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  1. Could the one on the right playing Colas be Bruce Sansom? I remember seeing him in that role in the late 1980s, always a smooth and elegant dancer. However I also saw Stephen Jefferies at about the same time and the photo looks a little like him too! Another fine dancer.
  2. Les Rendezvous wasn't streamed but an extract from the ENB Schools performance of just over 4 minutes has recently been uploaded on Vimeo. It looks to have been well danced, especially noteworthy is the girl's solo where the movements of the arms and shoulders seem to be very Ashtonian. Hope Christopher Carr was pleased! https://vimeo.com/user110368952
  3. I also tuned in again on the final evening and missed it! I find that I never quite know when a streaming will switch off so to speak, half expecting it to be there longer than it says. I've been looking again at the extract from Whiteside's City of Women in the ABT Summer Celebration posted by Jeannette (it's at 46.09). It's also been posted by ABT as a standalone item on YouTube, with a longer extract from a few years' earlier under the title "City of Women ABT Incubator". If you search against "Whiteside City of Women" both come up. Seeing both extracts I had the strange feeling that, although Whiteside is very American in style, his work also has affinities with Ashton. Primarily its musicality which Jeanette pointed out, but also his liking for sculptural groupings or tableaux. The beginning of the Incubator video looks like a lost Ashton work from the 1930s! I guess because Whiteside also reveres Petipa. The choreography for the supporting six women appears quite simple in places but this is deceptive, as it might end with a very striking dance image. Whiteside likes to hold poses for a second or two as Ashton advised. There is a restraint (no lifts for example in this or, apart from short hops, in A Perpendicular Expression) coupled with a lovely sensation of loosening, following the music. He repeats and then alters. Playful glances and hand gestures, suggestions of the dancers talking with each other, and movingly also a few mythic touches of bringing to life.
  4. Thank you Jeannette for your link to the Vail Dance Festival (still available today), and your recommendations. I was drawn especially to James Whiteside's ballet (and the extract from his City of Women in the ABT Celebration you posted earlier). As you mention, he seems to have a definite aesthetic of his own. In A Perpendicular Expression, set for three couples, he uses a wide variety of jumps and turns, with lots of pointwork and epaulement. In the short extract he manages to include a pdd for each couple without giving the impression that that's all the work consists of or that anything is being rushed. They transition well with the other segments. An example of his wit is a moment towards the end when one woman jumps into the arms of three men standing in line, who gently lower her to the ground and roll her away. Then a second woman jumps into their arms but instead of lowering her to the ground, they hold on to her while a third woman hops backwards on pointe before them. It's a delicious upset of expectations. In City of Women, set for nine women, he gives them all the strumming gesture from Balanchine's Apollo - a hint perhaps that they are the nine Muses. Lots of witty head and hand movements, and some gorgeous epaulement. He is not afraid of simplicity and moments of stillness on stage. That requires a certain amount of confidence and being comfortable in his own skin. In the final tableau, all nine kneel on the ground but each has a subtly different hand or arm gesture, which seems fitting. The ending - very simple - all on pointe facing the audience with arms raised, touching hands in solidarity - brought a tear to my eye. He is good, and I hope to see more of his work, albeit only via a streaming.
  5. I so agree. I've just watched it and particularly appreciated the contrast between the beautiful smooth legato movements given to Tiler Peck and the sudden pizzicato darting and changes of direction, culminating in an incredible final minute. It shows how well the intimate textures of a string quartet can work in a pdd, eg scope for an instrument to have a solo and be joined by others, thinning and thickening layers of complexity, giving lots of potential to the choreographer. On second viewing I turned off the music, and felt that the ballet worked perfectly on its own - for me something of an acid test of a new work. It's balletic quicksilver - I've seen it a few times now and am not tiring of it.
  6. Thank you FLOSS for such an interesting account of Jazz Calendar. I have only seen the black and white film. It seems to me that the "concept" behind the choice of the children's rhyme is a good one, and well suited to ballet treatment. It is episodic but unified by the designs and the jazz music. I know that David Vaughan didn't like it much but he concedes in his book that most critics and the general public loved it. It's also a good length (over 30 minutes) compared with Valses Nobles and Scenes de Ballet (both about 16 minutes). Iain Webb was asked how he dealt with criticism that Ashton is old-fashioned and from memory both he and Margaret Barbieri just laughed and said in effect that such joyous works can never fade. One answer to Anthony Russell Roberts could be that fashions change and retro is in, as is Jarman's aesthetic. Couldn't we let the audiences decide whether they want works like it any more? It is full of real dancing, and as you suggest, the humour comes through the movements and doesn't rely on cute expressions. John Percival used to call Ashton "Ballet's Shakespeare" and it's his ability to combine the serious and the daft which makes him especially valuable today. I quite agree that you don't need to know anything about ballet to enjoy Jazz Calendar. From the start when Monday's child makes the mime for "beautiful" and applies it to herself, however, the ballet lover knows that Ashton is having fun. He has gentle digs at Balanchine: he slyly parodies Apollo in Tuesday where they line up one behind the other with arms en couronne, and Serenade in Saturday with the latecomer in class; and several of his own ballets in the finale, eg the girl carried high up doing the splits has strayed in from Valses Nobles, and the men at the back are remembering their dance from the opening of Daphnis and Chloe. Perhaps the idea is that it's all a party and everyone's welcome to bring their dance.
  7. It was a real joy to hear them talking with Gerald Dowler. Just over an hour but it could have gone on all evening. Iain Webb referred to possible venues such as Sadlers Wells and the Linbury, but not to any current plans for a tour. It would obviously be a major undertaking. The LBC do put up the videos on the members' page a few months after the event, although for some reason most are currently unavailable. Iain Webb and Margaret Barbieri mentioned that company dancers were enthusiastic about being introduced to Ashton, and really enjoyed dancing his ballets. By contrast they found that English dancers tended to approach him with some fear. Iain mentioned several rare Ashton ballets, eg Sinfonietta and Jazz Calendar - he wondered whether an American audience would "get" the references such as the dancers waving at the end which parodied the TV show Sunday Night at the London Pavilion, but they applauded before the end and lapped it all up whether they knew the reference or not. It was an interesting comment because I always thought he was quoting himself - from the ending of Capriol Suite. Perhaps he had both in mind - a similar spirit of camaraderie between dancers and audience. I would dearly love to see Jazz Calendar revived (and give Elite Syncopations a rest). It is so witty: it is enjoyable in itself but it's also a stream of quotations from his and others' works, as if everyone is welcome in this wacky world where the day of your birth shapes the quality of your movement.
  8. In more utopian mood, here is an imaginary interview in 2030 with the joint directors of the RB, husband and wife team, Lise and Colas. Can you tell us about the rationale for the changes you are bringing about? - In our pitch to become directors, we likened the RB to a department store which had quality own brands but was overwhelmed by franchises from other outlets, or to a garden where some plants weren’t flourishing because others were taking up too much space. Is that why you terminated Wayne McGregor’s contract? - We parted by mutual consent but it’s true that many felt his concept of ballet as a sound and light show had gone as far as it could. It was a shame he took all his works with him. Was “Pulse” the final straw? - The idea of synchronising the strobe lasers, electronic sound, and dancers’ movements to Wayne’s heartbeat in real time was certainly an interesting one, but it was based on his pulse in the studio rehearsal room. What was making his heart race so much during the actual performance we don’t know. We are taking care of the dancers who were hospitalised and offering counselling to audience members affected. In his last year Kevin O’Hare only allowed the company to perform new works. You seem to be returning to a more traditional approach. - The classics are our ancestors, they inhabit our bodies and care for us, as a poem learned by heart sometimes pops into awareness at the right moment. They are the company. But our ancestors want us to lead our own lives, and new work gives dancers a sense of sharing in the renewal of the art. We think having up to 25 per cent of performances devoted to new work is about right. And you have returned to a more classical approach to new work. - Yes, we are not so keen on a smorgasbord of styles. As well as Chris and Valentino, there is new talent in the form of Freddie Valois with his striking blend of poetry and drama. Can you tell us about the Ashton Project? - Sir Fred was almost a father to us, so we had the idea of reviving all his extant works and making them available on YouTube. We hope that way to raise his reputation worldwide to where it should be. What are your plans for the 100th anniversary season? - The overall theme will be the joy of dance. La Fille mal Gardee will be broadcast on big screens in parks all over the country. The Royal Opera House will be painted pink and wrapped in a giant ribbon. What does your uncle Iain Webb think of your ideas? - He is very supportive. Since he became director of Birmingham Royal Ballet it’s been possible for us to co-ordinate our programming. Now that he’s brought back Ashton’s Romeo and Juliet, we’ve all got the chance to compare it with MacMillan’s version. Any final thoughts? - We both think that the world would be a better place if people were allowed to marry who they love. Dancing is a form of loving, it’s not a sport or a science, so let’s do it! (Colas adds: That’s what Lise’s mother always says, and who am I to disagree?)
  9. I'd suggest two possible reasons for this. One is that his works lack what we generally understand by choreographic invention: steps, expressive use of hands and feet, the face communicating a range of emotions, musicality, lots of variety in terms of movements. Peter Wright makes these points towards the end of his autobiography. A second is that his movement lacks any real drama or emotion. Jennifer Homans argues this in her article in The New Republic "The crisis in contemporary ballet: how emotion left dance" (available online if you type her name and the title). Without dance or real emotion, what is there to remember in a deep sense? An explanation of the conceptual basis of a piece doesn't go very far with me. The test is whether it moves me or not. Homans refers in a positive way to the tension and release in McGregor's work, but watching this leaves me feeling tired and edgy. I can't understand why he is so popular. Do others find nourishment in his work that I don't? The darkness seems necessary in order to make the light effects more striking, but these are spirit phenomena - bodiless, and going nowhere. His work is a dead end for ballet, but seems to fit in with the RB's current frantic experimentation with anything and everything. Turning to the positive, if I could write a utopian version of a press conference in 2031, it would probably be led by Sir Iain Webb, as the RB's new director! Looking forward to seeing him tomorrow on Zoom at London Ballet Circle, along with National Treasure Margaret Barbieri!
  10. Thanks Darlex. Just a slip of the pen so to speak. Maybe Freud would have something to say about it!
  11. In his introduction to the stream of the Sleeping Beauty mixed bill to celebrate the RB’s 90th birthday, Michael O’Hare spoke of his vision for the company. I wonder what your vision is for the RB ten years from now - whether potentially good or not so good outcomes? In a dystopian spirit, here is a report of an imaginary news conference in 2031 hosted by Lord Boris Johnson, Chairman of the ROH, and Sir Wayne McGregor, recently appointed Director of the company, on the retirement of Sir Kevin O’Hare. Lord Johnson said it was fantastic that a bally company should have lasted 100 years, and that its new Royal Charter would reflect its role as standard-bearer of British values. Under its new brand “The Royal Ballet Dance Theatre Company” (RBDTC), it would be a truly forward-looking global enterprise. Announcing plans for the birthday celebrations, Sir Wayne said that the highlight would be his new work “Catastrophe” spread over four evenings, a setting of the entire Wagner Ring Cycle. The work would concern the breakdown of all cultural norms in light of the climate crisis, expressed through the metaphor of dance. The final evening, entitled “Breathless”, would take place in complete darkness, the dancers communicating their movements through specially amplified breathing apparatus. It was, he said, the culmination of 25 years of technological and scientific breakthroughs in the world of ballet. There would be a new production of La Fille mal Gardee, re-conceptualised – to reflect Britain as it is – as a dispute over an arranged marriage. The Ashton repertory would be streamlined to better reflect the choreographer’s own wishes. Sir Wayne stated that Ashton only ever thought that Fille would survive him, with perhaps Symphonic Variations thrown in. He was therefore going beyond Ashton’s expectations in providing space for these and three further works – Marguerite and Armand and Rhapsody as “ideal celebrity vehicles”, and a slot for divertissements which could include bits and pieces from his other works. There would however be a MacMillan Festival focusing on the choreographer’s later works which would be a perfect fit with “Catastrophe”. The company would honour its heritage by bringing exciting new viewpoints to its 19th century works. The first production would be a mash-up consisting of the Prologue from Sleeping Beauty, the mentally ill scene from Giselle, and the denouement of Swan Lake, with vibrant new electronic versions of the music. Sir Wayne commented: “This new fragmented approach will really bring these old works to life. It’s what the dancers want.” After many years of draftworks, it was obvious that hardly anyone wanted to make ballets in the classical idiom any more and so the board has created a new Theatre Games Department under the tutelage of Crystal Pite to develop new ways for dancers to interact with each other. This would be entirely in line with the traditions of the RBDTC, and of the wishes of its founder Dame Ninette de Valois. On being informed that Madam had been clear that classical and contemporary styles ought to be kept separate, Sir Wayne appeared nonplussed, but ended by saying that whatever she said it was all a long time ago now.
  12. The timings on the three films are all about 4 minutes 50 seconds. The streamed one is 5 minutes 5 seconds. Yet Park/Eagling give the impression of lingering and pausing at the end of phrases as if they had all the time in the world. They also differentiate the quality of each of the skimming lifts by subtle changes of tempo. Merle Park catches the Aphroditic spirit of this dance - precision and abandon all at once. Could the difference also be to do with counting? I seem to remember she said she never counted, so perhaps the modern way of counting could be a handicap in a pdd like this, but I'm not a dancer. I'd be interested in what others think.
  13. I share Jeannette’s concerns. It may help to consider the context from which the pdd was taken – a new production of Strauss’s Die Fledermaus. Films of the premiere in 1977, and performances in 1982, and 1990 are available on youtube. Park and Eagling dance the pdd in the first two, Durante and Cassidy in the third. It was a tradition to interpolate some divertissements into Act 2, which is set in an elegant, light-filled (please note!) ballroom at Prince Orlofsky’s palace. As the Act proceeds there are songs about kissing, laughing and champagne, people losing their inhibitions, and much swaying to music in waltz time. In the first two films, the divertissements begin with Ashton’s explosion polka, two minutes of mayhem which are reminiscent of Facade with a hint of a 1930’s show number. I particularly love the "slippy" steps. It begins at 1.39.31 of the 1982 film at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dka-_N6KaG0 In between the polka and the pdd in 1977, Daniel Barenboim played a Chopin ballade, and Isaac Stern the final movement of Mendelssohn’s violin concerto. Chopin, Mendelssohn, Ashton. Yes! In 1990, the performance was the vehicle for Dame Joan Sutherland’s farewell, and the entertainment came from her, Pavarotti, and Marilyn Horne. Yes! In 1982, they had two songs from Hinge and Bracket and a rendering of “She” by Charles Aznavour. Yes – actually I think the best of all because they fitted the feeling of the operetta. In all three cases, by the time it came for Voices of Spring, the whole place had been warmed up, with waves of happiness buoying up the dancers as they entered to applause from the guests on stage. Watching the streaming from the ROH, I felt that the dancers looked very lonely out there. Out on a limb, with no context of fellow feeling from the four preceding works. All of them were performed in semi-darkness, and even Voices of Spring was given a dark background. (Couldn't they back project an image from Vienna like the Schonbrun Palace or a peach or rose colour?) The other works gave no sense of build up to the Ashton, which in the opera is the climax of the divertissements, leading directly into the whole company dancing a waltz. It didn’t have a chance. I feel a bit sick about it because to me it shows a want of feeling, a lack of sensitivity to the RB’s founder choreographer. Or a deliberate slighting? At the end of the 1977 film, we can glimpse Ashton in the line up standing next to Kiri Te Kanawa. “It was nothing, just a piece of froth,” we might imagine him saying to her, secretly pleased to have stolen the show with it.
  14. Thanks Darlex. It was in 1986 at the old Sadler's Wells. I wish I'd kept the programme but it also included Five Brahms Waltzes. I think it was revived by Ballet Rambert. You can see it on the New York Theatre Ballet website where it's streaming free, along with La Chatte and several Tudor works among others. Enjoy!
  15. I do feel that the RB needs to be made more aware of MaddieRose's perspective. - and how it is potentially disinheriting younger audiences by its attitudes to programming of Ashton. In light of alison's comment, I still have the programme for my first ever evening at the RB: 30 June 1986 a triple bill with Les Patineurs and The Dream to begin and end and Jiri Kylian's Return to the Strange Land in the middle. I was completely bowled over and converted to ballet on the spot, especially the Nocturne pdd. But I remember liking the Kylian too, quite mysterious and transformative. His different style didn't jar because it didn't seek to impose itself on the other works. Isn't a triple bill a chance for different works to see each other, as well as for the audience to contrast and compare?
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