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Where are the new short narrative ballets?


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Frederick Ashton created quite a few short narrative ballets. I can only think of perhaps three new ones which I have seen: Liam Scarlett's Sweet Violets; Diana and Actaeon as part of Metamorphosis and RakU choreographed I think by Helgi Tomasson for San Francisco Ballet. They all had mixed reviews from the critics. Of course, some abstract ballets could be said to have some kind of a story. I'm wondering whether short narrative ballets have largely had their day. Certainly more abstract ballets are being choreographed than short narrative ones. Is this because the need to tell a story is too constraining for the choreographer?

 

 

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Cathy Marston has a goodly number of narrative pieces to her name, created both here and in Bern, and they fall either side of the one-hour boundary that Sim mentioned, if that defines 'short" in this context.

 

What may put some choreographers off is, of course, the perennial issue of getting a complex story across without words. Is an accompanying programme scenario in order, or even essential, or should a narrative stand on its own without explanation? I seem to recall that Liam Scarlet's Sweet Violet raised that question for many reviewers. Ideally, I would support the purist view but, in truth, I'm all for a bit of explanation. (And in Cathy's case, I'm on record more than once in saying that a bit of preparatory homework is well worthwhile.)

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I expect story ballets are also more expensive to produce since by their nature they tend to require more elaborate sets, and maybe costumes as well. Probably more complicated to tour too. And also there's the difficulty of finding suitable music, or the expense of having to commission new music. Terence Kohler did a new Daphnis and Chloe for Bavarian State Ballet two years ago.

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