Now it's over, just a few thoughts on these two double bills.
Firstly a big thank you to Kevin O'Hare for having the faith to bring back Two Pigeons. I had never seen it before 2015 - what a wonderful ballet it is. It provides some meaty principal roles, plenty of dancing for the corps, it's funny, and by God, can it tug at the heartstrings! I have derived so much pleasure from watching this piece.
Scarlett's contributions: I think Asphodel Meadows is marvellous and I hope it's kept in the repertoire for years to come - it really is the best we have seen from him, followed, I think, by Symphonic Dances (although I need to see that again to make up my mind.) Agree with posts above: Frankenstein, Age of Anxiety are duds, and also, to lesser extent, The Cunning Little Vixen (but that is not to detract from the beautifully accomplished dancing of all RBS students involved, particularly The Vixen herself and her foxy and froggy family and friends. All dancers were top notch.)
I think Scarlett could learn a lot from Ashton about how to pace a ballet: something fast here, something slow there; not too much business and a little more space here, more colour and action there, and so on. Ashton really understands how to tell a story clearly and how to manage the stage action to highlight the important things: Scarlett's work can seem over busy. (Viscera, I didn't enjoy because I didn't get anything from the music and it seemed very dark. I saw it once and that felt enough, especially as it was sharing a bill with Acosta's 'special' ballet).
I feel hesitant about Scarlett's work, but Asphodel Meadows is so accomplished and it's a real beacon of hope. I sincerely hope he goes on to surpass this work.
I didn't get to see all casts: sadly, for me, I missed all of Morera's performances in both ballets, but here are my stand out performers:
Nunez in Asphodel - Scarlett created something that really brought out the best in her and beautifully supported, this time by Hirano. I had been more than content by the performance of Kaneko (with Richardson), but the partnership of Nunez and Hirano was just so solid and showed off performers and choreographer at their best.
Magri and Dyer, wonderfully elegiac in that fabulous second section and Hinkis and Acri exuberant and sharp in the third. Thinking of promotions, all the dancers I have mentioned thus far look like they are ready to go up a rung.
In Pigeons (didn't see the Cuthbertson cast this time around), I thought Stix- Brunell was by far best suited to The Young Girl, followed by Choe and Takada.
As the Young Man, Campbell just pipped it to first place for me with his interpretation, but I loved Hay in this role too - such a beautiful classical dancer. Both men have such amazing high and fast tours en l'air and their solos after the Gypsy Camp had me in tears. I hope Reece Clarke also gets another go at this role sometime because his debut (and one and only show) was really engaging too.
As the Gypsy Girl, I just have to mention Calvert's mega-sized changements in her second act solo. She has no worries about landing too early in the music - she's flying - love it!!! (and the rest of her interpretation looked more confident than 3 years ago.)
Kaneko, as some have mentioned, was possibly the politest of them all, but still totally magnetic and easy to be bewitched by. I thought Mendizibal brilliantly brought out an animalistic side of the Gypsy (like in the way a cat defends it's territory); though her ultra-lean physique makes her look naturally less voluptuous than the others, I enjoyed the threatening build up to her shimmies in her confrontation with The Young Girl. Strangely, Magri (who, to me, totally looked like a Principal-in-waiting in Asphodel) failed to hit the spot: I think it's a question of stagecraft - where to focus, when, for how long etc - she could learn a thing or two about this from Campbell, he has it in spades.
Edmonds, and Zucchetti particularly, were both fine as the Gypsy Girl's lover.
The absolute stand out Gypsy Boy for me was David Yudes - he seems to be made for this and so many other roles in the repertoire: (Alain and Puck). I hope the company treasures him. Sissens looked more comfortable by his last performance, but I think this role looks better on someone slightly shorter. Did Sambe or Kay or anyone else (apart from AcrI, who was also good) dance this role this time around?
Special mention for the ever-watchable Meaghan Grace Hinkis as one of the girl's friends in the little, but important, moment of 'look...there's a Pigeon...flutter, flutter!' (Second cast, could work on fluttering hands more for next time!!!) If this ballet is brought back again (please don't leave it 30 years or even 5), I would love to see Hinkis, O'Sullivan and Hayward have a go at The Young Girl: it seems to me the hardest character in this ballet to bring off successfully.
Watching this time around, I noticed more bird-motifs scattered throughout the choreography than I had previously: such as the 'shake your tail feather' moment of the two young lovers in their pas de deux in Act 1 surrounded by her friends (this pas de deux, rehearsed by Christopher Carr, with Choe and Campbell, is on YouTube); also the flapping movements of the Gypsy Boy in his solo - so obvious really, but somehow I hadn't made that connection before. And I noticed how the moment where the Young Man, captured in the centre of the ropes, pirouettes, feels rather related to Lise's amazing ribbon moment in Fille; except she is supported by her friends. Ashton: what a genius!