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This is my first post, so here goes!

 

The Sarasota Ballet's digital season has been a lifeline. I particularly enjoyed Summertide by Sir Peter Wright, and Amorosa by Ricardo Graziano. The highlight has been Ashton's Valses nobles et sentimentales. Repeated viewings made possible by Sarasota revealed a clear structure: an opening tableau and ensemble of 10 dancers, pas de trois, two couples and solo girl, four girls and solo boy, pas de deux, three couples, pas de deux, and final ensemble. All packed into 16 minutes!

 

It begins in stillness, with two boys either side of the principal girl who is turned away from us, the principal boy standing behind the screen facing the girl.  As the curtains close, the dancers are still moving, the principal girl being lifted side to side behind the central screen by the principal boy, alternating with another boy. Two have become three. It feels like an image of eternity. The dancers are like sculptures who come to life. Throughout there are beautiful moments in which dancers pause while others continue moving. This crystallising and dissolving increases in the magical final section when the music becomes even more mysterious. I am aware that something is happening of great significance to the soul. The ballet has a mythic power. It is teeming with dance images suggesting courtly love, romantic longing, a quest, the beyond, enchantment, a movement from two to three, and from three to four. 

 

I feel sorry now the experience is over, and am full of gratitude to Sarasota Ballet for putting it on so that I was able to see it at home. 

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Thank you, Rina, and welcome to the forum!  It was great to see it again, even if only for a few days.

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Thanks Alison. Can I add some thoughts arising from the review of Valses nobles et sentimentales in DanceTabs (in Jan McNulty's Dance Links for 6 May)?

The reviewer interprets some of the dance images in terms of narrative, and concludes that the final section represents the principal girl's memories of past romantic attachments. It seems important to remember that the ballet was made the year after Symphonic Variations, where “paring down” became a crucial part of the creative process, and was a new poetic version of a previous setting to the music which had a story.

The search for a narrative can be a defence against the power of images. It can shut them down, and prevent them working on you. I also suspect that it stems from a literal rather than a poetic perspective. For example, the review mentions the scene towards the end when we see the principal girl being carried from stage right to left behind the screen by two boys, her legs split across their shoulders. You can see it currently in the Sarasota compendium of Ashton performances on Vimeo (https://vimeo.com/368351704) at 16.20. It's an arresting image – breathtaking – a moment of magic.

The review describes it as “a startling sight in so decorous a gathering”. As an image it reverberates on many levels at the same time. Yes, literally she is a glamorous woman in the anteroom of a ballroom being brought on by her two admirers. But the image also evokes a palanquin, or a Catholic saint or Indian god being carried through the streets. As a ballet image, it looks like an eternal jeté, an echo of the statue-like freezing and unfreezing that occurs throughout the work. As a threesome, it's a mythical creature with a female upper body and male lower body. Or an image of “threeness”. As an image it's inexhaustible.

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Emailed Sarasota ballet today, asking if there was any chance they could continue with some of their streams into next season. I was thinking especially of the new David Bintley ballet. However, I had a very prompt but regretful reply from their Marketing Director Jason Ettore saying they can't continue because of the cost and extra rehearsal time entailed in filming a live ballet, plus  The other roadblock comes from whether or not choreographers and choreographic trusts will continue to allow for their works to be streamed online and if unions will continue to make the contract exceptions they have made for this past Season.  They say it wasn't a decision they took lightly because of the worldwide appreciation of their streams they have received but they have no option but to continue with just live performances. Sad, but at least we were able to see some of their wonderful rep. and one more still to go.     

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