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The Royal Ballet - New Work New Music, Linbury Theatre Feb 2019

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19 minutes ago, Ian Macmillan said:

"Good music"?  Aye, there's the rub, for we might well lack unanimity in our views of any particular piece.  

 

Very true, Ian. I could just have said 'Does no-one simply aim to produce dance to music?' - I don't suppose anyone chooses music they don't consider to be good (or presents what they consider to be poor choreography). But there seems to be a tendency to over-intellectualise the approach. No (or very few) words are needed to present the context or purpose of an abstract work; all that matters is what we see, not what the choreographer was thinking about when s/he was creating it. It may (and probably should, if it's good) mean all sorts of different things to different people.

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27 minutes ago, bridiem said:

tendency to over-intellectualise the approach.

 

The Wayne McGregor approach rubbing off on young choreographers...

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Oh, there are far more guilty parties in that respect than just McGregor ...

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That is true Alison. But he is the resident choreographer and a very high profile presence at ROH. He is bound to be influential, and, he is also by all the evidence a nice man and a good mentor, so I think his approach is bound to be imitated by the young.

However, though some of his own work I think is very good- ( only some in my view) he is not a good model to imitate, in my view- the over-intellectualization, the over-use of supporting effects and technology, and the extreme movement,- none of this, in my view is a good model for a young choreographer starting out. They are areas to move into perhaps as a confident and experienced artist-maybe.

 

 

 

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I have just got home from today’s matinee and like some others I feel deflated and sad. If this is the future of music and choreography I am glad I am getting old.  More tomorrow.  

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80% of everything is rubbish. Always has been. We bin the 80%, keep some of the 20% and move on. And the bits of the 20% that we consider worth keeping change with taste too. (Actually, sometimes we keep some of the 80% too, because the composer is famous or the choreographer was powerful or whatever)

 

There is a general, long-standing tendency to confuse great art with being very serious and intellectual and to downgrade anything frothy and happy. See discussions about Fille.

 

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Taste most certainly changes.  Many (most?) today will recognise the Bach Passions as masterpieces of European art, but I was greatly taken aback to discover years ago that they had languished in near obscurity for a century or so until Felix Mendelssohn staged them and brought them back from the archives.  Something similar must be happening with ballet - we may need to leave it to our grandchildren to find out exactly what.

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1 hour ago, Sim said:

I have just got home from today’s matinee and like some others I feel deflated and sad. If this is the future of music and choreography I am glad I am getting old.  More tomorrow.  

 

Couldn’t agree more.

I found the first half was so dispiriting I couldn’t even bring myself to go back in after the interval. The choreography for all three pieces felt as though it should never have made it out of the rehearsal studio. 

I was standing at the circle level and the view was great but it was airless and stifling - I only hope they have aircon in the summer. 

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3 hours ago, annamk said:

 

I found the first half was so dispiriting I couldn’t even bring myself to go back in after the interval.

 

I thought the second half better than the first. But I can't fault your reasoning to be honest

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Anna, my friend and I were also tempted to leave in the interval, but someone told us that the second half was better than the first.  It was, but it was a low bar to rise above. 

 

Here we had six new pieces of choreography and music, something that should have been exciting and promising.  I do always appreciate when ballet companies branch out and try these things, so kudos to the RB for commissioning this programme.  However, instead of feeling excitement and  hope for the future of dance and music when I left, I just felt deflated and devoid of any feelings other than gloom.  Why?

 

Gloom seemed to be the running theme throughout the pieces, with the exception of Calvin Richardson's piece and to a lesser extent, Aletta Collins's.  So, one by one, briefly:

 

Based on 'a' true story (Kristen McNally):  I have enjoyed Kristen McNally's pieces in the past, so was looking forward to this one.  However, it was darkly lit (and I was sitting near the stage) and the music was dull and boring.  Sadly, so was the choreography.  There were clearly the changing dynamics of a relationship here, but it didn't speak to me in any way at all.  This wasn't through lack of trying by Harry Churches and Nadia Mullova-Barley, who danced very well and emoted as much as they could.

 

Circular Ruins (Goyo Montero):  It is always nice to see dancers up close and personal, but flaws are also more apparent in that setting.  This piece was another one about the changing dynamics in a relationship, with control being passed from one to the other and back again.  Once again, dark lighting and gloomy music cast a pall over what could/should have been a lovely pdd between Marianela Nunez and Thiago Soares.

 

Uncanny Valley (Alexander Whitley):  With such a wonderful cast (Luca Acri, Leo Dixon, Joseph Sissens, Joseph Aumeer and Tristan Dyer), I was really looking forward to this one.  Yet again, the stage was in semi-darkness for the whole piece.  There were circles of light for each of the five dancers to stand/move in, but as they stood there in their space costumes all I could think was 'beam me up, Scotty.'  I wish I could have been beamed up at that point.  As always, the dancers did their best with what they had, but this piece was repetitive, over-long, semi-visible and a waste of great talent.  The theme of dystopia, of humans and AI becoming inter-changeable, is a good one and very relevant today, but sadly I lost interest early on because I was bored.  I tried so hard not to be, but I just couldn't help it.

 

Interval

 

Two Sides Of (Juliano Nunes)This was my favourite piece of the afternoon and, judging by the audience reaction, that of many others, as well.  Why?  Because it was well lit and we could see every move, and every facial expression.  We had real, tuneful music.  Most importantly, we had lovely choreography that was deeply felt by both dancers (Lauren Cuthbertson and Marcellino Sambe) because they both gave such emotional performances.  It was clear what was happening here;  we had two sides of the same story, and both sides were deeply moving.  I really liked this piece and would happily watch it again, many times. 

 

Something Borrowed (Calvin Richardson) :  I quite enjoyed this because it was fun, uplifting, brightly lit and exciting with lots of movement. I can't pretend that it is very interesting choreography, but the dancers were clearly having a great time, and this made me feel happy for about the first time in the afternoon. 

 

Blue Moon (Aletta Collins) :  This was very slow to get started, for anything to happen.  The music was, for me, the most dull of the afternoon, and in some places I had to suppress some giggles because it was so unappealing to me.  The whole piece was very slow-moving (it was apparently about women in control of what is happening to them on the stage, and their relationship to the music) and didn't grab my interest at all.  There were some nice individual moments, but on the whole it was one of those pieces where I kept thinking 'ok, now it's going to really start' or 'ok, we have had the introduction, now it will get going.'  But it never got going, despite the best efforts of the dancers. 

 

Some general comments:

On the whole, the costumes for the women were incredibly unflattering throughout, and some of them were so skin tight that nothing was left to the imagination.  Maybe this wasn't the case for those sitting further back or up higher, but it sure was for those of us sitting near the stage.

Once again, we have a group of choreographers who, on the whole, seem to think that shrouding the stage in semi-darkness is the way to give deep meaning to their work.  No, it isn't.  Give deep meaning to your work by producing good and effective choreography, and then let the audience actually see it. 

Having read the choreographers' explanations of the meaning and/or genesis of their works after the show, I must say I didn't recognise much of their words in what I had just seen.  It is probably better for them to keep their thoughts to themselves and let the choreography do the talking (even if it doesn't say much).  This pseudo-intellectualisation of their work usually doesn't enlighten me;  I would rather come to my own conclusions, even if they are depressing.

There were long gaps in between some of the pieces while the orchestra pit was re-arranged.  The musicians then had to walk through the audience, carrying their instruments, to get back in.  Others have said it and I agree....why no exit from the pit under the stage? 

Finally, when are aspiring choreographers going to learn that it is just as difficult, and just as meaningful, to make a successful happy and joyous piece of work?  They need look no further than Ashton to see that this is the case.  We are reminded a lot more every day how miserable life can be than how happy and fun it can be, so a few works that do just that would be very welcome to most people.  Art can, does and should reflect all aspects of the human condition, not just the depressing side.  Yes, we can be dark, deep and depressed.  But we can also be happy, helpful and hopeful, and personally I would love to see more of that side of us reflected in new choreography and new music.

 

 

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, Sim said:

There were circles of light for each of the five dancers to stand/move in, but as they stood there in their space costumes all I could think was 'beam me up, Scotty.'  I wish I could have been beamed up at that point. 

 

That made me laugh, Sim!

 

Sounds like you will need another dose of 'Pigeons' to get over this evening!

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Whilst I basically agree with Sim's pretty accurate assessment, I do have a couple of differences. As I said above the 2nd half much better than the 1st half. I didn't mind Kristen McNally's opening piece, some Mats Ek in there I think, but generally have liked some of her earlier works a lot more. The Whitley piece checked almost every box to guarantee that I wouldn't like it - gloom, fog, random spot lighting, backlit, no female dancers. And the music was awful I thought - it reminded me of our 3rd year in secondary school band practice, trying to play Myfanwy (we failed - and the pain on our music master's face haunts me to this day!). Circular Ruins wasn't disastrous - just a bill dull (and dark). Was Ms Nunez wearing that leotard for a bet? Ugh! Determined to grit it out, I was pleasantly surprised that the works after the interval, as they were much more brightly lit (hoorah!) and with a white floor, we could actually see what was going on. Calvin Richardson's piece was good fun I though - idiosyncratic, with an element of fun and joy - though the music grated a little bit (the only music on tape). Akane Takada shone as usual. The duet for Lauren Cuthbertson and Marcelino Sambe (by Juliano Nunes) was beautiful, and danced to something akin to what I would recognise as music. Though it seemed almost unfinished somehow - I was almost expecting a part 3 which didn't materialise. The Aletta Collins piece to end, I seem to be in a bit of a minority as to enjoying it. Perhaps it was the cast! The dancers slinked and posed and interracted rather marvellously. I reckon. Music was a bit hard work (elements of Stravinsky, and the merest hint of American in Paris, is what I'm remembering). 

Overall, have to mark this down as 'could do better', which is a shame as I'd been looking forward to it, I can't deny.

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1 hour ago, Darlex said:

 

That made me laugh, Sim!

 

Sounds like you will need another dose of 'Pigeons' to get over this evening!

I have a few doses coming up this week, Darlex!  👍😍

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3 hours ago, zxDaveM said:

The Whitley piece checked almost every box to guarantee that I wouldn't like it - gloom, fog, random spot lighting, backlit, no female dancers. And the music was awful I thought - it reminded me of our 3rd year in secondary school band practice, trying to play Myfanwy (we failed - and the pain on our music master's face haunts me to this day!).

I'm sill chuckling an hour after reading this.  The music actually reminded me of the sustained high-pitched drone of the massed pipes of the Scottish regiments before the chanter comes into play, endlessly extended.  But then I hadn't read the programme notes and the piece actually convinced me it was about some men trapped in the lowest level of an underground car park gradually becoming overcome by exhaust fumes - unfair of course because from seat BB1 I could only see a fraction of the action.

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I love the different interpretations on here of the music for Uncanny Valley! To me, it sounded like a swarm of bees. 🐝🐝🐝

I didn’t mind Uncanny Valley on the whole, but found the ‘Beam me up, Scotty’ spotlights a tad clichéd and the ‘bucket of gel tipped over the head’ look a bit off-putting. It was as if they had giant slug trails over them. 

 

I didn’t read any programme notes so have no idea what the concepts were behind any of the dances, btw...

 

Based on ‘a’ True Story had far too much hand flapping, wringing and ‘Vogue’-ing going on and not enough dance. 

Circular Ruins had potential but was ultimately ruined by the hideous costuming.  It would be worth a second look if the female outfit were to be redesigned. 

 

Like others have said, the second half was better than the first – much better and lighter in my opinion. I enjoyed Something Borrowed, music and all; it felt joyously daft and gave me the impression of a crazy, tipsy night out with friends. I liked the expressions on the dancers faces when they were bumping into each other at the back. When it finished I found that I had a big smile on my face.  It was the most distinctive piece in the programme. 

Two Sides Of was lovely and probably my favourite, but it did end rather abruptly which made it seem like a work in progress. The Luke Howard music was beautiful, however, and the choreography complemented it wonderfully. 

I thought Blue Moon was a bit like watching a ballet class... 

 

So, quite a mixed bag but I was glad I went along. It was great to be able to see such a great bunch of dancers so close up and in a much more intimate environment again.  

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On 10/02/2019 at 13:17, Sim said:

Anna, my friend and I were also tempted to leave in the interval, but someone told us that the second half was better than the first.  It was, but it was a low bar to rise above. 

 

Here we had six new pieces of choreography and music, something that should have been exciting and promising.  I do always appreciate when ballet companies branch out and try these things, so kudos to the RB for commissioning this programme.  However, instead of feeling excitement and  hope for the future of dance and music when I left, I just felt deflated and devoid of any feelings other than gloom.  Why?

 

Gloom seemed to be the running theme throughout the pieces, with the exception of Calvin Richardson's piece and to a lesser extent, Aletta Collins's.  So, one by one, briefly:

 

Based on 'a' true story (Kristen McNally):  I have enjoyed Kristen McNally's pieces in the past, so was looking forward to this one.  However, it was darkly lit (and I was sitting near the stage) and the music was dull and boring.  Sadly, so was the choreography.  There were clearly the changing dynamics of a relationship here, but it didn't speak to me in any way at all.  This wasn't through lack of trying by Harry Churches and Nadia Mullova-Barley, who danced very well and emoted as much as they could.

 

Circular Ruins (Goyo Montero):  It is always nice to see dancers up close and personal, but flaws are also more apparent in that setting.  This piece was another one about the changing dynamics in a relationship, with control being passed from one to the other and back again.  Once again, dark lighting and gloomy music cast a pall over what could/should have been a lovely pdd between Marianela Nunez and Thiago Soares.

 

Uncanny Valley (Alexander Whitley):  With such a wonderful cast (Luca Acri, Leo Dixon, Joseph Sissens, Joseph Aumeer and Tristan Dyer), I was really looking forward to this one.  Yet again, the stage was in semi-darkness for the whole piece.  There were circles of light for each of the five dancers to stand/move in, but as they stood there in their space costumes all I could think was 'beam me up, Scotty.'  I wish I could have been beamed up at that point.  As always, the dancers did their best with what they had, but this piece was repetitive, over-long, semi-visible and a waste of great talent.  The theme of dystopia, of humans and AI becoming inter-changeable, is a good one and very relevant today, but sadly I lost interest early on because I was bored.  I tried so hard not to be, but I just couldn't help it.

 

Interval

 

Two Sides Of (Juliano Nunes)This was my favourite piece of the afternoon and, judging by the audience reaction, that of many others, as well.  Why?  Because it was well lit and we could see every move, and every facial expression.  We had real, tuneful music.  Most importantly, we had lovely choreography that was deeply felt by both dancers (Lauren Cuthbertson and Marcellino Sambe) because they both gave such emotional performances.  It was clear what was happening here;  we had two sides of the same story, and both sides were deeply moving.  I really liked this piece and would happily watch it again, many times. 

 

Something Borrowed (Calvin Richardson) :  I quite enjoyed this because it was fun, uplifting, brightly lit and exciting with lots of movement. I can't pretend that it is very interesting choreography, but the dancers were clearly having a great time, and this made me feel happy for about the first time in the afternoon. 

 

Blue Moon (Aletta Collins) :  This was very slow to get started, for anything to happen.  The music was, for me, the most dull of the afternoon, and in some places I had to suppress some giggles because it was so unappealing to me.  The whole piece was very slow-moving (it was apparently about women in control of what is happening to them on the stage, and their relationship to the music) and didn't grab my interest at all.  There were some nice individual moments, but on the whole it was one of those pieces where I kept thinking 'ok, now it's going to really start' or 'ok, we have had the introduction, now it will get going.'  But it never got going, despite the best efforts of the dancers. 

 

Some general comments:

On the whole, the costumes for the women were incredibly unflattering throughout, and some of them were so skin tight that nothing was left to the imagination.  Maybe this wasn't the case for those sitting further back or up higher, but it sure was for those of us sitting near the stage.

Once again, we have a group of choreographers who, on the whole, seem to think that shrouding the stage in semi-darkness is the way to give deep meaning to their work.  No, it isn't.  Give deep meaning to your work by producing good and effective choreography, and then let the audience actually see it. 

Having read the choreographers' explanations of the meaning and/or genesis of their works after the show, I must say I didn't recognise much of their words in what I had just seen.  It is probably better for them to keep their thoughts to themselves and let the choreography do the talking (even if it doesn't say much).  This pseudo-intellectualisation of their work usually doesn't enlighten me;  I would rather come to my own conclusions, even if they are depressing.

There were long gaps in between some of the pieces while the orchestra pit was re-arranged.  The musicians then had to walk through the audience, carrying their instruments, to get back in.  Others have said it and I agree....why no exit from the pit under the stage? 

Finally, when are aspiring choreographers going to learn that it is just as difficult, and just as meaningful, to make a successful happy and joyous piece of work?  They need look no further than Ashton to see that this is the case.  We are reminded a lot more every day how miserable life can be than how happy and fun it can be, so a few works that do just that would be very welcome to most people.  Art can, does and should reflect all aspects of the human condition, not just the depressing side.  Yes, we can be dark, deep and depressed.  But we can also be happy, helpful and hopeful, and personally I would love to see more of that side of us reflected in new choreography and new music.

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Sim,  your words echo my thoughts entirely.  Although it is very encouraging that the RB are trying to promote new works and choreographers, what is disturbing is that there does not appear to be any "control" on the level/standard of what is shown to the public.  I really cannot understand why the general theme seems to be one of agonised movement (rather than dance) set against a badly and gloomily lit stage with unimaginative and unflattering costumes.  I found the programme (apart from the pas de deux with Lauren and Marcelino), totally boring and monotonous.  This causes deep concern for the future of British choreography.  

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3 minutes ago, fashionista said:

I really cannot understand why the general theme seems to be one of agonised movement (rather than dance) set against a badly and gloomily lit stage with unimaginative and unflattering costumes.

 

Political commentary, obviously.

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