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Anthony Tudor


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I have noticed that several American companies perform works by this British born choreographer and yet his works don't seem to be in the current repertoire of any of the UK companies. Has anyone seen any of his ballets? What do you think of them? Should the lack of Tudor ballets in the UK companies' repertoires be a cause of regret, or not? Should the companies be concentrating on recent and newly commissioned works rather than works by older choreographers such as Anthony Tudor which may now be very much regarded as period pieces?

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The power of Dark Elegies makes it a timeless work - far from a period piece. Rambert have danced it - and are often asked for it on overseas tours. The Royal Ballet danced it briefly in about 1980.

 

Kevin O'Hare has said something to the effect that Tudor is on the 'maybe' pile. He danced in Tudor's Pillar of Fire with BRB in the 1990s - which did work in the ROH.

 

I was less convnced by Lilac Garden at the ROH - it seemed lost there - though the cast looked lost in their characterisations too - a very internalised Sylvie Guillem as the lead.

 

The Leaves are Fading didn't convince me at all. It seemed very lachrymose - but that may have been the effect of the rather effete costuming.

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Rambert do Dark Elegies, which Tudor created for them when he still worked in this country. There was a big kerfuffle when the company wanted to do it some years ago. I believe Rambert see it as part of their heritage and wanted to mount it as it had been created for them. Antony Tudor had reworked it in America and that is the version that the Tudor Trust wanted the company to mount. Eventually Rambert mounted the production made on them but they have to have a note in the programme that it has not been produced in conjunction with the Tudor Trust (I can't remember the exact wording). I can remember enjoying it but not being blown away - I think it's a product of its time.

 

I have seen BRB do Pillar of Fire - a turgid melodrama.

 

ENB had Echoing of Trumpets, created to remember the people of Lidice, in their rep in the mid-1980s. I remember finding that very moving.

 

As Antony Tudor moved to the USA in 1940 and spent the majority of his working life creating for American companies and teaching there (although he was AD of the Royal Swedish Ballet for a couple of years in the early 60s (thanks Wiki)) perhaps American companies see his ballets as part of their heritage in the way we in Britain see, amongst others, De Valois as an integral part of our heritage.

 

I don't know why British companies don't perform his works on a regular basis.

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It is indeed a shame that Tudor's ballets are not often seen in UK these days. When I was a teenager many of the touring companies included them. My main memories are of Dark Elegies, Lilac Garden and Gala Performance. Lots of companies say it is difficult to create triple bills, but these ballets are ideal for them. Not all together, but combined with newer works. However, you do need dancers with strong personalities able to project drama and/or comedy, which are precisely the qualities many critics fear have been lost today in the pursuit of technique. I also saw Shadowplay several times at ROH - which grew on me with each viewing.

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I can count on slightly more than the fingers of one hand the number of Tudor ballets I've seen, I think: Gala Performance (Australian Ballet, I think in 1992); Dark Elegies; Shadowplay; Lilac Garden; Echoing of Trumpets (didn't like it, but it *was* very early in my ballet-going career - 1990-odd); The Leaves Are Fading (which I found rather insipid); Pillar of Fire. Oh, and didn't Rambert do something else recently?

 

I think Tudor didn't get on well with certain members of the British establishment - and not with De Valois, if I recall correctly. Also, I think that various people regarded his leaving for America once WWII started as being cowardly or downright unpatriotic. I think it took a long time for relations to thaw a little, and this may be why he's not been that widely accepted over here.

 

With regard to Shadowplay, which was created for the Royal Ballet, I think in 1967 - Anthony Dowell created the role of The Boy With Matted Hair - yes, it is a strange one. It was revived in the last year of his directorship, with Carlos Acosta, Ed Watson and Ivan Putrov in the lead role. I can't remember how long you've been watching ballet, Aileen, but you may or may not remember a televised masterclass with Dowell teaching the latter two the role: it was great fun for those of us who were there. I seem to remember Watson recently indicating that it was a role he'd be interested in revisiting.

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Alison, I haven't seen that masterclass. It seems that The Leaves are Fading is the most popular of the Tudor ballets in the US. ABT are performing it currently. It's a pity that we don't have the opportunity to see any Tudor ballets in the UK now. I suppose that with a limited number of "slots" available in any company's schedule his ballets are always going to struggle against the British giants of Ashton and MacMillan, Balanchine and new works which most regular ballet-goers are clamouring for. It doesn't help either that some of his ballets seem to be more suited to smaller stages which effectively rules out ENB, and the RB although they could use the Linbury. Sadler's Wells would seem to be a good venue for those ballets. The only ballet company which comes to Sadler's Wells regularly is BRB and so I think that BRB is best placed to do them. I suspect that Tudor isn't uppermost in the minds of the current ADs. I feel that Tamara Rojo's interest lies in modern and current European choreographers (there's nothing wrong with that) and that Kevin O'Hare's focus is on new work. David Bintley and David Nixon both like to choreograph new (generally full-length, narrative) work themselves. It is interesting to read what ballet companies abroad are doing and to see that there are many choreographers whose works are widely performed in other countries but are little known here.

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Ian, thanks for the link to the Tudor Trust website. I note that ABT performed Lilac Garden at Sadler's Wells as recently as the Spring of 2011. I should have gone to see it! They have performed The Leaves are Fading a lot this year.

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For anyone in the discussion who is unaware of it, there is a Tudor Trust website:

 

http://www.antonytudor.org/index1.html

 

The 'News' button gives recent and upcoming performances - and it seems that once ABT's "Leaves are fading" run is over, there's nothing anywhere else in prospect at the moment.

 

Ian, a recent discussion on an American forum revealed that the Tudor site is not up to date and that, for instance, several of the smaller American companies are doing Lilac Garden this season.

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Jane: Many thanks - a useful reminder that we have to be careful about what we see online! That said, since I had the impression that the Tudor Trust controlled or approved performances, I would have thought it would keep the performance bit of its site up to date. But clearly not.

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I'm also surprised that this part of the Trust's site is not kept up to date. I would have thought that it was useful for companies to be able to see who else is performing or has performed the ballets when they are planning their schedules.

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In the Links section there are two reviews of ABT's The Leaves are Fading, one more enthusiastic than the other. The less enthusiastic review found that it seemed a rather pallid piece against the new Ratmansky which appeared in the same programme.

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Ian, thanks for the link to the Tudor Trust website. I note that ABT performed Lilac Garden at Sadler's Wells as recently as the Spring of 2011. I should have gone to see it! They have performed The Leaves are Fading a lot this year.

 

I went to see this bill solely because it was a rare opportunity to see Lilac Garden. I really enjoyed it and again wondered why our companies don't include any Tudor repertoire, or rarely at best. Anything else I've seen has been on film and it's not the same thing. I too think that BRB would do a brilliant job interpreting Tudor's choreography. I can't rationalise this statement, it's just a gut feeling I have!

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A little snippet taken from Alastair Macaulay's NYCB review from Today's Links (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/20/arts/dance/alexei-ratmanskys-symphony-9-has-city-center-premiere.html?ref=dance&_r=1&): "Antony Tudor’s “Leaves Are Fading,” which, a friend remarked, may be the most boring (but by no means the worst) ballet ever made by a great choreographer" :)

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Well, that's just one person's opinion. The ballet is out of sync with the current (critics') taste for frantic, angular choreography to propulsive, percussive scores. I noticed that most of the critics reviewing SFB on its recent tour to London were dismissive about the more classically based choreography which I personally really liked. I'd like to see The Leaves are Fading but I'd like to see Lilac Garden more. It sounds very lyrical with a drama at the centre of it.

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