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Frederick Ashton his works and his style.

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On 1/6/2018 at 15:54, CHazell2 said:

I would kill for the chance to see the 1968 Ashton production of the Sleeping Beauty. I hope that a complete copy exists somewhere.

When the BBC archive was searched for material for the 2016 documentary about Peter Wright, The Ballet Master, only the second and third acts were found. 

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In the old days, videotape was so expensive it was frequently reused.  This is what happened to Act I of SB.  Noone knows who authorised either the re-use of that reel or the keeping of the remaining two thirds of it.  I don't know if the production was ever sold overseas - probably not as clearing the rights would have been so expensive.  I also doubt if anyone set up a cinecamera in front of a screen at home, which is one of the other reasons some episodes of popular serials survived.  We are talking of the days before any kind of home video recording was available.

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I think that it was shown in the States as one of the posters on Ballet alert remembers seeing it. Although he may have been posted here and saw it there. It was mentioned that Christopher Gable introduced it.

 

Why was the first act erased and not the whole thing?  

Edited by CHazell2

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I expect only A|ct 1 was re-used because some production needed just one reel of tape and for some reason was issued with the Act 1 tape.  Perhaps once 'someone' realised what had happened, the other two acts (on two more tapes) were saved.  Sometimes these very big productions were considered too expensive for a repeat showing - the inevitable question of rights that has been discussed so often on this forum - and therefore their value as archives was sometimes ignored.

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The 1968 production consisted of a prologue and three acts. There were three intervals so, in effect, it should be regarded as a four act ballet. If only Acts 2 and 3 remain on tape with the BBC then both the prologue and the first act are missing.

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Yeah, it is a great shame that half of it was deleted. By all accounts, it was a very lovely production - and quite magical too.  I wonder if anybody know of any colour photographs floating around of the production.

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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.

Edited by FLOSS
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I remember not taking to Park as Titania when I saw it, but I'm not sure why without re-viewing it.  I can imagine last year's recording would be significantly different.  And what about the ABT version on DVD?  I liked Cornejo as Puck, but, having just seen the RB doing it at the time I viewed the DVD, I thought that casts I'd seen at that time outdid the ABT about 2:1.

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On 06/01/2018 at 14:40, FLOSS said:

The BBC broadcast the Dream in March 1968 with the original cast on BBC1.I  have been warned by someone who had the good luck to have seen the original cast in the very early years of the ballet that he thought it had been filmed before the cast had finely conquered the choreography and turned the reconciliation pas de deux into the beautifully flowing thing it became. But there again perhaps it looked like that on television because the camera brings you that much closer to the dancers. Of course it is too much to hope but perhaps it will turn up on the ICA label in a restored state. We had to wait for fifty years for the recording of the original cast performance of Fille to be issued on DVD. Perhaps as the recording of the Dream will be fifty years old this year it too will be issued on DVD in due course. The BBC only allocated forty five minutes to the whole performance but I find it hard to believe that it was cut.

 

Although I have to say that the two recordings of Ashton ballets that i would really love to get my hands on are restored copies of the film of The Enigma Variations danced by the original cast which was made by the Argos film company and the recording of Symphonic Variations which was made for Granada television in the !970's.It has an ideal cast, if not the ideal cast, of Sibley, Dowell, Penney, Coleman ( in the Brian Shaw role), Ann Jenner and Gary Sherwood.Tiny snippets of this recording turn up on the internet and even with the distortions caused by filming the images on the television screen it is quite wonderful as everyone knows how to dance it as a flow of movement. The entire cast is so musically aware and astute that they are able to bring shading and a sense of poetry to their performances. In large part this is because the casts were not changed each time it was revived. I once went through the performance database looking at the casts for Symphonic Variations and  Scenes de Ballet and discovered that during a fairly extensive period there was a nucleus of dancers who appeared in Symphonic revival after revival with the occasional dancer given an opportunity to dance it but rarely used again and that the ballerina role and the main male role in Scenes were even more exclusive. Dancers were not given the opportunity to show they could do with the roles they were selected for them. It is easy to forget what a fine classical dancer Coleman was capable of being, but for years he danced the male lead with Sibley, the preferred exponent of the ballerina lead, or Penney a close second. This suggests that the criteria applied to casting the ballerina role was the ability to dance  Aurora in the grand manner rather than anything else.

 

If you really want to make yourself miserable about the gems that lie locked away somewhere in the archives take a look at the Ashton Filmography and then trawl through the BBC Genome where you can look at back copies of the Radio Times. The thing that really makes my mouth water is not a film but a talk that went out on what I think was still the third programme, rather than Radio 3,  when the company first staged Les Noces. The talk is about the significance of Les Noces and the speakers are Ashton and Nabokov. I just hope that someone realised the importance of the talk and that it was either recorded in its entirety or that it was at least published in its entirety in The Listener. 

 

I usually don't post on the forum but feel that I have to rely to this one to share information about these recordings.

 

The 1968 recording of the original cast of The Dream is preserved by the Jerome Robbins Dance division at the Library of Performing Arts (LPA) of New York Public Library at Lincoln Center, New York. It's not digitalised yet and I had to seek LPA staff's help in finding the recording and playing it. The tape can only be watched once at one time, because to watch it again it has to be rewound by the staff and the rewinding usually takes 15 to 20 minutes. The performance was inexplicably beautiful, almost magical. Sibley and Dowell were so wonderful together. I have to say nobody can ever hold a candle to them in these two roles.

 

And I think they also have the recording of Symphonic Variations here: https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/87437fd0-4b52-0133-4044-60f81dd2b63c . It's been digitalised, so one doesn't need the staff's help to watch it. However it can only be viewed onsite on one of the computers at the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of LPA. I haven't checked it out yet but judging from the cast information listed on the page, it is the recording you mentioned.

 

I'm now living in New York. Since discovering the archive that LPA had a couple of months ago I have paid several visits to it and had the chance to find a few hidden gems there: Act IV of La Bayadere by Fonteyn and Nureyev, Clips of Giselle by Fonteyn and Nureyev with Sibley and Shaw dancing the Peasant PDD, Sibley&Dowell&Seymour&Nureyev in balcony PDD in a promotion video of Romeo&Juliet, etc. There is a lot more to explore and I'm so grateful that NYPL has made an effort in preserving these recordings. I hope one day they will be able to digitalise all of them (right now they're short of funds as far as I know, so the digitalisation has been very slow).

 

 

 

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5 minutes ago, yvonnep said:

 

The 1968 recording of the original cast of The Dream is preserved by the Jerome Robbins Dance division at the Library of Performing Arts (LPA) of New York Public Library at Lincoln Center, New York.

 

And I think they also have the recording of Symphonic Variations here: https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/87437fd0-4b52-0133-4044-60f81dd2b63c . It's been digitalised, so one doesn't need the staff's help to watch it. However it can only be viewed onsite on one of the computers at the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of LPA. I haven't checked it out yet but judging from the cast information listed on the page, it is the recording you mentioned.

 

I'm now living in New York. Since discovering the archive that LPA had a couple of months ago I have paid several visits to it and had the chance to find a few hidden gems there: Act IV of La Bayadere by Fonteyn and Nureyev, Clips of Giselle by Fonteyn and Nureyev with Sibley and Shaw dancing the Peasant PDD, Sibley&Dowell&Seymour&Nureyev in balcony PDD in a promotion video of Romeo&Juliet, etc. There is a lot more to explore and I'm so grateful that NYPL has made an effort in preserving these recordings. I hope one day they will be able to digitalise all of them (right now they're short of funds as far as I know, so the digitalisation has been very slow).

 

Just thought I'd add to this that if anyone is visiting NY, you can get a free 3-day guest library card for the Performing Arts Library, which is at Lincoln Center. You may end up spending all your NY time at the library though! (when you're not at performances)

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2 hours ago, yvonnep said:

I'm now living in New York. Since discovering the archive that LPA had a couple of months ago I have paid several visits to it and had the chance to find a few hidden gems there: Act IV of La Bayadere by Fonteyn and Nureyev, Clips of Giselle by Fonteyn and Nureyev with Sibley and Shaw dancing the Peasant PDD, Sibley&Dowell&Seymour&Nureyev in balcony PDD in a promotion video of Romeo&Juliet, etc. There is a lot more to explore and I'm so grateful that NYPL has made an effort in preserving these recordings. I hope one day they will be able to digitalise all of them (right now they're short of funds as far as I know, so the digitalisation has been very slow).

 

 

Oh and how can I have forgot to mention that they also have the full recording of a dress rehearsal of The Two pigeons with Lynn Seymour and Christopher Gable: https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/3c8814e0-f87e-0130-4822-3c075448cc4b I spent that whole afternoon indulging myself in watching it again and again... I can't even imagine that such cuteness existed...

Edited by yvonnep
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On 21/07/2018 at 16:29, FLOSS said:

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.

 

I personally like the 1968 BBC broadcast best because of two reasons:

1. It doesn't have a lot of close-ups and allows us to see the full picture all the time, which I think is really important for Ashton's choreography. (But of course it is lovely to see close-ups too because their gazes at each other are also so intriguing. )

2. The musicality is better and the movements are more fluid. I had thought that the Ed Sullivan recording was the best reconciliation pdd ever, but after watching the BBC recording and thinking of Ashton's coaching, I realised that the latter is even better. I remember two things especially: that most difficult movement of Sibley folding and unfolding under Dowell's arms looks more natural and at ease, and the way that Sibley was able to quickly arrive at this position and hold (which Ashton explicitly pointed out in his coaching) also matches the music perfectly.

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Judging from the fact that the Ed Sullivan show as in 1966(?) and the BBC broadcast was in 1968, I think their interpretations grew more mature and natural over the years in practices and performances.

 

I doubt I can take to anyone else as Titania after watching Sibley. The way that Sibley moves every part of her body to incorporate the role and the aura of magic and dream it produces are simply incomparable. I did see both recordings of the RB performance with Park at the Met and the ABT performance of Ferri. I would say that the RB performance is way better and more true to the spirit of the ballet. Park was very good, (perhaps because she was also coached by Ashton?) and that RB recording still remains the best full performance of The Dream we can see today on the Internet.

 

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2 hours ago, yvonnep said:

 

 

 

 

 

I doubt I can take to anyone else as Titania after watching Sibley. The way that Sibley moves every part of her body to incorporate the role and the aura of magic and dream it produces are simply incomparable. 

 

I felt the same way for decades.  Seeing many performances with lots of other casts over the years at the RB, at ABT and at a couple of other American companies, I saw other Pucks I loved and a few Oberons I liked very much, but no Titania ever came close to Sibley, especially in that final pas de deux, until I saw Hayward.

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This is such a fascinating thread and I want to thank those who have contributed so extensively and expressively for writing so beautifully. As a JA at the Royal Ballet School, I was actually involved in a piece choreographed by Ashton, although he was there only to select us at class and the movements were set on us. At least I ended up in a listing in the Ashton book for Fashion Show 1974. I don’t think I fully realised, even though even at the age of nine you knew how important he was, just how privileged I had been until many years later as my non-dancing love of ballet re-emerged.

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I've just watched the 1977 Symphonic Variations. It coms from a time when post JA and a bad Choir School vs RBS experience I had shut off from ballet so wasn't watching dance that year. Merle Park was generally regarded as second to Antoinette Sibley (and I don't like her low line although have warm memories of a beautiful Giselle in 1980) but David Wall, often regarded as a dancer actor as opposed to Anthony Dowel''s sovereign lyrical perfection, is superb in all technical aspects here and it's wonderful to see six principal dancers all working together. And how they bend...

Edited by Jamesrhblack
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Just wanted to remember that this weekend marks 30 years since Sir Fred died. So glad that his works live on. Watching his ballets have given me so many hours of pleasure. 

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Thanks so much for this wonderful thread!  I have only dreamed of seeing the divine Beriosova once again in Enigma.  Thank you thank you! By the way I have the recording of Nerina and Blair in Fille and she is just as wonderful as I remember her in it.  Ashton's humour was very subtle and I really dislike it when modern revivals go slap stick.....

Edited by Dance*is*life
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The Ashton Foundation is holding two further Masterclasses at the Royal Ballet School in Floral Street on Sunday 28 October 2018 and Sunday 24 February 2019, as follows:-

 

Sunday 28 October with Carlos Acosta - La Fille Mal Gardee and Rhapsody

Sunday 24 February with Lesley Collier and Wayne Sleep - Enigma Variations

 

Timing for both is 2.30 to 5.30 pm (introduction, masterclass, drinks reception).  Tickets are £60 for each event and can be purchased by emailing ashtonevents@yahoo.com or 020 7212 9627.

 

Both seem well worth attending.

 

Amanda

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Having attended all of the "Ashton Rediscovered" masterclasses so far, we will not be attending the Carlos Acosta masterclass.  This seems very out of keeping with the other masterclasses which dealt with lost or dormant works and where the masterclass has been led by someone who worked with Ashton on the relevant piece.  I don't categorise Acosta as an Ashton specialist and I don't think Fille or Rhapsody are really pieces that need to be "rediscovered".  

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2 hours ago, bangorballetboy said:

Having attended all of the "Ashton Rediscovered" masterclasses so far, we will not be attending the Carlos Acosta masterclass.  This seems very out of keeping with the other masterclasses which dealt with lost or dormant works and where the masterclass has been led by someone who worked with Ashton on the relevant piece.  I don't categorise Acosta as an Ashton specialist and I don't think Fille or Rhapsody are really pieces that need to be "rediscovered".  

I also shared bangorballetboy's sense of disappointment about the October masterclass and agree it does seem out of keeping with the other events.  It feels like a lost opportunity especially when the people who worked with Ashton are inevitably becoming fewer. Also, in previous years, there were 3 events in the year rather than just two.

 

Possibly the thinking behind it is that Carlos Acosta will attract people who wouldn't necessarily be interested or know much about Ashton. In this sense it's a good way of spreading the message. Acosta is also a figure who could become artistic director of a major company, so a good idea to keep him involved with Ashton's work.  

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I can't make the October one anyway as am on a workshop that weekend but would very much like to go to the February one especially as Sleep and Collier were in the generation of dancers who I first watched in London when Ashton was still alive and creating ballets. I particularly loved Wayne Sleep as Puck in the Dream and for his role as the boy in Month in the Country which he played much more subtly than it is often played now. I loved Collier in many things so think this will be a great evening!! 

I so agree with you Dance is Life about the subtlety of Ashton's Humour which is why to this day have never seen Alexander Grant as Alain in Fille bettered or even equalled!! It's difficult to describe but Alexander Grant got the gentleness of the character and made him hugely sympathetic which few really do today ....there does seem to be a bit of a tendency ( not just in RB) to go over into caricature. Sorry if have said these quite a few times now!

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1 hour ago, Darlex said:

I also shared bangorballetboy's sense of disappointment about the October masterclass and agree it does seem out of keeping with the other events.  It feels like a lost opportunity especially when the people who worked with Ashton are inevitably becoming fewer. Also, in previous years, there were 3 events in the year rather than just two.

 

Possibly the thinking behind it is that Carlos Acosta will attract people who wouldn't necessarily be interested or know much about Ashton. In this sense it's a good way of spreading the message. Acosta is also a figure who could become artistic director of a major company, so a good idea to keep him involved with Ashton's work.  

 

Could it not also be that at £60 a pop these are more fund raisers than anything else and the name associated in the October masterclass' instance is one thought to be assured to bring London punters with cash through the door no matter how 'out of keeping' it - and the core works being examined - may well be to the overall philosophy of the pursuit.  If that IS the case I fear it speaks for itself.  Indeed, volumes.  .

 

Edited by Bruce Wall
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I have question marks about these endeavours, also. The people who were fortunate enough to inherit Ashton's works must be 'raking it in' and, if I were one of them, I would be using a fair proportion of my earnings to preserve his inheritance for the ballet world. And that could mean funding the Ashton Foundation sufficiently for it to operate proactively, rather than, as it appears to be, with part-time staff every now and then.

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In my naivety I assumed funds raised from events like this would be used as you suggest above capybara ....a great shame if not.

 

The daughter of an ex classical dancer with the Rambert always gets very annoyed as certain people in the Dance world ..... are sitting on hundreds of photos from that era ....hardly ever seen and accessible by the public!

What is the point of preserving things for posterity if nobody ever sees them! 

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19 hours ago, Bruce Wall said:

 

Could it not also be that at £60 a pop these are more fund raisers than anything else and the name associated in the October masterclass' instance is one thought to be assured to bring London punters with cash through the door no matter how 'out of keeping' it - and the core works being examined - may well be to the overall philosophy of the pursuit.  If that IS the case I fear it speaks for itself.  Indeed, volumes.  .

 

I have to agree Bruce, I think charging £60 is way over the top, and sadly, as such, I will not be attending the October or February masterclasses.  The Masterclasses should not be a "fund raiser" and I think to charge £30 would be adequate.  Shame. 

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There's a rare glimpse of Ashton's Jazz Calendar in the Nureyev documentary currently showing in some cinemas. The short extract is Friday's Child, the duet that Nureyev danced with Sibley. IIRC Sibley says on the documentary that it was the sexiest thing she ever danced on stage - interesting. In the credits the clip is, somewhat frustratingly, erroneously referred to as Thursday's Child.

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