just a question of time before we see reviews of both debuts or perhaps there was no plan to cover this revival. No doubt we shall find out in due course. Strangely although the Guardian and the Observer are part of the same press organisation they don't seem to operate as one when it comes to reviewing ballet performances.
  4. Like MacMillan's Manon and Romeo and Juliet, Mayerling is staged with such regularity that it is most unlikely that anyone who has been a company member for four or more years will make his or her debut in one of its leading roles without having some familiarity with the role and its trajectory from watching other dancers perform it or having thought about the character and his or her journey during the course of the ballet. I say this not because I wish to diminish Ball's achievement but because there is an element of osmosis in assuming a role in a ballet which is a cornerstone of a company's repertory. As far as the Royal Ballet and its core repertory is concerned It is said that junior members of the corps crowd the wings to watch Manon's death throes in the Louisiana swamps and forty years ago when Fille was such a regular part of the company's repertory that its revival was almost an annual event each dancer making her debut as Lise brought such a collection of stage business which she had admired in others to that initial performance that part of the fun was to speculate as to the elements she would decide to drop as she grew in confidence in the role and made it her own. I thought that Ball danced the role of Rudolf extremely well revealing the beauty of some of the character's choreography and without resorting to emoting and sprawling. He was clearly pacing himself so that he did not run out of steam before the final pas de deux. In fact he adopted the same approach that he had for his debuts as Albrecht and Siegfried. This is not a criticism nor an exercise in damning with faint praise as his approach worked and his performance hung together extremely well both in terms of meeting the technical demands of the choreography as a whole and creating a credible character. I expect that his portrayal of Rudolf will have developed quite considerably by the time of the second performance. If I have any criticism of the matinee performance it concerns the Larisch, of Olivia Cowley, and the Empress of Nathalie Harrison which are far too similar in approach neither of them are bad but their characterisations would be more powerful and convincing if there were greater contrast between them and they behaved as if they believed that every gesture that they were required to reproduce had an emotional truth to it. Harrison needs to be more distant and glacial in her portrayal of the Empress' relationship with Rudolf and far less one of the girls in the scene which follows the ball in act 1.That scene allows the dancer playing the Empress to establish her power and authority which she needs for the scene later in the ballet in which she dismisses Larisch from the room and in effect banishes her. At present Harrison is not sufficiently aloof from the female courtiers who surround her in the scene. The scene may be appear to be cosily friendly and essentially padding but if played effectively it enables the audience to see that there is a distance between the Empress and the courtiers and that everything that happens in her interaction with others is on the Empress' terms. By failing to establish a character whose orders will be obeyed without question and against which there is no appeal at that point in the narrative she lacks the power to make her dismissal of Larisch later in the ballet dramatically effective. I did not find Harrison at all convincing when she dismissed Larisch largely because she did not believe in herself. Parkinson, Mason and Yanowsky had no trouble in convincing an audience that they were used to having their every command obeyed and this made the standard theatrical, almost melodramatic, gesture of dismissal seem genuinely powerful when they made it. Unfortunately with Harrison it just seems a learned gesture rather than a real one. Cowley's Larisch needs to be more overtly insinuating and manipulative and again her account of the role seems more like a carefully learned and reproduced set of movements than expressive movements which mean something. When Park danced the role you scarcely noticed that it was choreographed or that she was dancing it was so expressive. The same could be said of the performances of all of the original cast. You had to concentrate on looking at the choreography as choreography rather than a compelling story being told in movement alone if you wanted to see the steps.
  5. Bruce, I checked on LBC's website and could find no mention of any forthcoming meetings which caused me some concern as I had told a number of people about Monday's meeting on the basis of what had been posted here. It would appear that LBC may have fallen for the "everyone's on Facebook" argument about effective communication as promulgated by the marketing consultants employed by the ROH as the only notification about tomorrow's LBC meeting that I can find is on LBC's facebook site where details are given under the heading of "events". If the first notification of the meeting was given on October 10th, which is what the facebook note suggests, a meeting which could prove to be one of the most interesting of the season may well turn out to be one of the most sparsely attended.
  6. FLOSS

    NYCB: Jewels & All Balanchine

    t in someTravelling Ballerina, Do not give up on Symphony in C because you have seen an unsatisfactory performance of it danced by NYCB. I am surprised that it did not work for you as it is a ballet which is as full of youthful joie de vivre as the music to which it is set. I have always thought that Symphony in C and Serenade were two of Balanchine's most approachable and intensely satisfying works. They are ballets which I would recommend to anyone who has never seen a work by Balanchine as, unlike some of his later works, they feel like instantaneous and inevitable responses to the music to which they are set. A bit like Ashton's Symphonic Variations and Scenes de Ballet it is impossible to imagine any other choreography set to their scores which would not feel "wrong" in some way. I had been relieved to read reviews of the performances which opened the company's season which suggested that the upheavals at NYCB did not seem to be impacting on the performances which the company was giving. Perhaps recent events have finally caught up with the company and that is the reason why you found the performance of Symphony in C unsatisfactory. Like Jewels, Symphony in C is a test of a company's depth and strength because of the number of dancers which it requires. Perhaps it was a mistake to programme both works so close together. Do not give up on Symphony in C. It is one of Mr B's greatest works and would, I suspect, be in most ballet goer's top five ballets if they were asked to name the five ballets from his output which they would save if it was only possible to preserve five of his works.
  7. FLOSS

    Choral Ballets

    I would hazard a guess that the reason you may not be able to think of many ballets to choral music or to music involving singers is that they are not performed that often. This is because of the additional cost involved in paying for the chorus or the solo singers required by the composer. The ballets in the Royal Ballet repertory that spring to mind include Nijinska's Les Noces, Ashton's Daphnis and Chloe and MacMillan's Song of the Earth, Requiem and Gloria. The works which Monica Mason used to say were the ones she received most request to revive before she patiently explained that they are among the most expensive to stage. Unfortunately Kevin seems to be pretty indifferent to the artistic importance of Daphnis and Noces and seems to believe that they are still capable of theatrical viability if they are only staged very occasionally. Les Noces is particularly expensive as it requires six soloists and four concert pianists all of whom have to be good rather than just about acceptable. while Daphnis requires the opera chorus. Pre-war Diaghilev staged Le Coq d'Or as an opera ballet, although it was not written as one, with designs by Gonchorova and choreography by Fokine who also choreographed the original version of Daphnis and Chloe, a ballet which requires a full chorus. The fact that the latter work is usually heard in the concert hall in the from of a suite which does not require a chorus may give some indication of how costly it is to perform in its original form. A composer who creates suites of music from a long work is generally engaged in a pragmatic attempt to ensure that he receives some income for all his compositional efforts. During the 1920's the Diaghilev company staged several works in which the action of the ballet was performed by dancers to a sung text. Those ballets include Massine's Pulcinella and Le Tricorne and Nijinska's Les Noces all three of which require one or more singers who are placed in the pit and then there is Le Rossignol in which I think the singers were originally placed on either side of the stage when Balanchine choreographed the work. When it was staged by the Met and Covent Garden with designs by Hockney Ashton provided new choreography and I believe the singers were in the pit. While it is true that the Royal Ballet stages both The Dream and Nutcracker with a children's chorus I am far from sure that the suggestion made in an earlier thread about the infrequent revivals of works like Daphnis and Chloe, that an amateur choir might be engaged to cut the cost of staging them, is the answer. Daphnis and Chloe is one of the greatest ballet scores of the twentieth century and I shudder to think how an amateur choir would cope with the music particularly the section for the dawn chorus. I know that on the rare occasions it is staged the music loathers among the audience have taken to talking during that magical section of the score but that is no excuse for not trying to produce a musically satisfying account of the ballet as well as a theatrically effective one. I can't help wondering whether the ballet company might find itself in dispute with the musician's union if it took the amateur choir route, in much the same way as it would if it were to try to use recorded music as a cost cutting exercise, rather than on the rare occasions that it is actually required by the choreographer. It's one thing for an amateur choir to arrange a concert and pay for the services of an orchestra quite another for a major ballet company to hire amateur singers to cut its costs. Among the other ballets which Ashton created to music for orchestra and chorus are Persephone set to music by Stravinsky and the original version of A Wedding Bouquet to a score by Lord Berners. A Wedding Bouquet is revived from time to time with a narrator replacing the chorus, a change which the composer must have accepted however reluctantly.Persephone has not been performed since the 1960's when it was danced by a cast which included Beriosova who danced and acted as narrator. In theory it would be possible to reconstruct Persephone as it was filmed. However I suspect that it is not the need to interpret the filmed movement which is the disincentive to its reconstruction but the fact that the score calls for a narrator and a chorus. I imagine that the fact that the score for Illuminations calls for a good solo singer is one of the reason why it has not been revived since the 1990's.Another reason, no doubt, is the fact that it does not fit in with the stereotypical Ashton work which the company has taken to cultivating since his death It is pretty evident that the MacMillan repertory is somewhat better served by the Royal Ballet as far as revivals of works involving a chorus or solo singers are concerned but even Song which is arguably MacMillan's greatest work is no longer performed sufficiently frequently for its choreography and style to be embedded in the company's collective DNA. When it was revived during the 2014-15 season most of the performances looked more like open rehearsals than finished performances as the dancers in the corps were struggling to capture the style almost to the end of the run . But at least the company has not, as yet, gone to the bargain basement for its singers as I fear ENB did when it staged the ballet. I know it is choreographed movement that the majority of the audience goes to see but that is no excuse for not hiring good singers.The musical performance is just as important as that of the dancers and it is the prospect of hearing six or more performances of Song or the uncut score of Daphnis which brings non ballet goers to performances of these works. Other "choral" works include La Fete Etrange by Andre Howard which dates from the 1940's and Michael Corder's L'Invitation au Voyage which was created in the early 1980's. Corder incorporated the mezzo-soprano soloist into the action of his ballet set to music by Duparc. The ballet did not work half as well when it was revived during Mason's directorship. Andre Howard's La Fete Etrange set to music by Faure was badly served when it was revived in a mixed bill which included Pierrot Lunaire . Both ballets require a solo singer. Fete was badly lit and its casting left a great deal to be desired. It was almost as if the company had gone out of its way to find the dancers least suited to the roles they were given. Then there is the Seven Deadly Sins which has tempted a significant number of choreographers over the years beginning, I believe, with Balanchine in the 1930's and revived in the 1950's. MacMillan made a version for Western Theatre Ballet and later another for the Royal Ballet both of which were criticised for lacking the necessary satiric bite. I imagine that it is tempting to think that you can bring something original to staging the latest to try to do so being Will Tuckett. As has been pointed out elsewhere , in spite of the additional costs involved, choreographers are still using vocal and choral music for their ballets. One of the most effective of the more recent creations is Mark Morris' L'Allegro. Il Penseroso et Il Moderato created to a score setting poems by Milton and Jennens written by GF Handel . I think that it is more a pastoral than an oratorio, but then I tend to associate the word "oratorio" with musical works dealing with religious themes. It is a wonderful dance work which displays Mark Morris at his best. If you ever have a chance to see it in a live performance, you should do so. It is available on DVD and YouTube. Another work by Morris which his company brought over on its last tour is Socrates which uses a score by Satie scored for four singers, although the music is less effective when there is no sense of dialogue, it can be performed by a soloist at a pinch. Then there is Morris' Wooden Tree set to music by Ivor Cutler which is great fun. I imagine "dancing masters", now known as choreographers, have been involved in staging operas since the artform escaped from the court masque and began to take shape as an art in its own right. Ashton staged operas as a director as well as choreographing from the 1930's until the 1970's . He was actively engaged in the world premiere of Britten's final opera Death in Venice creating the choreography for Tadzio who is both the boy with whom the rational von Aschenbach falls in love, but never speaks to. and the Angel of Death. When Morris and his Dance Group were based at La Monnaie he staged a number of operas in which dancers performed the action of the opera in choreography he created; he was famous for his portrayal of Dido. While stagings of operas using dancers to portray the characters can be successful they can, on occasion, seem like little more than a distraction which intrudes on what should be the sole province of the singers. Morrice's staging of King Arthur is an example of how staging an opera with dancers can fail but even worse examples were provided by Wayne Mc Gregor's stagings pf Dido and Aneas and Acis and Galatea where the dancers' presence was completely superfluous. I find it strange that anyone should find vocal music or the presence of singers on the stage with the dancers at all distracting. It seems to me that if the choreographer intended the dancers to experience the singer's physical presence on stage in performance it is not for the audience to question that artistic choice. There is a simple solution for those who dislike the sound of the human voice in ballet performances. Those who object to the use of vocal music or the presence of singers on the stage during performances need to remember that the choreographer has chosen to use the score in question knowing that it includes singing and has been sufficiently inspired by it to make the work you are watching and has decided where the singers should be during the performance. In those circumstances to remove the singers from the stage would be as much a revision of the ballet in question as it would be if you were to remove several bars of music or change the steps .
  8. I am sure that I read somewhere that Balanchine once said that he did not want people in his company who wanted to dance, he wanted people who had to dance. For what its worth, perhaps not that much, the problem is that although Polunin is exceptionally gifted; was exceptionally focussed as a student on doing everything necessary to become the greatest dancer of his generation he lacked the essential element which you need to be a truly great dancer namely a burning, almost obsessive need to dance. In this Polunin is the complete antithesis of Nureyev who began his training late and had to fight his body to achieve his goals but who had the incalcuable gift of the obsessive need to dance. It is almost as if Polunin is a character in a Greek myth showered with gifts by the gods who, inadvertently offending one of them, finds the gifts negated by the offended god who, while he cannot remove the gifts, can destroy their effect. I am not entirely clear why Polunin's ambivalence toward the artform and career which his parents mapped out for him is being discussed by some as if it were evidence of a flaw in his character. If he had had a burning desire to be something he was incapable of being we might express sorrow for his failure to attain his goal but we would not be commenting on his weak character; his inability to stick with what he wanted to do or say that he was moaning about his failure to attain his goal would we?. If I am right in this supposition then I fail to understand why Polunin's inability to love the art form for which he trained so hard should be criticised as if it were a flaw in his character. He is like a lot of people who I knew in my youth who had been marched off to university to study law a subject which did not interest them in the slightest. They tended to drop out early on in the course but at least they had not devoted a significant part of their lives from the age of six or seven to its study nor had their parents sacrificed a great deal to secure their specialist education. For me Polunin is not unlike Tithonus who was given the gift of immortality at the request of Eos but not the gift of eternal youth which would have made his immortality bearable. Polunin did not ask to leave the Ukraine to train at the RBS his parents made the decision for him. He has always been aware of the sacrifices they made in order for him to do so. That is a great emotional burden to carry in itself, but added to that is the knowledge that his parents split up because of the pressure which securing his future placed on their relationship. That is an appalling emotional burden to carry in itself but how much worse must it be to know that the sacrifice has been made to enable you to do something you don't want to do? His current situation is the unintended consequence of his parents trying to do what they thought was best for him, so for me it's a tragedy for all three of them. I am not sure that Polunin's ability was quite as effortless as we assume it to be. I seem to recall during the documentary that he said words to the effect that he did additional classes because he felt that he could not afford to fail while Zucchetti, who is no slouch technically, commented on Polunin's exceptional focus. If I heard that correctly then it would seem that his path to effortless technical prowess was very similar to Wayne Sleep's. Sleep had been told that if he wanted to secure a place in the company he had to jump twice as high and be twice as good as every other man. He also said that he knew that he would not have had to work so hard on his technique if he had been taller. Perhaps it was this lack of determined focus that the current director of the school was talking about when he commented on the attitude of some of the British dancers who get into the Upper School. As to what the BBC should be showing, at the moment it comes as something of a relief to discover that it is actually showing any dance based programmes at all. I suspect that the truth is that broadcasting a positive programme about an elite art form performed to an elite audience all of whom have paid megabucks for their tickets, which is how everyone writes and talks about classical ballet is off limits except at Christmas when we may be permitted access to something more positive. Although even then I recall a couple of Christmases ago there was a programme about ballet on television during the 1950's which seemed determined to suggest that the whole thing was futile. It was an interesting example of how classical dance is currently regarded by the BBC because over the same public holiday as it was broadcasting a lampoon masquerading as a documentary it managed to devote one and a half hours to the pioneers of modern dance in which everything was taken very seriously indeed. Perhaps we need to remember that the golden age of televised ballet was in effect the work of a handful of enthusiasts like Margaret Dale and Ian Drummond, without whom there would have been next to nothing televised. At a time when everything is assessed by the likely size of the audience a programme might attract one which works as a human interest story or reinforces prejudices is more likely to appeal to those who commission programmes than a more positive one unless it is specifically aimed at the Christmas television audience. Unfortunately in that context local boy makes good has far less strength as a programme to pitch than foreign boy falls apart does.
  9. Remind me what level of security alert is London on at present? I hate to pour cold water on all of this democratisation, accessibility and openess as I am sure that the Opera House is not at all motivated by the desire to increase the earning power of every square metre of the building. But as someone who has had to access a large number of other public buildings, identified by the powers that be, as high risk sites I can't help thinking that it is going to be very interesting, to say the least, to see just how the Opera House is going to strike the right balance between security for those using the building for the purpose for which it was originally built and giving access to the general public. Perhaps it is not going to bother.
  10. That does not justify the neglect of one of the truly great choreographers of the twentieth century and it could easily have been Ashton who spent the war in the US as well. I seem to recall a story about a letter sent to Ashton in 1939 inviting him to work in the US which got lost in the post. Whatever ill feeling there was towards Tudor it had clearly dissipated by the time he was invited to Covent Garden to make "Shadowplay" for the Royal Ballet. Personally I have always thought that Tudor's neglect by the Royal Ballet had far too more to do with MacMillan's claims to be an innovative realistic choreographer interested in character's psychological states. After all Tudor can tell you in twenty or twenty five minutes without whores what it takes MacMillan three hours to convey with two intervals, whores and a whole lot of padding. It's either that or its a one act work like Judas Tree which is totally unconvincing and a manifestation of his obsessions and the choreographic equivalent of Mr Dick's King Charles' Head.
  11. theI am far from convinced that the name "Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet" was any sort of problem in marketing terms. After all for many people it is the words " Royal Ballet" in the name which provided the name recognition for the company not the part of the name which stated where the company was based. If Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet had problems getting audiences to attend its performances in its initial seasons then I suspect that it was the legacy of the New Choreographic Group which was the cause of the problem. It had a repertory which MacMillan would not have dared to stage at Covent Garden because people would have stayed away in their droves and yet it was permissible to impose a repertory which included such choreographic gems as "From Waking Sleep" and "Lazarus" on innocent, unsuspecting audiences who could not easily get to London. I recall sitting in an audience which was gradually losing the will to live as those pieces were performed. Neither work went down that well with an audience which had grown to love ballet through watching works like Fille, Les Patineurs and Swan Lake and I suspect that far from encouraging a "new dance audience" it just put a large number of people off ballet for life. The company which replaced the New Group was called Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet. in part because it was based at Sadler's Wells but I think that there was more to the name than that. I seems to me that it represented a deliberate decision to draw a line under the "legacy" of the New Group and to associate the newly formed ballet company with the two companies founded by de Valois which had been based at the theatre. The fact that it programmed the sort of mixed repertory which had helped build the original Vic Wells Company from a handful of dancers who appeared in operas into the company which became resident at Covent Garden helped to associate it with the old Touring Company while simultaneously erasing memories of the New Group and developing a new generation of talented dancers. It had a loyal following in London and certainly had had no problems selling tickets in London when it was based at Sadler's Wells as Wright had talented dancers whose development audiences were happy to follow and his repertory choices gave audiences access to a far wider range of historical repertory than the resident company was prepared or able to offer the paying public. In fact as far as I recollect the company, which had been renamed BRB when it moved Birmingham, only began to run into trouble with ticket sales in London when it shifted from staging the wide ranging repertory which Peter Wright programmed which had included some really significant revivals and became increasingly the company which staged David Bintley's ballets. Ballets like Edward II played to acres of empty seats in London. As to identity the company now known as BRB has its own unique identity, but then so did the companies which preceded it. I am not old enough to remember the Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet which de Valois founded after the Sadler's -Wells Ballet became resident at the Opera House. De Valois foresaw the difficulties which a company resident at an opera house would run as far as the development of dancers and repertory were concerned. She knew that the Opera House audience would be more conservative as far as repertory was concerned and suspected that it would be more interested in full length works than in mixed bills; far less inclined to try new works and less inclined to be gentle with inexperienced dancers or young choreographers in the way that the Vic-Well's audience had been. She was certainly right as far as repertory was concerned. I recall a couple of years ago reading through diary notes made by someone who had attended performances at Covent Garden during the 1950's lamenting the number of empty seats there were whenever a mixed bill was performed. Please remember that the one act works which the audience was adverse to watching were not the creations of unknown untried choreographers. From the time it was established de Valois' second company was different because it had the freedom to be the testing ground for raw young talent. Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet was led by dancers like Beriosova. It danced the classics and works by Ashton and de Valois but it also danced new repertory. It was a training ground for many talented young dancers some of whom transferred to the Opera House some of whom did not. Anyone who saw the MacMillan documentary about his early years last October would have noticed how often the former dancers who had worked with the company during the 1950's commented on MacMillan's extraordinary creativity at that time and how frequently they danced new works created by him and the other young choreographers working there. Remember Cranko cut his choreographic teeth there as did a number of others. After a few years it became the Royal Ballet Touring Company and still performed the mixed function of touring the country and developing young raw talent. When you saw either the resident company or the touring company there was no way in which you would have mistaken one for the other. Ashton was once asked which company he preferred and he answered that each company had its own distinct personality. The Covent Garden Company was a classical company while the Touring Company emphasised ballet's theatricality. I don't think that I can improve on that assessment of them except to say that the Covent Garden Company was not blandly classical. There was always character and individuality to that company's dancing. while both the Touring Company and its successor Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet emphasised ballet as a theatrical art form, an advantage in a work like Giselle which as originally created was closer in genre to a demi-caractere ballet because acting and the expressiveness of both its choreography and mime were more important than its choreographical purity. But the non resident company whatever its current name was also able to perform more purely classical works to a very high standard As to what the future holds for the BRB the fact that the post of Artistic Director has been advertised internationally does not necessarily mean a great deal as far as the choice of appointee is concerned, it is not unknown for an organisation to encourage outsiders to apply for a post in order to make the appointment of an insider look good.Only time will tell whether a candidate who has little or no connection with the Royal Ballet companies is appointed. The main company's experience with the appointment of Ross Stretton may well steer the decision away from the appointment of a complete outsider. As to possible changes in repertory at the moment it would seem quite innovative if the company were to reduce the number of Bintley ballets it stages and began reviving works which it restored to the stage such as Choreatium; The Prospect Before Us; Capriol Suite and Valses Nobles et Sentimentales perhaps it should also ask Ian Webb to stage Sinfionetta, Apparitions for it as well as Foyer de Danse for it, if he ever manages to stage it for his own company.MacMillan's Baiser de la Fee would be another work to consider carefully. It has an extensive back catalogue of major works which it should exploit fully and systematically by reviving works like La Fete Etrange; The Green Table; Pillar of Fire; Fall River Legend ; La Boutique Fantasque and Le Tricorne. Then there are major works created by Antony Tudor which no one seems interested in staging. Why is it always The Leaves are Fading or excerpts from it that we are permitted to see? The neglect and indifference to his major works such as Lilac Garden; Dark Elegies;Gala Performance; The Judgement of Paris and Echo of Trumpets is inexplicable. It has nothing to do with their quality. There are so many works which dancers and audiences have the right to experience in performance. Any candidate who suggested that they understood the need to preserve the best of the major works created in the twentieth century by a systematic programme of revivals while encouraging new creations would have my vote.
  12. I thought that the programme was very much better than the earlier efforts in which Osipova has been involved. It was an eclectic mixture but there was something for a wide range of dance tastes and interests and we did see Hallberg dance. I found the excerpts from The Leaves are Fading and the new Ratmansky the most pleasing but nothing in the programme was down right objectionable and the music was kept to a reasonable volume. While I know this may sound like damning with faint praise the whole programme felt as if there was one person in charge of it whose tastes were reflected in the choice of works and the range of styles performed. If Osipova is feeling her way I am fine with that because she now seems to be going somewhere with what she is doing with these programmes. I had wondered whether I should buy a ticket as the previous offerings had been so variable. I am glad I did and on the basis of this programme I look forward to her next one. Re neglect of Tudor repertory. Bruce, While it is true that the Royal did not mark Tudor's centenary Rambert did. If I recall correctly Rambert danced The Judgement of Paris and Dark Elegies. Unfortunately I found both ballets disappointing for much the same reason. The dancers portraying the goddesses in Judgement were far,far too lean, fit and healthy looking and far too alert to be convincing as the tired, bored, aging prostitutes who go through their seductive routines as they try to gain the attention of their potential client " Paris" the drunk sitting at the bar. The dancers were unable to give the impression of weight, age and boredom, which are needed to give the ballet its impact. This was also a problem in the performance of Dark Elegies where the dancers looked like the lean, lithe, young dancers they are rather than the members of a peasant community weighed down by grief and loss who they were supposed to be portraying. It was all rather disappointing but at least they attempted to dance a couple of his ballets rather than serving up a modern version of an old work which is what the company did with A Tragedy of Fashion when it came to commemorating the Ashton centenary. The strange thing is that while that work is the earliest of Ashton's creations the company danced a range of his other early works which are capable of revival such as Capriol Suite and Façade until it switched from being a small scale classical company to the company it is today. I think it unlikely that the Royal Ballet will ever consider giving any of Tudor's ballets a good home and performance time given how ambivalent the company is to much of the repertory created for it by its founder choreographer. But if it were to undergo an artistic transformation and start to look seriously at what remains of the repertory created in the 1930's and 1940's by Ashton and Tudor then there are some pretty impressive Tudor works which it should consider "homing" on the basis that Rambert does not seem that concerned with making them available to the public on anything like a regular basis. If the Royal were to think about staging them then it needs to take greater care over casting them properly than it did last time it performed Lilac Garden which requires dance actors rather than star dancers and box office certainties.My selection for homing would include LIlac Garden, a ballet which both Ashton and Balanchine admired and, it is said, wished they had created ; Dark Elegies an incredibly moving work which would benefit by being danced by a cast which included the character principals as well as the company's mature dance actors; Gala Performance fun if it is danced well, not if it danced too broadly; The Judgement of Paris, similar comment here about broad performance style and the benefit of dancers who are mature artists ; Soiree Musicale; Pillar of Fire, for Morera, perhaps, and Echo of Trumpets, which was in LFB repertory eons ago. I would push for these to enter the repertory before other later works for a number of reasons. London audiences and the company's dancers should be as familiar with his works as they are with the works of Ashton and Balanchine. He is, after all, one of the greatest choreographer of the twentieth century, and Lilac Garden and Dark Elegies are extraordinarily innovative and choreographically and psychologically sophisticated works. Perhaps the problem is that if we were to see more of Tudor's psychological ballets we would be aware just how much of a debt MacMillan's dram-ballets owe him. Tudor is far more succinct and generally far more effective in portraying what he wants the audience to see and understand and accomplishes it all in twenty to thirty minutes where MacMillan will take three hours with intervals. Here we come to a problem with both the Ashton and Tudor repertory of the thirties. Many of these works were originally created for much smaller spaces than the main stage at Covent Garden, If it is decided that they should be performed in the new Linbury will they attract audiences or will ticket prices deter people from attending ? Much of this repertory is unknown to regular ballet goers. Will people be prepared to take a punt on a pricey mixed bill made up of works which have not been performed in years when everyone knows that long term neglect is the result a work's weaknesses and has nothing to do with the tastes and concerns of individual artistic directors?
  13. I am sure that the Hochhausers know their audience but I can't help thinking that London deserves something a bit more enticing than a programme which includes only one decent production, and that, of a heavily revised nineteenth century classic . I imagine the programme is intended to display the company's range but for me it is a disappointing selection. Personally I can do without the soviet bombast of Grigorovitch's Spartacus; the heavy handed attempts at humour of Ratmansky's Bright Stream; the modernish choreography of Maillot's Shrew and the exceptionally dull production of one of Petipa's great ballets, with all of its poetry surgically removed,which is the company's current Swan Lake. It looks like I shall be saving a great deal of money next summer. If the programme had included Raymonda, Jacobson's Spartacus or the new Nureyev, even if the latter were to prove to be the Russian equivalent of MacMillan's Isadora, I should be feeling far more enthusiastic about the Bolshoi's visit. I can only hope that when the Mariinsky next visit these shores that the repertory they bring includes The Fountains of Bakhchisharai, a soviet orientalist melodrama based on a Pushkin poem.
  14. I think that if Dowell had not decided to stage a new Swan Lake which returned to a more authentic choreographic text than the company had danced from 1963 onwards which required a great deal of Ashton's choreography to be dropped we might have had a full scale Ashton revival with more of his works including Sylvia retuned to the stage under his supervision in the years leading up to his death.As it turned out we only got the restored Ondine and the " great falling out" which meant the Neapolitan Dance disappeared from the company's Swan Lake and was not restored to the text until after Ashton's death. The question of how authentically Ashtonian the company's Sylvia is, only seems to have emerged fairly recently one French website referring to the most recent revival went so far as to describe it as an inauthentic pastiche. I think part of the problem is that Ashton is probably the most difficult choreographer to pin down. if you only know him say from The Dream, Fille and Rhapsody and perhaps Two Pigeons you are going to have a very different picture of him than you might if you knew him primarily from Cinderella, Symphonic Variations and Scenes de Ballet. The point is that these latter works were all created with a central role for Fonteyn whereas the former works were created on a totally different generation of dancers. Who Ashton the choreographer is and what is authentically Ashtonian depends on your knowledge of the range and extent of his choreographic output. The fact is that Ashton is incredibly difficult to pin down and place in a simple marketable category.The only obvious generalisation you can make about him is that he is a choreographer who makes ballets about dancing in many forms and styles but whether you are watching Capriol Suite, his earliest surviving work,or Rhapsody his last major work you are watching choreography created by a man who respects and loves the classical dance vocabulary and classicism. In the pre-war period he was generally producing entertaining works which pushed the company to develop technically and as artists, frequently commented on the dancers and works that they had recently performed. The dementedly forlorn Julia in Wedding Bouquet is said to be a reference to Fonteyn's Giselle. In the immediate post war period he was reacting to the expressionist works created by Helpmann which had come to take centre place in the company's repertory during his absence serving in the RAF and he was a polemicist for classical choreography both on the stage and in print. In the 1950's he seems to have set himself challenges which ranged from responding to a younger choreographer who created a ballet which seemed to him to be far too reliant on lifts for its effect by creating one in which there were scarcely any to restoring major ballet scores to the stage. Sylvia is one of the latter. As far as the authenticity of the text of Sylvia is concerned it is not as if there are no records of the ballet on film at least. I think that there is a film in the Esme Wood collection of Gable and Wells rehearsing the full length version and I have seen a colour film of Doreen Wells and Donald McLeary dancing a very impressive account of the final pas de deux. In addition there were the memories of dancers who had appeared in one or other version of the ballet. In 1952 Fonteyn was at the height of her powers and I have no difficulty in believing that she danced the choreography as set. I have heard older balletgoers discuss in some detail what Fonteyn did and did not do in each act. Apparently originally in act 2 she plied Orion with grape juice which she squeezed into a goblet which was miraculously transformed into wine by the time he drank it. Perhaps the most difficult aspects when discussing the authenticity of the text are the jumps as Fonteyn famously did not have much of a jump. Here I think that I would rely on her appearances in the Firebird where she clearly persuaded those who saw her in performance that she had enough of a jump to be convincing in the role. Let us remember that Sylvia was restored to the stage as part of the Ashton centenary celebrations. At that time there were any number of dancers who had appeared in the ballet in both its full length and one act version; there were critics who had seen it in its various forms and there were innumerable ballet goers who had seen pretty much every cast who had appeared in both versions of the ballet. I don't recall anyone at the time calling the authenticity of the text into question. Older ballet goers who have spoken to me about Sylvia have not questioned the text danced although they have mentioned missing bits of business such as the one mentioned above what they have questioned is the casting and the quality of some of the performances. Generally speaking Bussell was not thought up to it because there was no character while Osipova was given high marks for her first two acts. One or two thought that in act two she was the best they had seen since Fonteyn herself but they thought that she lacked the natural ballerina command and Fonteyn's musical playfulness in act three. As far as I am concerned I cannot understand why the company has not , so far,managed to find a couple of men who could do full justice to the roles of the slaves. The fact that the roles were created on Shaw and Grant should have indicated to someone that they are roles in which the characterisation is far more important than technical correctness and that they need to be far more quirky and far less "classical" in performance. In discussions about Fonteyn, the ballets created for her and other ballets created at the time, everyone begins from the position that technique has "improved" since the work was created which leads them immediately to the conclusion that the dancers who created the roles had a weaker technique than dancers working today possess. This seems to lead them to the conclusion, if a dancer finds a ballet difficult to dance, or their favourite dancers struggle with the choreography, that either the work was so carefully crafted to accommodate the weaknesses and strengths of the original cast that it is impossible for anyone else to perform the choreography or that it is, in some way, inauthentic. No one ever seems to ask whether the much vaunted technical "improvements" are simply the result of concentrating on aspects of technique which were not emphasised previously and ignoring aspects of technique which were once accepted as central to everyone's training. The most obvious example of the shift in emphasis is that fifty or more years ago pretty much everyone accepted that all movement originated from the central core of the body and that the movement of arms and legs began and ended there which meant that arabesques were lower and the overall aesthetic emphasis was on symmetry and balance rather than asymmetry and extremes. In the discussion which is essentially " classicism for or against ?" everyone has managed to forget that Fonteyn was at various times taught by what today appears to be a who's who of teachers working in the West and that for a time Vera Volkova, one of the greatest of the twentieth century teachers, had worked with the company as well as giving lessons at her own London studio. Somehow everyone has become so impressed by the idea that technique has " improved" that it has blinded us with the result that we tend to look at the great dancers of earlier generations as if they must be technically deficient in some way. We discuss them in terms of what they can not do rather than what they can do. In addition we tend to forget that ballet is a theatrical art form and that every choreographer who is any good will take the basic building blocks of the classroom steps and modify them for use in the performance of their ballets. In other words it is unreasonable to expect to see perfect classroom renditions of steps in performance because in most cases that is not how the choreographer intended them to be seen. Today there seems to be an emphasis on displaying every step rather than showing the steps in the context of a phrase and giving them the emphasis which the choreographer wanted. All of this I think gets in the way of how we see and appreciate a work like Ashton's Sylvia and how we judge the authenticity of its text.
  15. While I agree that a book about Petipa is unlikely to be a runaway best seller the fact that OUP is proposing to sell it for under £23.00 suggests that the company is convinced that the book will sell reasonably well and will continue to sell for years to come as the price is closer to that for a new copy of the publisher's "Complete Works of Shakespeare" than for an academic work on a genuinely obscure subject with a truly limited potential readership. I say this because £22.99 is very cheap for a hardback academic book. If you want to buy the Wiley book "The Life of Lev Ivanov and his Ballets" new from the publisher it will cost you $250.00 which currently converts to £213.03. If you want to own a new copy of Nigel Saul's " Death, Art and Memory in Medieval England" , which you may think an even more obscure topic than a book about a major nineteenth century choreographer like Ivanov, you will have to pay $155.00 or £119.95. Only time will tell whether the Clarendon Press has got its pricing right. One thing I would recomend is that if you want a copy you buy it as soon as it becomes available as the Lev Ivanov book cost about £60.00 when it was first published and now costs nearly four times as much as its original published price.
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