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Naomi M

Royal Ballet Japan tour performances June 2019

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Many thanks, Naomi and Jenny, for your wonderful reports about the Royal Ballet in Tokyo.  Japan is a country I have always wanted to visit, and to be able to go there AND see the RB at the same time is just a dream scenario for me!!  However, since my Lottery win still hasn't happened, I have to experience it via kind people like you who take the time to post.  Naomi, I especially appreciate you taking the time to write your reviews.  Not only are they in a foreign language, but with a totally different alphabet.  I know from experience how difficult it is to write in another language, and I am full of admiration for you.  Never think that your English isn't good;  it's excellent, and certainly much better than our Japanese, which in most cases here is non-existent!!  It must take you a long time to write your reviews;  please know how much we appreciate them.

 

I have always been in awe of what amazing ballet fans the Japanese people are.  The crowds waiting for the RB dancers at the stage door treat them like rock stars.  It's incredible!  I know that the dancers love the responses they are getting, and the appreciation.  I can certainly see why!  Naomi, I hope you will continue to write for the forum.  No-one meant any offense to you, and even I, as a moderator, referred to 'Vadream' in a post the other day!  It is so common that sometimes we all forget that some people aren't familiar with dancers' nicknames.  It isn't a big deal, so please don't worry about it at all.  I hope you continue to enjoy the RB's performances.   Jenny, a huge thanks to you too;  I am looking forward to hearing more from both of you.  

 

I think everyone has now made their points about the direction this thread has taken, so please let's move forward and celebrate the joy that the RB is taking to the people of Japan, and the reciprocal joy that the people of Japan are giving to the RB.  Thanks all.  

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Wonderful to read such detailed reviews from all the posters. Thank you.

 

Also I really think Naomi always has great input on these forums, and it was clear from her post, using nicknames for the two huge names in ballet, and full names for all other mentions that it wasn’t an ‘in the know’ post, just enthusiasm for wonderful dancers.

 

I am sure noone meant any issues with the names, though maybe just a usual polite Janet reply of thank you for the review FYI Vadream is Vadim Muntagirov and Nela is Ms Nunez. I don’t think many if any other dancers have popular nicknames, so its only a matter of a small clarification.

 

Many threads tend to split from the amazing input of the posters sharing their knowledge or views on the subject, and other ‘OT or comments on comments’. I will start a new thread to discuss the merits or otherwise of a proposal that any thread with an offshoot discussion or posts that go into OT or offensive content be separated into an Separate thread by a mod with Spin Off of O/T followed by the name of the thread. 

 

In this way, the focus of the thread remains as described, and also especially when it becomes closed due to heated discussions that do not apply to the original topic.

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Posted (edited)

Thank you all for your warm responses, it is really nice to feel the love of fellow ballet fams! 

 

Today I attended Lauren Cuthbertson/Matthew Ball's performance, another excellent and very different performance which was also received enthusiastically .

 

I have some deadlines to write articles till tomorrow. (I am a journalist on ballet) so meanwhile I don't have enough time to write a detailed review but I very much echo Jenny Taylor's excellent report.  Very happy to see that Reese Clark is back from injury and played Espada with a dangerous sensual portrayal. (also he was one of the toreadors on opening night) I loved the chemistry between Cuthbertson and Ball, they are excellent actors and I could hear their conversation, and they were such sweet young lovers. I liked that Kitri kicked Basilo after the romantic La Bayadere duet, Cuthbertson was indeed naughty! Ball threw in two 540 turns in his 3rd act variation, and Lauren kept on changing the spotting by 45 degrees in the latter half of her fouettes. I was particularly impressed by the beautiful epaulement and expressive upper body of this couple, which made the drama and the dancing more eloquent. Yuhui Choe as the Queen of the Dyards was so lovely and elegant, musical. I can't believe Romany Pajdak is still a First artist, she is doing numerous soloist roles excellently such as the Fandango soloist and one of the Flower Girls( Kitri Friends) .    

Edited by Naomi M
typo
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10 hours ago, capybara said:

There are times when a personal message is the best way to go. The 'problem' such as there is gets addressed privately, noone is 'accused' on the public forum and none of this kind of 'discussion' needs to take place.

 

Good suggestion, as one who has batted plenty of negative comments here.

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51 minutes ago, Naomi M said:

I was particularly impressed by the beautiful epaulement and expressive upper body of this couple, which made the drama and the dancing more eloquent.     

 

Yes! I had noticed this with the pair of them (together and separately in all manner of pieces) and now I deliberately seek it out. It’s something I love to see because for me it makes their dancing all the more complete and takes their characterisation to a deeper level.

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Just to show you that the DonQ horse has also travelled and is behaving beautifully.

 

There's something so exciting about seeing the Royal Ballet perform in another country: it is a different experience. They are really playing to the audience, so with a flourish at the end of each dance and beautiful Spanish attitudes.  The enthusiasm with which this is received is exciting in itself and definitely adds to the overall atmosphere and feeds in on itself to create even more buzz.

 

The closest equivalent of the theatre in the UK, is probably the Barbican in London.

 

I'm loving Naomi's posts and she has far more technical knowledge than I do.    

IMG_0669.jpg

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Posted (edited)
19 hours ago, Thalia said:

 

Yes! I had noticed this with the pair of them (together and separately in all manner of pieces) and now I deliberately seek it out. It’s something I love to see because for me it makes their dancing all the more complete and takes their characterisation to a deeper level.

 

I believe this is the exemplary Royal Ballet training showing on both dancers.  They have both been right through White Lodge (for ages 11 to 15, I think), and then the Upper School.  (Lauren Cuthbertson was a Junior Associate even, before White Lodge, and quite possible Matthew Ball too.

Edited by Fiona
Correction on a capital letter.
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19 hours ago, Naomi M said:

Thank you all for your warm responses, it is really nice to feel the love of fellow ballet fams! 

 

Today I attended Lauren Cuthbertson/Matthew Ball's performance, another excellent and very different performance which was also received enthusiastically .

 

I have some deadlines to write articles till tomorrow. (I am a journalist on ballet) so meanwhile I don't have enough time to write a detailed review but I very much echo Jenny Taylor's excellent report.  Very happy to see that Reese Clark is back from injury and played Espada with a dangerous sensual portrayal. (also he was one of the toreadors on opening night) I loved the chemistry between Cuthbertson and Ball, they are excellent actors and I could hear their conversation, and they were such sweet young lovers. I liked that Kitri kicked Basilo after the romantic La Bayadere duet, Cuthbertson was indeed naughty! Ball threw in two 540 turns in his 3rd act variation, and Lauren kept on changing the spotting by 45 degrees in the latter half of her fouettes. I was particularly impressed by the beautiful epaulement and expressive upper body of this couple, which made the drama and the dancing more eloquent. Yuhui Choe as the Queen of the Dyards was so lovely and elegant, musical. I can't believe Romany Pajdak is still a First artist, she is doing numerous soloist roles excellently such as the Fandango soloist and one of the Flower Girls( Kitri Friends) .    

 

I'll try to add to Jenny's and Naomi’s Report.   I am quoting Naomi's review because she mentioned Lauren Cuthbertson's change of spotting  in the latter half of her fouettés which sort of blew me away because 1) I must be the only person that gets bored after four fouettés  and  2) I didn't expect it from her - not that I don't think she isn't capable but having never seen her in this type of role, I wasn't sure what to expect but I think she was excellent.

 

I am getting ahead of myself though.   On my way to the theatre I passed Beatriz Stix-Brunell leaving (day off) and my excitement went up another notch. I didn't have the best of seats Level 4 on the left side of the stage but I think the sight lines in the Bunka Kaikan are quite good so I still had an unimpeded view of the stage. Shortly before the lights were dimmed, I saw Olga Evirinoff making her way to her seat and I knew that she had been coaching Lauren and Matthew (Ball) so I got even more excited. By the way, I guess it's usual for coaches to watch the performances?   Then as the doors closed, in popped Kevin O'Hare (in his usual black on black) rushing to his seat. By this time, I was overexcited and quite hot and started wondering why the air conditioning hadn't been turned up a bit higher. :) 

 

I saw this production 3 times during the initial run but I've not seen it since, and I wasn't able to make any of the earlier performances so I've got nothing to which to compare it.  I can say that I enjoyed it much more this time around than the first run.   The company is in a different place and they performed at a really high level on Sunday afternoon.  Lauren and Matthew look really good together and there was tongue in cheek quality to their performance.  They were having fun and there was this warm chemistry between them, fun-loving and a bit rebellious. I just loved Lauren's expressions - she was such a cheeky Kitri.  Not to mention the deep back bends - I thought at one point she was going to hurt something.  Lauren really threw herself into the role and conquered the technical feats yet they were so refined as a couple - can you have a refined performance of Don Quixote?  It's not a ballet I know well or have seen often.  Not having seen Matthew Ball dance in a little while, I was impressed with his confidence and his attack on this role. 

 

Claire Calvert was Mercedes for the 3rd straight show and although I missed some of the "colour" that Laura Morera brings to this role, Claire danced it well yesterday. And Reece Clarke...gosh I knew he'd been injured but I didn't know that he'd had surgery only nine weeks ago. Bravo to him for coming back with Espada and performing so confidently and cool. It was a joy to see him dance this. I think the last time I saw him dance was in the last run of Symphonic Variations.  Romany Padjak and Fuki Kaneko were Kitri's friends and they were both delightful to watch.  Queen of the Dryads was a very impressive Yuhui Choe just knocking off the variation as if going for a stroll in the park.  Meaghan Grace Hinkis was a sprightly Amour and Thomas Whitehead's Gamache made me giggle.   I couldn't help but notice Joseph Sissens and Sae Maeda and Chisato Katsura also caught my eye.  

 

The applause at the end was rapturous. There was quite generous applause during the performance as well and the curtain calls seem to go on forever. My hands were stinging a bit and of course I was now feeling much hotter than at the start of the performance.   With all the excitement, I did something I’ve never done in all my years of attending performances at Covent Garden, I went outside to join the Japanese crowds waiting for the dancers to exit.

It's not every day that you get to see what your home ballet company in Tokyo where you happen to be living at the moment. I've gone on too long but just to say that the Royal Ballet dancers are a gracious lot.  So many of them came out and took time to sign autographs, take selfies with the fans and just soak up the atmosphere. It was nice seeing some of the dancers up close and in person so to speak but I found myself getting carried away and cheering and calling out names (as if I didn't-t already stick out in the crowd waiting there). 

 

I know some people have seen the dancers' social media feeds showing the crowds, so I thought I'd attach a couple of photos I took (not very good) whilst being a bit of a groupie. Unfortunately, I'm having issues doing that at the minute so I'll abandon for now.

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks for that report, Jam Dancer.  I'm glad you got a chance to see them for a change.  And I think you're right about the production: the general consensus back in London was that they'd settled into the production (or it had settled into them?) a lot better, and was all the better for it.

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5th performance and 5th standing ovation! Marcelino Sambe and Yasmin Naghdi were back in the starring roles, with Ryoichi Hirano (Espada), Itziar Mendizabal (Mercedes), Yuhui Choe and Beatriz Stix-Brunnell (Kitri's friends),  Fumi Kaneko (Queen of the Dryads), Romany Pajdak and Tomas Mock as the Lead Gypsy couple.  Character parts played by Christopher Saunders, Philip Mosley, Gary Avis and Thomas Whitehead.

 

Another superb performance all round with Marcelino and Yasmin outstanding again - possibly better than Saturday, where there were a couple of minor gliches but the whole company superb again. Yasmin's holding of the long balances were a particular highlight and of course, Marcelino produced a virtuoso display in his solos. Overall, there's quite a lot of interchanging of roles but it doesn't seem to make any difference in terms of quality of output. Only 1 more performance to go (sadly).

 

Good news is that Laura Morera is here and rehearsing for future productions. Not so good news is that Reece Clarke was slightly injured in Act 1 (matador) and didn't return in Act 3.  Hopefully, it's not too serious.

 

Another comment is how well behaved are the Japanese audience. Not a mobile phone in sight. It's very refreshing compared to European audiences. Also, everyone is seated on time, no overrunning of intervals etc.  They have visible clocks which count down the interval duration and a 5 minute warning too. All extremely efficient and helpful.  I'm loving the overall theatre experience. I hired a really good pair of binoculars today too. You pay a deposit and small hire fee and get the deposit back, on return at the end.     

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Oh for goodness sake.  It is lovely to hear reports from performances many of us may not be able to see and it is delightful that people take the time to include us in their reviews, but...

 

...just because a post is coming from somewhere other than the UK, doesn't mean it is acceptable to 'break the rules.'  (there may not be a rule but you know what I mean)

 

When I first came on the forum I had no idea who 'Nela' was and it took me a while to work it out.  Then it made me think that the people using that name were friends/fellow dancers and I wondered if this was an appropriate forum for me as a complete amateur and not personally  knowing any ballet dancers.  Using such nicknames does imply a closeness which may or may not exist.  Even if it does, I agree with Janet that it is simply politeness to all as well as respectful to the dancers to use full names.  The lady is doing her job as a Moderator.

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4 hours ago, JennyTaylor said:

Not so good news is that Reece Clarke was slightly injured in Act 1 (matador) and didn't return in Act 3.  Hopefully, it's not too serious.

 

 

Oh no, not again! This doesn't seem to be a healthy ballet for him at the moment!

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Oh poor Reece.  I hope he’s ok.  

 

Thanks Jenny and Jam Dancer for your lovely reports.  Jam Dancer I hope you have cooled down now!  🤪

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9 hours ago, Dawnstar said:

 

Oh no, not again! This doesn't seem to be a healthy ballet for him at the moment!

 

Today's Don Quixote cast has just been announced and Reece Clarke is listed as the Fandango Soloist so I suppose he is okay. I will be at this performance so I'll see. 

https://www.nbs.or.jp/publish/news/2019/06/-626.html (Japanese)

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15 hours ago, Naomi M said:

 

Today's Don Quixote cast has just been announced and Reece Clarke is listed as the Fandango Soloist so I suppose he is okay. I will be at this performance so I'll see. 

https://www.nbs.or.jp/publish/news/2019/06/-626.html (Japanese)

and yes, he did dance - so all is well.  I'll post later on the performance, which was another triumph.  I have a plane to catch!  

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So, last night, the final performance of 6, we had Natalia Osipova and Vadim Muntagirov, so anticipation was high for some fireworks and we certainly got them!  Other main parts were:

Mercedes: Beatriz Stix-Brunell

Kitri's friends: Meaghan Grace Hinkis and Anna Rose O'Sullivan

Lead Gypsies: Romany Padjak and Lukas Bjorneboe Braendsrod

Queen of the Dryads: Claire Calvert

Amour: Isabella Gasparini

Espada: Valentino Zucchetti

Don Q was Gary Avis,  Lorenzo -  Christopher Saunders, Gamache - Thomas Whitehead, Sancho Panza - Philip Mosley

 

The entire cast pulled out the stops for the last performance and there were some extra jokey bits in the slapstick comedy.

 

Natalia and Vadim were totally switched on and electric from their first entrances on.  Natalia's speed of attack was phenomenal and produced gasps from the audience. Interestingly she didn't really attempt the balances in Act 3 which the audience were clearly waiting for, but her fouettes had to be seen to be believed. Vadim, of course, produced leaps that made us gasp, even though expectation was high. I think he does variations on his repertoire of leaps at each performance.

 

Claire Calvert made the difficult technical demands of the Queen of the Dryads look easy and Beatriz was a lovely Mercedes. Very nice to see her in this role. The 4 ruffians tried to outdo each other with their exit from the stage at the end of their dance and Valentino Zucchetti was excellent as Espada. No-one has surpassed Ryo Hirano in that role though - being in his home country appears to have inspired him to new heights.

 

Overall, a joyful experience and a lovely touch at the end when a bouquet was presented to Helen Crawford and she was also pushed on to take a solo curtain call by Philip Mosley and Thomas Whitehead, to mark her retirement. They then joined her and bowed their respect. So nice.

 

I've been part of the Royal Ballet's official tour party as a supporter, and I've had the most amazing experience. I've been able to see all the performances, plus rehearsals, Class and even a studio rehearsal of Mayerling where 5 of the major pdds were rehearsed - 2.5 hours worth.  I thought I had gone to ballet heaven at that point. Part of being a tour supporter is that you get to meet the dancers, but I do feel the RB went above and beyond for me, when they saw how keen I was. So interesting to meet members of the management team too. There were only  small number of supporters (as opposed to Madrid where there were over 30), so it was easier to arrange - but even so.  I also watched Act 2 of last Saturday's performance from the wings, which was extraordinary.   All the dancers I met were, without exception, friendly and charming.       

 

So, now it's back to work and reality, but with loads of marvellous memories. 

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Brilliant, Jenny. Thank you so much for sharing your marvellous experiences.

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Lucky you Jenny. It sounds a really fabulous experience and thanks very much for sharing it with us. It's the next best thing to being there. 

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Jenny's report sounds like ballet heaven! The audiences have obviously been so enthusiastic, which has been marvellous for the company. I'm sure the American visit will be as successful.

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I've never heard of the role of "tour supporter" sounds absolutely great!! What an experience of a lifetime it seems!! thanks so much for reporting back.

I can imagine it being very exciting to be supporting the "home team" when away ....and so far away at that....and it must have been nice for the dancers too. 

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35 minutes ago, LinMM said:

I've never heard of the role of "tour supporter" sounds absolutely great!! What an experience of a lifetime it seems!! thanks so much for reporting back.

I can imagine it being very exciting to be supporting the "home team" when away ....and so far away at that....and it must have been nice for the dancers too. 

 

Me neither!

 

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What an amazing experience for you Jenny -  it doesn't get much better than that. Ballet heaven indeed!!  Thank you for telling us about this and the performances you enjoyed.

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As far as I'm aware, you pay for the trip just like any other, and it's open to Friends and other supporters (I am neither, and I remember receiving an email about going to Madrid last year, but nothing about going to Japan....unless I deleted it without reading it).  Please correct me if I'm wrong.

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The "Tour Supporter" opportunity has been around for many years. Members of the tour pay for the trip (which includes economy travel, accommodation, a programme including (variously) local visits, receptions, meetings with dancers, watching rehearsals and a given number of tickets to performances. Business Class travel and additional shows are extra. On top of these costs, supporters make a (very hefty) donation to the RB/ROH.

This year, there was more 'publicity' surrounding the opportunity to travel to Los Angeles, with, I believe, the Japan tour being added at the request of people who had supported the Company on tour in the past: those details were circulated more (shall we say) 'selectively' and I, for one, did not see them.

I am, however, one of a number of people who have travelled to watch the RB on tour (Moscow/LA/New York/Madrid/Copenhagen/Washington etc.) independently. This is obviously cheaper but it doesn't have the 'perks' afforded those on the official tour. Also, getting tickets can be problematic (Japan being a case in point). There are a number of 'independent' fans in Japan, though. Lucky them.

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I've toured independently abroad with both Northern Ballet (Istanbul and Thessaloniki) and Birmingham Royal Ballet (Hong Kong and Munich) and also toured to see the Cuban National Ballet in Barcelona and Paris as well as travelling to see home companies.

 

I've never gone particularly for the extras because I have wanted to explore the places I was going.

 

The world is so much smaller these days and it's wonderful to support our home companies abroad however we go.

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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, Sim said:

As far as I'm aware, you pay for the trip just like any other, and it's open to Friends and other supporters (I am neither, and I remember receiving an email about going to Madrid last year, but nothing about going to Japan....unless I deleted it without reading it).  Please correct me if I'm wrong.

You are not wrong, I had to ask specifically about going to Japan.  My first tour was Madrid so I was sent the LA details, which didn't interest / suit me for a number of reasons. But I was interested in DonQ in Tokyo, so requested options, and what they offered worked for me. 

 

Edited by JennyTaylor
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Loving reading this thread. Worth visiting Japan just to watch this! Thanks everyone for their wonderful descriptions and as I'm hopeless by name and hopeless by nature, the full names of dancers are much appreciated as all I know is from taking DD to dance. And thank you those non-native English speakers for making the time and taking the effort to post which makes this all the more inclusive xx

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I’m sure the discussion has now moved on to the LA portion of the tour now. This is just a quick post to say that I did manage to see 2 more performances of the Royal Ballet in Japan.  Too many things were happening at once (aka work) so I didn’t manage to post reviews.  

I attended the final performance of Don Quixote with Vadim Muntagirov and Natalia Osipova. Jenny posted a lovely review so I shan’t go on too long. I think they should have finished resurfacing the stage of the Bunka Kaikan by now because Osipova absolutely tore up the floor with her speed. Speed in the travelling pirouettes in the finale of Act 1,  speed in the fouettés in the Act 3 variation ..wherever she could, she turned up the tempo. I think I got whiplash :) .

As you can imagine there was a lot of bravura and polished dancing from Muntagirov. I hadn’t realised that the men have so much freedom in the their Act 3 variations. Vadim’s Act 3 was quite different from what I saw Matthew Ball in the first performance I saw. Again, the entire company looked fantastic. There was so much character in the dancing at times I wasn’t sure where to look. Isabella Gasparini’s Amour was a delight and what an infectious smile she has.  Impressive individual performances by both Vadim and Natalia but I think I preferred Cuthbertson and Ball (together) in the earlier performance I saw.

I do have to admit to fighting jet lag that evening as I had just got back to Japan the Friday before I attended my first performance. And I sort of lost  my voice the next day! On my way home, Reece Clarke was in the same carriage of the metro train having dashed out of the theatre after his performance.

 

On Sunday, I attended the (Gala) final performance in Yokohama. I passed Itziar Mendizabal leaving the theatre and having seen me around a number of times during the run she smiled at me and said bye. I’d passed her and Kristen McNally leaving the theatre on my way to the Osipova/ Muntagirov Don Q performance. 

I really enjoyed the gala. Highlights for me were Claire Calvert, Yasmine Naghdi and Laura Morera in Winter Dreams. The goodbye pas de deux (with Ryochi Hirano)  brought a roar of applause from the audience. Then there was the Manon pas de deux with Lauren Cuthbertson and Vadim Muntagirov, the snippet from Ondine with Francesca Hayward (and cameo appearance by  Edward Watson) - what an expressive face Francesca has! With an almost bare stage I found myself experiencing the same amazement  in whatever it was Ondine was discovering having strayed into another world.

Last but not least was Symphony in C which was the icing on the cake. I love the music and this gem of a ballet. Fumi Kaneko in the 1st movement was a standout.

 

It was great seeing the company but I’m sure happy they’re gone! I’ve spent half my retirement savings on them :) - £16 for a programme !??

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