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  1. Many years ago the RBS main stage performance was essentially an opportunity for the Upper School, particularly the graduating class, to show what they could do. The first half of the performance was closely connected to de Valois' syllabus for the youngest students which emphasised indigenous national dances which she thought encouraged fast clean footwork and enabled teachers to identify students who were not that musical and take action to remedy that defect. The format gave students at the Lower School the opportunity to perform national dances from England, Scotland and Ireland. The girls would generally dance a sequence of English country dances; the bulk of the boys would dance English sword dances; generally three students would dance an Irish jig and usually one boy danced a series of Scottish dances. The second half was generally devoted to the Upper School's performance of a ballet in the company's repertory. The Two Pigeons was a very regular and popular choice. I have the impression that the format of the matinee changed when Gailene Stock took over the directorship of the School. At that point the purpose of the performance seemed to shift from enabling the students' relatives and former teachers to watch junior students perform folk dances and senior students dance a repertory piece and became an opportunity for the school to provide a shop window for its teaching activities.The pieces selected for Upper School students to perform began to emphasise the range of dance styles which its students had mastered during their studies and their all round adaptability as performers. This was the point at which the School seemingly began to distance itself from being seen simply as the feeder school for the two Royal Ballet companies, with all that entails concerning teaching and maintaining a company specific performance style, the reason for de Valois founding it, to becoming known for training infinitely adaptable dancers. I have no doubt that this goes a long way to explain the wide range of styles displayed and the predominance of abstract pieces performed at the main stage performance. If the school is to maintain its position in the market it has to show that it can produce dancers who can tackle a range of abstract works as so many companies perform a repertory largely based on such works. I have also heard it suggested that another factor which led to the format for the main stage performance being altered was that the school began to find it expedient to put everyone on stage at some point during the Covent Garden matinee because those who pay the fees and sponsor students wanted to see what they had spent their money on.
  2. I wish Cope success in whatever he decides to do next, but I have to say that I find his departure a little odd. Like Cervera he had personal experience of performing a wide range of key roles in the Royal Ballet's core repertory and his move into coaching seemed to be part of a deliberate effort on management's part to create a link in the chain which would sustain the company's performance style and traditions by the appointment of coaches who had been taught roles by the dancers who had created them. Cope of course had also worked with MacMillan towards the end of his life. The arrangement seemed to be a recognition that neither Collier nor Dowell could go on forever. Cope's presence in the rehearsal room seemed to guarantee that future generations of the company's dancers would have coaches who would provide continuity of performing style and tradition and a fund of practical experience not only from the experience of dancing roles but from the experience of working with the dancers who created them. The company has increasingly tenuous personal links with the two choreographers who created the company's repertory and its characteristic house style.Cope's presence seemed to guarantee the continued development of the company's traditions. The fact that Cervera has gone to teach at the school and Cope has stepped down as a full time coach represents the loss of an awful lot of experience in Royal Ballet specific repertory in the space of a few months. As far as Character Principals are concerned they were certainly around in the 1960's and 70's even if not acknowledged as such. Dancers like Gerd Larsen, Leslie Edwards, David Drew and Derek Rencher were all described as Principals but were essentially character Principals.
  3. MacMillan may be universally popular with dancers and much loved by audiences in this country but that does not make his ballets masterpieces and it does not make him a master of the narrative form. I rate Song of the Earth very highly and I should like to see some of his neglected classical one act ballets such as The Four Seasons revived, but overall I rate the works which Tudor created for Ballet Rambert and some that he created in his early years in the US far more highly than MacMillan's output. Tudor's output after that seems to be uneven at best but I think that a ballet which he made for the Swedish Royal Ballet which was at one time in ENB's repertory called Echoing of Trumpets is a major work that London needs to see again.
  4. No one is obliged to admire MacMillan or treat his works as if they were the culmination of twentieth century choreographic developments or him as the greatest choreographer who ever trod earth. There are those who think that most of his works are overrated and Lewis Segal would appear to be one of them. He does after all have the benefit of living in a country where he is not exposed to annual revivals of MacMillan's three act dram-ballets or subject to the influence of the institutionalised cult of Kenneth MacMillan master choreographer. I tend to think that the Royal Ballet's neglect of Antony Tudor's major early works has little to do with the fact that they were made for Ballet Rambert and a great deal to do with the fact that MacMillan's works would suffer in comparison. If you compare Tudor's Jardin aux Lilas and Dark Elegies or his later work Pillar of Fire with MacMillan's output Tudor is a master of succinct narrative and subtle characterisation where Macmillan tends to be long winded,resorting to complex Bolshoi-style lifts where Tudor would say it all with a glance , a shift of the head and natural body language integrated into his choreography.
  5. Thank you for posting this material. It is sad to think that most balletgoers would be far more interested to learn that Liam Scarlett or Christopher Wheeldon had been commissioned to stage a new production of Sleeping Beauty which gave the Prince even more to dance than they are in discovering what the Sleeping Beauty may have looked like in the first twenty years of its existence. Perhaps it might be different if ABT had brought their production to London or showed some signs of doing so but I somehow doubt it. I base my assessment on the enthusiasm with which Scarlett's wrong headed revised Swan Lake was greeted. As far as the text of Sleeping Beauty is concerned I suspect that most audiences given the choice between a version in which the prince is all elegant ease but does very little to win his bride and one in which the prince displays his heroic nature by overt displays of energetic athleticism will go for the athletic version. It is what happened in Russia in the aftermath of the Revolution when ballet companies found themselves performing for a new audience who had limited knowledge of the artform and its conventions and were thought to require more athletic choreography to maintain their interest. As I understand it the Gerdt version of the Act III grand pas de deux which ABT is performing this year only came to light because someone looked in the archives in Moscow and unearthed it for a documentary about Petipa which Ratmansky happened to see. Presumably the version they have performed until now was one created for the 1903 revival. Both these versions make sense of the notes which used to appear in the Royal Ballet programmes for the Petipa classics many years ago which said that senior male dancers at the Maryinsky were in the habit of going to see Christian Johansson to devise the choreography for their solos.
  6. It is always interesting to read the range of views about likely end of season promotions. I shall be surprised if another male principal were to be appointed this year. Kevin is not under any immediate pressure to appoint a second one and if he approaches the question of promotion pragmatically he might well conclude that while Corrales and Bracewell show great promise both need to add a wider range of RB repertory and roles before they are promoted. He might feel that while Corrales may be exciting he could do with a little more Royal Ballet polish. From a purely practical perspective Reece Clarke who is still only a Soloist has a far wider range of RB repertory at his command than either of the men whose promotion to Principal has been most discussed have at present. This plus his height makes him, even at this stage of his career, a more versatile and useful dancer than they are currently. To put it bluntly he could partner O'Sullivan, Heap, Stix-Brunell and Storm-Jensen with equal ease. As far as his repertory is concerned we need to remember that he has danced the Princes in both Sleeping Beauty and Nutcracker in the company's traditional stagings; MacMillan's de Grieux; Nureyev's Jean de Briene at his RBS performance; Wheeldon's Camillo and Polixenes,; in the Ashton repertory he has danced a fine Aminta, given a good account of the Young Man in Pigeons and of the Somes role in Symphonic Variations and that he has recently added Acosta's Espada to his repertory. I don't think that Kevin is going to promote him to Principal this year but I think that along with O'Sullivan who has proved her worth and range during the last two seasons he will be promoted to First Soloist. I think that Kevin may let the three men compete for the immediate vacancy and use the money freed up by not filling the gap elsewhere in the company this season. After all further vacancies will arise at Principal level in the not too distant future. Kevin has three vacancies at First Soloist created by the retirement of Kobayashi and Crawford,and Sambe's promotion . He does not have to fill all three of them at present and among the other Soloists it is not entirely clear who should be promoted. Should he promote Edmonds or Richardson when that might block the advancement of a younger dancer who has even more to offer in a season or two ? I am glad I don't have to make the decision. Assuming that there are two promotions to First Soloist then Kevin will have three soloist vacancies to fill as Emma Maguire who retired earlier in the season has not been replaced. As Alec Beard has said that he is not going to tell Kevin how many dancers he can employ I assume that he isn't going to tell him how many dancers he must have in each tier of the company hierarchy. If that is the case then presumably Kevin could choose to use the money saved from not appointing a third First Soloist to fund a fourth dancer at Soloist level. That might make some sense as there are a number of dancers at First Artist level who have proved their worth and have expanded their range during the last two seasons. They include Donnelly, Dubreuil, Sissens and then there is Yudes who, apart from the quality of his dancing revealed his versatility by delivering a fine account of the role of Sancho Panza earlier in the season. Then there are stalwarts like Gasparini and Pajdak who pop up all over the place and inhabit their roles. Pajdak seems to have been in everything this season some times playing markedly different roles in the same ballet with different casts.As well as leading the Bayaderes down the ramp at every performance of La Bayadere which I attended she has added the character role of the Nurse to her repertory. I know that she has been with the company for some years but Kevin might decide to reward a couple of strongly committed team players in this round of promotions. We need to remember that Ashton once said words to the effect that a director has responsibility for an entire company not simply the favoured few. It boosts company morale if management is seen from time to time to acknowledge and reward loyal service delivered in the form of consistently high quality performances in supporting roles rather than always rewarding youthful promise. I say this because Morera said that after her appointment to Principal her colleagues had told her that they felt that her promotion made all their hard work worthwhile. It can be difficult to identify likely candidates for promotion at Artist level simply because they usually appear in roles in which conformity and uniformity are the order of the day and unless they are one of those rare dancers who draw the eye without apparently doing anything different from their colleagues either because of their presence or the quality of their movement or they are given a solo of some sort they are not always immediately identifiable. Having said that I think that Dixon must be in the running to move up a rung. Others who may be considered for promotion include Allnatt, Dias, Katsura and Maeda.
  7. its iThe DVD seems to contain the best part of four hours of film. It looks fascinating, if expensive. I hope that it is more successful than the enterprise which Julie Cronshaw and Katherine Kanter were engaged in some years ago which involved funding and filming the Cecchetti Method in use with Muriel Valtat demonstrating its application. That enterprise was referred to on the Auguste Vestris Society website in 2014. The idea was that the filmed material would eventually end up on the website which Cronshaw runs. So far the film of Valtat does not seem to have made it to the website. Perhaps they are still looking for funding. By the way Cronshaw has some interesting short essays on her website and a six minute video which includes snippets of some of the great and the good of early twentieth century classical ballet including Pavlova, Karsavina, Markova and Ashton all showing what the training enabled them to do. I hope that this DVD rekindles interest in the Cecchetti Method if only because of its importance .The dancers involved in it are something of a bonus. I fear that even with endorsements by both Bintley and O'Hare that it may seem too remote from what are perceived to be the needs of today's dancers to have much effect. But who knows? I thought some time ago that there was talk of Cecchetti classes being reintroduced at the RBS. I wonder what happened to that initiative?According to Sibley during her time at the RBS only one day a week was devoted to Cecchetti.
  8. An arts apparatchik whose relevant experience and transferrable skills were gained working at the Tate where, perhaps, the public persona required is rather different from that required at an opera house with resident opera and ballet companies. Of course in both cases there is a need to be able to generate income and keep the public reasonably happy but in the case of an art gallery those who choose to attend have been socialised and educated to appreciate the artform by family, a teacher or two and even most of the media will pay lip service to the idea that artists like Leonardo, Turner and Picasso matter. Few would dare to question the value of their works except when it comes to raising huge sums to" save a work for the nation". When it comes to opera and ballet the popular view is somewhat different as both are easily portrayed as expensive and elitist , a view which the current pricing policy at Covent Garden does nothing to dispel. In the medium to long term being a blandly efficient bureaucrat with the ability to raise money may not be seen to be quite enough of a skill set for the job. If the Ballet Association meeting is anything to go by his main concern is not to go into the red. As he told the meeting that he was not going to tell Kevin how many dancers he could employ I assume that he applies the same sort of arm's length approach to the opera as well. It will be interesting to see whether there are any repercussions over the opera's inability to shift tickets for popular operas such as Carmen and Boheme which in decent productions sell themselves because everyone has heard of them. The Tate connection suggests that he might value novelty over quality. Only time will tell whether he is the right man for a job which requires a modicum of showmanship and some knowledge, understanding and enthusiasm for the opera and ballet repertory and the companies resident at his theatre. I thought his involvement last night was both embarrassing and unnecessary.
  9. I think that we have to remember that the Firebird like Scherherazade is a piece of exoticism created for the Ballets Russes' second Paris season. Schererazade is an orientalist work owing a great deal to Petipa's orientalist ballets while the Firebird is a work which combines Slavic myths and Russian peasant dances as source material for a ballet which must have seen equally exotic to Parisian audiences in 19010.They are both examples of Fokine's reform manifesto in practice. However staid and old fashioned their choreography may seem to us today , these ballets were revolutionary works in the way in which they rejected the aesthetics of Petipa's later ballets which Fokine considered embodied technical virtuosity for its own sake. In Firebird there are no excuses for technical display in the form of divertissements; the narrative is told through the choreographed movement; little mime is used; individual dancers and groups of dancers are given choreography,costumes and footwear appropriate to the characters they are playing. The only dancer whose technique is on display is the one dancing the role of the Firebird but here Fokine uses his choreography to display the power and strength of the Firebird rather than the individual dancer's technical virtuosity. The problem is that at the moment this revival seems to be suffering from the effects of neglect; infrequent revival and an incredible insensitivity to the effect that the rules of emploi must have played in casting the ballet when it was new and should make in performance practice today. The dancers who play the character types trapped in Kostchei magic kingdom are, almost without exception, characterless and merely reproducing choreography which they have taken great pains to con, but the point of which they don't really understand. The enchanted princesses and the beautiful Tsarevna don't appear to be any different in social status from the other groups of character types trapped in Kotschei's magic kingdom all far too well behaved in performance the ballet appears to be a pallid version the latest of which he seems to have Scherherzade and Firebird were created as Gesamkunst works but only Scherherazade retains its or The original décor and costumes by Golovin and Bakst were replaced in the 1920's by Gonchorova's designs which have been used by the Royal Ballet since the ballet entered the company's repertory in 1954. I believe that the original designs were replaced in favour of ones that were easier to use on tour. It would not be unreasonable to see the designs used in the last scene as visual monument to a Russia that everyone knew had now been lost irrevocably. is alike the rest of Fokine's output is a response to Petipa's decision to abandon the pure simple elegance of the French school in favour of the bravura technique which the Italian guest dancers who came to St Petersburg in the 1890's had available to them. His aesthetic ideas were very different from those displayed in the Petipa ballets with which we are most familiar. They were created to display the technical prowess of the guest ballerinas who starred in them and to show that locally trained dancers also had some ability in pointe work. The impression that ballet is essentially about pointe work is enhanced by the fact that we are used to seeing Petipa's Sleeping Beauty in edited versions which retain those sections of the choreographic text devoted to displaying pointe work while cutting those in which the choreography was created to display the skills of his company's character dancers. The Hunting scene which represents the "real" world inhabited by human beings rather than the enchanted one which the Prince will enter is invariably cut to avoid the costs of going into overtime. The former is the world inhabited by the character dancers the latter is largely inhabited by dancers in pointe shoes. In addition sections of the music for the court dances is today allocated to the prince to give him an opportunity to express himself. The result of these cuts is to create the impression that Petipa's choreography was created to display technical prowess in pointe work rather than a mixture of dance types and styles. Our knowledge of twentieth century developments in ballet and in particular familiarity with the works of Ashton and above all those of Balanchine further enhances that idea. Fokine does not seem particularly innovative or revolutionary choreographer today largely because so many of his aesthetic ideas seemed to have been accepted by those creating ballets. choreography he created for them and his choreography for the character dancers and their performance style in their divertissements style to Fokine's dancers
  10. I assume that being the manager of media and audiences means that at the very least she had some sort of responsibility for agreeing that the new computer programme suited the needs of the ROH and its audience and that it was ready to be brought into use . I do so hope that she is still there when Autumn booking opens. It would be such a shame if someone else were to take the credit for the ease and efficiency of the new computer programme when it comes to using it to buy tickets next month. I accept that at Google there will be far less need for her to understand how the customers think and make decisions than there was at the ROH but I can't help wondering what she will achieve with her new employer.
  11. Alison, Yes Sleeping Beauty is a Petipa Ballet but it is central to the company's artistic identity as a classical ballet company and dancing it in New York gave the Sadler's Wells Ballet Company its international reputation; made Fonteyn's reputation as a true ballerina and a great interpreter of the role of Aurora; put Fonteyn on the front page of Time magazine and in that initial season made the company one which no one who was anyone in the New York artworld could afford not to have seen. The late Freddy Franklin said that on that first night it became clear that the generation of dancers represented by the likes of Danilova and Markova had been supplanted by a new generation. It was the company's reception in New York in what is arguably Petipa's greatest and most innovative creation which established the company's reputation and the ballet's significance to the young classical company it then was. It gave the company an artistic heritage which went back to nineteenth century Imperial Russia;established high technical standards and anchored it very firmly in a living tradition of classical ballet. The impact of that initial New York season in creating the company's identity and its understanding of itself goes a long way to explain the place the Sleeping Beauty has in the company's repertory and why making a company debut in the role of Aurora is still seen by many as the equivalent of an artistic coming of age ceremony as dancing the role of the prince is for the male dancer. As far as Ashton's involvement in the staging of the Sleeping Beauty is concerned he devised a new waltz for the first act ; created a solo for the vision scene which I read somewhere was based on a version danced at the Bolshoi which Elvin had told him about and he devised the Florestan and his Sisters pas de trois for the third act which I think is something which Nijinska had created for the 1921 London staging of the Sleeping Princess. Ashton's waltz replaced a waltz for a mixed corps de ballet with one for an all female corps. In a short essay Joy Newton explained the reason for this change saying that it was for the purely practical reason that the young men in the corps were forever being called up and teaching their replacements had become something of a burden for the company's staff. I trust that this goes some way to explain the reason for the likely inclusion of the Rose Adagio in this forthcoming Gala. Remember the influence of the Sleeping Beauty has run deep in the company's creative life ever since it entered the company's repertory before the war. Both Ashton and MacMillan said that they had learned how to structure their own works by studying the model the ballet provided. Ashton when asked why he watched the Fairy Variations as he had seen them so often and must have been familiar with them is reported to have said that he was "taking private lessons with Petipa". The more I think about it the clearer it becomes that the Sleeping Beauty has played, and continues to play, an incalculable role in the artistic life and development of the company.There is also a practical explanation that preparing the Rose Adagio kills two birds with one stone as the company has to prepare it for the Japanese Gala. Whatever happens they won't have to cancel its performance as they have an abundance of Auroras in the company.
  12. I have to disagree with the idea that it can't be all Ashton. I think that it should be as Fonteyn helped create his choreographic style based on lyricism and supreme musicality in short the style of the Royal Ballet at the time when the company rose to international status. In the Kavanagh biography she quotes Ashton acknowledging the fact that Fonteyn had been a great influence on his choreographic style and that without her his style would have been far less lyrical. You only have to look at the Polka from Façade and the Ballerina's choreography from Les Rendezvous, both of which were created on Markova, to understand what he meant about Fonteyn's influence. I would argue that it was that style which originally gave an extraordinary dance quality to MacMillan's choreography for Romeo and Juliet, Manon and Mayerling as he made all of them on dancer's who were to all intents and purposes Ashton dancers simply because of the amount of his choreography they danced during a season.
  13. Unless the event is advertised as a gala performance of a specific ballet those attending a gala take a chance on what will be danced and who will dance in it. It's the nature if the beast. The only thing that I feel pretty confident about is that the Rose adagio is on the cards. The publicity for the company's Japan Tour promises that a section of the Gala the company will dance there will be devoted to Fonteyn and that it will include that section from the Sleeping Beauty. After that it is anyone's guess, possibly the pas de l'Ombre from Ondine; a snippet from Daphnis and Chloe as many who saw her thought that Chloe was her greatest role; the ballerina's solos from Scenes de Ballet;;the Bride's solo from Ashton's Baiser de la Fee; the final pas de deux from Sylvia is another possibility as is the ballroom pas de deux from Cinderella; Birthday Offering in full or the cut down version or Fonteyn;s solo. I don't think that we will see Symphonic Variations.I think that Kevin will try to get as many of the company on stage as he possibly can during the course of the evening.I know what I'd like to see but feel pretty certain it won't be included in the programme. I just hope that it does not include tacky gala fare like Le Corsaire or yet another performance of Marguerite and Armand. I am prepared to take a chance as are many people I know. If you go you may be disappointed. If you don't go you may end up kicking yourself for not being there. It really depends on how prepared you are to take a chance. If you attend ballet performances on a fairly regular basis then you have proved yourself to be a bit of a gambler at heart. I hope that these comments help.
  14. I know no more than anyone else about the physical condition of either dancer who has been mentioned here but I think that everyone needs to remember that performing the role of Rudolf makes enormous demands on the dancer's body. Watson himself has said that by the end of the first act he felt as if he had danced an entire full length ballet, while Wall who created the role said that he thought that performing it had taken five years off his career. Even if training and preparation have improved the capacity of the human body to withstand the demands the role of Rudolf places on it, its capacity to do so is not infinite. The last time Watson appeared in Mayerling he looked as if he was suffering and I know several people who, like me, were not convinced that he was simply acting. As to why people think that Watson's career may come to a close in the near future, not that anyone is looking forward to his retirement, I think that they are simply being realistic. Watson will be celebrating his forty third birthday in a couple of days. Most women don't enjoy such a long career as he has had and it is even rarer for a man who has not moved into character roles to have such an extensive career at the Royal Ballet. The reason for the length of his career may well be attributable to the fact that in recent years he has had the immense good fortune to appear largely in roles created on him, but the sad fact is that no dancer can go on forever.
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