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Your Best and Worst of 2016?


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I thought that, now that 2016 is just about behind us (thank goodness!), it is an appropriate moment to sit back and remember what we have seen, what we liked, what we didn't like, what bemused us, what perplexed us, what made us cry, laugh or anything else. Please let us know what you think!

 

My starters for 10:

 

The Best

 

Two Pigeons, especially the Stix-Brunell/Ball cast. RB

The Winter's Tale, all casts. RB

Akram Khan's Giselle, ENB.

Brandon Lawrence and Delia Mathews in Swan Lake, BRB.

Brandon Lawrence and Delia Mathews in The Nutcracker, BRB.

Marianela Nunez and Vadim Muntagirov in Giselle. RB

Watching Yasmine Naghdi in anything she did, and especially anything with Matthew Ball. Amazing SPF/Prince debuts. RB

Roberta Marquez's final performance as Lise in Fille, accompanied by an electrifying and considerate Alex Campbell. RB

The debut performance of Francesca Hayward and Marcellino Sambe in Fille. Perfection. RB

Francesca Hayward and James Hay in Rhapsody. Made me weep. RB

The Bolshoi performances of Taming of the Shrew, showing them in a different, and joyous, light.

Olga Smirnova. Bolshoi

Australian Ballet Theatre's Swan Lake.

 

The Worst

 

Liam Scarlett's Frankenstein. RB

Christopher Wheeldon's Strapless. RB

Wayne McGregor's Multiverse. RB

 

 

I may well think of more in both categories, but these are what spring to mind immediately. And now....over to you! :)

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I cannot offer much to this debate due to limited viewing but I would like to mention just in case no one else does -

 

 

BRB - Both casts of A Month in the Country in a pretty near flawless production

BRB - Both casts in The Taming of the Shrew

The farewell performances by Elisha Willis (I hadn't been a fan before)

The Moor's Pavane (as long as it was Tyrone Singleton or Brandon Lawrence)

 

Vadim Muntagirov

Francesca Hayward

Finally having a DVD copy of The Two Pigeons

 

Don't have anything to list under worst, but then I still haven't watched Frankenstein

Edited by Two Pigeons
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The best for me (in no particular order)

 

The Osipova/ Nunez Giselle Act 2

Akram Khan's Giselle

Frankenstein

Anastasia 

Yasmine Naghdi and James Hay

 

I was disappointed by both the Bolshoi and the Mariinsky performances here this year but the worst (by a country mile) goes to

Multiverse

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Giselle - Akram

Giselle - Osipova/Nunez

Frankie - Lise/SPF/Clara/Rhapsody

Roberta last performance as Lise

Harrison Lee - RBS performance at ROH

Alina - Swan Lake at RAH with ENB

 

WORST

 

Wheeldon's - Strapless

Acosta - Carmen

 

ALL TIME - WORST

 

Multiverse

Multiverse

Multiverse

Edited by SPD444
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Best

 

Until the Lions – Akram Khan

Giselle – Akram Khan (ENB)

Rojo/Streeter in Giselle (Akram Khan) (ENB)

Sarah Lamb as Giselle (RB)

Akane Takada as Giselle (RB)

Nunez/Muntagirov in Giselle (RB)

Tierney Heap as Myrthe (RB)

The Two Pigeons revival (RB)

Fille mal gardée, especially Hayward/Sambé and Marquez’s farewell (RB)

Zenaida Yanowsky in Elizabeth (RB/Linbury)

Gary Avis in The Nutcracker (RB)

Hayward/Campbell and Calvert/Clarke in The Nutcracker (RB)

The Moor’s Pavane (BRB)

 

Worst

 

Multiverse (RB)

Osipova bill at Sadler’s Wells

Anastasia (RB) (in spite of Act III)

Edited by bridiem
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My highlights:

 

ENB Corsaire (various casts and dancers but I particularly enjoyed Brooklyn Mack's performances)

ENB's Broken Wings (so original and I feel that it needs very little revision; slightly preferred Cao to Rojo)

Swans in ENB's Swan Lake in the Round (a thrilling spectacle especially when viewed from above)

Rina Kanehara as Clara/SPF in ENB's Nutcracker

BRB Moor's Pavanne

Hayward/Sambe Fille (delightfully fresh and engaging)

 

My least favourite:

Wheeldon's Strapless (dull and cliched)

Anastasia

The Invitation

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre (baffling and a waste of rice)

Nederlands Dance Theatre (good dancers; awful choreography)

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I spent only part of the year in London hence not much from there :(

 

Best

Rhapsody with Francesca Hayward and James Hay

Eric Gauthier – Nijinski (Gauthier Dance)

Léonore Baulac and Germain Louvet in Nureyev’s Romeo and Juliet in spring, and their promotions to Etoile in December (POB)

Crystal Pite -The Seasons’ Canon (POB)

Jérôme Bel – Tombe (POB)

Glen Tetley – Arena (Stuttgart Ballet)

Glen Tetley – Voluntaries (Ballet Nice Méditerranée)

Roland Petit – L’Arlésienne (Ballet Nice Méditerranée)

 

I enjoyed least Strapless, The Invitation and the documentary Relève.

 

edited for typo

Edited by Duck
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Highlights

Viktor Lebedev's Albrecht - Giselle (Mikhailovsky)

Oleysa Novikova's Giselle (Mariinsky)

Akram Khan's Giselle (ENB)

Akane Takada/James Hay Two Pigeons

James Hay's flawless Act 3 variation in Sleeping Beauty (RB)

Frankie Hayward luminous in everything (RB)

Obsidian Tear especially Calvin Richardson (RB)

Richard Alston Dance - An Italian in Madrid w Liam Riddick & Vidya Patel

Kim Brandstrup's Transfigured Night (Rambert)

Crystal Pite The Seasons' Canon / William Forsythe's Blake Works (Paris Opéra Ballet)

Ratmansky's Plato's Symposium & Shostakovich Trilogy (ABT)

Bolshoi London tour - Maillot's Taming of the Shrew and dancers Olga Smirnova, Semyon Chudin & Yulia Stepanova

Mariinsky Ballet in Cardiff

New York City Ballet Paris tour

 

Low points

RB Frankenstein , Strapless, Anastasia

Osipova at Sadlers Wells

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I didn't really see too much in 2016 & what I did see was concentrated more at the RB. I am planning to hopefully see more & branch out next year. However, my favourites were:

 

- ENB's Giselle

- Natalia Osipova as Giselle (completely riveting - my expectations were exceeded & I still get goose bumps when remembering it)

- Marianela Nunez as Myrthe in the same performance

- Yasmine Naghdi in literally everything she danced

- Francesca Hayward & Marcelino Sambe's Fille debut

- Vladislav Lantratov (Bolshoi) in all of the performances he danced in

 

Although I wouldn't consider it a favourite I did end up enjoying Anastasia. Loved the costumes for the first 2 acts & Osipovas act 3 interpretation.

 

Although I don't think I saw anything I'd define as the worst, there were several things I was lukewarm on in 2016:

 

- The Bolshoi's Swan Lake

- Osipova's modern bill at Sadlers Wells (to be fair I'm not really a fan of very modern dancing, but this did nothing to sway my opinion)

 

Happy new year everyone! :)

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Highlight of year for me was Kevin O'Hare's willingness to cast younger dancers in major roles.

When did we get last get three White Lodgers all dancing the main role in a Classic within a couple of weeks of each other.

 

Low point for me, the first part of Multiverse. Even my slight deafness did not protect me from that awful noise of the first ten minutes

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For me my 2016 highlights are - Vadim Muntagirov & Marianela Núñez plus the brilliant Royal Ballet corps de ballet in 'Giselle' (they were so fierce and scary) & Francesca Hayward, Alexander Campbell, Anna Rose O'Sullivan and James Hay in 'The Nutcracker' (and again the Royal Ballet corps de ballet as the Snowflakes, beautiful swirly patterns)

 

Also loved Vadim Muntagirov and Lauren Cuthbertston in 'Two Pigeons' (which I saw in the cinema) 

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For me the best original creation in in the UK in 2016 was - without hesitation - ENB's Broken Wings - with truly outstanding performances by Rojo and Mukhamedov.  So original; so poignant.  So welcome.  The ENB/Khan Giselle came a close second with Cojacaru, Hernandez (transformed in my eyes with this performance and his quiet dominance and stunning placement) and, of course, the dramatic thrill that is Cesar Coralles.  How exciting to watch that young man develop and - without question - conquer Paris as he did London in Le Corsaire.  We should cherish the time we have with him at ENB.  Surely it can't be too long.  Also want to mention Stina Quagebeur's Myrtha; a stunning creation from a truly ravishing creative artist.  

 

Of the RB rep for me Ashton's Two Pigeons was a definite highlight and the cast that stood out in my eyes was that of Stix-Brunnell and Ball; ravishing in all of their moving detail.  Otherwisewe need to celebrate the genius that is Laura Morera as that rarity - an Ashtonian whore. (For my money she was by some distance the finest Anastasia in that run).  Next on the list - and high - indeed higher still - was the already mentioned Fille debut of Hayward and Sambe.  Magic was defined in their joint musicality and the thrill of their spontaneous personalities.  I, myself, grew to enjoy Obsidian Tear - and thought Calvin Richardson and Matthew Ball were particularly fine in the different casts for the opening section.  Think Richardson may well take on the Watson mantle when that gentleman chooses to retire which surely must be sooner than naught.  Another standout performance front was Naghdi - again with Ball - in Nutcracker - Here as her Juliet she glistened.  Indeed they both did.  The definition of joy.  Otherwise performances that remain vivid in my mind - clearly ahead of any pack - were Delia Mathews - indeed the whole BRB company I saw in Ashton's A Month in the Country and - a true genius - Brandon Lawrence in The Shakespeare Triple Bill.  This young man is that genuine article: a British Ballet Star; one in a company of many fine male dancers. As Sir Peter Wright's ever stellar SL proved, Lawrence is a prince among balletic men. Long may we cherish him.  

 

In London, the Bolshoi's Taming of Maillot's Shrew was simply MAGNIFICENT ... The first cast was a revelation .... Only so sad that this fine work was only allowed two performances.  Thank heavens the audience - largely tourists - were left braying for tickets.  Also want to mention Artem Ovcharenko and (his now wife) the incandescent Anna Tikhomirova who bedazzled in EVERY performance of the Mistral section of Flames of Paris .  

 

I'd be remiss in not wanting to also mention Ferri and Herman Cornejo in Cheri in the Lindbury ... i thought they made a somewhat sub-standard work burnish with a flame that it might not otherwise have possessed. 

 

Otherwise I was most taken with Neumeier's Shakespeare Stories - a long three act piece - which dealt in a keen narrative detail which will never be gifted by McGregor or it seems Scarlett (I am getting a bit tired of his antics - depressingly so as I so liked his first mainstage ROH ballet).  Blessedly the Neumeier was danced in balletic terms as authored by the choreographer himself rather than the dancers - as fine as they may be.  I addressed the core of three plays, respectively As You Like it, Hamlet and Twelfth Night.  It was over three hours long but it just flew by.  I was so glad I got to see it twice.  This was a true celebration of the essence of Shakespeare's universal community .. and it was wonderful to see a company of such fine dancers dedicated to the work of one choreographer.  I had not really seen that in ballet terms since Balanchine's NYCB ... or (in an a more contemporary respect) Mark Morris and the delight that is his genius and honoured by his doting company.  

 

Prime of all the original works that I saw - and both of these ultimates were (i) seen in Paris and (ii) etched by the young Justin Peck - who even now has done more ballets than his years and still not one of these has yet to reach UK shores.  Sadly now with his (in my view wise) insistence that he will largely restrict his creations to NYCB and allow those world entities who do not have an an already established tie with him to pick them up from there - we may have to wait much more time to see this realised.  That said, due to the commercial success of the NYCB run I understand that Les Etes de la Danse will be bringing NYCB back with a 'modern rep' which I'm confident will be a field-day of Peck allowing any and all interested BcoF followers the chance to catch up in this regard with the balletic world stage should they wish..  In this specific instance (i.e., the two brilliant Peck works I had not myself seen before were Increases (danced by the POB and which they have already since revived) and - the truly stunning - Everywhere We Go as danced by NYCB at the Chatelet.  In terms of BALLET - and the key talent of being able to move large assemblages of ballet dancers in truly original ways - much - as in their own unique fashion both Petipa and Balanchine did in their respective Centuries - Peck leads as our 21st Century hope thus far in terms of providing original scope for a substantive and meaningful mark on the language of BALLET.  That said there are many fine imitators of the art ... but that is - as Lady Bracknell might infer 'not quite the same thing'.  I did so enjoy Jessica Lang's WINK!  

In terms of NYCB performances (and I know you won't see these unless you travel) I would like to highlight two: Tiler Peck for her blazing brilliance in being able to phrase in speed ... thus ALWAYS being able to define and add that little bit extra ... and Tyler Angle - who is poetry in motion in terms of partnering.  In his arms minds move as the bodies speak.  Breathtaking.  Also - AND I NEVER THOUGHT I'D FIND MYSELF TYPING THIS - I have to congratulate Amar Ramasar for simple unmitigated rapture.  I smile as I type this.  It was just so heartening to witness.  And he's a good actor too!!! ... Who knew?  He was such a card when he first joined NYCB fresh from SAB.  Congratulations and thanks, Amar .... and there is a downright lovely guy!

 

Otherwise I very much enjoyed a Killian programme I saw in Budapest by that fine company, the Hungarian National Ballet (have they ever been to London?  I thought they might have given their close association with Ivan Nagy) .... and - again in Paris - Ratmansky's re-framing of the supposed Stepanov Sleeping Beauty.  There the wonderful Cassandra Trenary and Gabe Stone Shayer - both embodying the true joy of dance - were clear standouts.  

 

Let me also say - since I didn't write a review - that I thought that Bourne's The Red Shoes was up there with his finest work (in my eyes that's things like his Cinderella and Lord of the Flies) .... Dominic North has grown into a very fine partner and I very much liked Bourne's writing for the three brief PDD between him and Ashley Shaw ... Oh, and Lez Brotherston deserves a knighthood for his transcendent sets.  The score too was ravishing - every bit as much as ENB's original take on the Adam for Giselle.  ENB's Gavin Sutherland continues to stand out for me amongst current UK Ballet Musical Directors.  Long may he be celebrated.  (Another person who should be honoured. No question ... at least in my mind.)  

 

Low points:  Much as I too cherish the fact that K. O'Hare - who is doing a brilliant job and reaping the benefits of his building from the bottom up - I do wish he would stop bringing in a certain Ukrainian guest - a fine dancer in her own right but surely not a unique force in any marked rep on the world stage - when there simply is NO need and there is just so much talent on the RB's hand.  If this means having to say 'No' to a certain Mr. McRae so be it.  Just think McRae might well then have the privilege of dancing with Anna-Rose O'Sullivan.  O lucky him!  Must say I didn't care too terribly much for Frankenstein - especially with all the investment of money, time and effort that went into it.  I thought - in the end - it unfairly distorted the narrative of the novel without a gain in emotional effect and yet again showed Scarlett's rather (in my view) juvenile taste in ghoulish twee..  That said there were - as ever - some wonderful performances.  I was disappointed with level of dancing in the 2nd Act Anastasia PDD - the pieces one true classical ballet element - and this was ONLY relieved by the brilliance of the performance of Naghdi and Hay.  Bravi to them for showing the way.  Much needed.  Bonelli was I fear borderline embarrassing - and I saw him twice.  I know he has danced a lot on injury - and I'm sure he is a nice chap and all - but perhaps in the near future he might want to think about moving on.  Indeed O'Hare's dedicated employment of his bottom up philosophy is paying such rich returns that - should this RBS class showcase show dividends this year - he might want to do some judicious red lining in order to be better able to let his fine garden grow and flourish as it so richly is doing.  That said I somehow have a tad more faith in Wheeldon - and thought the first RB cast this season danced his lovely In The Golden Hour very well indeed - that including a sometime here overly maligned Golding - and will be interested to see what changes he will make to Strapless .. which was narratively strapped - as changes I'm sure he will make.  

Edited by Bruce Wall
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Ran out of time editing my last para ... should have done it on a word doc .. but didn't as I didn't intend to write so much ... In any event .... 

 

Low points:  Much as I too cherish the fact that K. O'Hare - who is doing a brilliant job and reaping the benefits of his building from the bottom up - I do wish he would stop bringing in a certain Ukrainian guest - a fine dancer in her own right but surely not a unique force in any marked rep on the world stage - when there simply is NO need and there is just so much talent in the RB's hand to play.  If this means having to say 'No' to a certain Mr. McRae so be it.  Just think McRae might well then have the privilege of dancing with Anna-Rose O'Sullivan.  O lucky him I say!  Must say I also didn't care too terribly much for Frankenstein - especially with all the investment of money, time and effort that went into it.  I thought - in the end - it unfairly distorted the narrative of the fine novel without a gain in emotional effect and yet again showed Scarlett's rather (in my view) juvenile taste in ghoulish twee..  That said there were - as ever - some wonderful performances in it - and - as ever - beautifully constructed costumes.  Must reiterate that I was disappointed with level of dancing in the 2nd Act Anastasia PDD - that piece's one true classical ballet element - and this was ONLY relieved by the reforming BRILLIANCE of the performance of Naghdi and Hay.  (Strike another highlight) Bravi to them I say for showing the way.  Bonelli was I fear borderline embarrassing in this as in several things this season - and I saw him in that slice of McMillan twice.  I know Bonelli has danced a lot on injury - and I'm sure he is a nice chap and all - but perhaps in the near future he might want to think about moving on.  Indeed O'Hare's dedicated employment of his bottom up philosophy (another several season highlight of the highest order) is paying such rich returns that - should 2017 graduating RBS class showcase show keen dividends - he might want to do some judicious pruning in order to be better able to let his fine garden grow and flourish as it so richly deserves and is largely doing.  Surely he deserves that now.  Vis a vis reshaping - I somehow have a tad more faith in Wheeldon with Strapless than Scarlett with Frankenstein (the latter's revised Sweet Violets being still bitterly confused) - and thought the first RB cast this season danced Wheeldon's lovely In The Golden Hour very well indeed - including a positive contribution by the here sometimes overly maligned Golding.  It will be interesting to see what changes Wheeldon will make to Strapless .. which was narratively strapped no question.  

 

As far as the negatives are concerned ... and as you can see ... they were happily mixed with positives. :)

 

Happy New Year to one and all. 

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WORST

Wheeldon's - Strapless

Acosta - Carmen

That's funny, seems I am not the only one unable to forget the awful Carmen. It was actually in 2015 but flashbacks kept popping up, like memories of a bad dream, during 2016. So, yes, somehow it was one of the worst of 2016 too.

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Well 2016 was a year of splendid ballet watching for me!

 

The year started off with 2 highly enjoyable performances of Rhapsody/Two Pigeons.  Francesca Hayward was just breathtaking in Rhapsody and she moved me to tears at her first entrance.  Of course, Yuhui Choe and Alexander Campbell were everything I could have wished for and more in Two Pigeons.  I also loved Beatriz Stix-Brunell and Matthew Ball in the same roles and I was reduced to mush yet again!

 

I saw some outstanding performances of Birmingham Royal Ballet's production of Romeo and Juliet in the spring.  I think William Bracewell is the best Romeo I have ever seen in this production - he really is very special indeed.  My absolute highlight (and of the whole year) however was seeing Chi Cao and Nao Sakuma rolling back the years and giving us some incandescent, breathtaking and heartbreaking performances.  I felt so privileged to be in the audience for the two performances I saw.

 

David Nixon's Swan Lake is one of my favourites and I just gorged myself on performances of it in the Spring.  Javier Torres showed time and again what a magnificent actor he has become.  The cast that moved me the most was Jeremy Curnier, Ashley Dixon and Antoinette Brooks-Daw.

 

I finally got to see Jeremy and Antoinette in 1984 in Edinburgh and subsequently London and they are proving to be a partnership I want to see over and over again.

 

Another serious high was seeing Kenny Tindall's Children of the Mantic Stain at the Dovecot Galleries in Edinburgh.  It was a wonderful setting and Mantic Stain was just fabulous full stop!

 

Sticking with Northern Ballet for a moment, I was totally bowled over by Cathy Marston's Jane Eyre.  Again Javier Torres gave an incandescent and utterly believable performance as the tortured Rochester.  Both Dreda Blow and Hannah Bateman swept me away as Jane.  I do hope this wonderful production is back in the rep soon.

 

And then onto my annual high of the BRB midscale tour.  I just loved Jessica Lang's Wink, especially with Brandon Lawrence dancing the lead role (although it is very much an ensemble piece).  Brandon has such a special quality of movement and takes my breath away every time I see him on stage.

 

BRB's performances of Taming of the Shrew were another highlight.  I was very lucky to see all 3 casts.  The roles of Kate and Pterucchio fitted Elisha Willis and Iain Mackay like a glove.  Nao Sakuma pulled something out of the bag and was just awesome in a role I had never envisaged her in, she and Tyrone Singleton were outstanding.  In the third cast I saw Samara Downs was as superb as I expected her to be and Yasuo Atsuji again proved what a wonderful stage presence he is becoming.

 

I just adored the Bolshoi's Taming of the Shrew in August - so much fun and danced with so much panache and emotion.

 

This meant that post-Bolshoi I enjoyed Northern Ballet's performances of Maillot's Romeo and Juliet even more than I did last year.  I saw two younger casts who just blew me away - Abigail Prudames/Sean Bates and Miki Akuta/Matthew Koon.

 

I spent a wonderful week at the West Yorkshire Playhouse watching Northern Ballet performing Wuthering Heights.  All three casts were superb.  The final Saturday was very poignant as we saw the last of the Martha Leebolt/Tobias Batley partnership for the time being.  But we also at that performance celebrated Hiro Takahashi's 25 years with the company.  The whole company danced their hearts out that night and it was an extremely emotional and very special performance.

 

My highlight in the Autumn from BRB's season was the Shakespeare triple at The Lowry (and then again in Plymouth).  More glorious performances of Wink and my favourite The Dream.  Yes Chi Cao was utterly magnificent as Oberon, James Barton remains my favourite Puck of all time and William Bracewell showed again what a very, very special dancer he is.

 

I'd forgotten just how much I enjoyed Northern Ballet's Beauty and the Beast - OK it's not the deepest of ballets but it is enormous fun and there is some delicious choreography in it.  I am looking forward to starting 2017 seeing the final 2 performances of the current run.

 

So, disappointments of the year - Strapless and Act 2 of David Bintley's The Tempest for BRB.  I enjoyed the Ailey company's visit to The Lowry but thought it was one of the weaker programmes I had seen them do.

 

My dancers of the year:  Alex Campbell, Chi Cao, Brandon Lawrence, William Bracewell, Toby Batley, Nao Sakuma, Delia Matthews, Celine Gittens, Martha Leebolt, Dreda Blow, Hannah Bateman and Antoinette Brooks-Daw.

 

And I'm seriously looking forward to Casanova, La Bayadere (BRB) and seeing all my favourite dancers in 2017!

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Best: can't decide between She Said- Broken Wings and Akram Khan's Giselle.   Standout performances across the two from Stina Quagebur, Begoña Cao, Tamara Rojo.   Third place  would go to ENB's Le Corsaire.  

 

Worst: Multiverse. Despite the dancers, I must add.

 

Artist who most consistently brought a smile to my jaundiced face across the year: Francesca Hayward

 

Award for all-round achievements shock-and-awe: Tamara Rojo 

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I too, had a rather limited ballet viewing experience in 2016.

However, of what I did see I particularly enjoyed the second half of Carlos Acosta's Classical Farewell at Nottingham. His guest artists from Cuba were outstandingly good in some of these pieces, although as has already been mentioned, regrettably the nightmare of his 2015 Carmen was revisited in a pdd.

I also enjoyed, primarily for the quality of dancing, The Invitation and Golden Hour in the RB triple.

Obsidian left me cold as does most of McGregor's work and I have no desire to see anything by him again, whoever is in it.

If I can include dance I have seen on dvd, I would award Elizabeth as many stars as are in the firmament, so many wonderful features to this production, not least its two leads.

Frankenstein, as seen on tv, gets no stars. Admittedly, I only watched/endured the first act but words fail me.

Best on tv would without doubt or hesitation be the Sir Peter Wright documentary.

 

There are several things of interest on the 2017 horizon and I must make more effort to get out more.

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I really enjoyed:  
Elizabeth (with Zenida Yanowsky and Carlos Acosta)
Akane Takada in Pigeons  - and her Giselle was breath-holdingly spell-binding. I'll confess to somewhat losing a little faith in her after such early promise, but delighted at her return to form
The pre-Giselle shows in Clore (always a pleasure seeing the dancers up close) - ditto pre McGregor's triple in November, with the Edmonds/Binet double bill. Hint to Kevin - cast Yasmine Naghdi as Giselle next time round!
Ballet Black's triple bill at Barbican
ENB 'She Said' (especially the Frida Khalo piece 'Broken Wings')
Calvin Richardson in Obsidian Tear
Gary Avis' gala in Ipswich
ENB/Akram Khan's new Giselle (well worth the trip to Southampton)
BRB's Brandon Lawrence and Celine Gittens in Nutcracker (even though it was only a rehearsal).
National Ballet of China's Peony Pavilion - stunningly beautiful and strange (in a good way) to western eyes/ears
Yasmine Naghdi in everything she does, from major roles to 'friends'. I'd looked forward to her SPF solo variation since casting announced, and was not disappointed. Roll on her Aurora!
Francesca Hayward's Florine/Bluebirds (from Sleeping Beauty) was probably the best i've ever clapped eyes on. And again, everything she does is a joy
Isabella Gasparini's Clara (in Nutcracker) - unbridled joy. That smile could melt the Arctic before global warming gets the chance
Sarah Lamb in Sleeping Beauty. Such grace and elegance
Non-ballet highs were few and far between - but Wales doing well at the Euro footie, Harzand winning the Derby, evening racing on Epsom Downs in glorious sunshine, the medal haul at the Olympics, The Cheltenham Festival, 6Nations rugby (and Ireland beating the All Blacks) would be up there

Things i didn't enjoy:
middle part of Multiverse - and assault on the eyes and ears! Quite liked the last section though.
Anastasia - unlike most, I didn't mind the first 2 acts, really disliked act 3 though, with aimless running around and camp hop-skipity soldiers.
The Invitation - deeply unpleasant material, set in a gloomfest. With people pretending to be chickens for some unfathomable reason.
The tedium of Strapless
The rise in 'post-truth'
So many favourite entertainers coming to an early death

 

hmm - that was going to be brief when I started!

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My best:  Edward Watson in Winter's Tale.  Ditton Lauren Cuthbertson and Zenaida Yanowsky.  I hope that this work is repeated regularly, rather than just given a second airing as a new work.  I also loved Osipova's Giselle

 

Worst:  Strapless - a waste of my time and money and the same for RB.  A big blank nothing that somebody should have pulled the plug on.  Anastacia falls in the 'glad I went but never again' category.

 

But on this hopeful first day of 2017, there is so much to look forward to and I applaud KOH for his promotion of home-grown talent and for the general direction of the company.  I will even forgive his giving the go-ahead to Acosta's Carmen when DQ made it fairly obvious that this wonderful dancer does not have choreographic gifts.

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Bill - think you need to quote the full reference - 

 

Much as I too cherish the fact that K. O'Hare - who is doing a brilliant job and reaping the benefits of his building from the bottom up - I do wish he would stop bringing in a certain Ukrainian guest - a fine dancer in her own right but surely not a unique force in any marked rep on the world stage - when there simply is NO need and there is just so much talent in the RB's hand to play.  If this means having to say 'No' to a certain Mr. McRae so be it.  Just think McRae might well then have the privilege of dancing with Anna-Rose O'Sullivan.  O lucky him I say!  

 

It has been suggested here - as elsewhere - that the reason the referenced dancer is brought in so plenteously is on Mr. McRae's insistence/request.  I have no knowledge whether or not this is true - but I do find the 'guesting' unjustified when there is so much RB talent on hand - as is now frequently commented upon in these boards.  Surely they deserve first dibs at those prised opportunities ... and surely Mr. McRae deserves the chance to dance with more of the stellar in-house developing artists.  

 

For me, I think - short of an extreme emergency which is not relevant in this case given the casting is announced months in advance - that a guest should ONLY be brought in if they have proven gifts - recognised on a world scale - in terms of a specific repertory; ones that the entire company/audience could benefit from.  I am shocked that this dancer was brought in to dance in Nutcracker of all things .... and also Diamonds.  Where I wonder does it stop?  As I have said elsewhere IF you were going to bring a world referenced guest artist today into the RB fold for Diamonds then why not Mearns .. or Smirnova?  To repeat what I said on an earlier board ... IF it was felt necessary to do so - for it's own sake - (though why that would be the case I just don't know) - then I, myself, would have suggested knocking on BRB's Hirata's door.  Her performance in Theme and Variations seen - (by a sadly small audience it must be said) - at Sadler's Wells was A TOTAL KNOCKOUT ... That performance would happily compare with ANY NYCB performance in that same today ... and indeed I would imagine on any current world stage.  I would have thought McRae and Hirata would be entirely vivid together ... but even then I would think it unnecessary ... and - on an even finer point - (and away from your specific question) I still think McRae's gifts are better suited to Rubies.  His RB performance in that same with the RB Principal Osipova I've put in my legendary category.  I'm so sorry it won't be repeated on this coming JEWELS go round - especially as it marks such an important anniversary for the Balanchine work itself. 

 

Sorry, that's more than I intended to say ... but must dash.  I'm teaching a workshop today and don't want to be late.  

Edited by Bruce Wall
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My dancers of the year:  Alex Campbell, Chi Cao, Brandon Lawrence, William Bracewell, Toby Batley, Nao Sakuma, Delia Matthews, Celine Gittens, Martha Leebolt, Dreda Blow, Hannah Bateman and Antoinette Brooks-Daw.

 

 

 

 

 

I also meant to have Ayami Miyata of Northern Ballet on my list of dancers of the year.  Due to injury problems with the ladies Ayami performed either Odette or Odilia in 8 out of 11 performances of Swan Lake in Leeds.  She was a total delight in both roles.  She was terrific in everything else I saw her in too.

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If I just think to myself what stood out in 2016 it is without doubt ENB's Khan Giselle.  I am also grateful for having seen the wonderful NYCB and ABT performances I saw in Paris and Dutch National Ballet's Mata Hari and Bayadere amongst their other shows.  The Bolshoi was not that stellar this year due to the rep nor the Mariinsky in Cardiff.  Paris Opera Ballet's recent Swan Lake was also a classic standout.  BRB's Taming of the Shrew was wonderful and Delia Matthews and Brandon Lawrence in Swan Lake were perfect not to mention Month in the Country and The Dream by BRB!

Pups for me were The Red Shoes and Scottish Ballet's Swan Lake.

Favourite dancers - well list is too long but Cesar Corrales (ENB) and Francois Alu (POB) were the most exciting men I saw. Tiler Peck (NYCB) Sara Mearns (NYCB) Maia Makhateli ( Mata Hari HNB) brought the necessary to their performances and Alexandrova and Lantratov brought great joie de vivre to their DonQ in the Bolshoi run.

In ending I must remember the first ballet show I saw in 2016 which was the fabulous "Mr Wonderful" gala in honour and remembrance of the late Jonathan Olivier, that was one heck of a tribute.

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My list has become somewhat over-long but there has been soooo much to appreciate in 2016.

 

Best of 2016: People

Marianela Nunez and Vadim Muntagirov (both RB): wonderful in everything they do but especially together in Giselle

Lauren Cuthbertson/Laura Morera/Natalia Osipova (all RB) for their tour de force in Anastasia

Ekaterina Krysanova (Bolshoi) for being tremendous in every production mounted in London by the Bolshoi

Yasmine Naghdi (RB) in anything and everything but extra special in partnership with the equally excellent Matthew Ball (RB)

Francesca Hayward in anything and everything but especially alongside Marcellino Sambe in Fille (both RB)

Cesar Corrales (ENB) for his Hilarion (Khan) and Birbanto (Le Corsaire) – an astonishing talent and still aged only 20

Rina Kanehara (ENB) for her Clara/Sugar Plum Fairy – another amazing talent and still aged only 18

Alina Cojocaru and Stina Quagebeur (both ENB) for their very affecting performances as Giselle and Myrtha respectively (Khan version)

Beatriz Stix-Brunell (RB) for arguably the best Young Girl in The Two Pigeons

Begona Cao and Irek Mukhamedov (both ENB) for Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera , albeit not in the same cast, in Broken Wings in the She Said programme

Erina Takahashi (ENB) for the lead role in M-Dao in the She Said programme

Anna Rose O’Sullivan and Reece Clarke (both RB) for ‘breaking through’ so effectively in both classical and modern roles

Joseph Aumeer and Harrison Lee (both RBS at the time although Joseph is now with POB) for their summer RBS performances; Vicenzo di Primo (RB Apprentice) for his spinning revolutionary in Anastasia

The Royal Ballet Corps (both male and female) for sustained excellence

The whole ENB Company for their energy, work-rate and overall high standards

Gavin Sutherland and the ENB Philharmonic for providing such fantastic support to the dancers

 

Best of 2016: Productions

Broken Wings in ENB’s She Said Programme – a mini-masterpiece

Akram Khan’s Giselle (ENB) – a major masterpiece; so powerful

Anastasia (RB) – I loved it and all 3 Anastasias blew me away

The Two Pigeons (RB) – so pleased to see it in the RB’s rep. and so beautifully performed by all casts

La Fille Mal Gardee (RB) – a joy even though it may have come back too soon

Flames of Paris (Bolshoi) – WOW !!!!!

The Invitation (RB) – I appreciate that the subject matter is not to everyone’s taste but the performances within it were truly stellar

Le Corsaire (ENB) – WOW !!!!! and to see it performed at the Palais Garnier WOW again!

Winter's Tale - which got me hooked on its second outing and gave us a pitch-perfect Leontes from Bennet Gartside

..... and Anthony Dowell rehearsing Vadim Muntagirov in  Dance of the Blessed Spirits and Reece Clarke as Prince Florimund for the Ashton Rediscovered series of events at the RBS (what a treat!)

 

Worst of 2016: Productions

Frankenstein (RB) – such a disappointment but it surely can be ‘fixed’

Multiverse (RB) – another dose of the Emperor’s new clothes from McGregor which could not have justified the inevitably huge expense of the ‘wall’ which frames the piece

Strapless (RB) – maybe too flimsy a hook to hang a viable ballet onto?

Cheri (Ferri and Cornejo in the Linbury) – I was bored; it didn’t ‘go anywhere’

Fantastic Beings in ENB’s She Said programme – it might have helped had the audience been able to see the dancers

........speaking of which, lighting generally must come into my ‘worst of’ list; and it’s not just new works which suffer – something is seriously amiss with the RB’s recently revived Sleeping Beauty.

 

Yes – I know that my list is heavily weighted towards the Royal Ballet and English National Ballet with a little bit of the Bolshoi thrown in. I do go to watch other companies here and abroad (honest) but they and their dancers don’t seem to stir me one way or the other to the same extent. RB and ENB are like my ‘home teams’, I suppose.

Edited by capybara
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And like others I should have added Stina Quagebeur to my 'Best' list for her tremendous Myrthe in Akram Khan's Giselle.

 

For practical and financial reasons, I currently only see performances in London. And for the same reasons, even in London I don't go as often or to as wide a variety of performances as I would like. But I am grateful that I can currently see even what I do see, since who knows what the future holds.

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2016 was an exciting ballet-going year for me, full of great things! It was the year I really shifted from going to shows in London because much as I love the RB, it's just so difficult and expensive for me, once you factor in the (ever increasing) train fares etc. Thanks to this forum and especially Janet McNulty, I have ventured to many new (to me) theatres in 2016 including Bradford, Leeds, Milton Keynes and Bristol. As a non driver, all surprisingly easy to get to on the train!!

 

Top highlights for me included the last performance by BRB's Elisha Willis in The Taming of the Shrew in Bristol in June. Pure brilliance. Far to go geographically for me from Nottingham but a lovely theatre and lots to visit as well in the city, plus a very good hotel deal!! (booked to go to Bristol again for BRB next year!)

 

Other highlights were pretty much everything by BRB, in particular watching certain dancers really shine such as Brandon Lawrence, William Bracewell and too many others to mention.

 

 

I've also really started to properly get to know Northern Ballet and their current dancers and productions. I adored their version of Swan Lake and their Jane Eyre was utterly superb and so moving.

 

Ballet Black with their fabulous triple bill was also a highlight. 2016 was the first time I'd seen them and most definitely not the last!

 

And of course Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty was touring in 2016. I saw it about 3 times and it was brilliantly magical and moving. Then, Red Shoes opened in the autumn and I saw it in its second week. For me, it was a 2016 highlight seeing it for the first time but I know it's going to keep getting better as the dancers and Sir Matthew keep working on it so I'll maybe save that one for the 2017 round up!

 

I don't  much like to talk about 'the worst' because even if one does not enjoy a particular performance, the dancers, choreographer etc all put so much work in. But yes, RB's Frankenstein has very much put me off ever again spending money on something new at ROH......Will stick to cinema or wait until reviews come out!

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