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  1. But she chose to ask a question that none of us knows the answer to and which could lead to unreasonable and unfair speculation. I've now been pointed to a post on a previous page where a question was asked, though the quote/response to which I responded (above) directly addressed a subsequent post that did not contain that earlier question. On a forum such as this - one dealing with a complex mix of knowledge, opinions and emotions - clarity is key to avoid misunderstandings, especially when criticism/rebuke is concerned. After all, we only have the written word - ok, we've also got links; and embedded videos; and pictures; and 'likes'; and messages; and moderators; but it's still a tricky communication medium.
  2. Not knowing Mr Hallberg's training regime does not disqualify @redshoesgirl2 making the statement... but if he is not taking time to strengthen his upper body, lifts are not going to work well or be easy. Though it would disqualify her from stating... but if he is not taking time to strengthen his upper body, lifts are not going to work well or be easy.
  3. Osipova/Hallberg - Wednesday There's a level at which appreciating ballet is natural and intuitive. Beyond that there's the level at which most of the members of this forum operate - appreciation shaped by study and experience. Learning to get from that first level (the one that attracts us all in) to the second is time-consuming and expensive; and of the major ballets performed by the RB, Sleeping Beauty is probably the one I've seen the least (perhaps in part due to the eye-watering, Bolshoi-level ticket pricing!). So, when I see comments referring to an intrusive hand movement here, or a head looking around further than it 'should', I think 'How on earth (or word to that effect) did you notice that?!' (and if one doesn't notice something, how can it influence one's feeling at the time?) Of course, that's because those making comments like that have already reached that 'second level'. I hope to get there someday, and in the meantime I will continue to buy (or, to be honest, will continue to have bought for me) tickets that allow me to progress; repeat viewing (and reflection in between) is essential - as the old saying goes 'experience is that thing you get just after you needed it'. I'm really grateful, therefore, that that process is helped by perusing the full spectrum of comments on this forum concerning performances I have actually seen. With my excuses out of the way for what appears below, on to my opinions about the performance... Carabosse:- I've got a soft spot for this apparent caricature of a character. But along with the Lilac Fairy she is as essential to this story as similarly-opposite pairs are essential in our own world for conferring meaning and driving change (night and day, the seasons, etc). Without Carabosse, the Kingdom is stupifyingly perfect. Everyone is happy, and their strife-free lives grind on under the watchful, benevolent gaze of the Lilac Fairy. But there's a catch; that gaze, unless it controls literally everything, cannot prevent the perfection of court life slipping into complacency and incompetence - and you have to be pretty far down that slope to forget to invite someone like Carabosse to the party! I loved Arestis' portrayal. Physically, her Carabosse has an icy beauty - the stick she carries is more of a mace, a symbol of her power, rather than a walking aid. Because of that, her evilness stems not from the jealousy of youth and perfection to be found in an old, wizened crone, but solely from her selfishness, her arrogance, her vanity - she has been slighted so someone must die! In her narcissism she is the mirror image of the Lilac Fairy, who appears not to have a selfish bone in her body. Lilac Fairy:- Someone asked recently when Magri became the formidable dancer she is now; for me, it was when she played The Firebird. So, moving from one magical creature to another seems an easy, natural step for her. There must be a whole set of Laws that contribute to the structure and function of magical kingdoms, and from seeing Magri's Lilac Fairy two of them are surely 'radiating calmness, benevolence and munificence' and 'composed of pure altruism'. She is also the real power in that Kingdom; the king and the queen are more like pawns. For me, that power structure is most apparent in the 'vision' scene, when Hallberg's prince appears to be asking Magri's Lilac Fairy for Osipova's hand in marriage! I find the extended mime sequence at the end of the prologue - when the Lilac Fairy dilutes the impact of the curse - unexpectedly moving. Part of that is down to the music, of course. Part of it is the beauty of the mise en scene before us. But most of it is the altruistic authority of the Lilac Fairy as she beatifically wields a level of god-like power that would be frightening in any other's hands. For us playing out our lives in a kingdom sadly lacking in magic, I say if we must have a 'king of the world' I want it to be her!! Aurora:- I missed the 'hand-waving' during the Rose Adagio, but will definitely be watching out for it next time. What I did think at the time (an impression that was reinforced by watching the most recent RB DVD) was that the whole sequence was taken at a slightly faster pace than usual. I think I was subconsciously 'primed' for this by posts on this forum about the tempo of the music. For their second performance I will try to make a mental note of the time the lights go down and the time the curtain closes at the end, and compare durations with the DVD. Rather crude measurements, but I don't want to end up appearing on the 'audience behaviour' thread for stopping and starting stopwatches and scribbling down notes during the performance! Osipova may not have been at her sparkling best in Act 1, but what she may have lacked in technical execution (not a lot, as far as my admittedly biased mind's eye could see) did not go astray in her portrayal of a young girl revelling in the attention paid to her by the court and the four 'surprise' potential suitors. I didn't see her shaking, but I did see her unsupported leg quivering with excitement when being held by each prince. The vision scene in Act 2 was the highlight of the evening for me. She is just so good as conveying her inner emotions during encounters that occur across some sort of 'divide' (eg La Bayadere/Kingdom of the Shades, Giselle Act 2, Swan Lake); her stood behind the Lilac Fairy, twisting and reaching towards her prince, brought all those heartfelt yearnings bubbling up to the surface. A close contender was her solo in Act 3 (the bit where the violin is playing). Previously, in Raymonda, she'd given me the impression that her leg was playing the piano keys. Here, she drew her foot behind her in perfect time with the violin, giving me the impression of it being the bow playing across the strings. Florimund:- David Hallberg has a natural princely demeanour, and that certainly didn't desert him. However, I've ended up feeling a bit short-changed - though I didn't feel that way at the time. On reading some of the recent posts, it seems lifts were missed (and he certainly has a recent history when it comes to lifts!). During the performance I was impressed at how unhurried he made his solos look - he seemed to hang-glide through the air in some of his jumps (eg the Act 3 solo). But when I looked at the RB's most recent DVD there seemed to be a lot more going on in those jumps than I remember from Wednesday (eg two cross-overs of the feet) making it look much quicker/busier. So, did Hallberg only cross them once? Again, something to look out for next time. There has been a lot of comment on the fish dives. I looked at the last RB DVD and noticed there seemed to be a lot more jeopardy involved than I remember from Wednesday - Muntagirov grabbing and holding with one arm, and Marianela's hand hitting/touching the floor on one of them. Part of the apparent lack of jeopardy on Wednesday might be down to me watching Hallberg/Osipova from 'above' in the Amphi, but next time I'll be looking out for the way he takes hold of her - if it turns out to be a 'safe' two-handed grab that might also explain why others have said his head was turned more towards her (more twisting of the body needed?). The bottom line is that I'm a big enough fan of the superlative dance-actress that is Osipova, as well as still lacking in sufficient technical knowledge, to have thoroughly enjoyed the evening, thereby lending truth to the saying - 'The eye sees all, but the mind shows us what we want to see'. No doubt I will become more 'critical' with time, which leaves me wondering... if ignorance is bliss, why do we work so hard to dispel it? (and yes, @Lizbie1, I was wondering if she was recovering/going down with the bug that's been doing the rounds.)
  4. Thanks for the reminder! We found it here... ...and could rewind it to the beginning.
  5. Hmm, can't seem to upload more than one pic, even in separate posts...☹️ Mods, please feel free to delete this post as it serves no useful function.
  6. I've always thought of Woking as the sort of place I'd need a jolly good reason to travel to - like if I lived there. Well, yesterday it turned out there was another, really worthwhile, reason to visit - the fund-raising gala Dancing for a Dream. This was organised by Laurretta Summerscales and Jonah Acosta to support specialist treatment in the States for a young relative, Dexter. The dancing couple had enlisted the help of many luminaries in the ballet world, and even boasted Wayne Sleep (dressed in a sparkily-lapelled suit - though I have no doubt he has suits that are even more sparkily!) acting as compere (and doing a brief, 'impromptu' dance number just before the cast all reappeared on stage at the end) - but I'm getting ahead of myself. Our arrival did nothing to dispel my pre-existing view of Woking. The theatre was to one side of a large complex of shops and a maze-like multi-storey car park. We finally got our bearings, got out of the maze and arrived at the grandly-titled The Ambassadors within the larger complex, which proudly boasted two theatres and four cinemas (which must be tiny, I thought). But what a revelation once inside the Tardis-like New Victoria Theatre! It's massive - seating over 1300 people. OK, it's all very 'functional' in terms of design, but the stage is big and deep, the auditorium is wide, and the seats are comfortable and spacious. The only thing I didn't like was the blue ceiling lighting which stayed on (for safety reasons? or to keep the whole place sterile?!) during the performance. From where we were sat I reckon the auditorium was about 80% full - really impressive. The evening started with a projected film covering Dexter's ongoing medical and developmental problems - all stemming from brain-damage suffered during a traumatic birth four years earlier. The determination of family, friends and community to support Dexter through his numerous, tragic setbacks was inspiring. Our hearts went out to him and them. Then on came Wayne Sleep to shake us out of any despair we might be feeling and to urge us to treat the evening as a 'party'; this was a fund-raising event for treatment that might help him live as normally as possible. And my oh my, what a brilliant show it turned out to be. Two one-hour segments, with a 20 min break in between. The music was mostly stock-recorded (though one piece was recorded by Gavin Sutherland on piano) but extremely well thought out and rehearsed:- this is in MARKED contrast to some of the, on paper, 'better' galas I've seen at the Coli, which have appeared hastily thrown together and probably rehearsed via face-time. It was clear in the introduction and programme (a mere £3 - why didn't they just charge £5 and be done with it?) that Dexter was supported not just by his relatives but also by the broader community. It was, therefore, entirely appropriate that four of the pieces were performed by an important component of the broader dancing community - pupils at various ballet schools. By appreciating their skills from a relative rather than absolute point of view, they were absolutely fantastic, uplifting and a credit to themselves and their teachers (I just marvelled at their ability to remember all those complex steps and patterns). And what a wonderful opportunity to gain experience performing in front of over a thousand enthusiastic people! Some of them seemed so young that by ten o'clock it must have been hours past their normal bedtime. But, regardless of our enthusiastic reception, we also wanted to see the 'stars' - and last night those stars shone strong and bright. Not everything in a gala is going to appeal equally to everyone, but even those pieces I enjoyed less were performed with consummate skill and dedicated effort. The Taming of the Shrew: Summerscales and Acosta. They danced and played this to good comic effect - with his patient perseverance gradually winning out and bringing to the fore a real sense of their mutual attraction. There followed something not listed in the programme. Introduced by Wayne Sleep as a 'surprise piece' it was called what sounded like Adjura and was danced by Oriel Gouneo (who was listed in the programme as doing the male variation in the later Le Corsaire, which he didn't then do). The music sounded like a guitar piece that gradually increased in temp and volume. He was dressed in what appeared to be a loose, orange outfit that resembled those worn for martial arts. The piece was full of pent-up energy, occasionally and powerfully released through spins and 'judo' poses. It was all very impressive and drew a huge cheer from the audience. I found myself thinking, in no particular order, of Flamenco, Bruce Lee and Guantanamo Bay. Manon Bedroom Scene PDD: McWhinney and Arrieta. A thoroughly enjoyable rendition of this classic PDD. As with the rest of the evening, a palpable sense they had rehearsed this together and were thoroughly at ease with each other (though, as with other recent performances at the ROH, that second arched lift towards the back right of the stage proved slightly problematic). Dying Swan: Javier Torres. This re-working of the classic was my least favourite piece. Twice as long as the original (with the first half dominated by sounds of a harsh wind blowing) the bare torso on display was impressive, but if anyone's going to mess with the original, I want it to be the Trocs! Le Corsaire: Khaniukova and Corrales. And speaking of bare torsos, you wait ages for one, then two come along one after the other! This show-stopper did its job in bringing the first part of the evening to a close. Corrales filled the stage with his speedy leaps, bounds and turns, and Khaniukova's fouettes were beautiful to behold. Again, it was just so obvious they were comfortable dancing this piece together, which allowed the quality to flow unimpeded. Tchaikovsky PDD: Yaoqian Shang and Mathais Dingman. I found myself thinking, if this show-stopper was being used to start the second part, where on earth were were going after that? They both really impressed, but perhaps what most impressed were his sequence of jump/spins, all of which he landed in perfect fifth. Oh joy! After the Rain: Kaneko and Clarke. A complete change of pace with this one - slow-motion, with nowhere to hide. But with Fumi and Reece, who needs to hide? She was just absolutely gorgeous, even when just stood there on stage. She had her hair loose - I didn't realise it was dark and so long! And when it came to dancing, they were perfect together; both graceful, both strong. She is a principal-in-waiting - which begs the question, why is she waiting?! Swan Lake: Delia Mathews and Brandon Lawrence. This slow, classical PDD perhaps suffered from following on from the captivating performance of Kaneko and Clarke, as I didn't feel there was much of a connection between them (although, technically, they carried the whole thing off very well). But, of course, it is a crowd-pleaser more so than the Wheeldon piece. No Mans Land: Begona Cao and Junor Souza. What an inspired decision to include this PDD on Remembrance Sunday! It definitely added poignancy to an othewise superbly-realised performance by the dancers. The sense of loss and longing, expressed through the woman imagining dancing with her dead/missing husband/fiance (with a confused sense of disjunction expressed by him) was impressive given it was excised from the whole ballet and presented without staging. This may have pipped some of the other strong contenders to be my favourite piece of the evening, and one that brought tears to the eyes. Don Quixote: Summerscales and Acosta. Another show-stopper to finish the evening. A bit like Le Corsaire, we were treated to some fabulous fouettes by Laurretta and startling spins by Yonah. He also did a couple of what looked like 540 kicks in martial arts (again, not sure what the proper term is) - the sort of thing Ivan Vasiliev used to casually drop into just about anything he did. All the dancers came out at the end - to thunderous applause. This became even louder when, to the surprise of just about everyone in the theatre, Dexter appeared on stage in a pushchair. He was full of energy and was obviously thoroughly enjoying the whole occasion. Wayne Sleep was also able to announce that the fund-raising target had been reached and Dexter would be travelling to the States in the new year for treatment. We all left on an understandable high (which Woking shopping centre then did its best to deflate in the log-jam of cars trying to get out through a painfully-slow pair of ticket barriers...). (I'll post some pics later)
  7. Having seen the Concerto Triple Bill at the ROH on bonfire night, we went to an encore screening of the broadcast yesterday to catch a glimpse of the on-stage fireworks from a different perspective. Unsurprisingly, it was as much as I remembered it - including that wonderful 'comedy sneeze' from an audience member in the silence just before the Sorokin emerged to conduct Concerto. If they do release the performance on DVD, I do hope they keep that in! (though they do tend to remove incongruences. For the Anastasia broadcast, my partner and I were literally the only ones in the auditorium to applaud when Osipova made her roller-skating entrance. When the DVD was finally released we were devastated to find our sole claim to immortality had been over-dubbed into oblivion with generic applause! ) I've been frustrated with the 'directing' of some of the past broadcasts (too much emphasis on 'tight' shots of torsos rather than dancing), but Ross MacGibbon has turned out some good ones recently - and yesterday's continued that welcome trend. I was really impressed with how the performance of Concerto came across in the cinema. The only time dismembered torsos dominated the screen was when the main dancers were standing still or walking. The sense of dancers (individual or in groups) interacting dynamically with the open spaces of the stage was clearly portrayed. I remember one shot (of literally the whole stage - breadth and height) where a large group was dancing, but tucked away in the left-hand corner of the screen. It gave a wonderful sense of what it was like to be there - of the opposite, yet harmonious relationship between the 'positive space' of the dancers and the 'negative space' of the colourful void that was the ROH stage. Even the very last bit of Concerto - after Hay and O'Sullivan have stepped back into view for one final lift, was shown in wide-shot. Brilliant! Of course, Concerto is abstract/neo-classical, so close-ups might be seen as less necessary than in a narrative ballet such as Enigma Variations. But I was really pleased with the balance struck in the broadcast of Enigma between showing the action on the stage and showing the expressions of the characters - very little 'dancing' was sacrificed to convey the narrative. This was my second viewing of Enigma (but of the same performance); I don't think it will turn out to be one of my favourite narrative ballets, but I did enjoy seeing it again - and the 'broadcast perspective' meant I did pick up on a couple of things I'd missed first time. At the ROH, I'd been so concentrating on the duet between Elgar and his wife (or, more likely, Morera and Saunders so demanded my attention) that I missed the cello player (his back to the audience) on the right of the stage! I hadn't realised that the Troyte variation starts and ends with him opening and closing the lid of a piano. I also liked the fact that Matthew Ball kept in character for the curtain-call - brusquely pulling down on his waistcoat. 🙂 The Nimrod variation showed something I hadn't noticed at the ROH (but something someone had alluded to in an earlier post?) - there seemed to be some sort of difference of opinion between Elgar and Jaeger, one that Elgar's wife sought (and succeeded) to reconcile. My concentration did slip in the cinema (or was inadvertently pushed) by the framing of a couple of brief shots. When the unmistakable Philip Mosely bent down to wipe his shoe, surrounded by youngsters, I couldn't help but think 'clog dance!' A shot of Lady Mary Lygon, with her fluttery 'wings', made me recall the end of Jerome Robbins' The Concert... For Act 3 of Raymonda, again, the cinema broadcast managed to avoid too many close ups - though there were enough to appreciate why @Mary had said 'Osipova was worth the price of admission alone- her expression during her stunning hand-clapping solo was priceless!' Something else that struck me was Osipova's impeccable timing; there was a bit about a minute into her solo where she pushes down one leg (no idea of the technical term!) in time to a single, low note struck on the piano - I got a real impression of her leg being the finger playing that note. Looking back over the posts, there were mixed views about the presenters. I thought Darcey's co-presenter did really well - she managed to convey a real sense of excitement at being 'back stage'. OK, it wasn't the most polished, but it had an enthusiastic sparkle to it that would otherwise get a bit lost in stuffy formality. The interviews - live and recorded - were really useful. Wayne Sleep was completely irrepressible (the presenters had to resort to naming Alfreda Thorogood at one point to stop him answering for her). We did learn that Wayne thinks the current crop of male dancers are superb - to the extent of reintroducing little touches in the GRS man/dog solo such as 'tail-wagging' during spins (though when it came to the broadcast it didn't seem as obvious as Wayne had suggested). The pre-recorded interviews were an unexpected joy. Osipova speaking, in English, in that wonderfully distinctive voice of hers. Muntagirov, who naturally has a boyish charm about him, seemingly shedding an additional ten years. He even managed to look younger than James Hay, who usually looks so young you would doubt he could even grow the full beard he was sporting! What a cast! What a broadcast! What a Christmas present a DVD of this would make... 🎄
  8. Last night's Triple Bill mix was a wonderful showcase for the strength and breadth of the Royal Ballet's repertoire and personnel. Covering abstract, narrative, and set-piece (with the emphasis on the 'set', which got its own round of applause), this feast for the eyes and ears had the added benefit of being beamed around the world - which can only have increased the global standing of the company. Kudos, Kevin O'Hare! I was surprised to find that two of the three pieces moved me to tears. To some extent I think I'd been primed for this, for last night should have been my third performance but turned out to be my first. The bug that's been going around kept me away, and since 'absence that makes the heart grow fonder' I went to the ROH really appreciating what an absolute privilege it is to be able to go there. I'm a huge fan of both Shostakovich and MacMillan, so putting the two together in Concerto was all but guaranteed to impress. And, boy, did the cast impress! Anna-Rose O'Sullivan and James Hay are simply made for each other, both physically and in their demeanour/style (I'm so looking forward to seeing them in Sleeping Beauty). She, in particular, simply oozes 'presence' (I've probably mentioned this before, but for me it's down to simple things like her always looking up and out at the audience). The light, playful mood of the first movement was beautifully portrayed by the pair of them, down to that last, momentary, cheeky 'curtain call' reappearance just before the lights go out. Shostakovich was a master of mood, and the second movement switches that mood to pure, aching beauty. The visual portrayal of this by Naghdi (ably abetted by the serene, effortless strength of Hirano and, of course, by MacMillan's choreography) reduced me to tears. Naghdi's physical and technical beauty is the personification of the classical ballerina, and the choreography resonates with that. There was a graceful, slender strength about her that seemed so perfect - yet so far beyond us mere mortals to render her isolated, even lonely - that it made me well up. With her beautiful, structurally-perfect, gravity-defying poses, she could be the ballet equivalent of triumphs of form and function such as the Millau Viaduct! The third movement saw Mayara Magri take unpartnered centre stage. That she demanded and commanded attention shows just how far she has come in recent years - yet another dancer whose stage-presence is improving. To all intents and purposes, last night's Enigma Variations could count as my first - since the last (and probably only) time I saw it previously was so long ago I can barely recall. The enthusiasm shown by others I spoke to before and after the performance - who have seen it many times over the years - plus my qualified enjoyment of it suggests I should persevere. I'm sure there is a lot more to glean from the piece, but at the moment there's a nagging thought that Ashton, in putting it together, was rather picking at low-hanging fruit given the 'leitmotifs' are already there. Each character has their own variation, and the music and the copious written analysis of the music fully describes those characters; it's 'simply' (to my simple mind, of course) a matter of transposing those to movement. However, there is a clever, recursive, self-referential feel to the narrative in that it's about the composer of the music being played waiting to hear about the performance of that same piece of music, surrounded by the people portrayed in the music. But the music may also be a curse as well as a gift. The 'curse' is that the music - and the consideration of each character represented by that music - is played out in a linear series of a dozen or so variations. There is not much room for narrative plot development: each variation/character takes centre stage, then fades to one degree or another into the background. The result is that the whole piece is a bit episodic, and the episodes are related less to the 'plot' (waiting for the telegram) and more to the music. I reconciled this on the night by thinking that maybe the characters were not actually present - that Elgar, while waiting for news about his composition, was reflecting on his music and the friends and relatives that inspired it. Most narrative ballets seek out music to describe characters and situations in a pre-defined story (eg Month in the County), or construct a narrative around pre-existing, but unconnected music (eg Anastasia); perhaps Ashton's achievement in Enigma Variations was managing to build any sort of narrative at all around such a uniquely-constrained piece of music. One thing that struck me about Enigma Variations, and which may account for some of its attraction, was just how thoroughly and quintessentially English it is. Ashton; Elgar; The Royal Ballet; the Victorian/Edwardian era staging; the eccentricity of the characters; the self-doubting, but determined Elgar; the foundational, selfless love of his wife; the supportive steadfastness (now there's an English word, if ever there was one! ) of Nimrod. And, yes, it was the 'conversation' between these three characters (to the Nimrod variation) that got my tears flowing - in particular Elgar's slow, shallow lift of his wife off the floor and to his side. Perhaps that's where the genius of this piece lies - in the little touches, the ones I will only see on repeated viewing. On a lighter note, I thought folk back then were better-mannered than they are nowadays? So why is the telegram (presumably addressed to Elgar) opened and shown to all and sundry, with Elgar being the last to know? I get told off if I open my partner's junk mail with the simple intention to recycle it! I enjoyed Raymonda (Act 3), but perhaps not as much as I thought I would. Yes, the staging was gorgeous (and was applauded), but I think it suffered from being excised from the full-length version (even though the plot in the full version is fairly insubstantial) - it didn't seem sufficiently self-contained to stand on its own merits. Some of the variations were extremely well done (Fumi Kaneko springs to the front of that queue, especially if that queue is labelled 'soon to be promoted to principal'). Muntagirov was his usual flowing self, and Osipova as the eponymous Raymonda did what any eponymous character should do and laid claim to the stage (as far as I'm concerned, when it comes to stage presence she's second to none). I think she absolutely revels in that sort of teasing, controlled exhibitionism. Like seeing a Lamborghini doing 70mph on the motorway, you not only have time to appreciate just what it is, but also to recognise just what it is capable of doing if let off the leash.
  9. This inference makes no sense to me. As written, Jeannette's observation that Osipiova dancing (in Pure Dance at Sadlers Wells) on the opening night of the Triple Bill at the ROH was the reason the 'creme-de-la-creme' cast from last night and the Nov 5th broadcast (which includes her) could not open the ROH series does not imply that Xandra Newman's earlier post, which did not mention specific dancers, had Osipova in mind. Osipova was the reason it couldn't happen, not the reason it should have happened.
  10. I wasn't sure what was being referenced here until I found an earlier post (Oct 2018) referring to a 'distinctly frosty' curtain call between Osipova and Shklyarov at their first Manon (though nothing about it was posted at the time of the April performances as far as I can see). Such frostiness is the polar opposite to my binocular-aided recollections (and the many pictures I snapped at the time). I think he was quite overcome by his debut performance (I remember he was so into that last PDD that he actually screamed at very end, rather than just mime it), so looking a bit drained and 'stunned' at times during the curtain calls was to be expected; but he kept touching her, holding her hand; he kissed her, he knelt on one knee and bowed low to the ground. She seemed equally 'hands on'. It was obvious to me there was a huge amount of mutual affection between them. The possibility I suggest is that they 'chose' each other because they really, really enjoy dancing together.
  11. Natalia Osipova: Pure Dance. Opening Night, Tuesday 22nd Oct, 2019 As I walked along Rosebery Ave towards the Sadlers Wells main entrance, I saw a man sat on the steps of one of the adjacent terraced houses, engrossed in his phone. It was only David Hallberg! I couldn't resist interrupting to say hello and talk briefly about Manon, but at least I managed to stop myself asking for a photo! For an opening night featuring two world-famous classical dancers and two amazing contemporary dancers, the fact the auditorium only seemed about two-thirds full was a bit disappointing. Perhaps this was partly because the majority of the dance pieces were those from last year; there was one new piece (Left behind) and one that had been extended (Six Years Later). The Leaves are Fading (Antony Tudor). I've never seen the original, but the programme notes say this is an arrangement of the main PDD. It provided a wonderful introductory showpiece for the partnership of Osipova and Hallberg - that they have a definite affinity for each other was left in no doubt. Their billowing, pastel pink/white costumes added to sense of fluidity in their movements. Left behind: This was an intriguing piece, choreographed by Kittelberger and danced by him and Osipova. As a contemporary piece, he was dressed in a green shirt and trousers, she in black pants and a long brown t-shirt. The music was Rachmaninov's Elegie. The only prop on stage was a regular door, set in a frame, placed to the left of centre and at an angle. This formed a physical and metaphorical device to separate the dancers from each other but also allow them to join each other, for the piece (according to the programme) deals with the lingering impact of people that are no longer there (and relationships that are over?). The choreography played to their respective strengths; Kittelberger doing a fair amount of floor-level moves and partnering Osipova with total confidence (at one point she leapt from her perch on top of the door into his arms), and Osipova repeatedly crossing the contemporary boundary by throwing in her signature classical spins. Like much contemporary dance, there was a lot of latitude for interpretation. As such, I was quite engaged by it, but didn't get that much from it - though for the upcoming Friday and Saturday performances I'm fairly confident it will grow on me. That confidence didn't extend to the next piece, Flutter. I've seen it a number of times now, and I remain rather flummoxed by it. In trying to 'get' something from a piece, I need something to grab hold of to help extract some sort of meaning. The programme notes suggest Flutter is an exploration of the unknown; that's fine by me, but successful exploration of the unknown means it then becomes known - this piece just seemed to remain 'unknown' (to me, at least). This may well have been deliberate, in which case the piece does have a meaning/message - albeit a frustrating one - that it's hard to understand things that lack substance/structure, though it's something we still try to do (there! I've just tried to do that myself! QED!). The unstructured/insubstantial nature of the piece was reflected in the costumes, choreography and music. The costumes were white, gauze-like, almost transparent shirts and trousers; they were hardly there (underwear, thankfully, was). The choreography gave the impression of frenetic, ad hoc, 'half-moves'; the main 'structure' to the choreography was the use of the dimly-lit back of the stage to 'hide', followed by Osipova and Jonathan Goddard running to the brightly-lit front. The music was mainly based around the sung/spoken word - in this case 'random' numbers - along with synthesiser. Perhaps this is what Philip Glass' Knee Play 3 ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PL9Rjn7EiRw ) would sound like after taking LSD? Well, as has happened to me before, trying to explain something has helped me understand it! I now think the chaotic, fractured, insubstantial nature of the piece is what it's all about. I guess the clue was in the name all along; the piece flitters and flutters along, defying attempts to pin it down. In fact, just like a butterfly, pinning it down will ruin it. I will now go to the next performance armed with a different viewpoint! As an aside, it was great to see Jonathan Goddard on stage with Osipova again, but he has such a distinctive look that I couldn't help but think back to the 'ferryman' sequence in The Mother.😱 After the interval, Hallberg did his solo piece - In Absentia. The staging is minimal but superbly effective. He is sat on a chair to the left, looking at what seems to be a TV between him and us. The light from the TV bathes him and cast a huge shadow of him on the back wall of the stage. When he gets up and moves around the stage, exploring and testing various ballet moves, his shadow acts in concert - growing and shrinking according to where he is. I always thought the piece was about his enforced absence from the stage due to injury, with him passing the time (unsatisfactorily) by watching TV and trying to both remember and look forward to returning to the stage. The programme notes suggest not, but I like the poignancy of my interpretation, so I'm sticking to it! If I see him on the street on Friday I will ask him! This was followed by Six Years Later, danced by Osipova and Kittelberger to the Moonlight Sonata and the old pop song Reflections of My Life. I really liked this piece when I saw it last year. It's supposedly about the relationship between two people six years after some sort of 'event' in their lives. It's a puzzle-piece that has no answer, but it has enough substance to hook one's imagination into. I just loved the bit where, in time to the music, they are facing each other, very close together, moving alternate shoulders, 'hitting' each other as they move around the stage. Is it an argument? Is it playful? Who knows? And does it really matter? That ambiguity extends to another interaction where Kittelberger is stood back, facing off to Osipova, talking at her, a smile on his face. But was it friendly or taunting? What was he saying? (and, yes, he was actually speaking) The ending last year only added to the ambiguity, to the lack of resolution. There is a lyric in Reflections of My Life that goes 'Feel I'm dying'; last year at that point the lights went out, the music stopped and the piece was over - very effective. This year, the song continued until the end and the piece segued into a song by Handel. This was accompanied by slower, more intimate choreography (with a lot of intertwined hands/arms) until the finish. Personally, I liked the version that finished abruptly, but that might change with repeated viewing. The penultimate piece was Osipova's solo, Ave Maria. This ended the show last year, and is perhaps the most personal piece I have seen her do. I have never seen her give a performance of anything where she has not tried to be 100% honest with herself, the piece itself or the audience. Here, to use the old football cliche, she is 110% 'honest'. For me, that's what makes her the superlative dance-actress she is. The final piece was Valse Triste, choregraphed by Ratmansky and danced by Osipova and Hallberg. Putting this at the end instead of Ave Maria worked for me. Solo pieces are fine, but dance is at its best when it explores relationships. That she has special professional and personal relationships with the other three men in the show adds an extra dimension. To bookend the evening with Osipova/Hallberg pieces underlined the special relationship they have, and I was overjoyed not only by their wonderful timing/musicality, but also when he did a huge and prolonged lift of Osipova over his head towards the end of Valse Triste - the very lift he was having problems with recently. When Osipova, Hallberg, Kittelberger and Goddard appeared at the end of the evening, they appeared as friends who had spent the evening in the company of other friends - us, the audience, who rightly gave them a rapturous reception.
  12. Yes - thanks! In searching round for a picture-link to illustrate, and despite reading their online paper for years, I foolishly took the Grauniad's 'Act 2' caption at face value!!
  13. Gartside as Gremin, please! I will be perfectly happy with Gary Avis, of course, but the Act 2 duet I saw between Osipova and Gartside during the last run is a good candidate for the most achingly beautiful thing I've seen at the ROH. https://www.theguardian.com/stage/gallery/2015/jan/27/natalia-osipova-in-onegin-royal-ballet-matthew-golding-in-pictures#img-4
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