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This brand new mixed bill by The Royal Ballet, opened this evening for 4 performances only:

 

 

 

 

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Machina: Carlos Acosta and Leanne Benjamin

© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

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Trespass - Sarah Lamb and Steven McRae

© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

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Diana and Actaeon - Marianela Nunez as Diana

© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

 

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Set on Flickr - RB's new Metamorphosis: Titian 2012

Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

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Here are my intial thoughts on these pieces, though I think they're all the kind of thing that needs to be seen more than once before I can really sort out what I think about them (so fingers crossed the rain tomorrow isn't too torrential because I'm determined to go to the big screen!).

 

I surprised myself by really enjoying Machina. I'm not usually a fan of McGregor's choreography (except maybe Infra) but there was a lot here that I liked. Of course, it's possible that all the bits I liked were Brandstrup's, but I even enjoyed the sections that were very clearly McGregor. I loved the music, but I couldn't help feeling the Diana robot was a bit of a waste of time and money. A shame it made so much noise, too. The highlight for me was Watson and Rojo's second pas de deux, which was so full of feeling that I had tears in my eyes. Though perhaps this was partly due to the knowledge that this may well be the last time I see Rojo dance on the ROH stage (depending on when/if she returns as a guest). She will be so very, very much missed, and at the end of the evening, this is the piece that stuck in my mind.

 

Trespass: I fully expected this to be my favourite as I love Wheeldon's choreography. Judging from people's reactions on Twitter, I feel like I might have missed something so I'm keen to see it again. I liked the corps sections a lot, and the effect of the mirror/screen with the corps in front and behind it. I enjoyed Melissa Hamilton's section and the pas de deux for the others. While Sarah Lamb and Steven McRae danced theirs beautifully, I couldn't help feeling that it was a bit too much gymnastics for the sake of it, and not enough to make a connection with the audience (or maybe just me). I love gymnastics, I honestly do (I've written a series of children's books about it, so I really do love it) but it's not necessarily what I want to see when I watch ballet. It's fine if it has a purpose and adds some value, but I just felt that here...it was there because they could do it and it would look impressive. I just felt no connection to it at all. But maybe that was just me and I'll 'get it' tomorrow.

 

Diana and Actaeon: I liked the set. Not so much the costumes. The whole thing, I thought, was alright but nothing special and the choreography was quite predictable. I liked the hounds sections though :)

 

It was wonderful to see Monica Mason dancing forwards to take her bow at the end. She looked so happy.

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Wonderful photos as always Dave!

 

In the afternoon I went to the exhibition, fascinating to see it before going to the ballet, as there were rooms devoted to 6 costumes, design models and films, and a rehearsal film, shortly there will a ballet film to be shown in the small cinema too, presumably taken from the live relay. The installations were good too, very theatrical but not much lighting to get around by.

 

With so many artists involved there was a lot to take in, Machina and Trespass are plotless whereas Diana and Actaeon is a straighforward telling of the myth, I would like to hear what others think, I was a bit baffled by Machina, but wonderful music, part sounding Elizabethan and part modern, and some intense, moving pdd for the 4 leading dancers. Trespass has evocative designs and (after reading the programme) plays on the theme of voyeurism, I thought it slightly similar to Sensorium, Melissa Hamilton is Diana but couldn't work out any other characters, again some beautiful and tricky pdd. Diana and Actaeon has very colourful but more traditional designs and choreography, didn't like Diana's orange bodysuit and wig(on show at the National) but liked Actaeon's dual costumes, Chris Offili got a huge cheer at the end deservedly, coming after the other 2 ballets this one did feel more old-fashioned, but easier to follow. I wonder if it is intended as a one-off or for future performances?

 

Certainly looking forward to seeing it again, hope it will be regarded as a huge success!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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OK, a few thoughts from me. First time I watched was through a lens, which is never ideal for a first viewing of a ballet! Watching it again 'in full' last night confirmed most of my ideas about what I'd been thinking from the rehearsal. Thought the new scores were great - especially 'Trespass' and some of the sublime sections of Machina. The pdds in Machina were outstanding to my eyes, and the pdt with Edward Watson, Leanne Benjamin and Carlos Acosta. Tamara Rojo was in commanding form - boy, are we going to miss her! I thought they rather missed a trick with the robot; had it been used more as voyeuristic (and malevolent) 'thinking machine' presence, following the dancers around the stage, providing an alternative light source (as it did indeed often do), it could have been very effective, as it gradually emerged from the mist and shadows. The silly wizzing about bits just made it feel a distraction, and an annoying one at that.

My favourite piece was Trespass. Thought the whole was larger than the sum of the very fine parts - the score, the effective staging, glowing lighting, some wonderful choreography, and some outstanding dancing, not just from the 5 leads (who were all uniformly excellent) but also from the corps, who all played a vibrant part in the proceedings. Personally, I think this the most successful of the 3 - at least, I found it the most satisfying. And OK, there were a lot of my favourite dancers in it, which certainly didn't hurt!

I must confess struggling a little but with Diana & Actaeon. As anyone who knows me knows, I'm not exactly a Glen Tetley fan, and this had the feel of some of his work in it. Not sure what to do next - get Marianela to throw in a huge arabesque! Hmm - not keen on the histrionics. The wigs and make-up weren't a hit with me either - but the sets/staging was superb! Federico Bonelli as Actaeon didn't seem to get that much to do except die horribly, the corps dancing as the Nymphs was too shadowy/dark for my liking - ,though what I could make out looked nice.

 

All in all, certainly looking forward to seeing it again during next week.

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Here are my intial thoughts on these pieces, though I think they're all the kind of thing that needs to be seen more than once before I can really sort out what I think about them (so fingers crossed the rain tomorrow isn't too torrential because I'm determined to go to the big screen!).

 

Current weather forecast has the rain clearing by about 7 pm. I'm still taking my waterproofs, fleece, etc. etc. ...

 

Thanks for posting your thoughts, Jane - I think on a first viewing they're not dissimilar to my own.

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Whilst I applaud the ambition shown by this project I'm afraid that I was disapponted with the end result. I found the choreography in Machina largely unmemorable and once the robot's novelty value had worn off it became rather distracting. For me, Trespass was the most successful piece. It had an arresting percussive score and the design and choreography were both good and complemented each other. It is the only piece which I think might be performed again. I was most disappointed with Diana and Actaeon. The costumes were an illogical mixture of colours and styles (the nymphs' frilled leotards were particularly unattractive) and the choreography was mostly very predictable; in a less illustrious venue you could have thought that it had been done by students so amateurish did it feel. The use of animal masks on sticks was an unfortunate choice and raised a laugh last night. I couldn't see the whole of the Ofili backdrops from my seat in the Amphitheatre and so I didn't see much more than brightly coloured plants and flowers. Marienela Nunez dominated the stage in her plucked firebird costume, which I actually quite liked, and completely overshadowed poor Federico Bonelli who did not have much material to work with.

 

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I don't like being so negative about new work (not that my opinion matters anyway!) as we all complain when the RB doesn't commission new work. Frankly, a lot of older work is far from perfect. Some of the classics have a lot of padding and the peasant/courtier dances can be tedious. I've only been watching ballet for a few years and so I haven't seen that much, but I was really struck by the number of ballets that I hadn't heard of let alone seen when I looked at the display about Dame Monica Mason at the ROH. What has happened to all these ballets? Were they not that good, have they just gone out of fashion or has newer work displaced them in the schedules?

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But we are in for some great treats next Season! Kevin O'Hare's 2012-2013 programming looks very exciting to me, with lots of new work (can't wait for the new Ratmansky) and several Ballets I have never seen before.

 

Looking at the debuts coming up (just announced on Balletnews) it promises to be a wonderful Season (IMO).

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I don't like being so negative about new work (not that my opinion matters anyway!) as we all complain when the RB doesn't commission new work. Frankly, a lot of older work is far from perfect. Some of the classics have a lot of padding and the peasant/courtier dances can be tedious. I've only been watching ballet for a few years and so I haven't seen that much, but I was really struck by the number of ballets that I hadn't heard of let alone seen when I looked at the display about Dame Monica Mason at the ROH. What has happened to all these ballets? Were they not that good, have they just gone out of fashion or has newer work displaced them in the schedules?

 

A very good question, aileen, and I hope you don't mind that I've borrowed it to start a new thread: http://www.balletcoforum.com/index.php?/topic/1534-ballets-which-have-fallen-by-the-wayside/

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I'm struck how few comments there are here - when in the rest of twitterdom and the blogoshere these new creations have generated Diaghilevian levels of heat, comparable to a century ago when in the same hot flush Le Dieu bleu, L’Après midi d’un faune and Daphnis and Chloé were all premiered.

 

Now as then - are these pieces that excite traditionally non-dance goers?

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Well, they all seemed to go down very well with the (admittedly sparser than usual) crowd in Trafalgar Square on Monday.

 

I've been meaning to post more, but need some time to put my thoughts together.

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So, Jane, did you get to the live relay, and did you change your mind at all?

 

I surprised myself by really enjoying Machina. I'm not usually a fan of McGregor's choreography (except maybe Infra) but there was a lot here that I liked. Of course, it's possible that all the bits I liked were Brandstrup's, but I even enjoyed the sections that were very clearly McGregor. I loved the music, but I couldn't help feeling the Diana robot was a bit of a waste of time and money. A shame it made so much noise, too. The highlight for me was Watson and Rojo's second pas de deux, which was so full of feeling that I had tears in my eyes.

 

Yes, I liked that very much, too - and several of the other duets. On a first viewing - and having been to see the exhibition briefly prior to the performance - I wasn't sure quite how abstracted it was: the exhibition leaflet implies that Acosta and Watson represent Actaeon, but did that necessarily mean that Benjamin and/or Rojo actually represented Diana (bearing in mind that the robot did) or not? Rojo, certainly, in places, I could understand. And I wasn't really sure what the supporting cast - conceptually speaking - were doing there. I was hoping that a lot of this would be clarified when I watched it on the big screen, but unfortunately I don't think Machina was particularly well filmed in a way that would give the overall effect: there seemed to be rather too much concentration on the dancers, so I wasn't any clearer as to how Diana-bot interacted with the rest of it. For example, in one place Acosta gets too close and trespasses on her territory, which is when "she" becomes highly agitated, but the focus was too closely on him for the viewer to be able to realise this, I think. Perhaps I'd have learned more if I'd sat through all the videos in the exhibition first. (Incidentally, I noticed on reading the reviews of the exhibition that the significance of the Diana-bot there passed quite a few of the reviewers by, too). Oh well, I have one last opportunity to have a proper look at it tomorrow. I am, however, rather worried by Graham Watts' statement in his review for londondance.com that significant amounts of the set weren't visible from the back of the stalls circle ...

 

Trespass: I fully expected this to be my favourite as I love Wheeldon's choreography. Judging from people's reactions on Twitter, I feel like I might have missed something so I'm keen to see it again.

 

(Grr!! The site went and swallowed most of the rest of my posting at this point. I'll try and pick out the gist of what I said)

 

I suspect this one had the benefit of the best score, which must help. I started off feeling that everything was intermeshing very well, and that this was the best one, but as it went on I started thinking "And yet ...". There were some very effective groupings, to be sure, I spotted a few points which reminded me very much of Wheeldon's earlier DGV, and the set generally worked very well (it's amazing what you can do with some scrunched-up tinfoil in the digital age), but what I've come away with afterwards has been the poses more than the steps: as someone said at the interval, it's really rather short on "real" dance. Like Jane, I thought it was really a bit too acrobatic. I also thought that Steven McRae was rather wasted in it: he seemed to spend the majority of his time acting as porteur to Sarah Lamb - which he did extremely well, of course - but is that really the best use of him?

 

 

Diana and Actaeon: I liked the set. Not so much the costumes. The whole thing, I thought, was alright but nothing special and the choreography was quite predictable. I liked the hounds sections though smile.png

 

I have to say, I thought Ofili's set was stunning: reminded me of Matisse and probably quite a few other painters I might come up with if I sat down and thought about it. Less taken with the costumes, though. I went for my last train partway through this on Monday, so have had rather less exposure to it than to the other pieces, and was getting a bit tired on Saturday night by that time. Will have to see what I think after tomorrow's performance. But was I the only one wondering, following his performance in the "other" Metamorphosis, what Watson would have made of the transformation from human into stag?

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I've seen it twice and am equally confused in Machina as to what the relationship is between the robot and the dancers, the programme says the robot is Diana and she starts off at ease,then becomes agitated when she notices the dancers, but to me there are two things going on at the same time, the smaller robot with antler in the National Gallery exhibition works much better, the robot in the ballet just becomes another object to ignore, like LED figures and video screens. Some beautiful choreography though.

 

Trespass is probably the only ballet that could be given on it's own, there is a wonderful languid atmosphere, I really couldn't see the join between Marriott and Wheeldon, marvellous pdd's for Beatriz Stix-Brunell and Nehemiah Kish, and the acrobatic one for Sarah Lamb and Steven McRae. Still a confusion as to who is Diana, some say Sarah Lamb and others Melissa Hamilton, suppose it doesn't matter, these is a mood ballet.

 

What a welcome burst of colour from Chris Ofili for D and A, I hope the RB ask him to design again, think the idea of having 3 versions of the pdd is a mistake and robs the ballet of a strong central one, also the ballet does look old-fashioned, not exactly cutting-edge, compared to the other two.

 

The collaboration worked amazingly well though, after all it's not everyday you see ballet costumes, designs and films in the National Gallery!

 

 

 

 

 

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Still a confusion as to who is Diana, some say Sarah Lamb and others Melissa Hamilton, suppose it doesn't matter, these is a mood ballet.

 

Definitely Hamilton, I'd say, since she's the focus of the "bathing" scene. But then, Lamb could be as well, from a different perspective.

 

"think the idea of having 3 versions of the pdd is a mistake and robs the ballet of a strong central one" - I didn't realise on first viewing that that was what had happened, and missed at least one on second viewing. I think they were constrained (although that's probably not the right word) by the length and structure of the score.

 

The collaboration worked amazingly well though, after all it's not everyday you see ballet costumes, designs and films in the National Gallery!

 

Very true.

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Yes, I did make it to the Big Screen in Trafalgar Square - and was very glad I went. Seeing Machina again confirmed it as my favourite of the three, and I wished I could see it again. I liked Trespass more on a second viewing. Like you, Alison, when I first saw it I felt the beginning was brilliant and thought I was going to really love it - but then on reflection found that I didn't take as much away from it as Machina. And that opinion largely held, though I appreciated how seamlessly the piece worked as a whole and it was nice to see it from a 'centre' view rather than the SCS view I had on Saturday. I agree that McRae could have been given better things to do - good as he was, it would have been nice to see more actual dance than lifts etc. I felt exactly the same about D&A as I did on first viewing.

 

I feel sad that I'm not there tonight for Monica Mason's last night at the Royal Ballet, and Tamara Rojo's last performance as a full-time principal. But, apart from Machina, I'm not desperate to see this triple bill again so soon.

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Definitely Hamilton, I'd say, since she's the focus of the "bathing" scene. But then, Lamb could be as well, from a different perspective.

 

"think the idea of having 3 versions of the pdd is a mistake and robs the ballet of a strong central one" - I didn't realise on first viewing that that was what had happened, and missed at least one on second viewing. I think they were constrained (although that's probably not the right word) by the length and structure of the score.

 

 

 

Very true.

 

The NK/BSB pdd (lovely choreography) was unnecessary and meaningless in the overall choreography of Trespass. To me it felt like Wheeldon just "threw in" that extra pdd. The Lamb pdd and Melissa in the "bathing" scene by itself would have created a better effect.

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  • 1 month later...

Just bumping this to let people know that I'd guess about 10 minutes' footage from the live-relay performance is now included in the exhibition at the National Gallery (which continues until late September, and which I took another look at yesterday). I do wish they'd had the courtesy to credit the leading dancers, though, along with all the other creatives and technical people.

 

With regard to JaneL's comment

 

The highlight for me was Watson and Rojo's second pas de deux, which was so full of feeling that I had tears in my eyes. Though perhaps this was partly due to the knowledge that this may well be the last time I see Rojo dance on the ROH stage (depending on when/if she returns as a guest).

 

I'd meant to say that you should have seen it on the last night: it was *really* emotional (I don't think it was just because I was a lot closer to the stage). In fact, there's a segment - not sure whether or not it's from the second pdd - in the exhibition which I would really treasure, as a representation of both of them. (I wonder whether any of the footage is online? I know the poems inspired by the exhibition are.)

 

Based on these snippets (and the exhibition as a whole), it's still Machina which fascinates me, and Trespass is doing it less and less for me as time goes on.

 

Perhaps I'd have learned more if I'd sat through all the videos in the exhibition first.

 

Or perhaps not. I found the McGregor/Acosta spot the most frustrating: the camera focused on Acosta in such detail (when it wasn't showing blank walls or something!) that it was as if the cameraman had been ordered not to give away anything whatsoever about the choreography!

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I must try to see this again when I come to London for SFB in September, I find the documentary good too, I see more in Machina (Ed Watson's antler arm movements) each time, and Alistair Marriott and Christopher Wheeldon did work literally together on everything in Trespass, which I had thought was likely.

 

There is also a 3 minute film from the National Gallery online telling the legend in a modern setting, very atmospheric.

 

 

 

 

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I'd meant to say that you should have seen it on the last night: it was *really* emotional (I don't think it was just because I was a lot closer to the stage). In fact, there's a segment - not sure whether or not it's from the second pdd - in the exhibition which I would really treasure, as a representation of both of them. (I wonder whether any of the footage is online? I know the poems inspired by the exhibition are.)

 

Oh, I wish I had been there! Do you mean a segment from the recorded performance, or the rehearsal? I saw the films in the exhibition before going to see the opening night, but if there's recorded performance footage worth seeing I might make another trip to the National Gallery.

 

I completely agree about the footage of Acosta rehearsing. I found it frustrating too - way too much close up, you can hardly see any whole movements!

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Alistair Marriott and Christopher Wheeldon did work literally together on everything in Trespass, which I had thought was likely.

 

They didn't. The first, fourth and seventh movements were the two choreographers together. They did one pas de deux and one "fast movement" (Marriott's words) each individually.

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Oh, I wish I had been there! Do you mean a segment from the recorded performance, or the rehearsal? I saw the films in the exhibition before going to see the opening night, but if there's recorded performance footage worth seeing I might make another trip to the National Gallery.

 

It's from the recorded performance, and now available on the link Lynette gave (thanks, Lynette). So whether you need to go or not really depends on whether you want to see it on a 50-inch-odd screen or not :)

 

Thanks, Beryl: I hadn't even registered that Ed's arm movements were antler-shaped, but I suppose they were, now I look at them again.

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They didn't. The first, fourth and seventh movements were the two choreographers together. They did one pas de deux and one "fast movement" (Marriott's words) each individually.

 

That's interesting, can't remember the sequence now but my favourite pdd was the Stix-Brunell/Kish one.

 

Liked the 10 minute live relay film too.

 

 

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