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Douglas Allen

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    Sunderland UK
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    Classical, Neo-classical and the Romantic Ballet; Ashton and Balanchine.

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  1. The Wikipedia article (at least so far as the Royal Ballet section is concerned) is so anodyne and sanitised as to be unhelpful. What is not included is far more relevant for Stretton's dismissal (the "resignation" was simply a device to avoid embarrassment). I assume Wikipedia's reluctance to include more than it does is due to so many of the allegations not being published. The whole 13 months of Stretton's time as Director was a disastrous period in the Royal Ballet's history and seriously affected the lives and careers of many dancers.
  2. Apologies, Jan, I missed this link completely. It's good that Julia Farron's remarkable career is not going uncommemorated.
  3. Might I reference the fact that, in the absence, so far, of obituaries in the British press, there is a worthwhile obituary in today's New York Times (referenced in today's Links)? Julia Farron was important both as a dancer and as a teacher and deserves formal recognition in print. I only saw her Neapolitan Dance with Alexander Grant on tape, but they were far faster than anyone since and her grief over the body of Tybalt went further than anyone else in making clear that she was expressing much more than simply a familial loss!
  4. I agree with you and I also think that another problem is that the rhythmic impetus is so inconsistent throughout the work. It's strange, because I usually like and admire Henze's work. I always smile, though, when I remember the well-known story of Ashton's housekeeper. When Henze came to London to work on the composition of Ondine he stayed with Ashton in his house, working at the piano there. Ashton, at the Opera House and the School during the day carefully refrained from enquiring how the composition was going, but kept asking (discreetly) of his housekeeper what she had heard during the day. On being told that all kind of kerplunks were heard day after day, he became somewhat worried and depressed, wondering what he would have to work with. After some days of this, Ashton was much relieved when he was told, in answer to his daily question, "Oh wonderful tunes, Mr. Ashton, wonderful tunes". He then felt sufficiently confident to ask Henze directly how things were going, only to be flattened by being told "Today I felt totally blocked, so spent the day just playing some of my favourite Mozart"...
  5. Many congratulations to the whole company for this performance. Beforehand, I had been concerned that it would be tokenistic, but I was wrong. It was a properly thought out and worthy tribute to a great dancer and in the time available it was as comprehensive as could reasonably be desired. The evening covered a fully representative selection of the range of Fonteyn's roles with the company. Hayward's Ondine was, in some ways, the revelation. I don't really like the ballet (the word boring comes to mind), but Hayward came close to convert me to think that it might still have purpose in the occasional revival. Also loved the Birthday Offering pieces and the Corsaire (by the way, JNC, the Royal have never done the complete ballet only this pas de deux). The evening was more or less a complete joy. Thanks to everyone for their efforts.
  6. Thank you for posting this, Sim. It seems as if it were a run through in a studio rather than a rehearsal and I wasn't impressed. It came across to me as rather narcissistic and self-indulgent. The dance processed from pose to pose with an occasional interpolated gesture of anguish from Naghdi and the whole was taken at a pace that was far slower than it should have been. I hope it isn't a developing trend with the company where parts of existing choreography are slowed down (presumably so that dancers have sufficient time to display their poses cf: second movement of SymphC).
  7. Absolutely! Assembles are not tours en l'air as suggested above. Tours (single, double or triple) are static in the sense that any movement is up and down. Assembles involve travel as well as turning while in the air. The best known example is Solor in the Shades scene of Bayadere. The real difficulty is performing them neatly while continuing the sequence. The landing after each assemble frequently causes the dancer to stumble making the next in the sequence more difficult. In Bayadere the sequence usually (depending on the production) is a manege of six double assembles. I've seen several dancers in my time who by the conclusion of the manege resembled a drunk in a pub car park... MRR has just posted a very clear response, so I won't witter on any longer!
  8. Bruce, may I thank you for starting this very valuable thread and the assiduity with which you have worked on it. It has bee immensely helpful in keeping us au fait with happenings elsewhere. It's very much appreciated.
  9. In theory that is perfectly correct, Sim, I would add, though, that (in my view anyway) that the current state of City Ballet is very depressing, especially on the male side. I've never known the lack of talent at senior levels of that company to be so obvious. The current Spring season has been depressing - there have been performances where simply to get through to the end of a ballet has seemed like an achievement. At the same time, the younger male dancers show great potential. The women are stronger, if not great. Paradoxically, the presentation and preservation of an authentic Balanchine tradition seems secure with much more of the coaching back in the hands of distinguished former dancers (both male and female) This ties in with my view of the Royal, don't wait for people to "get experience"/"work through the ranks"/demonstrate an injury-free period" before promoting to principal level. The director should grasp the opportunity of having some younger dancers who are showing enormous potential at the moment and promote now.The Royal has, in my view anyway, some of the most promising young dancers it has ever had and I fear that if they are not promoted quickly, they won't develop fully and be stifled by dancing their umpteenth pas de trois in Swan Lake and we will be left to consider the "if only..." thoughts. If we worry too much about if someone is ready and opt for so-called safety by waiting for another year to give them more time, then we likely will lose some potentially great dancers. I believe there isn't a fixed number of principals - it seems to be a matter of finance. Historically, the Royal Ballet used to have rather more principals than has recently been the case and certainly the numbers of principals as a proportion of the whole company is far lower now than it used to be. Perhaps reducing the numbers in media, marketing and website development would help fund a few more principals (a joke, but I wish it were serious!). Additionally, I would also like to see a rejection of the idea that every principal dancer gets to dance the lead in every full-length ballet. It's one of the more-stupid ideas that seems to have developed recently. Apologies to have strayed (slightly) off-topic - but if you want names, my suggestions would be O'Sullivan, Gasparini, Stix-Brunell, Sambe, Corrales, Sissens and Hay - for starters.
  10. Richard, if you are suggesting that nothing is official until it appears on the ROH website, then we are living in cloud cuckoo land. The website is a mess and has been so for months. The website does not contain all cast changes, not even ex post facto - we all know that. We weren't even told what were the cast changes in the cinema broadcast - just that there were some. Big help, especially with those costumes! I suggest the media posts of the dancers are not just desirable, but positively necessary All power to them. The idea that Sambe might face criticism is absurd - the criticism should be directed to the website managers for their culpable slowness.
  11. Thanks for pointing out the review and the (implicit) confirmation of hesitations/disagreements/objections (who knows?) on the part of the MacMillan Estate. I never saw the first attempt with Western Theatre Ballet (with Anya Linden and Cleo Laine), but I did see the 1973 version with Jenny Penney and Georgia Brown. I only saw two performances and after 46 years (gulp!) my memory isn't that clear - but I remember the work as both interesting and convoluted. On the whole it worked well, at times the dance appeared to comment on the singing and at other points the singing referred back to the dancing. The reception was, as always with MacMillan at that time, mixed with lots of applause and cheering at the first night interspersed with some booing and catcalls. In 1973 MacMillan was still unpopular with a section of the audience because he wasn't Ashton - nothing to do with his qualities as a choreographer. Both his Anastasia and Beauty had not been well received and 7 Deadlies provoked a similar reaction. I was surprised that it was allowed to die, though, as it had a lot going for it.
  12. I think, in general terms, we have to trust the director and planners in the company on this. I don't believe that they bring in guests from abroad for the sake of it and I don't believe there is any bias against individuals in casting. Just because one of our favourites doesn't get cast for any particular performance isn't an indicator of prejudice against him or her. We (the audience) don't know the fitness of any particular dancer, nor do we know any other commitments they may have. Their contractual arrangements may also affect the situation. In general terms, I would prefer to arrange casting from within the company, but that may, perfectly reasonably, not be possible so I would defer to Kevin O'Hare's judgement . As far as I have seen, the people brought in have been fine.
  13. My initial reaction is one of disappointment, with more than a tinge of shock and anger. The bias in favour of the full-length ballets at the expense of mixed bills continues to grow, so that the number of works being performed in the season continues being reduced and we, the audience, get fewer chances to experience the diversity of choreographic creativity. I assume the new Marston must be expected to be of some significant length as it is part of a double (rather than a triple) bill. I'm appalled that the only Ashton choreography on the main stage in the coming season is the 35 minutes or so of Enigma. The absence of any Balanchine (and is there any Robbins either?) is just as deplorable. I notice the last performance of the season for the Royal Ballet appears to be an 11.30 Saturday matinee on 13 June. I can't recall if a tour has been announced - has it? There are also quite a number of evenings, especially in the 2020 part of the season when there aren't performances on the main stage. It doesn't look, from the adjacent rep as if it is due to stage rehearsals - I can only assume that the main auditorium is being rented out for other occasions - does anyone know? In general, what is in the season seems quite a reasonable bunch of ballets and I wouldn't disagree with any of them, I just feel that there should be fewer performances of a number of the shows and additional works (particularly one-acters) should be added. I know this adds to rehearsal costs, but the Royal Ballet should be more than simply putting on long runs of big narrative ballets. Both the company and the audience deserve better.
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