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Ivy Lin

Performances in the U.S.A.

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Thanks very much, Ivy Lin - really interesting article, and great to see the curtain calls! I hope you'll post more reviews of US performances.

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Ivy:  Welcome, and thrice welcome.  A spot of transatlantic focus will do us no harm at all - and if you have friends out West who could cover the Bay Area, LA and environs or Seattle, they would be equally welcome.  Oh, and Canada too.

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I also wanted to ask: do British balletomanes really love the Wheeldon full-lengths that much? I saw A Winter's Tale and was disappointed:

 

http://poisonivywalloftext.blogspot.com/2016/07/a-winters-tale-in-summer-festival.html

 

Also disappointed with An American in Paris:

http://poisonivywalloftext.blogspot.com/2015/03/american-in-paris.html

 

It seems as if his ballets are getting slicker but less creative. 

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I'm not a an admirer of Winter's Tale either, though the RB dancers gave it their best.  The middle act could be salvaged and renamed and would make a bright addition to a triple bill.  The only thing I can say about the ballet is that it was nowhere near as awful as the recent version of Frankenstein.

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1 hour ago, Ivy Lin said:

I also wanted to ask: do British balletomanes really love the Wheeldon full-lengths that much? I saw A Winter's Tale and was disappointed:

 

http://poisonivywalloftext.blogspot.com/2016/07/a-winters-tale-in-summer-festival.html

 

Also disappointed with An American in Paris:

http://poisonivywalloftext.blogspot.com/2015/03/american-in-paris.html

 

It seems as if his ballets are getting slicker but less creative. 

 

I agree with your review of Winter's Tale, particularly your analysis of Wheeldon's strengths and weaknesses. In recent years there have been scarcely any new ballets at the RB that I want to see more than once and most of them suffer from exactly those problems you identified: although the staging is terrific - imaginative, attractive and slick (and expensive !), strip that away and what remains is largely dull and repetitive choreography viz Alice in Wonderland, Strapless, Liam Scarlett's Sweet Violets, The Age of Anxiety and Frankenstein, McGregor's Woolf Works (I know I'm in a minority with this one). IMO of the new productions that I've seen recently in Europe for major companies only Akram Khan's Giselle for ENB, and Pite's The Seasons' Canon for POB have inspiring choreography that is equal/superior to the other aspects of the production. You're so lucky to be in New York with Ratmansky churning out terrific new ballets - so few of which are seen in Europe. Fortunately DNB have acquired Shostakovich Trilogy and I can't wait to see that next month. 

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I've noticed that Kevin O'Hare seems to put a huge premium on supporting British choreographers. Christopher Wheeldon, Wayne McGregor, Liam Scarlett, Kenneth MacMillan take up the lion's share of next season. Was it always like this or is this a recent O'Hare thing?

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Although it may seem that O'Hare is following a policy of employing British choreographers it would be more accurate to say that he is following the company's long established tradition of staging works by choreographers with Royal Ballet or Royal Ballet School connections. MacMillan always has a hefty slice of the performance time allocated to his works as there are always people who want to see Romeo and Juliet, Manon and Mayerling  and these ballets are each programmed on a triennial basis . This year is different as we are commemorating the twenty fifth anniversary of MacMillan's death. Somehow that requires a sort of national MacMillanfest.  I am far from convinced of the need but I don't run the company.

 

Opening the season with Alice, an entertainment which would be much better programmed  at Christmas, makes little sense until you remember that the RB is taking it and The Winter's Tale on its Australian Tour this summer. Once you realise this there is some logic to it. It means that less time will be need to be allocated to preparing to open the season than might otherwise be required. Time will be of the essence as we have our new Swan Lake production next May. As to why these works are being taken on tour Kevin is proud of the outbreak of creativity which he has instigated. He wants to take his nice shiny new ballets on tour rather than that old fashioned stuff  which they normally take. The same comments apply to the Winter's Tale. It too is shiny and new. .

 

The Royal Ballet in all of its previous incarnations was intended to be a creative company making new repertory as well as performing its nineteenth century classics and its twentieth century masterpieces which include the ballets created for it by its own choreographers.You could say that it started life as a choreographer's company since its first  four directors were choreographers and De Valois, Ashton and MacMillan all made works for it which have remained in its repertory.From its foundation in 1931  until MacMillan's backstage death for the first sixty one years of its existence the company had resident choreographers who created its traditions and made its repertory. De Valois established its tradition of dramatic story telling and its classical academic roots; Ashton who joined the  Vic-Wells  in 1933 created the company's style taking a group of dancers who had experienced various training systems and had varied performance styles, molding them into a company by making the bulk of the repertory which they danced;  MacMillan in his turn reinforced the company's classical roots and added to the company's dramatic tradition by creating large scale full length dramatic works for it. It was  a company with  an active in-house choreographer at its centre actively engaged in creating repertory for its dancers which created and then maintained its tradition of ballet making. It is perhaps inevitable that the works of Ashton and MacMillan remain its core repertory...

 

 From 1931 until MacMillan's death in 1992 the bulk of the company's new repertory came from its in-house choreographers. It is said that Dowell observed after MacMillan's death that the company was now going to find out what it was like to be a company like all the others without its own choreographer.In addition to the work of its own choreographers the company also staged important works by other major choreographers and works by members and former members of the Royal Ballet such as Michael Corder, Ashley Page and David Bintley who for a time was the resident choreographer at Covent Garden.

 

I think that while it must be very difficult for an Artistic Director to strike the right balance between staging old repertory and commissioning new works it is even more difficult for an Artistic Director to know when to give up on a choreographer who they have commissioned but who is perceived to have failed to deliver the goods. I sometimes wonder whether the Royal Ballet's Artistic Director's from Dowell onward have been rather hazy about what it is reasonable to expect of a new work but so reluctant to intervene in any way in the creative process that they have little or no idea what they have paid for until it is actually on the stage. Staging a ballet on the main stage is an expensive undertaking but does everyone expect too much of these efforts? Are the critics and audience wrong to expect something more than "useful" choreography which provides the dancers  with material which they need to develop their technical skill and artistry?.I have always thought that Bintley's success as an Artistic Director has been his ability to produce the works his company and his dancers need. They may not be great ballets or innovative ones but his works have helped create a company which seems to have an infinitive ability to renew itself.We all seem to expect major works if not masterpieces. 

 

 I think that it is too much to expect that  new works should not only be useful for the dancers but works of genius as well. If they turn out to be masterpieces and works of genius then that is an added bonus. After all  Balanchine's Serenade begin as a work designed to teach a group of students the difference between class and performance while works like Ashton's Les Patineurs and.Les Rendezvous  were created to provide a young company of dancers who had experience varied styles of training and had a wide range of ability as dancers  with a repertory which would develop their technical skills, please audiences and develop a unifying company style...

 

I sometimes wonder whether our knowledge  of the number of major ballets that were created during the twentieth century and the knowledge that NYCB, ABT and the RB all  had master choreographers working for them for a significant part of their existence has not led us to have ridiculously high expectations as far as those currently working as choreographers are concerned. Should we be surprised that so much of the current choreographic output is disappointingly superficial, overly dependent on novel stage effects and lacking any real choreographic substance ? Is not that the story of the Paris Opera Ballet's repertory for much of the last third of the nineteenth century and most of the twentieth century? The nineteenth century saw the creation of plenty of superficially modish ballets which lasted a few seasons and  a considerable number of flops. Why should we expect to be different? You can nurture talent but you can't command genius.

 

 .What rate of success is it reasonable to expect a choreographer to achieve when he makes new works?  I suspect that our knowledge and experience of works by choreographers like Ashton, Balanchine, Tudor and Robbins  makes us expect far more than is reasonable of lesser mortals  I am far from ready to dismiss either Wheeldon or Scarlett. but I think that both would benefit from far more oversight and editorial control from those who are commissioning their works. I am still at the point where I believe that encouraging  new work is better than sitting waiting for the next genius to appear because in the absence of commissions no one is going to make anything. Perhaps it would help if  there was greater awareness that much of the innovation of the Diaghilev era was innovation by committee rather than innovation by a lone inspired genius.

 

I have to confess that I would be much happier if the company were programming its Diaghilev repertory,Tudor's greatest early works and a much wider range of Ashton's output on a regular basis than it does currently.and trying to get the style right . I think that it is wasting time and money on staging works by Schechter and McGregor.  I also think that management ought to have far more oversight of what it is staging and paying for than it currently seems to be exercising.

 

Edited by FLOSS
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I respect and follow with interest Wheeldon's desire to create narrative ballets (full-length or not, is secondary). His Winter Tale I consider much more successful than, for example, his Cinderella (the latter has not much to offer in terms of choreography).

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On ‎08‎/‎05‎/‎2017 at 14:12, Ivy Lin said:

I've noticed that Kevin O'Hare seems to put a huge premium on supporting British choreographers. Christopher Wheeldon, Wayne McGregor, Liam Scarlett, Kenneth MacMillan take up the lion's share of next season. Was it always like this or is this a recent O'Hare thing?

 

For me ballet is first and foremost an international art form and an ideal company would be a blend of native talent and foreign genius, but choreographically I feel the RB is becoming increasingly parochial in outlook.  I perfectly understand the need to develop an in house choreographer, but feel Christopher Wheeldon in particular should stick to what he does best, non narrative one act ballets,  The MacMillan rep dominates but some of his best works have vanished whereas dross such as Judas Tree is wheeled out yet again next season.  We do get Balanchine of course but apart from Jewels his works are strictly rationed.  I suppose the opposing argument would be there are plenty of performances of Russian classics by long dead foreign masters.

 

 The fact remains however that a lot of the RB's back catalogue would be preferable to a piece as laughable as Strapless which is about to be resurrected, even more galling when you consider Ratmansky's beautiful 24 Preludes has never had a revival.  Different AD's have had different ideas as to whose work was worth importing and whose wasn't but there used to be a far healthier mix in the past than there is now.

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9 hours ago, FLOSS said:

 

Opening the season with Alice, an entertainment which would be much better programmed  at Christmas, makes little sense until you remember that the RB is taking it and The Winter's Tale on its Australian Tour this summer. 

 

 

Have I missed an announcement?  I thought the ballets to be taken to Australia were Woolf Works and The Winter's Tale..

Edited by Bluebird

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On ‎11‎/‎05‎/‎2017 at 01:27, FLOSS said:

.

 

I have to confess that I would be much happier if the company were programming its Diaghilev repertory,Tudor's greatest early works and a much wider range of Ashton's output on a regular basis than it does currently.and trying to get the style right . I think that it is wasting time and money on staging works by Schechter and McGregor.  I also think that management ought to have far more oversight of what it is staging and paying for than it currently seems to be exercising.

 

 

I do so agree with Floss. Apart from the Ashton mixed bill which is depressingly dropped for next season I find most mixed bills not worth seeing as there is at least one ballet I'm not at all interested in. Also these days there seems to be a lack of more traditional triple bills fare such as the Ballet Russes rep, much of Ashton, Bournonville, Robbins, Cranko and De Valois. it seems criminal to employ someone with Christopher Carr' s encyclopedic knowledge of Royal ballet rep. over the last 40 years and not utilise his knowledge because sadly when people like him are no longer around the ballets can never be revived unless they are notated, and even the best notation is no substitute for actual experience of the ballet. I think the RB would be far better employed in putting money into re-creating 'lost' or forgotten ballets by choreographers like Ashton, Tudor or Robbins (that many ballet goers would love to see) rather than paying for modern new creations that probably won't stand the test of time. Some of our taxpayers money should be spent on preserving our ballet heritage and making it a living heritage rather than just paying lip service to 'the genius of our great founder choreographer' when staging yet another version of Marguerite and Armand.

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Speak of the devil.  Two reviews of Whipped Cream for tomorrow's links:

 

Reviews - American Ballet Theatre, Whipped Cream, New York:  

Apollinaire Scherr, FT

Alastair Macaulay, NY Times

 

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Just saw Whipped Cream for the first time and am eager to see how it strikes me after seeing it again, but based on one viewing I can say at least that how one responds to the ballet's genre probably has a lot to do with whether or not one might like it. Ratmansky has said in an interview it's a 'ballet feerie' and I can't think of a better name for it. 

 

(I wasn't able to read the reviews just yet--paywalls--but hope to soon. Thanks for links.)

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Well, call me superficial, but I LUV Winter's Tale and look forward to seeing it for the sixth time next year.  I also enjoyed the Hofesh Schechter and would like to see more of his work.  I think we need to appreciate that ballet-goers are all

l at different levels in their expectation and appreciation.  Whilst I could cheerfully never see Sleeping Beauty again and believe that one Nutcracker will last me a lifetime, these are beautiful ballets which command an audience.  I am still feeling my way with Ashton but am hugely enjoying the learning curve.  Yes, some of the work of the new choreographers is forgettable - Strapless, Raven Girl, Frankenstein, but they have to try to experiment.  However, I do agree that 'management' could be more interventionist.  If they had been more involved, it is hard to believe that Acosta's Carmen wouldn't have been strangled at birth.

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9 hours ago, DrewCo said:

Ratmansky has said in an interview it's a 'ballet feerie' and I can't think of a better name for it.

 

I saw lots of works by Ratmansky over a period spanning close to 17 years, many multiple times, and in my opinion his forte is precisely this kind of feerie, while his pronounced weakness as a choreographer is his limited ability to compose 'melodic lines', figuratively speaking, as well as his command of ensembles. Having seen so much of Ratmansky abroad, I feel much less desire to see him also in London.

Edited by assoluta

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51 minutes ago, assoluta said:

 

I saw lots of works by Ratmansky over a period spanning close to 17 years, many multiple times, and in my opinion his forte is precisely this kind of feerie, while his pronounced weakness as a choreographer is his limited ability to compose 'melodic lines', figuratively speaking, as well as his command of ensembles. Having seen so much of Ratmansky abroad, I feel much less desire to see him also in London.

 

If you dislike Ratmansky so much, why have you watched his ballets 'multiple times'? 

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To answer your question, MAB, -- because I don't form opinions without making an effort to know well the subject of my opinions first (the provocative way you pose your question is a distortion of what I wrote).

Edited by assoluta
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Nothing provocative at all, nor any kind of 'distortion' about asking way you persist in watching ballets you dislike, I just find it very curious behaviour, particularly when you add you intend to avoid his work in future.

 

Personally when a ballet I dislike is being performed, e.g. Judas Tree, I retire to the bar

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You're welcome! Just curious: does the Royal Ballet have any Ratmansky works in its repertoire?

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2 hours ago, Ivy Lin said:

You're welcome! Just curious: does the Royal Ballet have any Ratmansky works in its repertoire?

 

Yes, 24 Preludes to music by Chopin was choreographed for the company.  Sadly it has not been revived, possibly because the two featured leads, Benjamin and Cojocaru, both left the company shortly afterwards.  Superior to many other one act pieces of recent creation, it really does deserve a place in the RB repertoire. 

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43 minutes ago, MAB said:

 

Yes, 24 Preludes to music by Chopin was choreographed for the company.  Sadly it has not been revived, possibly because the two featured leads, Benjamin and Cojocaru, both left the company shortly afterwards.  Superior to many other one act pieces of recent creation, it really does deserve a place in the RB repertoire. 

 

Of course that's a matter of opinion.  I found it generally dull (not enough ideas to fill the full length), unmusical and choreographically and stylistically too close another piece already choreographed to that music.  The main redeeming factor for me was the performance of the individual dancers (including, without limitation, the two you named).

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