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Royal Ballet: The Two Pigeons, Monotones I & II, November 2015 & Rhapsody January 2016


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Plus a swipe at "social-media botherers" who "include some of the most trenchant Middle Englanders of the ballet crowd, the most grimly set in their convictions that 50 years ago we never had it so good in ballet and The Two Pigeons represents all that is great about British art".

Who could she possibly be thinking of?????

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But, surely, Kevin O'Hare was half way there with Two Pigeons (having danced it and liked it himself) so he was ready to be persuaded on that one.

 

I very much doubt that the views expressed on here and on the ROH website will do much more than cause a ripple of interest among the powers that be at the RB.

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IIRC, Kevin O'Hare (at the Ballet Association?) said that he'd had a number of letters requesting him to bring back Two Pigeons.

 

It does appear, though, that people on Twitter, and maybe other social media sites, do have a disproportionate amount of influence on all sorts of things these days.  I've lost count of the number of times, when something has gone wrong, someone has said "tweet about it and they'll get it put right", and things tend to get resolved very quickly - rather more quickly than if you send an email or a letter.  I think it must be the public shame/embarrassment factor.

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Of course as a critic Ismene Brown is not seeking to impose her views on others.I wonder whether  the problem is that as a critic she sees herself as merely expressing the views  of well informed ballet goers and as such entitled to say what the company should and should not be dancing? If you don't agree with her enlightened view of things then you are reactionary..And we wonder why the Russian audience gets its knickers in a twist over what seems to us to be interesting attempts to recover some aspects of  performance practice when reviving nineteenth century classics.such as recovering the choreography which Petipa set  while not imposing the nineteenth century style of dancing it.

 

i wonder where she stands on issues such as historically informed performance practice as applied to nineteenth and twentieth century ballets or how she would react to an announcement that a ballet company was about to revive a Henri Justament ballet?

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"At least, as it is danced by today’s Royal Ballet dancers, who are brisk modern creatures with very little fantasy in their sensible heads."

 

Ah, that's the problem, the ballet dancers of today would rather be doing something more realistic.  Like Swan Lake, for example, or the Sleeping Beauty.  Good sensible story lines in both of those, much more suitable for the RB of today.  

 

I don't mind IB saying she doesn't like it, but I do object to any critic saying that people who do like it are stuck in some sort of misty, 1950s time warp, and need to get out more.  So, the real, knowledgeable fans are those who appreciate more up to date stuff.  Like Raven Girl, presumably.   I don't recall this sort of reaction to any of the delightful performances of 2P by the BRB. 

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I think the RB's have also been delightful.

 

 

As I am sure I will find on Saturday evening!

 

Yes 2P may look twee and possibly even dated but Sir Frederick Ashton creates characters you care about and he can transport you to another world with just the tiniest of gestures.  I don't think I have seen a single BRB 2P performance where I haven't had tears in my eyes if not been outright sobbing by the end.  I am bringing LOTS of tissues with me!

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Given that Two Pigeons is about to have much wider exposure due to the cinema relay I would not be at all surprised if a number of European ( and possibly American) companies suddenly start performing it. Given that Ashton's work is having something of a renaissance, if not his true style, the work may become very popular in all sorts of places.

 

Incidentally, back to the arguments about the portrayal of gypsies as exotic but dangerous outsiders, I was thinking how often this appears in 19th century works. It is in operas such as Carmen and Il Trovatore and then I saw a version of Emma at the weekend. Even Jane Austen portrayed them as such. It must have been a fairly widespread view at the time.

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I have just seen Fonty's last post. I get really irritated when people snipe at the 1950s as though it was the decade from Hell. (I realise entirely that this was a quoted view and not the poster's own.)

 

You get this all the time on anything relating to Radio 4, especially The Archers. There was much that was very good about that decade which we could do with a bit more now.

 

If there was an element of a desire for escapism I cannot see that there is anything wrong with that. I do accept that 2Ps isn't for everyone but I agree wholeheartedly that there is no need to decry the people who do like it.

 

If I get a bit worked up about this my nom-de-plume may indicate where my loyalties lie.

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I find Ismene Brown's reviews refreshing reading. Rather than just giving an uncomplicated critical appraisal of the performances she sees, she raises worthwhile and sometimes contentious points. Whether I agree with her or not I like that she offers a more thought provoking view. I enjoyed 2Ps but I didn't love it and I found a good deal of truth in her references to it being overly twee. 

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Plus a swipe at "social-media botherers" who "include some of the most trenchant Middle Englanders of the ballet crowd, the most grimly set in their convictions that 50 years ago we never had it so good in ballet and The Two Pigeons represents all that is great about British art".

Who could she possibly be thinking of?

 

I am sorry to be very dim-witted, but who could she be thinking of?

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It is, I suppose, just within the bounds of possibility that she might (NB the conditional tense) have the views of some here in mind - though I do not doubt that she may feel she encounters 'trenchant Middle Englanders' elsewhere as she goes about her days.  I've no idea which pubs she frequents, for example, or who she meets at dinner parties, assuming these are still in vogue in her circles.

 

 (Me - I'm Scottish by birth and I was doing Skiffle back in the later 1950s, so I definitely feel I'm excluded.)

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Plus a swipe at "social-media botherers" who "include some of the most trenchant Middle Englanders of the ballet crowd, the most grimly set in their convictions that 50 years ago we never had it so good in ballet and The Two Pigeons represents all that is great about British art".

Who could she possibly be thinking of?

 

Accusing people who like The Two Pigeons of being 'Middle Englanders' (i.e., presumably, reactionary and narrow-minded) is pretty offensive (in various ways). I'm sure many ballet-goers (of whatever class, age and nationality) love 2Ps and Woolf Works, Ashton and MacMillan, Balanchine and Wheeldon, Fonteyn and Osipova, Tudor and Hofesh Shechter, Dowell and Acosta, Robbins and Akram Khan, De Valois and Mark Morris - and so on. That doesn't preclude criticism of some current trends in ballet, or of some repertoire choices made by the Royal Ballet (or others).

 

And I'm sure that Kevin O'Hare would not have revived 2Ps based only on some letters he had received; he must also have believed it to be worth seeing again. (Similarly with the various works currently being suggested on the ROH website - he won't count up the 'votes' and schedule accordingly; he'll see how far the suggestions chime in with works he also wants to revive.)

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SwissBalletFan, if English is not your first language you might miss that the terms "social-media botherer" and "middle-Englander" are a bit disparaging.

 

As to who she could possibly be thinking of?

 

Well, there are not many of us who discuss the Royal Ballet on social media: here, the Royal Opera House website and Twitter account but where else? There is the comments box at the end of "The Spectator" article which invites readers to respond, but to date it shows a zero take-up. We know it has not failed to attract any readers because several here have seen it, thanks to its exposure above and on our "Dance links" sub-forum. Perhaps the publication's own readers are in complete accord with it or totally indifferent to it - or put off commenting there by the prospect of being "social-media botherers", which does not bode well in these times when journalism is so dependent on "click-bait" to generate revenue, i.e readers interacting with their website.

 

As to the article itself, it is one thing to express reservations about such audience-led programming, another to dislike "The Two Pigeons", but something else altogether to denigrate those who like the ballet and who replied to the ROH's invitation for suggestions. The tone of the article was less than gracious.

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Social media botherers displacing critics from their rightful place as arbiters of proper taste! Horror! Artistic directors worrying about opinions from mere mortals! Fall of civilisation. Whenever a critic talks about a silent majority you've got to assume that they mean the millions of readers they imagine hanging on every word they write.

 

There's a chunk of the established media that consider "Twitter" a disparaging term.

 

I'm looking forward to seeing Two Pigeons in the cinema - I like the Ashton stuff I've seen, even if it's not danced as well as in the good old days.

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I admire Mr O'Hare for trying to engage with the audience and this reflects the ethos of much of the public sector e.g. the NHS consults with patients on what services they want. Some of his scheduling and casting decisions to date appear to have been not well received, so why wouldn't he ask the public, rather presuming he is the single authority.

 

If the programming is going to take a different slant, perhaps with the revival of more heritage pieces, does he need to perhaps alter his dancer selection to fit?

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I have, apparently, exhausted my free access to the Spectator so I could not get past the first page, if that, of IB's review. Perhaps someone could tell us whether in the course of her article IB tells us  proles what ballets we should be watching, Playground, Rituals or Valley of Shadows?As K Barber has  pointed out the indications are that very few people read the arts sections of newspapers and periodicals.Perhaps IB has,until now, taken the public's silence on her views about the RB's repertory as tacit agreement with her view of how the world should wag. It must come as a bit of a shock to discover that the people who she  sees as the beneficiaries of her pearls of wisdom are capable of independent thought.

 

For those too young to remember the fifties it was a time when the eight o'clock news brightened the lives of its listeners  by telling them about the latest underground nuclear tests  and the strontium 90 readings in cows' milk. I am not sure how complacent anyone was. I think that most people were happy that they had survived the war and had a job. . 

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In answer to a question Floss posed: Ismene Brown likes the final pas de deux of Two Pigeons but finds the rest of it fake and feeble. And I'm quoting a sentence from her review here:

 

The rest can be dismissed as (Ashton’s own phrase) ‘English goo’, with neither the athletic spice of Russian-school character dances — say, from Don Quixote or Le Corsaire — nor the affectionate zest of Ashton at his most engaged with the people’s ensemble, as in La Fille mal gardée or Daphnis and Chloë, say.

 

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Fifty years ago takes us smack bang in the middle of those wicked swinging sixties. At the RB Fonteyn and Nureyev were at their zenith, with scores of people camped out overnight in the hope of a return or standing place to see them and the glitz and glamour in the audience on the night you actually got to see F&N vied with the spectacle on stage. In those days we were blasé about new work with Ashton, MacMillan, Balanchine, Cranko. Tudor and Robbins all in full creative flow and we were having such a good time we never realised that when they departed a nuclear winter of choreographic scarcity would descend. Modern Dance was pretty good too with Cunningham. Ailey, Paul Taylor and Martha all at the top of their games as well. If we could buy a day ticket into the past I'd be first in line

If people go to the ballet and lack the emotional faculties to understand a work that deals with a theme that is common to the human condition, in this case forgiveness and reconciliation, that is their loss, but I wonder what mental quirk causes them to insult those that do?

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On my way back from the 2 Pigeons' matinee. Thoroughly enjoyed the whole performance. I was very moved by Monotones-couldn't take my eyes off Yasmine.

The 2 Pigeons was great. Akane's portrayal of the young girl was spot on. She managed to be funny, sweet and, I have to say, quite sexy. She never seemed spoilt or irritating, which I can imagine the character could easily become. The rest of the cast danced with great gusto-they really seemed to be enjoying themselves.

A wonderful afternoon!

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