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  1. Thank you very much, Sebastian, for this clip. The costume makes the point that Princess Florine is a princess and not a bluebird. Sadly neither Vikharev's reconstruction for the Mariinsky, nor Ratmansky's more recent reconstruction appear to have been filmed for public consumption.
  2. I was fascinated by this discussion. Petipa choreographed the Bluebirds as a fairy tale with a story, as much as Puss-in-Boots, Little Red Riding Hood (and Cinderella). The Vaganova Academy teaches the choreography carefully in terms of the story and its interpretation - and the Mariinsky perform it in the same context. Some European companies treat the pas de deux as a bravura exercise with scant regard to the story - which has led to some interesting differences of opinion backstage.
  3. The Mariinsky has reopened with performances of a Petit double bill - Carmen Suite and Le Jeune Homme et la Mort - which does not require many dancers. They are about to embark on a series of Giselle performances. I understand that about 20 dancers have tested positive for coronavirus and some are quite ill. The performances appear to be going ahead, but from Saturday (8 August) all classes and rehearsals, even one to one rehearsals, have been cancelled. Artists who are not involved in performances are asked not to come to the theatre. The Bolshoi has not yet reopened, but full-scale classes and rehearsals are under way. Apparently one artist fell ill with coronavirus and now 59 artists and pianists have been quarantined on the orders of the authorities. Meanwhile I understand that the Dutch National Ballet are back in the studio today. The latest regulations allow them to touch each other and congregate on the premises, but not beyond the stage door.
  4. I understand that they are now performing in Mariinsky 2 - the recent spacious opera house with wide circulation areas. They have not yet reopened the historic opera house, Mariinsky 1, where the front of house (and back stage) facilities are much more cramped. The audience are in alternate seats, but family groups up to 4 persons may sit together.
  5. Counterculture - Do the Woke/Left-Leaning Arts deserve a £1.5 billion bailout? Who gets it? This fascinating discussion (34 minutes) by four right-wing commentators has just appeared on you tube. They address the question of how the £1.5 billion bailout fund should be distributed. The conversation is not directed specifically at ballet, but is a wide-ranging discussion about the museums and the performing arts. The Government is not being altruistic, but is merely supporting a major part of the UK economy to recover and continue contributing to the future wealth of the nation. The Government is not very interested in how the funds are distributed. The funds are distributed by the Arts Council, who no longer refer to "the arts", but to "creative people and places". Should the funds be targeted at the freelance workers in the arts, who have derived little support over the last six months, in order to sustain the fabric of the arts industry, rather than being targeted exclusively at institutions? In the current world of equality and diversity, should funds be targeted at the high arts, or at encouraging and rewarding community participation in the creative world? Should the arts reflect the current movements in society, or should they lead the way with social engineering? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nef88x0gUzs
  6. Tuesday, 7 July sees the first World Ballet School day, organised by Viviana Durante, and with 12 ballet schools and competitions participating, including ENB School and The Royal Ballet School. https://www.worldballetschoolday.com/
  7. Dutch National Ballet have continued their enterprising programme of streaming, partially to reflect the live performances lost this season. Last week they streamed the hip-hop ballet, Grimm, which was due to tour Holland this spring. They have cancelled their new ballet The Creatures of Prometheus, which was to be created by a group of three choreographers for the main company, to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth. Under lockdown conditions, the three choreographers have each created a solo on the Prometheus theme. The solos were filmed on the stage of the Dutch National Opera House and the world premiere was given online this evening. The link is here
  8. A few weeks ago, I got very excited about Stuttgart Ballet's stream of Initials R.B.M.E. Now I am looking forward to the David Dawson programme (25 years at Dutch National Ballet) and in particular to Citizen Nowhere, an extended solo which David made for the highly talented Edo Wijnen. I was fortunate enough to see this live in Amsterdam and it was mesmerising. The starting point was Antoine de Saint-Expery's Le Petit Prince, but the little prince stands for the lonely, stateless refugee. Don't miss Citizen Nowhere. The introduction to the evening is here
  9. Tair was one of Astana Opera Ballet's five male principals. Here is a half-hour tribute here to Tair, showing some of his roles. R.I.P.
  10. With DNB about to stream Grimm, their second full evening hip-hop ballet, choreographed by Ernst Meisner and Marko Gerris, I thought you might be interested in some of the background to this creation. Meisner and Gerris have created two full-length hip-hop ballets, but neither has been performed outside Holland, nor have they been shown in the cinema or on TV. Dutch National Ballet has worked on archive tapes of two separate performances of Grimm, to produce a film of suitable quality for streaming. Ernst Meisner is remembered in London as a student of the Royal Ballet School and then a long-standing member of the Royal Ballet. During this time, he took part in many choreographic initiatives and produced a string of short ballets, including one pas de deux for Melissa Hamilton and Sergei Polunin - and another for Daria Klimentova and Vadim Muntagirov. During his time at the Royal Ballet, he also danced in the first performances of Wayne Macgregor's early ballet, Qualia, with music composed by Scanner. Scanner is Robin Rimbaud, an electronic musician, who uses cell phones and police scanners in live performance. He sat in solitary isolation in the orchestra pit, mixing the music from a desk. Meisner moved to Dutch National Ballet in 2010 and was soon choreographing there as well. His first project was The Little Big Chest, a dance performance for toddlers (4-6 years), which is taken on small scale tours and has proved popular in a market where there is very little theatre available. The Little Big Chest is about a group of dancers finding a box of costumes in the attic and dancing an extract of each role as they try on the costumes. At the end of the performance, children and parents are invited to look in the box and talk to the dancers. In 2012 Meisner directed the remarkable Canta ballet, with a large television budget. The Canta is a two-seat microcar from Holland, specifically created for disabled drivers. The ballet was set for 55 Canta cars and their drivers and 50 dancers from Dutch National Ballet. In the build-up, the television company showed a series of documentaries, presenting the back stories of some of the drivers, who had variously been disabled from birth or as the result of an accident. The series culminated in a televised, live performance in the disused Amsterdam Gasholder. The whole event was a triumph of co-ordination over the production challenges. To fill the cavernous space of the venue and to be heard over the noise of 55 car engines, Meisner commissioned Scanner to compose a score for the work. The highlight of the ballet was a double pas de deux, first for DNB principals Marisa Lopez and Casey Herd - and then for Casey Herd and a Canta car driven by Dutch writer, Karin Spaink. The double pas de deux can be seen here and the whole performance is also available on you tube. It was very moving, when the disabled drivers paraded their cars around the ring and their families clapped and cheered them - particularly as many had witnessed the challenges of their lives in the TV series. In 2013 the Dutch National Ballet opened its junior company and Ernst Meisner was appointed its artistic co-ordinator. He began a series of choreographic creations for the new company, alongside further works for the main company and elsewhere. In 2015 Meisner teamed up with Marco Gerris, the director of ISH - a hip-hop dance company based in Amsterdam - to create Narnia, a full evening ballet based on the children's book by C.S. Lewis. The work was created on the combined cast of the junior company and the hip-hop dancers. Meisner turned once again to Scanner for a specially commissioned score. The production relied heavily on laser projections, rather in the manner of Wheeldon's Alice in Wonderland. The chemistry worked from the outset, both Meisner and Gerris collaborating on the choreography - and the conjunction of the junior dancers and the hip-hop company took off. Narnia opened at the Dutch National Opera House in Amsterdam and then toured medium-sized theatres across Holland. It proved very popular with children, who were attracted both by the story and by the energy of the movement and lighting. The work was an artistic and a financial success. Many of the original cast are now soloists and dancers in the main company. Narnia was announced for a revival in the 2017-18 season and went on sale. In advance sales it was the top-selling show of the season. A routine application to the Narnia estate for performing rights produced an unexpected shock. The estate had sold the world-wide exclusive rights to Hollywood for two years and it was not possible to grant the rights to DNB. One weekend in early summer 2017, Meisner and Gerris disappeared for an emergency think tank and came up with the idea of Grimm, based on a selection from the Grimm fairy tales and with no copyright complications. Somehow the DNB found the finance to convert a revival into a new production and Grimm was born out of necessity, rather than planned per se. DNB was obliged to contact everyone who had purchased tickets to offer a refund, but the overwhelming majority decided to see Grimm. Here is further information about the transition from Narnia to Grimm https://www.operaballet.nl/en/ballet/news/narnia-becomes-grimm Meisner and Gerris worked to the same formula and once again commissioned a score from Scanner. Grimm repeated the artistic and financial success of Narnia and met with considerable critical acclaim. It was scheduled for its first revival in the spring of 2020. There is a short film about the creation of Grimm, which illustrates in detail the working methods of Meisner and Gerris and the artistic chemistry between them. Meisner and Gerris are scheduled in the Spring of 2021 to create a full-length work for the main company.
  11. Lizbie1 asks for a bit of background about Hubbe and RDB. I have no knowledge or opinion myself about this matter. The Dancing Times, however, in its February 2020 edition, published the following letter from the ballet critic Gerald Dowler, under the title "The death of Bournonville?" Dear Editor - It was with at first dismay and then mounting anger that I read Paul Arrowsmith's interview with Royal Danish Ballet director Nikolai Hubbe in last month's magazine, I have rarely encountered such self-serving, disingenuous cant from a former dancer who should, frankly, know better. The Bournonville tradition in Denmark is/was truly precious, a direct link to the world of Romantic ballet and a surviving repertoire that, until recently, continued to entertain and satisfy its audience and form dancers of the highest artistry. What Hubbe has done in the name of updating is to break a line which took us back to the early days of the 19th century; the Bournonville tradition is now quite clearly dead, with the internationalisation of both the company and its repertoire and the vital link between the school and the ensemble severed. Auguste Bournonville, until so recently at the heart of Danish ballet, is, from the words of Hubbe, whose responsibilites as director must surely include the curation of something unique for future generations, now a resource merely to be plundered at will, all integrity, all respect gone. The Bournonville technique and style have produced male dancers in particular who have been loved, respected and sought after the world over; to claim that classes in them were sparsely attended and for that reason discontinued only serves to highlight the lack of importance accorded by the company director - not to dance Bournonville would never have been an option under any previous incumbent. It was Bournonville who made the ballet world turn towards Copenhagen from the 1950s onwards; the trashing of his legacy by Hubbe means Denmark risks becoming an irrelevancy in terms of dance. That will be Hubbe's legacy.
  12. The triple bill is still available until Saturday tea-time. No Time Before Time features the entire 2019 junior company of twelve dancers. Out of the 12, 4 are now listed as apprentices in the company, 3 appear to have moved on and 5 are still members of the junior company, now in their second year. Manu Kumar makes a double appearance in the programme, appearing as a young student at the Dutch National Ballet School in the 2012 Paquita and featuring in the 2019 junior company performance. He appears about half-way through No Time Before Time in a duo with Dingkai Bai. Amongst the Junior Company dancers are Conor Walmsley, now an apprentice in the main company, who joined the Junior Company from English National Ballet School and Sander Baaij, who joined the Junior Company from the Royal Ballet School.
  13. It is some while since Mark Morris and his dance troupe appeared in London, but once seen, never forgotten. He has a choreographed Lonely Waltz, a 2-minute version of Ravel's La Valse, for his company performing under lockdown in each of their homes. It brought a smile to my face.
  14. Dutch National Ballet has continued streaming a new programme every week, reflecting the range of their repertoire and with interesting documentary clips to support some of their shows. After the Ratmansky Don Quixote, they showed Wayne Eagling's Nutcracker, Peter Wright's Sleeping Beauty, Ted Brandsen's highly original version of Coppelia, Rudi Van Dantzig's Swan Lake and two separate Hans Van Manen programmes. Hans Van Manen is as distinctive to Dutch National Ballet as Neumeier is to Hamburg or Cranko to Stuttgart. They are currently showing Ted Brandsen's Mata Hari, which he created in 2016, featuring Anna Tsygankova in the title role. Ted Brandsen has been the Artistic Director of Dutch National Ballet since 2003, in succession to Wayne Eagling. Mata Hari is available until next Saturday, June 6. In 2013, under Ted Brandsen's direction, Dutch National Ballet has set up a highly successful junior company, comprising 12 dancers either in their final year at the Dutch National Ballet School or first year apprentices with the company. The dancers stay for two years, although sometime they graduate early into the main company. About half the junior company progress into the main company, which now includes more than 20 former juniors, including one principal dancer, Jessica Xuan. The junior company sometimes take class with the main company and sometimes take their own class. They form part of the corps de ballet for the main company's large scale productions, but also undertake an extensive tour around Holland each Spring, presenting a mixture of classical pieces, Hans Van Manen works and new creations. The junior company offers a rewarding route towards a mainstream company, where the young dancers gain early experience of dancing featured roles alongside more routine corps de ballet work. As the junior company has become increasingly recognised, there is much competition to join it. From the outset, Ernst Meisner, previously at the Royal Ballet School and Royal Ballet, has been leading the junior company as artistic co-ordinator. He has been choreographing both for the junior company and the main company. In 2014, he collaborated with Marko Gerris, the artistic director of ISH - a hip-hop dance company, to make a full-length ballet for children, Narnia, based on The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - using the combined resources of the junior company and the hip-hop company. The same forces came together again in 2018, to create another full-length children's ballet, Grimm, based on the Grimm fairy tales. From tonight Dutch National Ballet will be presenting a triple bill comprising Paquita, in a version by Rachel Beaujean from 2012, with Anna Tsygankova and Matthew Golding (who was then a principal of DNB), Remi Wortmeyer's pas de deux Penumbra, made for Anna Ol and Artur Shesterikov and No Time Before Time, which Ernst Meisner created on the junior company. It was seen during the junior company's Linbury Theatre season in 2019. From 6 June, DNB will be streaming Grimm and the following week a David Dawson double bill - more of these later. I will come back to post the links to these programmes, as they appear. In the meantime, Anna Ol introduces tonight's triple bill and commences with a heartfelt expression of hope, now that Dutch National Ballet has returned to the studios. I understand that each class is for limited numbers and it is quite a logistical exercise to stagger classes throughout the day. Anna Ol is also happy that the explosion of streaming has enabled so many performances and dancers to be seen by a new audience around the world, including DNB's own repertoire. The link is here
  15. Dear Bruce and Jeannette I watched Donizetti Variations, a ballet completely unknown to me, before I read your comments. I was totally knocked out by it - what an exceptionally delicate and beautiful ballet, requiring amazing reserves of technique and stamina by the entire cast. I say to everyone, don't miss it. Although I am very familiar with the Balanchine warhorses, Serenade, Apollo, Jewels, Symphony in C, The Four Temperaments, I have been bowled over during this season by the diversity of moods and techniques across the Balanchine repertoire. It has been such a pleasure to encounter less familiar works like Divertimento No. 15, Western Symphony, Allegro Brillante and now Donizetti Variations It is also a great opportunity to be able to watch the repertoire two or three times over and get to know it better. Bruce posted Vienna Waltzes here, which led me to discover a frustratingly poor quality clip of Liebeslieder Walzer, bringing back memories of the Royal Ballet performance with the likes of Lesley Collier and Monica Mason. The introductions have been succinct, informative and respectful - a welcome change from the gushing divas who host the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts. As you suggested, Bruce, I have completed the questionnaire on the NYCB website, which hints at the possibility of some kind of internet subscription service in the future. I hope to be able to follow this company, its repertoire and dancers, on a more regular basis in the future - even though I am unlikely to make the long journey across the pond again. It has been a great pleasure to meet the NYCB dancers twice a week and to get to know them. I hope some of the dancers in New York are following this thread and are aware how they are making a difference to those of us in lockdown and self-isolating in the UK.
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