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I have the feeling that a lot of people were wrong footed by the new Scarlett ballet expecting it to be more obviously a valedictory piece than it in fact proves to be. I know that I came away fro the first performance somewhat unsure as to what I thought about it. But to begin at the beginning.

 

Vertiginous Thrill's first cast led by Nunez and Muntagirov, with McRae,Takada and Stix-Brunell was quite extraordinary in the energy they brought to their performance of the piece  which looked like amphetamine fueled  Balanchine. Even with this energy level Muntagirov  somehow managed to give the audience a display of effortless elegance.The second cast of  Menizabal, Sambe, Hay,Hayward and Stix-Brunell  were less frenetic and slightly more relaxed in performance than the first cast had been. Mendizabal fell during the first performance and perhaps that partially explains the more muted account which she gave of the choreography Hayward and Stix-Brunell  were a better balanced pairing than we saw on the first night but then they had rehearsed together throughout the preparation process while injury had led to last minute changes to the first cast. In the second cast it was James Hay dancing in the McRae role who  provided the cool elegant performance.

 

The next ballet Tarantella,is one of those ephemeral gala pieces which prove to have unanticipated staying power. The first night cast of Hayward and Sambe both gave extraordinary accounts of the choreography which is a test of both technique and stamina. Their performances were full of panache and character and were both exciting and amusing. At the second performance Tarantella was performed by Hinkis and Campbell. Theirs was a more subdued account of the choreography with far less character and brio to it than we had seen on the first night. It is the sort of choreography which, I think, requires the dancer to take risks rather than playing safe and Hinkis played it too carefully and far too safely for what was intended to be a exuberant display piece. It is not reproducing the steps which you have learned which matters in this piece it is what you do with them in performance which counts..The third cast was probably the most intriguing as the dancers cast in it were Naghdi and Zucchetti. Now while there was no doubt that this piece was just the thing that would suit Zucchetti down to the ground the question was how well it would suit Naghdi who has described herself as an allegro dancer by nature ? This third cast were even sharper than the first night one and they made it look even more like a tongue in cheek tribute to Bournonville than Sambe and Hayward had made it. Both the first and third casts delivered hugely enjoyable accounts of the piece which made what came next all the more disappointing.

 

There is nothing wrong with devising a mixed bill which displays the range of subject matter and mood which ballet can encompass. In fact I am all in favour of such mixed bills and would much rather have a mixture of works which show ballets's range as an evening at the ballet than a more narrowly themed approach. But the essential element in an evening adopting the wide range approach is that all its component parts are worth staging. Having sent the audience out of the auditorium to boost the bar receipts feeling that all is well with the company, its dancers and ballet in general management decided, in its wisdom, that we should return after the interval to see the revised version of Strapless.

 

 I struggle to say anything positive about Strapless and strangely with six minutes or so cut from it it feels longer than it did when it was premiered. Wheeldon is not the only choreographer who does not seem to possess an "unerring sense of what ballet can and can not do" but having discovered that the work was a failure. It would have been kinder to both the dancers and the audience if management had decided to bury it quietly rather than serve it up for a second time. But it is a co-production and presumably intended as a vehicle for the company's Russian star and perhaps it is this which necessitated its revival.

 

The problem is not simply Wheeldon's  choice of a  subject which it would be difficult enough to turn into a successful film treatment where you have both movement and speech to work with,let alone a ballet where you only have choreographed movement. The ballet also reveals what Wheeldon can and cannot do as a choreographer at this stage of his career. Even in its revised form Strapless seems strangely unfocused. Unfortunately Wheeldon seems to have taken MacMillan as his choreographic model  for the cafe scene. Perhaps someone should have told him that MacMillan was notorious for producing swathes of boring repetitive dancing for the corps. Unfortunately  Wheeldon does not seem to have mastered the pas de deux as a means of expressing character and emotion .The cafe scene is full of unnecessary local colour and jolly dances which look like the sort of thing you might expect to see in a west end musical including an exceptionally demure can can. As I sat there I have to confess that my attention began to wander I began to think about the sort of rumbustious characterful choreography that Massine conjured up for such scenes of local colour. I even began to wonder what de Valois Bar aux Folies Bergeres might have looked like? It also included historical characters but I bet they had considerably more theatrical life to them than the historical characters as bit players in this ballet where the dancers labour in vain to breathe life into a balletic corpse.

 

While the choice of subject is a significant factor in the ballet's weakness it is not the only problem. it seems to me that Wheeldon's choreographic language  which works well for abstract ballets and can be pressed into service for narrative works where the subject matter and his dance language are a good fit does not work that well as an expression of emotion and mood. The erotic encounters in this work feel like dull academic choreographic exercises rather than movement expressing overwhelming desire.  All choreographers are "snappers up of unconsidered trifles". They all borrow from each other and from the past.Both Ashton and  MacMillan knew how to make pas de deux which are effective in both choreographic and narrative terms. I doubt that theirs is a secret which died with them. Is Wheeldon's problem one of lack of exposure to effective narrative works in performance because he spent too long working in a company which stages abstract ballets rather than narrative ones or an inherent inability to create expressive choreography? Only time will tell whether Wheeldon's  dance vocabulary will ever extend to being able to express mood and emotion through the subtle combination of natural body language and the codified movement of the ecole de danse which Ashton,Tudor and MacMillan were all able to bring to their narrative works. But as I recently came across a critic writing about Ashton's 1936 ballet Nocturne as evidence of the choreographer's  development from creating glib, smart but essentially superficial choreography with great facility to real art,it may be a trifle too soon to reject Wheeldon and all his works.

 

 I don't know what Symphonic Dances is about. Scarlett was not that forthcoming at the Insight interview he gave.He said that it is It  is about whatever we want to think it is about. The one thing he did say was that because of the current technical strength and talent of the men in the company he felt he had to give them some interesting choreography to dance. Of course not every section of the work is at the same level and I have no idea what the sporting and sprinting poses are intended to convey.But even if Yanowsky is unable to throw any light on what the ballet is about it works well as a display piece for her.Although it looks rather different on Morera it works for her as well. It gives the men some meaty choreography to dance and the company is able to field two casts for the corps. Perhaps all that we should expect of a new ballet is that it is theatrically effective; it shows  its dancers off to best advantage; it bears repeat viewing and it is not wholly dependent on its original cast for its effectiveness. Personally I think that this new ballet fulfills all those requirements. 

 

It opens with the lead dancer, Yanowsky, as a figure of authority dominating the stage and an object of adoration, this is followed by a section in which she is gradually drawn in to dance with the corps and in the final section she is partnered by one of the men, Reece Clarke. I have no idea what the final image is meant to convey. Morera in the second cast does not physically dominate the stage in the way that Yanowsky does but she is equally effective in her own way , and her partner in the final section,Matthew Ball is good as well. It looks like a ballet that will bear repeated viewing and new casts. Perhaps that is enough.Only time will tell whether it is a piece which survives for a few seasons or whether it has real staying power.

Edited by FLOSS

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One thing I've been mulling over since seeing this mixed bill is the relative talent of Wheeldon and Scarlett. Even adjusting (a lot!) for Strapless being far from Wheeldon's strongest work and Symphonic Dances far from Scarlett's weakest, I was left thinking that Scarlett rather than Wheeldon is "the real deal". I just feel that there's more to his choreography.

 

Or is it just me?

Edited by Lizbie1

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One thing the 

7 hours ago, Lizbie1 said:

One thing I've been mulling over since seeing this mixed bill is the relative talent of Wheeldon and Scarlett. Even adjusting (a lot!) for Strapless being far from Wheeldon's strongest work and Symphonic Dances far from Scarlett's weakest, I was left thinking that Scarlett rather than Wheeldon is "the real deal". I just feel that there's more to his choreography.

 

Or is it just me?

 

One thing the evening convinced me of was how much Scarlett continues to experiment, while Wheeldon seems to apply the same style in different contexts. Somehow nothing Scarlett has done falls into a real 'pattern' for me, and I'm very admiring of that. Maybe it's just a matter of age.

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A good last outing for the quad bill tonight with 3 special reasons to rejoice:

 

- Yasmine Nagdhi amazing in Tarantella alongside a buoyant Valentino  Zuchetti

- the farewell performance of Strapless (hopefully)

- Laura Morera stunning in Symphonic Dances

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6 minutes ago, capybara said:

A good last outing for the quad bill tonight with 3 special reasons to rejoice:

 

- Yasmine Nagdhi amazing in Tarantella alongside a buoyant Valentino  Zuchetti

- the farewell performance of Strapless (hopefully)

- Laura Morera stunning in Symphonic Dances

Do hope you're right about Strapless. The most entertaining thing about it when I saw it was a couple of scenery malfunctions and the sight of a black clad stage hand doing some furtive manhandling to right it!

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1 hour ago, capybara said:

A good last outing for the quad bill tonight with 3 special reasons to rejoice:

 

- Yasmine Nagdhi amazing in Tarantella alongside a buoyant Valentino  Zuchetti

- the farewell performance of Strapless (hopefully)

- Laura Morera stunning in Symphonic Dances

I agree, Capybara.  More thoughts from me tomorrow. This was my only viewing of this mixed bill and I found it a mixed bag.

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Although I had a ticket for last Saturday's matinee, I couldn't make it at the last minute, so last night was my only chance to see this mixed bill. 

 

I hadn't seen Vertiginous for years, so I was thrilled to see it again, and so well danced.  Once again Akane Takada stepped in at the last minute, and once again she has shot way up in my estimation.  I don't know why, but for some reason, until this season, I never really warmed to her.  But, after the season she has just had, I am liking and appreciating her more and more.  I loved her in SB with James Hay, I loved her in Rubies, sadly I missed her turn in Mayerling, and I loved her last night in this short piece.  I can't wait to see what she makes of Titania.  I thought all five of the dancers gave a great account of this most difficult ballet, and didn't make me feel like I'd missed something by not seeing the 'first' cast...although of course I would have loved to!

 

Tarantella was a lot of fun, especially with the sunny radiance of Yasmine Naghdi and Valentino Zucchetti emanating from the stage up to the rafters.  Not only were they technically wonderful, but they brought that sunny Italian spirit to the piece, which made all the difference,  and the audience loved it. 

 

And now to Strapless.....oh dear.  I was very tempted to join the large crowd of regulars who sat this one out on the terrace in the warm evening air, having cocktails and glasses of wine or water.  However, one of these regulars offered us his seats in row A of the stalls, and as I can never afford to sit there it was an offer I couldn't refuse.  Also, I thought "let me be broad-minded and try it again, especially since cuts have been made."   Well, despite being so close to the 'action', and despite any changes that might have been made, after less than ten minutes I started feeling bitter and resentful towards my friends enjoying themselves up on the terrace.  Although all the dancers did their best with what material they had, I'm afraid that my opinion from the first run hadn't changed by the end of the piece.  I find it boring, a narrative failure and choreographically bland.  The music is ok although after a while it starts becoming background sound instead of being an integral part of the piece.  Sitting right behind Koen Kessels was a great experience, and I often found myself watching him and the orchestra instead of the stage.  It was also wonderful to be so close to Watson and Osipova....what a great partnership this is;  they are both so compelling to watch.  What a shame their talents and chemistry are wasted here.  I think that it is now time to put this piece to bed, never to be awoken again. 

 

Hmmm....Symphonic Dances.  I'm afraid I feel a bit 'meh' about this one, and it's a shame I won't have the opportunity to see it again this run.  I love Laura Morera, but I don't feel she had the stage presence in this ballet that Zen would have had.  There was much to like here;  the lighting was very effective, the music was beautifully played, that red dress was gorgeous, the choreography held my attention in certain parts.  Once again Yasmine Naghdi shone like a bright light out of the dark redness of the piece.  How many turns was that from a standing start?  Four? Five?  Wow.  Rovero and Ball were also wonderful, one worshipping the Lady in Red, the other every inch her equal in the pdd.  However, I felt that much of this was derivative:  Obsidian Tear, various Rites, etc.  I also don't feel that we needed any more red;  what was the point of all those red projections?   Although this sounds a bit negative, I didn't dislike this ballet;  I just didn't come out saying 'wow' like I did when I saw Flight Pattern, or Obsidian Tear, for the first time.  If it comes back again I will definitely have another look. 

 

Four very different pieces, and the dancers excelled in all of them, whatever I may think of the actual production.  The RB is in such a good place at the moment that nothing seems to be too much of a challenge for all the young dancers in the company.  Long may it continue. 

 

 

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it was five turns! :-)

 

I loved the piece though - in fact I think its the best Liam has done at ROH

 

The red projections were a swirling dress - and a live camera feed above the dancers' heads onto the grid thingy. That bit was quite cool I thought

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43 minutes ago, zxDaveM said:

it was five turns! :-)

 

I loved the piece though - in fact I think its the best Liam has done at ROH

 

The red projections were a swirling dress - and a live camera feed above the dancers' heads onto the grid thingy. That bit was quite cool I thought

 

It's not a live feed, as I've noticed slight differences between what's on stage and what's on screen.

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Really glad I saw the second cast of Symphonic Dances last night, after feeling so-so about the opening night, it seemed like a different ballet, Laura Morera's dancing was so strong and dramatic, and I couldn't believe there was another cast of equally exciting young men, David Donnelly was outstanding, also Giacomo Rovero and Matthew Ball, who partnered Laura Morera, have no idea what it was about

but was able to just experience the whole thing! I think the ending is probably the same but it matters when the lighting goes on and off, Laura Morera seemed triumphant.

 

Tarantella had another great cast too with Yasmine Naghdi and Valentino Zucchetti. I still didn't like the Forsythe, too manic, noticed Francesca Hayward was missing, Akane Takada took over again. Feel sad about Strapless, although it is tighter, the revisions seem to have sapped the emotion away. The music needed to be more sensual and swoony (Debussy perhaps) for such an overwrought story.

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1 hour ago, bangorballetboy said:

 

It's not a live feed, as I've noticed slight differences between what's on stage and what's on screen.

 

You undoubtedly had a better view of it than me - first time I saw it, I thought it was 'pre-recorded' but 2nd time it looked more like Laura than I remembered from the first, so that's why I thought it might be 'live'

 

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Sorry if I’m a bit late to the party, but I went to see the quad bill last night (31/5), with Sambe, Takada replacing Hayward, Mendizabal, Hay and Stix-Brunell in Vertiginous, Naghdi and Zucchetti in Tarantella, Osipova, Watson, Ball and Bonelli in Strapless and Laura Morera in Symphonic. I decided to go not because of the programme but because of the casting, this seemed a good opportunity to see many of my favourites in one go!

 

With Vertiginous, I really liked the green tutus and Sambe was wonderful as usual. However, the highlight for me was Akane – definitely wasn’t expecting her to stun me like she did, I saw a bit of her once before but I was floored this time round! A super fast thrilling ballet, like Tarantella – Zucchetti’s jumps, swagger and musicality were great and Naghdi’s pirouettes from fifth, batterie and attitude turns were so good. Lovely cute humorous piece.

 

Strapless was boring but Osipova danced well. Wanted to see the Watson-Ball relationship develop a bit more. Symphonic was my absolute favourite – such an amazing dance. I’ve seen Morera twice before (Anastasia and R+Juliet) and she was so stunning in this. Loved Luca Acri and Rovero was so so good, loved that an Aud Jebsen dancer was paired with a principal. No surprise that he’s entering the company next year (according to the website). From what I heard people really enjoyed the night, as did I. Would have gone to see it again had it not been the last run!

 

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Just thought I should get a few brief thoughts down on the limited amount of this bill which I actually did see, before it vanishes too much further down the page ...

 

Firstly, let me say that I thought Symphonic Dances was the best thing I've seen from Scarlett in some considerable time: some very interesting and often different movement especially in the first two movements, although I did feel that the third was rather less original.  I look forward to seeing it again, presumably the season after next, if KOH sticks to his usual practice.

 

My reaction to my first viewing of Tarantella was: "Funny, I thought I liked this ballet".  The reaction to the second, with a different cast, was that I had been right in the first place :)  No such hesitation about The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude: thoroughly enjoyable with both casts, although I'd forgotten quite how fast it was.  Some slight lack of synchronisation at times, presumably owing to late casting changes, but as others have already commented it was impressive how together McRae and Muntagirov were despite their different heights and proportions and musical responses.

 

I did keep having flashbacks to the previous showings of this ballet, though: Yanowsky, Watson and Cojocaru, although possibly not all in the same cast.  Does that sound familiar to other people?

 

 

 

 

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