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FLOSS

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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. The advertisement for this new post would suggest that the ROH has received such a large number of complaints about the new website and the activities of those engaged in marketing that they have become concerned that their corporate narrative about "accessibility" is in danger of being completely undermined. The jargon in the advertisement merely disguises the fact that the ROH has little idea of what its core audience wants or will like and how to communicate effectively with it. Isn't it strange that the proposed solution to their problem isn't to dispense with the services of those responsible for fouling things up and souring the organisation's relationship with its regular audience but to create a new job. Presumably the person appointed will be line managed by the person or persons who either were told or formed the impression that their main task was to generate income rather than to provide the services and information which keen opera and ballet goers are entitled to expect from an organisation which claims to be a world class opera house providing world class opera and ballet performances. As a friend pointed out not so long ago the work which is now undertaken by a multitude of people with fatuous titles was once performed by a handful of staff under David Webster's direct control who managed through their knowledge of the world of opera and an understanding of the audience and its expectations to create a world class opera company with a chorus, orchestra, essential support staff, comprimario and house singers from scratch within the space of twenty years or so. This would have been no mean achievement in itself but during the same period Webster through employing the right people managed to stage world class productions and rehabilitate a number of major works which until that time had not been considered as being part of the essential operatic core repertory. I am told that on occasion Webster actually went up to the opera lovers in the cheap seats to apologise for staging a production which had obviously failed, acknowledging that those responsible for staging the piece "had not got it right". Of course apart from employing people who knew the opera business and how to do their job and having a ready made resident ballet company the real difference is that Webster, almost certainly because of his commercial background running a department store, understood the value of repeat purchasers and had set out to cater for those who came back time and time again. He is said to have identified those who occupied the cheap seats as the house's core audience who attended because they loved opera and ballet rather than for the theatre's social cachet. Perhaps if those responsible for marketing had not become fixated on that part of the audience who attend the Opera House for an annual treat or to celebrate a special birthday it would not be advertising to recruit someone with this particular skill set. But in deciding that its primary objective was to maximise its income in any way it could including applying an apparently arbitrary pricing policy and that its primary role was as a caterer rather than a place where opera and ballet are staged it has managed to alienate rather a lot of people. Perhaps the ROH should begin by asking itself why it has recently become incapable of communicating effectively with its repeat purchasers and keeping them happy? It did not have that problem two or three years ago.What has changed recently and who has created that change? In other words identify those who have created the current situation and dispense with their services and, if they are not one and the same person, dispense with those of the staff who signed off the new website which even now shows that the ROH's priorities lie in catering rather than live theatre. It needs to review what all its support staff actually do and get rid of those who are little better than hangers-on. It seems to me that when you strip the jargon away this new post encompasses activities which a well managed marketing department rather than one controlled by a Director of Media and Audiences would already be undertaking. A well managed marketing department would be able to communicate effectively with its potential audience because it had people with the requisite skills employed in it. It would understand the needs of its core audience and how it thinks. It would not need to recruit someone specifically to undertake work which is essential to its core function but then obviously as the marketing function is controlled by a Director of Media and Audiences it has clearly only just been discovered that the ability to persuade the occasional visitor to the opera house to buy a dinner or two is not quite enough to generate the income it needs.
  11. It was interesting as far as it went. The thing that I found most puzzling was that Janet Baker said nothing about the important part that Helene Isepp had played in her development as a singer and artist by introducing her to the Middle European music culture which had played a significant role in the development of the leider repertory. In the past she has spoken at some length and with great warmth about the part that Helene Isepp had played in her career. I was surprised that there was nothing said about her in the documentary. Was Baker silent about Isepp? That seems unlikely. Was what she said about Isepp cut because there was too much footage? Having allocated more than an hour to the programme surely the Beeb could have allowed an extra ten or fifteen minutes to enable Baker to place herself in context as one of the post-war music students in London who had benefitted so hugely from the presence of the large number of European Jewish refugee musicians who had made their home in London and other parts of the country? I should hate to think that the silence about Helene Isepp was somehow part of a new post referendum narrative of self sufficiency of the type that seems to be emerging in politics. It is so ridiculous. By the way Heather Harper who died only a few days ago was another young student who benefitted from working with Isepp.
  12. If the announcement is being delayed in order to unpick Mr Holten's more exciting plans for the forthcoming season I shall not complain about the delay. As I recall before Mr Holten left Covent Garden he promised,or do I mean threatened, that he would plan the opera programme for the next four or five seasons. If some of his plans for 2019-20 are being quietly dropped I, for one, shall be quite happy to wait. If the delay has been caused because Kevin O'Hare needs time to finalise his plans for some carefully constructed programmes to mark the centenary of Fonteyn's birth I should be extremely happy. If the announcement is being delayed for some other reason, such as enabling Pappano to front the event, I would simply ask why ?
  13. Kate, if you have time I would recommend that you search out the recording of the full ballet performed as part of the Queen's Silver Jubilee Gala held at the ROH. The film is somewhat murky and would not be any good if you need to show it to others as part of your presentation but it is well worth watching if you want to learn about the ballet in performance during Ashton's lifetime after Nureyev's influence had been assimilated by the company. The cast is led by Park and Wall. It is a strong one as most of the cast had been dancing the ballet on and off for the previous ten years. I think that only Eagling is a newcomer. Ashton would have selected the cast and coached them and that has a great impact on the quality of the performance you see. In this performance the ballet it is not merely the beautifully modulated elegant piece that it so often seems to be when performed by dancers on a flying visit to Ashton's vision of the celestial, or something more. The current craze for overly intrusive camerawork prevents you watching the ballet which Ashton created and intended it to be seen as an expression of the sublime. Symphonic Variations like every other ballet Ashton created is a work of choreographic surprises and in this case one of real emotional depth. I leave it to you to decide whether it contains a bit where Ashton "goes completely mad" which Dowell insists is to be found in every work he made. In this recording as in the one made for Granada a year later which had a cast led by Sibley and Dowell you get a feeling for the work's inherent theatricality, beginning with the impact of the central man's first movements, after the choreographer has built up the tension by keeping the audience waiting while the women dance and later the point at which the sideman, Coleman, performs off centre turns gazing to heaven. I think that the recording reveals the ballet's theatrical impact because the dancers selected were already steeped in Ashton's style and were able to dance his choreography naturally and idiomatically ; they had almost certainly been coached by Somes with Ashton providing the finishing touches with what in filmed coaching sessions appeared to be minor, inessential "nit picking" corrections most of which involved almost imperceptible changes to how dancers held themselves and how they moved. These corrections transformed good performances into ones which dazzled with the beauty and emotional depth which they brought to dancers' performances. But I suspect that the real secret is that the camera was far more static in 1977 than in later in-house filmed accounts of the ballet which means you see the work as a whole as Ashton intended rather than in the cameraman's cut. Somehow the early recordings seem to dwell on those aspects of a ballet which an audience was likely to want to watch rather than the somewhat arbitrary selections served up in modern recordings. Who knows,perhaps in 1977 Ashton gave instructions about how his ballet should be filmed. As the curtains open the dancers are, left to right, Eagling, Wall and Coleman. The women are Jenner, Park and Penney.The cast were Ashton dancers who had been immersed in Ashton's choreographic style from the day they entered the company. As Collier said in a recent interview at that time everyone in the company was an Ashton dancer because his choreography was ubiquitous. Dancers performed his choreography when they appeared in works he had created and when they danced the two most frequently performed of the nineteenth century classics, Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty both of which contained divertissements and additional choreography by him. There is a BBC recording of the triple bill danced in 2007 when Bussell retired. The the middle section of the programme was a performance of Symphonic Variations. Part of the performance can be found on YouTube. It preserves a performance given by a cast headed by Marquez and Bonelli. It is largely of interest because of the performances of the two side women Hatley and Morera two dancers who like the entire 1977 cast had Ashton in their DNA. The men are Ondiviela, Bonelli and McRae the women are Hatley. Marquez and Morera. The problem for me with the cast on the recommended DVD is not everyone dances Ashton as idiomatically as I would like to see. In my eyes it is a good rather than a great performance but that, I recognise , is a matter of personal taste. Something which may be of interest to you is a comment made by Anita Young who danced with the company during the 1970's and now teaches at the RBS. She said that when she watches Symphonic Variations she knows its choreographic source as everything in it comes straight out of the Cecchetti method of classical ballet but she can't work out how Ashton managed to transform the familiar classroom steps, positions and poses into something which is such a perfect expression of the music that you can't imagine any other choreography set to it.
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