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The Royal Ballet: Margot Fonteyn - A Celebration, June 2019

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Thanks for posting those amazing photos, Rob S!

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49 minutes ago, alison said:

I'm not really sure which act of Ondine you could excerpt: the third is the one with the divertissements, and of course the tragic ending, but it would be odd to have it without the rest of the backstory.  I'd prefer to have the whole thing back - it's now a decade since the company last performed it.

 

I agree that Hayward's stellar performance of the Shadow Dance sequence from Ondine prompts thoughts of the ballet being revived. However,  I find the music eternally difficult and tuneless  to the real detriment of the work.

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27 minutes ago, capybara said:

 I find the music eternally difficult and tuneless

I agree with you and I also think that another problem is that the rhythmic impetus is so inconsistent throughout the work. It's strange, because I usually like and admire Henze's work. I always smile, though, when I remember the well-known story of Ashton's housekeeper.

When Henze came to London to work on the composition of Ondine he stayed with Ashton in his house, working at the piano there. Ashton, at the Opera House and the School during the day carefully refrained from enquiring how the composition was going, but kept asking (discreetly) of his housekeeper what she had heard during the day. On being told that all kind of kerplunks were heard day after day, he became somewhat worried and depressed, wondering what he would have to work with. After some days of this, Ashton was much relieved when he was told, in answer to his daily question, "Oh wonderful tunes, Mr. Ashton, wonderful tunes". He then felt sufficiently confident to ask Henze directly how things were going, only to be flattened by being told  "Today I felt totally blocked, so spent the day just playing some of my favourite Mozart"...

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I went last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm not normally a fan of galas because although you get to see some very well known pieces, seeing them and getting the full emotional impact is sometimes quite difficult out of context of the whole ballet. I was offered a ticket at an extortionate price initially by the ROH with dinner afterwards, so I declined. However, I then discovered you could buy tickets at "normal" prices, so I did and was happy with my choice of E1 in the Orch Stalls. That meant I could view the dancers at close hand at a price I would normally expect to pay at the ROH if that was my choice. 

 

As soon as I saw Vadim was performing in Le Corsaire, my evening was made and he performed beyond my expectations. Just enjoy this dancer while he is performing like this.  He is phenomenal. Interesting to note who the audience applauded when they came on stage, as opposed to at the end - Marianela, Vadim and Darcey Bussell. 

 

I hadn't seen this particular cast for the Firebird, so that was interesting in itself. I am a big fan of Itziar Mendizabal and loved her interpretation. 

 

As for all the gala performances. Marianela nailed the Rose Adagio and watching her face as she went through the final balances and the radiant smile as the 4th balance was completed, told me she knew she had too. Very well supported by her princes Gary Avis, Nicol Edmonds, Nehemiah Kish., Thomas Whitehead.

 

I'm not a big fan of Ondine (hate the music) but Francesca Hayward was phenomenal and perhaps the most emotive of the spirit of Margot Fonteyn in the entire evening. It also reminded me how much we have missed Ed Watson.

 

I was very distracted during Romeo and Juliet because I was reminded of all the comments on this Forum about Natalia Osipova's shoes.  I thought her ballet shoes looked messy but couldn't see the particular features that have been mentioned. It was my first viewing of the Osipova/ Hallberg partnership as I have never booked for them, but I saw enough to be interested if not overwhelmed. I don't mind different interpretations of Juliet, and hers is different. but I had no objection to that.      

 

Gary Avis did out dance Darcey Bussell and I was slightly surprised by that, but he is just so good, he would probably out dance anyone. I enjoyed the humour of the piece and it did make for light relief within the context of the programme. 

 

I loved Le Corsaire, because of Vadim of course,  but Yasmine Naghdi really went for it and apart from the 1 slip, was excellent. In Swan Lake in Madrid, her fouettes in Act 3 travelled significantly down stage and we were worried she was going to end up on the queen's throne. Last night, she remained on the spot for what was a lot more fouettes and only travelled slightly in the last few.  It must be really pressurised being asked to perform such an iconic piece on such an occasion. I wonder also, if when Vadim is SO good, it's an additional pressure to perform with him.

 

I'd never seen Apparitions so was pleased to see it, but did feel I was sort of reliving a version of the 2 Pigeons.  Lauren Cuthertson and Matthew Ball were exemplary in the main roles. 

 

I would have liked to see Marguerite and Armand (Cuthbertson/ Ball) as it was such an iconic ballet for Fonteyn.

 

I never saw Margot Fonteyn dance live. My mother once secured tickets on the phone but the ROH never sent them on.  She berated herself for not going up and collecting them, but in those days a trip to London was a very big thing.   

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Posted (edited)
32 minutes ago, JennyTaylor said:

He is phenomenal. Interesting to note who the audience applauded when they came on stage, as opposed to at the end - Marianela, Vadim and Darcey Bussell. 

 

In fairness, that may have been down - at least in part - to the nature of the pieces they were performing.

 

32 minutes ago, JennyTaylor said:

Last night, she remained on the spot for what was a lot more fouettes and only travelled slightly in the last few.

 

I'm not nitpicking at Naghdi - she was indeed terrific - but as this has been said, from where I was in the amphi you could see her travelling quite far forward and two or three yards to the left during the first half of the fouettes, though much less during the remainder.

Edited by Lizbie1
Typo!
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2 hours ago, Lizbie1 said:

Amazing pictures, Rob S!

 

Definitely. I'm looking at them in awe wondering how people manage to take such brilliant pics (and very glad I haven't posted mine, as they look terrible by comparison).

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19 minutes ago, JennyTaylor said:

Interesting to note who the audience applauded when they came on stage, as opposed to at the end - Marianela, Vadim and Darcey Bussell.  

 

Yes, that WAS interesting. However, some entrances lent themselves to applause more than others.

The 'clappometer' for individual dancers at the point of their piece and at the end did, in my view, fully reflect the amazingness of certain performances.

 

[I don't know how it happened but I got caught up in a ridiculous price offer for the evening too (performance, drinks, meet the stars or something). The only escape was to book in an unfamiliar area of the auditorium.]

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12 minutes ago, Lizbie1 said:

 

In fairness, that may have been down - at least in part - to the nature of the pieces they were performing.

 

 

I'm not nitpicking at Naghdi - she was indeed terrific - but as is has been said, from where I was in the amphi you could see her travelling quite far forward and two or three yards to the left during the first half of the fouettes, though much less during the remainder.

For the applause - I think not. 

For Yasmin Naghdi - yes perhaps, but the degree of difficulty here was very high and I'm feeling sympathetic towards her effort. Overall, the two of them brought the house down

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Maybe I got this wrong but, from where I was sitting, it seemed to me that any problems in the female variation in the Le Corsaire pas de deux stemmed from a curious, and unexpected, change of pace by the conductor.

Yasmine Naghdi turned in some astonishing  fouettees in her Don Q shows and at the Russian Icons Gala.

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1 minute ago, capybara said:

Maybe I got this wrong but, from where I was sitting, it seemed to me that any problems in the female variation in the Le Corsaire pas de deux stemmed from a curious, and unexpected, change of pace by the conductor.

Yasmine Naghdi turned in some astonishing  fouettees in her Don Q shows and at the Russian Icons Gala.

 

In case there are any crossed wires, I was referring to the fouettes in the coda.

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I should also have mentioned The Firebird, since this was my first viewing of Itziar Mendizabal in the role. I thought hers was a very strong performance, though perhaps a bit TOO wild for my liking (there's wild, and there's ever so slightly deranged...). Whereas I found Nehemiah Kish a little mild as the Tsarevich, but not without appeal. Christopher Saunders seemed a smaller Kostchei than usual, and more easily cowed, and Claire Calvert was a serenely lovely Tsarevna. It was an excellent way to open the evening; I will never tire of this magnificent ballet!

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1 hour ago, JennyTaylor said:

For the applause - I think not. 

For Yasmin Naghdi - yes perhaps, but the degree of difficulty here was very high and I'm feeling sympathetic towards her effort. Overall, the two of them brought the house down

 

I am wondering how much/how little rehearsal time Muntagirov and Naghdi must have had to work on their Le Corsaire variation? Muntagirov has danced this many times before but for her it was the first time dancing this highly demanding variation. She just danced her debut of The Firebird on Tuesday, followed by Symphony in C on Wednesday, having danced R&J the previous Saturday, whilst rehearsing Kitri for Japan as well as Winter Dreams. I frankly wonder how on earth she keeps going, performing three different ballets and Le Corsaire variation all in the space of one week plus next week dancing R&J on Tuesday and The Firebird on Wednesday. She certainly is the busiest principal right at the end of this season.

 

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I wish I'd remembered this in time to book a ticket, it sounds like a wonderful evening.  I was surprised though,  by the number of negative comments about the music for Ondine.  I saw Fonteyn in this when I was about 12 and loved the music.  I was searching on the web for the film of a performance (with Firebird) and came across this link:

 

 

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 It's a rehearsal of Birthday Offering and well worth watching as are many other film clips posted by the same person.

 

I don't think I'm violating any of this forum's rules but if I am, I apologise to the moderators.

 

Linda

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How lovely to see clips like that rehearsal.... seemed if could be any of today’s dancers rehearsing!

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There is very little that I can add to the comments that have already been made about this wonderful evening and the memorable performances of everyone who took part but as no-one else seems to have mentioned Joseph Sissens I will just mention that, as always, he caught and held my eye during his time on stage in Apparitions and I was pleased to experience rather more of the much-lauded chemistry between Osipova and Hallberg in the R&J pdd than in their debut a couple of weeks back. There is so much to look forward to from the younger members of the company and so much to cherish from those who have already given us so much to treasure. And we can only watch and wonder at the beauty, precision and unfailing artistry of Muntagirov who really is the gift that keeps on giving.

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16 hours ago, Peanut68 said:

Sorry to go off thread folks, but what is ‘Everybody Ballet’? Interested if there’s chances to do classes taught by RB dancers! 

 

https://www.everybodyballet.com/

 

Never tried them myself (they seem very expensive compared with other London adult ballet opportunities) but I know Bennet Gartside teaches a lot of them, and a couple of people I see regularly in the RB audience sometimes attend his Beginner classes.

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That the Royal Ballet kept a tight lid on the contents of this gala helped raise the levels of excitement and anticipation as the evening approached, and it was fun speculating about what would be on, who would be dancing what, and even how exorbitant the price of the programme would be. The Rose Adage was a dead cert, so no points were up for grabs for suggesting that – similarly Le Corsaire. But a lot of what did appear in the running order (handed out as we entered the ROH) hadn’t even featured in our speculations, so the evening turned out to be an interestingly varied mix.


Having scanned the running order several times to find out what was on, it gradually sank in that the first offering, The Firebird, listed the whole cast and was immediately followed by an interval. To find they were doing the whole ballet was, to say the least, a bit surprising – a bit like going up to a buffet lunch only to find it dominated by a single, giant dish; with the rest of the food relegated to necessarily smaller portions.

To stretch the analogy a bit further, if the buffet was to celebrate, say, seafood, then that giant dish was a risotto with a few prawns scattered amongst kilograms of rice –

The Firebird might well have been an iconic role for Fonteyn, but The Firebird herself is only on stage for a fraction of the time, and some of that is just posing.

 

It was also a shame that the rest of the programme was crammed into a marathon, interval-less 85-minute session – it’s always nice to be able to seek out regulars during the intervals to learnedly discuss/point-score/name-drop/opine/natter/gossip/bitch (delete as appropriate) about what was just seen.

It all seemed a bit unbalanced - though I can see the justification; there has been a lot on the forum about the huge workload and variety within the RB at the moment, so presenting a complete ballet that is currently being performed makes sense from that perspective. It also allowed much of the corps to be showcased as well.


Having guessed at anywhere between £12 and £15 for the programme, we were pleasantly surprised to find that it was ‘only’ £10; a quick flick through suggested it might actually be relatively good value as it seemed crammed full of articles (that we immediately put it away to read at a later date).


I have a fool-proof way of knowing if I’m at a gala. If the director appears on stage and is applauded, then it’s a gala. For any other performance, his/her appearance will be greeted by hushed groans carrying silent pleas of “Oh no, I hope it’s not <<insert favourite dancer’s name here>> who is injured!”


The Firebird This was the second time I’d seen this cast (Mendizabal as the Firebird, Kish as Ivan, and Saunders as Kostchei) and I enjoyed it more than the first time. What I can’t figure out is why; was it the occasion? Did the cast perform better? Was it because the first time I saw this cast was the day after seeing Naghdi as Firebird and – in particular – Avis as Kostchei? Was it because my appreciation was increasing with repeated viewing – what might be called ‘familiarity breeds content’? There are just too many variables!


The ballet itself becomes stranger and more fascinating with each viewing. In the final scene, I had previously made a mental note that the ‘golden cushion’ supporting the silver box (presented to Tsarevna) resembled a loaf of bread – only to find out since that is exactly what it is (and the box contains salt)! Isn’t folklore wonderful! 😊


And I think I’m becoming enchanted by the Enchanted Princesses – they find so much happiness in the most trivial of things. Are they in some Zen-like state of bliss or just blissfully ignorant of the realities underpinning their magical world? They do seem to be improving their hand-eye coordination though – only two dropped apples!

And I just love the way they arrange themselves on stage – with the Tsarevna sat upright, with two princesses sat either side with heads on her shoulders, then two more against them – slightly more prone – until the last two are lying with their heads in the laps of the previous two.

They form a continuous, rising and falling distribution of princesses that is the spitting image (the only type of spitting that should be in this ballet!) of a Bell Curve. Sorry, I can’t resist this – make that a Belle Curve!


The tableau at the end continues to impress in its majestic scope – we did a quick head-count and came to a total of 96 (making 97 when Kostchei appears for the stage call).


This ballet may be ‘of its time’, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. In fact, it really couldn’t be any other way - like Kostchei’s egg, mess around with it and the spell will be broken. 


The Rose Adage Yes, it had to be there; and, yes, it had to be Nunez; and, yes, she was technically superb (not a quiver to be seen). I guess the problem with this sort of gala is that they give you breadth but little depth, as the individual elements (with the exception being the Firebird) are fragments that are, at best, only semi-staged. Without the contextual foundation of the complete production they tend to float free. That’s fine, of course, as these fragments act to build the larger picture that the gala is there to illustrate – in this case a Celebration of Margot Fonteyn. But it meant that we didn’t really have Aurora on stage – we had Marianela Nunez showing us The Rose Adage. Technically superb, but necessarily lacking in the emotional impact it would have had within the full ballet. Basically, we can’t have it both ways!


Nocturne/The Wise Virgins I was just settling into each of these (neither of which I’m familiar with) when they finished! I felt a bit sorry for both Stix-Brunell and Pajdak…


Birthday Offering This was a bright (yellow), light and breezy piece. Kaneko did a solo variation – fairly well, though her technique seemed to drift a bit towards the end – and this was followed by a PDD with Lamb/Hirano.

Their PDD was probably the highlight of the night for me - partly because it’s a piece I had not seen before, but mainly because of Sarah Lamb’s absolute mastery of poise as she stood on pointe and Hirano transferred support from one side to the other. Some of my praise must go to Hirano. Every time he provided Lamb with support, he gave it with millimetre and millisecond precision; he must inspire complete confidence and trust in his partners. It was a joy to behold.


Ondine It might be difficult to relay the full depth of characterisation outside of a full production, but Hayward did a really good job of conveying the excited curiosity of the water-nymph playing with her shadow. And it was so good to see Ed Watson take to the stage yet again.


Sylvia The famous entrance scene from Act 1 is always fun to watch (and hear). I can never take Sylvia and Co too seriously as ‘huntresses’ when their bows are powered by elastic bands, and I don’t think Magri did either, as she didn’t seem totally committed to playing Sylvia as the ‘amazon’ she normally is in Act 1. But, there again, it is a gala.


Daphnis and Chloe O’Sullivan was full of her usual brio – she really does have ‘presence’! With Campbell as Daphnis they made for a great pairing.

That’s two consecutive performances I’ve been impressed with Campbell, and on both occasions he’s come across more as the character than himself; I don’t know if that’s coincidental.

There was a slight ‘wardrobe malfunction’ when the end of his belt broke free from its mooring in one of the belt loops of his trousers and from certain angles made it look like he was very, very pleased to see Chloe! Thankfully, he soon managed to tuck it back again when he went to pick up his flute.


Romeo and Juliet With their June 1st performance still seared into my memory, this out-of-context reprise of the balcony scene was never going to reach the giddy heights of that performance (literally, as the balcony was just a flight of steps about five foot high!). Nevertheless, both Osipova and Hallberg acted the scene rather than danced it. Understandably, he seemed to have more energy as he didn’t need to pace himself as for a full-length ballet, but he still appeared to be under par when it came to lifting (one overhead lift didn’t make it past his shoulders).


Façade Both Darcey Bussell and Gary Avis can play to the gallery all day and every day; give them a vehicle like this tango, and sparks will fly and bling will sparkle! She came on to a roar, and they played off and vied with each other in a battle to win the attention of the audience. We fell for it hook, line and sinker. Who won? Let’s be discreet and call it a draw…


Le Corsaire I thought they might have ended with this showstopper. Muntagirov was hugely impressive, and he did it all with such consummate ease that I was left thinking he could just have been doing a quick rehearsal. Naghdi was her usual radiant, impressive self, though as others have noted she did seem to go off on a bit of a ‘random walk’ during the fouettés. Audience reaction, unsurprisingly, was explosive.


Apparitions Cuthbertson and Ball (both in essentially black costumes) contrasted against the very colourful, very full dresses worn by the other female dancers; these looked fantastic when they were spinning – opening out into circles that appeared to be about eight feet in diameter.

I didn’t see it go, but a fan ended up lying on the left of the stage; during one move in that direction, Ball deftly kicked it, and it skittered into the wings – all in time to the music!

Perhaps they chose to end with this ballet for being colourful rather than sensational, particularly as the evening actually closed quietly and much more poignantly with a film of Fonteyn dancing Salut d’amour.

 

I know we don't live in an ideal world, but for me the ideal gala would have...

Started at the usual Saturday time of 7pm and had a second interval.

Included Sambe, Hay and Corrales.

Pared the Firebird down to her solo/PDD, so leaving enough time to finish with the whole of Marguerite and Armand.

 

It was, nevertheless, a truly fabulous evening!

 

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Sorry to have missed this gala.....I would have loved to have gone just to see Hayward in Ondine!! I was speaking to someone yesterday who went to the gala and she thought Hayward was wonderful! So do hope this ballet is revived at some point soonish as there are now dancers who could do real justice to the role. Though in reality think I'm more of a Corsaire fan really! 

I hadn't realised that the RB have never done Corsaire as a full ballet ever! Hmmm methinks this situation should change! I loved the ENB version and looking forward to seeing again in January but come on Royal want to see the Company do this now. 

Douglas Allen thanks for your post about Henze just loved that....I'm not overly fond of the Ondine music myself but suits the choreography beautifully... ...it's not awful or anything ...but might well choose Mozart if on a loop! 

I saw Fonteyn in the Rhapsody piece and it was very moving at the time as you knew she would not be dancing much longer .......I can't now remember her actual last performance ....I always thought it was in that final Marguerite and Armand performance with Nureyev .....that was an emotional enough evening etched in the memory ....I'm sure everyone in the House was in tears....but perhaps she did do further performances after this maybe not at the ROH. It's all a long time ago now incredibly 40 years ago so cannot remember the exact order of her final performances. 

People who are asking for gala repeats such as this one .....how about 2021 ....that will be 60 years since Nureyev's flight from Russia and the beginning of his partnering with Fonteyn. 

 

 

 

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3 minutes ago, LinMM said:

Sorry to have missed this gala.....I would have loved to have gone just to see Hayward in Ondine!! I was speaking to someone yesterday who went to the gala and she thought Hayward was wonderful! 

 

Indeed - I couldn't be there either, and reading the reports on this thread, this is the single item I'm wishing I had got to see.

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Posted (edited)

Great review Nogoat; knowing these dancers pretty well now (as well as a good chunk of the works performed),  with the aid of your descriptions I almost feel as if I were there!....

Edited by Richard LH
Grammar

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Posted (edited)

It was a difficult weekend for me as already had a Sunday eve reunion to go to so would have meant going up to London on both Saturday and Sunday in a week where I'd already stayed up there for three days!! Also the tickets were very expensive for a decent seat and not much info on what was to be included....so reluctantly decided I would have to give it a miss.

I did get a bit of compensation as when I heard this new Osipova film was to be shown on the Sunday afternoon I did manage to get tickets for that and a great little film it is too....with Natalia ( she likes to be called Natasha apparently) there to answer questions afterwards. 

Back to the gala.....I may have meant Salut D'Amour not Rhapsody.....but there were a few smaller almost "one offs"  composed for Fonteyn towards the end of her career.

The friend I spoke to yesterday also thought the gala should have started at 7pm! 

Edited by LinMM

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27 minutes ago, Nogoat said:

I know we don't live in an ideal world, but for me the ideal gala would have...

Started at the usual Saturday time of 7pm and had a second interval.

Included Sambe, Hay and Corrales.

Pared the Firebird down to her solo/PDD, so leaving enough time to finish with the whole of Marguerite and Armand.

 

It was, nevertheless, a truly fabulous evening!

 

 

Agree totally, Nogoat. But I guess that it was important to have the whole Company involved.

What did you have in mind for Sambe, Corrales and Hay to dance - the problem surely was that the person being celebrated was a ballerina?

 

 

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32 minutes ago, Nogoat said:

Having scanned the running order several times to find out what was on, it gradually sank in that the first offering, The Firebird, listed the whole cast and was immediately followed by an interval. To find they were doing the whole ballet was, to say the least, a bit surprising – a bit like going up to a buffet lunch only to find it dominated by a single, giant dish; with the rest of the food relegated to necessarily smaller portions.

 

I thought they’d made it quite clear from before booking opened that there’d be a complete performance of The Firebird.

 

(The production page, which I think hardly changed, says, “In this special celebratory performance, The Royal Ballet performs The Firebird alongside some of the works indelibly associated with one of ballet’s most revered and influential dancers.”)

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1 hour ago, Nogoat said:

There was a slight ‘wardrobe malfunction’ when the end of his belt broke free from its mooring in one of the belt loops of his trousers and from certain angles made it look like he was very, very pleased to see Chloe! Thankfully, he soon managed to tuck it back again when he went to pick up his flute.

 

I managed to miss those angles, Nogoat.

 

1 hour ago, Nogoat said:

Naghdi was her usual radiant, impressive self, though as others have noted she did seem to go off on a bit of a ‘random walk’ during the fouettés.

 

Perhaps she was thinking to mislead the pirates.

 

1 hour ago, Nogoat said:

Nocturne/The Wise Virgins I was just settling into each of these (neither of which I’m familiar with) when they finished!

 

Yes, but the truly wise virgin knows never to hang around too long at night.

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10 minutes ago, Scheherezade said:

Perhaps she was thinking to mislead the pirates.

 

I choose to see it as a tribute to Fonteyn’s “Cook’s Tour of the stage”. :)

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2 hours ago, capybara said:

What did you have in mind for Sambe, Corrales and Hay to dance - the problem surely was that the person being celebrated was a ballerina?

 

Well, Corrales was so good as the lead Hungarian Officer in Mayerling I had him down for all four in my 'dream cast'.

So I reckon he could easily play all four princes in The Rose Adage as they don't have to jump around as much.

It would certainly remove a lot of the jeopardy during Aurora's last balances - he could stand there all the time and just change his hat. I'm sure Aurora would be really grateful. 

Maybe Sambe could pass the hats to him and Hay take them away? (or the other way round depending on which is regarded as the principal role) 

Some of the other choreography might need to be tweaked, but I'm sure it would be worth it to get all three of them on stage.

I'll write to Mr O'Hare first thing in the morning in case the Centenary comes around again sooner than expected.

 

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3 hours ago, Nogoat said:

 

There was a slight ‘wardrobe malfunction’ when the end of his belt broke free from its mooring in one of the belt loops of his trousers and from certain angles made it look like he was very, very pleased to see Chloe! Thankfully, he soon managed to tuck it back again when he went to pick up his flute.


 

 

I couldn't work out why the couple next to me were sniggering and was just starting to get a bit annoyed with them when I spotted what had happened, just before he managed to tuck it back in.

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46 minutes ago, onemouseplace said:

 

I couldn't work out why the couple next to me were sniggering and was just starting to get a bit annoyed with them when I spotted what had happened, just before he managed to tuck it back in.

 

And I didn't even notice. Am I innocent, or what?

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20 minutes ago, capybara said:

 

And I didn't even notice. Am I innocent, or what?

 

Me neither, capybara! (But I was near the back of the amphi.)

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