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BRB SWAN LAKE - AUTUMN 2012


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BRB's Celine Gittens and Tyrone Singleton will dance the lead roles on 5 October - a not unimportant event in the light of some fairly heavy debate elsewhere in recent weeks on racist (or not) attitudes in major ballet companies. Luke Jennings of the Observer/Guardian has found himself at the forefront of this and has a useful interview with both in today's edition:

 

http://www.guardian....leton-interview

 

 

Edited to say that I see that Luke is under attack again already in the comment under his article.

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BRB opened their Autumn Season with Swan Lake at the Lowry this week.

 

I will be posting my thoughts later but would love to hear what anyone else thought too.

 

It was lovely meeting Pups-Mum and Amum/Cathy and their DCs at the Lowry this evening.

 

It was a great to finally meet you Janet, thankyou for that. I always enjoy and appreciate your postings. :)

 

I loved this staging - I have been wanting to see the BRB Swan Lake for years. I surprised myself by prefering Act 1 to Act 3, which is my usual favourite. Probably it was the impact of the men's dancing in Act 1 which drew my attention. It really showcased what a strong company they have become with their men, if that makes sense :rolleyes: Joseph Caley goes from strength to strength. Elisha Willis didn't really let go enough and show us her dramatic skills and musicality. The technique was there (except not making all the fouettes - she managed 18 according to Pups_mum's dd!), but I suspect she wasn't confident enough, it being the beginning of the season, to really show us what she can do in her interpretation. I suspect a performance later in the season could blow the audience away...

 

I loved the costumes and the sets, as always with BRB. The shimmering of the lake, and the lightning were wonderful effects.

 

Am feeling very flat now - we have been looking forward to this for 6 months. I will be examining my bank balance and diary very closely to see if we can afford to catch it again somewhere else :huh:

 

Hope we can meet again Janet

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I saw the Friday evening performance with Chi Cao and Nao Sakuma. I did not like Act 1 much at all compared to other versions and there were several sections where the dancers were not quite as together as usual for BRB, the men fared better than the women. Things got much much better in Act 2. In Act 1 I found Marion Tate was more a very scary Carabosse than loving mother and Queen - extremely austere indeed! Nao is a total professional and it was upon her arrival on stage that the rest upped their game in my opinion. Nao's Odette was perfect the right amount of nervousness of meeting the Prince and as Odile the right amount of evil and double crossing intent. In this version we seemed to have lost some princesses there being only 3 but no matter Act 3 was as good as it usually is in Swan lake. Chi Cao partners Nao Sakuma perfectly and he put in a good performance as well. The best bit was the curtain up on Act 4 with lake full of mist and the swans rising from the dry ice - fabulous! That is the bit I came to see as only BRB seem to do it like that. The ending was great especially with Benno carrying on a dead Prince at the end super. Some of the the costumes were VERY heavy looking and the poor dancers must have been boiled. I liked the pairing of Victoria Marr and William Bracewell and I would have liked to have seen a lot more of Momoko Hirata.

A good night out, Birmingham next weekend for the Triple Bill awaits!

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Well what can I say........ I saw four performances of BRB's Swan Lake at the Lowry this week and really enjoyed them all.

 

Sir Peter Wright's production is traditional and gorgeous. I've read that he has made some tweaks, taking some dances out of Act 3, but it is still a very handsome production and all the essential elements are still there. I particularly like the very clear mime. The white act set had been tweaked so that the lake is more open at the back of the stage. I found the changes made the set even more effective.

 

For all the performances I saw the swans were exemplary.

 

I saw three casts:

 

Nao Sakuma/Chi Cao/Mathias Dingman

Jenna Roberts/Iain Mackay/William Bracewell

Elisha Willis/Joe Caley/Tzu-Chao Chou

 

All three casts brought something different to the roles. Nao and Chi have the benefit of being regular partners who know this ballet inside out. As DQF has already mentioned, Nao is a consumate professional and was brilliant. Chi, for me, really inhabited the role and showed such a range of emotions and his dancing was impeccable and exciting to watch. I loved the way he looked at his father's throne so sadly in Act 3 and would not sit there. Mathias was brilliant as Benno - gorgeous dancing and beautifully understated acting.

 

Elisha and Joe are well matched. Joe's artistic stature is growing all the time and he really acted the role of the disconsolate prince who unexpectedly finds and then loses love. I particularly liked Elisha in Act 3 - she was scheming and manipulative. Tzu-Chao was a delight as Benno.

 

Jenna and Iain gave what can only be described as a spectacular performance on Saturday afternoon. Jenna was so fragile and vulnerable in the white acts and diamond hard in Act 3. I think that hers was the greatest contrast between Odette and Odile. Iain goes from strength to strength. I liked his melacholy but also his twinkle when he saw the courtesans! It was William Bracewell's debut as Benno and a very good debut it was!

 

The company looks to be on sparkling form and this production has been mounted with care and attention to detail. It must be one of the best Swan Lakes around. I'm looking forward to seeing it again in Birmingham and Sunderland.

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Luke Jennings of the Observer/Guardian has found himself at the forefront of this and has a useful interview with both in today's edition:

 

http://www.guardian....leton-interview

 

Thanks for the link, Ian. Is it really true that no black (or mixed-race) ballerina has ever danced Odette/Odile before? I'm slightly surprised at that.

 

The poster did have something of a point, though: I'd already noted the "all-black" casting in the last RB revival of Agon, and considered citing it as a possible instance of positive discrimination in recent discussions on race in ballet. I suppose it depends on how you look at it.

 

Anyway, getting back to Swan Lake, I'm interested to read that Sir Peter has trimmed Act III: I've always found it a little too long for my taste.

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I've got to admit to having to ask what the trim was! :D I didn't notice but one chum thought the best bit had been taken out....

 

There's a fascinating tweet fest currently going on between Luke Jennings and Dance Tabs about whether there has previously been a black Odette/Odile.

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I particularly liked Elisha in Act 3 - she was scheming and manipulative. Tzu-Chao was a delight as Benno.

That's interesting Janet - the only thing that I was slightly disappointed in was that I felt Elisha was a little bit unconvincing in Act 3. She still seemed a bit "nice" to me! Not that that spoiled my enjoyment though. Totally agree with you about Tzu-Chao though, he absolutely lit up the stage. My daughter has been raving about him non stop!

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Pups_Mum - perhaps her scheming manipulativeness didn't reach to the circle? Close-up her facial expressions were superb.

 

I've been raving about Tzu-Chao since I saw him as The Raven in Beauty and the Beast last year! He gave a terrifically entertaining talk to BRB Friends before the matinee on Saturday. He let slip that he likes the British rain - may have changed his opinion after today!

 

 

 

Edited to add a missing word by JMcN

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There's a fascinating tweet fest currently going on between Luke Jennings and Dance Tabs about whether there has previously been a black Odette/Odile.

 

apparently it's been determined that Lauren Anderson of Houston Ballet did it a while back.But Celine would be the first in the UK

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well, I'm just back from seeing the opening night and this afternoon's matinee of Swan Lake.

 

Last night I think the entire audience realised we were in for something special from the moment Mathias Dingman made his entrance as Benno, ensuring everything was ready for the party he had organised to try and cheer Prince Seigried up.

 

The interaction between Mathias and Chi Cao (as Seigfried) was wonderful last night - with Benno trying to cheer up the melancholy Prince, even going to the lengths of organising courtesans (Angela Paul and Laetitia Lo Sardo).

 

Right from his first entrance I didn't feel that I was watching Chi Cao dance Seigfried so much as watching Seigfried himself so immersed in the role was Chi. His deep melacholy was expressed through his body language and acting. Benno has a really showy solo in the midst of the pas de trois/quatre for himself, the courtesans and the Prince and Mathias was at his virtuoso best. The melancholic solo for the Prince is not as showy but when danced as beautifully as by Chi last night brings shivers down the spine and a lump in the throat.

 

Nao Sakuma and Chi have been regular on-stage partners for most of their time with BRB and it is a joy to watch them together. I love Nao as Odette and their adagio was spellbinding last night. The swans were utterly magnificent and a credit to the BRB ballet staff who have prepared them so well for the current run of Swan Lake.

 

Again, in Act 3 I loved the interaction between The Prince and Benno. You could feel Benno empathising with the Prince when his Mother wants him to sit on his late father's throne and he obviously doesn't want to. Benno fetches him a chair to use instead. Then the Prince is saying to Benno "How am I going to get out of this mess?". Nao was at her evil best as Odile and the gpdd was absolutely spectacular with both Nao and Chi absolutely on fire.

 

Act 4 was heart-rending. Chi's devastation at his inadvertant betrayal of Odette was palpable as was his determination to destroy Rothbart and join Odette in death. Again the swans were breath-taking in their precision.

 

Last night was truly an exceptional performance and another one for the memory banks.

 

And so to the matinee. I always love seeing a new dancer in a role and this afternoon Delia Matthews made her debut as Odette/Odile with the experienced Matthew Lawrence as her Seigfried. Delia was just sublime - her back and arms were just gorgeous. She was a tragic Odette wich contrasted beautifully with her diamond-hard Odile. I think having such an experienced Seigfried really helped her as she was able to really get under the skin of the character as well as dancing the role beautifully. Matthew was an excellent Seigfried and an excellent foil for Delia. Again the corps were wonderful throughout. Another performance to savour.

 

The orchestra has been magnificent throughout.

 

I hope other BalletCo-ers will report back on performances throughout this week and the rest of the Autumn tour.

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Janet, I agree with you regarding Delia's performance. What a wonderful back. I really enjoyed her slow pirouettes in her black act solo. They were almost Nunezesque in their execution. It is going to be very interesting seeing how she will develop the role. She has a wonderful physique for this particular role. I will be seeing all the casts this week and am really looking forward to Friday matinee with Singleton and Gittens. She was a very busy girl tonight. Big swan solos and a very bendy Spanish dance.

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We're just back from tonight's performance and this isn't something I would normally do but thought I'd give it a go.

 

I'm not a big visitor to the ballet but go to support DS which is how we came to go tonight.

 

I found the swans absolutely stunning. They were together with lovely straight lines and their arms really gave the impression of a swans wings. For me it was also lovely to see Ruth Brill who we have known for some time as a Cygnet. When the swans rose from the mist in act 4 there was a gentle wow around us. They were also very intimidating as a group when they ganged up on Rothbart.

 

I struggled to see some of the solos in the 1st act as I had a very tall gentleman in front of me and as the seat was bang in the middle anything on the middle of the stage I missed which may account for why I didn't enjoy Joseph Caley until the 3rd act when his pirouettes and turns were outstanding and the appreciation from the Elmhurst students 2 rows behind us was very evident.

 

I'm afraid James Barton didn't do much for me though I couldn't really say why. May just have been the costume far to flouncy sleeves. Same with Elisha Willis she seemed to wobble a bit when she came to the 32 fouettes. I also enjoyed I think it was the Spanish dance the one where the girls had character shoes and lovely black dresses on.

 

As for seeing DS we had to ask him which bits were him with lots of extra face hair and a very big red coat we didn't recognise him!!

 

Probably not the place to mention audience behaviour but we had the late arrivals who were let in while the overture was played to then find someone in their seats and no usher rushing to find out the problem while they fished for tickets and then leaving the row to find the right seats.

 

All in well worth the 2 hour drive there and back.

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For the last good number of years the Birmingham Hippodrome has seen established casts and new casts have been saved for the tours to follow. This year, the Lowry saw the established casts at the start of the season and Birmingham is enjoying three exciting debuts:

 

Delia Matthews performed Odette/Odile yesterday afternoon

Momoko Hirata is performing Odette/Odile in her BRB debut tonight

Celine Gittens is performing her Odette/Odile tomorrow afternoon

 

What depth of talent BRB has

 

I hope anyone who is there tonight or tomorrow afternoon will report back on these debuts or any of the other performances you have seen. Please follow KathyG's example and dip your toes in the water and your fingers on the keyboard!

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Just in from tonight's performance. I remember Momoko from her school performance in 2003 and realised then that she had technique to spare. Soon after joining BRB she danced one of the princesses in Swan Lake confirming her wonderful potential. Tonight that technique was combined with a superb interpretation of the Odette/Odile role. Her white acts were heart breaking at times. She was always aware and attentive to her prince, a very fine performance from Cesar Morales. Her black act was sensational. A mixture of sweetness and devilment. Technically breathtaking and a series of fouettes reeled off at breathtaking speed including a few triples and I think a quadruple. In the last act she danced beautifully and took some risks when reaching for Von Rothbart and Siegfried. She seemed to be too far away to reach them at times but held the balances securely. A few words about Morales. What we would call the Pas deTrois in the Royal Ballet version is danced slightly differently by BRB in that Siegfried also takes part and dances a solo. This was superbly danced. The sadness that he was feeling from his father's death and probably not yet ready for the responsibility of succeeding him came across beautifully. The applause at the end of this solo was very loud, none more so than from a very senior member of BRB. This is the third performance that I have seen so far this week and each has had some fine moments, but tonight really got to me. A very fine Odette/Odile and Siegfried. As for the beginning of act four. what can one say. yet another round of loud applause. I really do love that last act.

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I hope that Celine is not feeling over-burdened by all the hype surrounding her debut. Of course it's an important first, but she needs to clear her mind and just think about giving the best performance she can in the role(s). I wish her good luck for tonight.

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Celne is the matinee today, not this evening. Tyrone gave an excellent talk to Friends on Tuesday evening and said they were both looking forward to the performance. As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, Celine's is one of only 3 debuts in the leading role this week and I am sure she will have been as well prepared by the company as Delia and Momoko.

 

 

Edited to change the sentence to make sense. English never was my strong point

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My daughter saw this last week. She said it is the best Swan Lake she has ever seen, she has seen RB's production twice and ENB in the round at the Royal Albert Hall and then a couple of other productions at small theatres so has plenty to compare it to. Her favourite bit was the swans coming out of the mist. I haven't seen it so don't know which bit she means. Incidently we also prefered BRB's Nutcracker, so rich and theatrical.

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More on the Celine Gittens debut from David Dougill in the Culture magazine with today's Sunday Times (ie behind a paywall online). She "scored highly in her biggest test so far: a reading that should deepen as she repeats the part." Tyrone Singleton gave "excellent support and his acting is finely judged." "They make a well-matched partnership," which seems to have been the reaction all around.

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