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alison

Sleeping Beauty - fairy and other variations

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There's a very interesting sub-discussion developed in the current Royal Ballet Sleeping Beauty thread, and I don't think it deserves to get swallowed up in there, so here are some of the highlights:

 

Betterankles posted an excerpt of the Lilac Fairy from Maina Gielgud's production here - I couldn't persuade it to copy over:

 

On 17/01/2020 at 19:32, Fonty said:

Ah well, if we are going to post up film from Youtube, here are the following.  I am going to make no comment at all about this, I shall wait for others to draw their own conclusions!

Here is a clip of Claire Calvert which must be fairly recent:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0eqzWD1HH8

Compare and contrast with one of Marguerite Porter in the same role.  She comes on at 5.46:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8kj260hvCk

 

On 21/01/2020 at 12:51, bridiem said:

 

I didn't have time to watch the Calvert/Porter clips when you posted them, Fonty, but I have now done so (in fact I've watched all the 1978 fairy variations, with great pleasure). The difference between  Porter and Calvert, and between all the fairies then and now, is enormous. My eye has of course adjusted over the years, and I am full of admiration for the skill, strength and artistry of today's dancers. But they train differently, and so they look different and dance differently. It's difficult to be as physically strong as dancers are nowadays and also look ethereal.

 

On 21/01/2020 at 13:27, LinMM said:

Looking at those Fairy clips I would be interested to know who did the other variations ...was it Lesley Collier in the songbird variation and the first one looked a bit like Vergie Derman who quite often did the Lilac Fairy variation back then.

I may have this wrong but I thought they always seemed to pick the taller dancers for the Lilac Fairy role ...as a general rule. So slightly more of a challenge to be fairy like. Marguerite Porter is not quite so tall ( I know I’m taller than her from seeing her around YBSS classes) [...]
I wonder if the variation looked more secure in Porters hands because of the quicker body positioning especially in those fouette turn thingys ...perhaps not having to worry about getting the leg higher than 90 etc? The slightly lower leg means you can do the movement faster and with more confidence.

 

On 21/01/2020 at 13:48, Balletfanp said:

I saw a clip of Beryl Grey dancing that variation some time ago, and it struck me how much faster the tempo was when she danced it. It makes it much harder to do those very difficult steps at a slow tempo - and, I imagine, more difficult to make it flow or look light.

 

 

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On 21/01/2020 at 14:11, FLOSS said:

I trust that this does not offend anyone but Marguerite Porter's Lilac Fairy is not an ideal exemplar with which to compare later exponents of the role save where tempo is concerned. Where the 1978 recording of the ballet really scores is in the dancer's relationship with the music. Apart from the Crystal Fountain variation which is slower all the other dancers in that recording are within seconds of the tempi set by Previn in his LSO studio recording of the score and Collier is a second or two faster as the Fairy of the Songbirds.From my recollection this degree of acute musicality is true of the entire recorded performance which is worth watching to understand what the ballet should look like in performance even if not all the cast is ideal when compared with the company ten years earlier.  To return to Porter's Lilac Fairy her account of the role was not that highly regarded at the time. It was generally thought that compared with the likes of Bergsma who had been the great Lilac Fairy of the 1960's and Beryl Grey who had been the great exponent of the role from 1946 until she left the company and went freelance Porter lacked the authority which comes with a powerful technique and obvious mastery of the choreography. I think that Arlene Croce said as much when she wrote about the company's New York performances in the late seventies commenting on Porter's approach to the role by saying that she was beneficent rather than authoritative, dominating and powerful.

 

The truth is that since 1978 Sleeping Beauty has fallen victim to the great Petipa go slow caused among other things by the idea that legs should go much higher and the mistaken belief that the audience wants to see static poses rather than transitions. This has happened because no one wanted to set the company's performance style in aspic and the alteration was incremental.rather than an overnight change. Another factor to add to the mix is that hardly anyone on stage today has had any real involvement with Cecchetti training whereas in the 1970's everyone who had come into the company via the school, and the bulk of the company did just that, had some experience of Cecchetti training.

 

Perhaps I am wrong about this but I sometimes think that the Royal Ballet occasionally suffers from its self imposed  self-sufficiency when it comes to coaching roles like the Lilac Fairy and the Fairy Variations. I recognise that when so many casts have to be prepared to dance the leading roles in this ballet preparing dancers to perform the Fairy Variations may have come to be seen more as a matter of logistics than of artistic exposition but I am not convinced that the company has got its coaching priorities right when it comes to these roles. It is almost as if the company has persuaded itself that the dancers appearing in them require less artistic polish and nuanced plastique than those dancing Aurora need. Fortunately the days when the casting of the Variations seemed to be undertaken by drawing names from a hat at random are over  but we are rarely presented with a full line up of dancers who are equally accomplished in their roles and manage to persuade the audience that they are all there as of right.  It is as if the company has forgotten that the Variations were originally devised to showcase Petipa's own leading dancers which suggests to me that they should not look as if they have been mass produced with little concern as to how their performance will read in the theatre, only that there should be enough of them. Each of these variations requires sufficient technique to reproduce the choreography after which it is largely a question of understanding and nuanced presentation. What I fail to understand is why, when Bergsma was invited to help with the revival of Enigma Variations, she was not asked to coach this season's Lilac Fairies as well or why Thoroughgood was not invited to polish the other fairies as she must have danced everyone of them at some time in her career after being coached by de Valois and Ashton.

 

I may be being unfair but it really should not be a matter of luck as to how much impact each individual dancer makes in the Fairy Variations. If the Insight Evenings are anything to go by then it would seem that these roles are prepared for the stage by ballet mistresses few of whom have been great exponents of any of these roles themselves. Perhaps it is no wonder that they look somewhat mass produced rather than individually crafted. Is it somehow a matter of personal pride that those who could deal with technical issues and the artistic aspects of these roles play no part in reviving this or other ballets? The company has fine coaches and excellent ballet masters and ballet mistresses but they are not infallible. Beryl Grey is still alive and I imagine that she could still contribute a great deal to giving the Lilac Fairy's gestures meaning and getting the speed and the focus of the variation right. I can't help thinking that the insights and expectations of the likes of de Valois and Ashton and the way they polished these roles is all that is now missing. Sleeping Beauty is a nineteenth century ballet perhaps the company should make the brave decision to dance it in a Cecchetti inspired style rather than a style heavily influenced by Guillem. Only a thought.

 

Perhaps I should point out that in the Dark Ages the Royal Ballet never tried to field more than a couple of Lilac Fairies at any one time with the result that they got the coaching the role requires and the opportunity to dance the solo at the right speed enough times to achieve true mastery of the role and its nuances rather than merely paying it a flying visit every  two or three years,as happens now. In addition dancing any of these variations entirely flat on and completely vertical  removes any opportunity for nuance and is incredibly boring.

 

On 21/01/2020 at 14:25, Mérante said:

Margaret Porter was very tall, for that time, and that variation is difficult for a tall ballerina.  The 19th Century ballerinas were in the main, just over 5 foot tall.

 

However, the differences between 1978 and 2020 are of course, glaring.

 

It starts with Miss Porter creating an excited stir in the room, as she glides unhurriedly downstage.  I repeat, unhurriedly.  This is not the teenage Aurora rushing on. 

 

Luxuriating in the port de bras, Miss Porter then draws herself up to her full height, whereby her fingers seem to brush the uppermost flies.  There are three different positions of the head in that port de bras, and she gives full value to each.

 

We move on to the battement à la seconde which despite the downbeat in the score, is taken unstressed, almost as a blur.

 

Each sissonne-arabesque is differently accented.  Remembering that the sissonne should look, and feel, like a tiny explosion of the unexpected UP AND AHEAD ! AND AHEAD!  It is not a stretching movement!

 

Overall, the in-between steps are much faster, lighter an un-accented.  This makes it possible for a tall dancer to play with rubato and keep up with the music - by blurring the in-between steps.

 

The dance is not frontal, but makes full use of all the points on stage.  Tutto tondo - 360°.  Miss Porter thus avoids the pasted-on, full-frontal Radio City Rockette GRIN.

 

Despite the difficulty of the fouetté-arabesques for such a tall long-limbed dancer (centrifugal force),  each stage of the movement is clearly marked - while the final arabesque nonetheless creates a little stir of excitement each time.

 

Over the years, the orchestral tempi are perhaps 15 to 20% slower.   This alone would suffice to make dancing the classical roles properly next to impossible.

 

Personally, I believe that the main, if not the only, reason, these Imperial ballets still draw in the crowds is Tchaikovski's scores, which are built to MOVE, and are magnificent.   Tamper with the scores by disregarding the correct tempi, and one kills the Goose that Lays the Golden Eggs.

 

The major issue we are now facing, as others here have commented, is that today's dancers do cross-training, owing to the dangerous "choreography" if that is the word, they are called upon to perform.  They fear injury, and dance hoping to avoid it.  Muscle--bound, and trained to dance on the position, rather than on the movement and the in-betweeness of movement.   The bad news is that classical dance is not about positions, it is about movement.  The positions are there as facilitators of movement.  They canalise it. 

 

Now if we go back to Margaret Porter in this variation, but this time, watch only the in-between steps ... there may be much to learn.

 

 

On 21/01/2020 at 14:25, Fonty said:

 

Floss, I am so glad you posted.  I was hoping you would do so.  The reason I put this clip up is not because I thought Porter was giving a definitive account of the role, but because it was the only one I could find from an earlier era.  There used to be a lot more.  Beryl Grey for one, both dancing and coaching.  And there used to be one of Lucette Aldous,  dancing in one of the Fonteyn videos. 

What I think the earlier clip clearly shows is the feature that you mention.  The change from the faster, continuous flow of movement,  to the slightly slower, pause-and-hold style.  The result from the latter is that the dance looks slightly sluggish, and makes the choreography look a bit dull.  We shouldn't be thinking, "Wow, this is a difficult variation."  They are all difficult in their own, way.  We should be thinking, "Wow!  This is wonderful, those steps show both the ethereal qualities and the quiet authority of the leading fairy!"

 

Edited to add, thank you Merante.  You must have posted while I was still writing mine.  A very clear explanation of the different in styles.

 

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On 21/01/2020 at 15:46, LinMM said:

Have now exhausted myself on Lilac Fairy clips! 
I have found one clip where the dancer has captured the beauty of the carriage of the leg in the initial part. Most kick the leg up without then showing this carriage that well. The dancer I found who I don’t know but others might is Marie Agnes Gillot of Paris Opera ballet. In her variation she carries the leg around with the body in a lovely way so makes that bit of choreography look less ‘pedestrian’. Others may kick the leg higher especially in some Russian versions ( which can be painfully slow) but still haven’t shown the beauty of this movement. 
The sissone step has become really almost boring these days! It’s now taught as a very upward jumping step instead of what I thought (maybe wrongly) was originally a forward moving step .. there is still an upward element to it ...but the excitement was in the forward travelling movement of the step across the stage. 
Of course the music for this variation has got a slight dragging quality to it especially when played too slowly .....I imagine it’s supposed to have a ‘commanding’ quality which is why I think Gillot has lent something to this choreography. 

I can’t find the Beryl Grey version unfortunately. 
 

 

On 21/01/2020 at 15:57, Mérante said:

The question of what we call "strength", is relative.  Relative to the task.

 

And there is little relation between the efficiency of a muscle, and its visual "size".

 

Japanese Judokas for example, may only be 5 foot 6, weigh 9 stone and look like the classic "I was a 100 lb weakling".  While they are TERRIFYING.

 

The more one forces the turnout to get the visual effect of being "very turned out", the more one tends to use the wrong muscles to shore up the increasingly-unstable edifice.

 

Normally, the turnout should be so elastic, that it holds virtually "as of its own volition". 

 

A few years back, someone asked why dancers today "no longer have those beautifully-lifted buttocks" of the 1950s.  And everyone laughed.  Well, it was funny, in a manner of speaking.  An accurate observation nonetheless.   

 

If the weight be properly distributed over the heels (70% on the heels, 30% mid- and forefoot, as per Cecchetti's thinking) i.e. with the weight coursing UP and DOWN on either side of the plumb line,  the floor will "push us upwards", effortlessly - so to speak.  The turnout will be coming from inside the body, up from the pelvic floor (excuse my French) and the buttocks will indeed be "lifted"; the whole body including the back SEEN FROM THE BACK will be "turned out".   

 

This only works if we avoid over-turning.  

 

Whereas, there are two main differences between the way we danced, and the way we force the dance, today:  picking up the leg, and over-turning.

 

The moment we begin to over-turn, aiming at today's 175° turnout,  we have no option but to over-engage the leg muscles in the front of the thigh, to stop us from tilting backwards, along with a host of other disorders. 

 

Again, although the turnout is indeed the Alpha and the Omega of all classical dance systems - it is nonetheless just a facilitator.  Not the Reason Why - But the Reason How.

 

On 21/01/2020 at 23:57, Darlex said:

Vergie Derman

Wendy Ellis (definitely double ronds de jambe - I didn’t see that clearly from either dancer I saw this run) 

Alfreda Thorogood (love the way she uses her head - I suppose its the angle and timing. Lovely shimmering pointe work). 

Lesley Collier (so bright and musical) 

Laura Connor (such beautiful arms and warm femininity) - Nijinska's choreography. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks Alison.

 

The discussion wasn't specifically about the Fairy Variations, but more about how the modern training has produced a different style of dancing, and whether or not this could be considered an improvement.  As such, the title is slightly misleading!

Edited by Fonty
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On 22/01/2020 at 11:30, Fonty said:

 

Sorry, Lin, I meant to put up who the dancers were. But if you click on More on the link I posted, it lists the dancers.  I agree the film quality wasn't great, but the dancers shine through. 

On the subject of comparisons, I have often felt recently that the Bluebird pdd and solos were not quite as I remembered them as a child.  A bit more digging on Youtube, and I found the following.  

 

The first one is Choe and Campbell, both dancers I love to see.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZe0TFU75rI&list=RDBZe0TFU75rI&index=1

The second one is a longer clip of Sibley and Shaw, going back to 1963:  (Shaw appears to be wearing the crown from a Christmas cracker on his head).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlQcGWfmsl4

If you want to do a direct comparison with the first, move forward to about 4'45".  But it would be a pity to miss out on such glorious dancing from Sibley. 

 

I think again these clips clearly show what has been gained, but also what has been lost.  Choe has excellent technique, with beautiful legs and feet,  but something is missing.  Everything seems to be so carefully placed.  Incidentally, I felt the same about Naghdi in the cinema relay.  There is a wildness to Sibley's dancing that makes it very exciting.  Her speed of movement adds a sharpness that makes you feel that this is someone who is really being taught how to fly, and will swoop away any minute.  

 

21 hours ago, Richard LH said:

 

Fonty I looked at  some of the Bluebirds over the years a while back (a digression on an Ashton thread) and made some observations .... here, if of interest.

https://www.balletcoforum.com/topic/13028-frederick-ashton-his-works-and-his-style/page/3/?tab=comments#comment-277034

 

 

21 hours ago, Fonty said:

 

Thanks Richard.  I remember that discussion.  Maybe some of the points on here and elsewhere relating to past and present style could be copied and pasted into a new thread.   I have found the comments on here on that topic really interesting, not to mention the links posted.  But these points on the techniques of today v the past tend to get lost after a while, which is a shame.  

 

21 hours ago, Richard LH said:

 

Good idea.....I think this is  a subject that is bound to keep recurring and potentially could be  very informative, whilst  respecting that different people will prefer different styles and ballet eras.

 

17 hours ago, Fonty said:

 

But it is a sad thing when this different training doesn't actually improve the dancing IMO.  It is glaringly obvious when you watch different eras dancing the same choreography that a great deal has been lost, in order to gain....what, exactly?  We are always hearing that today's dancers are much better technically than they were 40 years ago, but I am not seeing that.  Apparently they dance with more attack than their predecessors.  I have heard this time and again, and I am still not sure what it means.  To me, it suggests they dance faster, but they clearly don't.  So what is it exactly they are "attacking?"  And if the modern training means that dancers cannot cope with the original music being played at the speed it was meant to be played at, then there is something wrong with the training, surely?

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

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'Attack'   can be about commitment  to performing  a particular step or phrase ...  

consider a simple pique arabesque if you will ...  

if you give it what many  teachers and  directors call attack  you'll hit the 'picture moment '  ( which seems to be an RBS phrase )  and  then you'll 'suspend' seemingly defying gravity  ( especially if en pointe' )  , which  gives a different quality  to that you might get if  the same step was performed with 'less attack' and the picture moment  still happening but not  with  that 'suspend' or 'freeze' 

It is interesting that Derman is mentioned  - as even in the 1970s  choreographers like Macmillan were playing with extremes  (  see Derman and Sleep in Elite syncopations  for example ) - my understanding is that of the fairies   generally lilace and  Vine would be the taller  more 'line' orientated dancers  due to the variations   vs  petit  allegro  specialists  dancing  Canary  ... 

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Watching the 1978 Prologue fairy variations in the link which Fonty posted in the first post was quite illuminating: there are so many differences from the way they are danced now, but what struck me particularly was that Songbird (I hope I'm getting the names correct, because I never actually bother looking at which one's which in the programme!) was a lot faster, and probably not just because it was Lesley Collier performing it, and Golden Vine was virtually unrecognisable from what it's become now, the arms being almost completely different.

 

The Bluebird variation posted was also equally enlightening: so much more movement and speed.  What struck me particularly was the low (45°-ish) height of Florine's leg compared with what has now I think become an extended high developpé at maybe 135° or higher, which obviously takes a lot more care and time to execute.  When did this happen??  Is it a wonder that things have slowed down so much?

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6 hours ago, alison said:

Watching the 1978 Prologue fairy variations in the link which Fonty posted in the first post was quite illuminating: there are so many differences from the way they are danced now, but what struck me particularly was that Songbird (I hope I'm getting the names correct, because I never actually bother looking at which one's which in the programme!) was a lot faster, and probably not just because it was Lesley Collier performing it, and Golden Vine was virtually unrecognisable from what it's become now, the arms being almost completely different.

 

The Bluebird variation posted was also equally enlightening: so much more movement and speed.  What struck me particularly was the low (45°-ish) height of Florine's leg compared with what has now I think become an extended high developpé at maybe 135° or higher, which obviously takes a lot more care and time to execute.  When did this happen??  Is it a wonder that things have slowed down so much?

 

I thought those fairy variations from the 70s were gorgeous.  The dancing really seemed to emphasise the different characteristics; the solos seemed so much more individual, for want of a better word.  

In the Bluebird variation, that was the thing that really struck me as well, Alison.  I  suppose the leg has to kept low in order to complete the movement in time to the music. Take it any higher, and it becomes a kick.   

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On ‎23‎/‎01‎/‎2020 at 12:08, alison said:

The Bluebird variation posted was also equally enlightening: so much more movement and speed.  What struck me particularly was the low (45°-ish) height of Florine's leg compared with what has now I think become an extended high developpé at maybe 135° or higher, which obviously takes a lot more care and time to execute.  When did this happen??  Is it a wonder that things have slowed down so much?

 

Even back in 2006(?) when the current RB production was new, I notice from the DVD that Sarah Lamb's leg didn't go (anywhere near?) above 90°.  If that's typical, then it must be quite a recent change.

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There was an interesting comment during a “Sleeping Beauty And Me” Insight evening before Christmas. Monica Mason was on the panel alongside the conductor Simon Hewett (one of two conductors who shared responsibility for this recent run). In answer to a question about Tchaikovsky’s metronome markings Hewett said he had recently watched recordings of the Royal Ballet from the 1960s and (I have just checked the note I made at the time) said he found the tempi “astonishing”. By which he meant, much faster than now. 

 

Monica Mason then offered various explanations (eg dancers are dancing in different ways so need longer to complete the steps, the stage is so much bigger these days) only some of which sounded credible. In any case considering Hewett’s response to the older recordings,  perhaps it is too simplistic just to blame the conductor when things go slowly.

 

Edited by Geoff
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In one production I saw, the fairies were holding hands. One of the faries slipped over, and the domino effect followed as each one was dragged down, until all six were sitting on the floor. I felt sorry for them, but it was very funny to watch.

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2 hours ago, Geoff said:

There was an interesting comment during a “Sleeping Beauty And Me” Insight evening before Christmas. Monica Mason was on the panel alongside the conductor Simon Hewett (one of two conductors who shared responsibility for this recent run). In answer to a question about Tchaikovsky’s metronome markings Hewett said he had recently watched recordings of the Royal Ballet from the 1960s and (I have just checked the note I made at the time) said he found the tempi “astonishing”. By which he meant, much faster than now. 

 

Monica Mason then offered various explanations (eg dancers are dancing in different ways so need longer to complete the steps, the stage is so much bigger these days) only some of which sounded credible. In any case considering Hewett’s response to the older recordings,  perhaps it is too simplistic just to blame the conductor when things go slowly.

 

 

Was Hewett saying that the RB were dancing it much too quickly?  And that the current tempi are the right ones?  Or did he not answer that question directly?  If, in the 1960s,  they were dancing to a faster pace than the composer intended, that rather begs the question as to why they would do that.  On the other hand, it doesn't answer the question as to why the Russians seem to dance at an even  slower pace than the current RB, which doesn't make sense at all.  I went to a concert last year that included excerpts from the Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake, and to my admittedly not very experienced ears, the pace sounded faster than that being used by the current RB.  

As far as Monica Mason's response is concerned, I find it very hard to believe that the stage has expanded since her day!

Edited by Fonty

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1 hour ago, Fonty said:

Was Hewett saying that the RB were dancing it much too quickly? 

 

Back in the 1960s, you mean? No, the impression created by what he said was that the recordings of the Royal Ballet from that era were amazing and impressive.

 

1 hour ago, Fonty said:

And that the current tempi are the right ones?  Or did he not answer that question directly?  

 

Well, he certainly didn't criticise his own conducting! But it did seem to me that there was a certain discretion around his remarks: it would be interesting to hear what impression he made on other people who were there, anyone got a comment?

 

1 hour ago, Fonty said:

If, in the 1960s,  they were dancing to a faster pace than the composer intended

 

No, I didn't get that impression at all. Rather that the issue of Tchaikovsky's metronome markings is not a concern for the Royal Ballet, at least these days, as neither Hewett nor Monica Mason mentioned them in their answers.

 

1 hour ago, Fonty said:

As far as Monica Mason's response is concerned, I find it very hard to believe that the stage has expanded since her day!

 

I think what she meant is that the current ROH stage is larger than the stage of the Mariinsky theatre at the time of the first performance. But to be honest I wasn't sure what point she was trying to make at that moment, maybe a more general point about stages "these days" compared to stages "back then"? Not even sure that's true, looking at the splendid pictures of the first production in St Petersburg, crammed with so many people. 

 

Edited by Geoff
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33 minutes ago, Geoff said:

I think what she meant is that the current ROH stage is larger than the stage of the Mariinsky theatre at the time of the first performance. But to be honest I wasn't sure what point she was trying to make at that moment, maybe a more general point about stages "these days" compared to stages "back then"? Not even sure that's true, looking at the splendid pictures of the first production in St Petersburg, crammed with so many people. 

 

 

It seems a very strange remark for Mason to make.  After all, no matter how big the Mariinsky theatre stage was in 1890, the stage at Covent Garden is the same now as it was in the 60s and 70s.  And I don't think the current staging allows that much more space to dance in than they had 40 years ago, does it?  

I get the impression she was not really answering the question at all!

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The ROH stage is bigger than it was pre-closure, though, isn't it?

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1 hour ago, alison said:

The ROH stage is bigger than it was pre-closure, though, isn't it?

 

Is it?  I know when I saw it, I was amazed at how much of the stage was actually hidden behind the backdrop.  Felt like about two thirds, although I was quite small at the time!

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The performing area has stayed pretty much the same, the new stage added the same space again so that the set for one production can be left in place for performances/rehearsals while another full size set is being built behind.

 

With regard to speed, some years ago there was a participating seminar for teachers at RBS - Ninette de Valois, Adventurous Traditionalist. We did one of her classes, and it was very fast complicated footwork all the way through. Grands battement exercise at the barre was so fast you couldn't go much above 90°.

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As the person who asked the question at the Insight evening about Tchaikovsky's metronome markings, might it help if I added some detail? We know about Tchaikovsky's and Petipa's intentions from the always impeccably researched and argued historiography of Prof Roland Wiley. In the notes to his wonderful book "Tchaikovsky's Ballets: Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker" he tells us what we need to know.

 

Wiley examined a number of primary sources in the early 1980s, including the holograph score and the reduced rehearsal score for two violins (which has since disappeared). He argues convincingly that the numerous tempo markings he found derive, not from the time Tchaikovsky was composing the music, but later, from the period when Tchaikovsky and Petipa were rehearsing the work in the run-up to the first performance, and possibly yet later still. So the markings can be taken as an indication of the speeds the dancers of the time were performing to.

 

Musicologists are likely to continue to argue about individual tempi but the current general view is that, at least as regards late works such as Sleeping Beauty, Tchaikovsky's metronome markings can be relied on. In any case such records as exist about Sleeping Beauty are reproduced by Wiley in his Appendix E. There is nothing for the Prologue but many metronome markings for the rest of the ballet. Well worth examining with a copy of the score and a metronome. 

 

Edited by Sebastian
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The February issue of Dancing Times carries a very interesting article " Teaching through our legacies to save our heritage" by Anya Grinstead.

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