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THE ROYAL BALLET: 2021/22 season wishlist?


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26 minutes ago, prs59 said:

If it were possible to add a new piece to the repertoire, I’d love to see the RB harnessing a year of pent up energy to explode onstage with Forsythe’s ‘Playlist’ 

 

Great idea, but the piece was commissioned by ENB and, therefore, unlikely to be made available to another London-based company.

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Well the three-acters are already set out in today's Times: Giselle, Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake, The Dante Project and Like Water for Chocolate (the new Wheeldon). 

Further news is expected in June and bookings open in August.

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  • alison changed the title to THE ROYAL BALLET: 2021/22 season wishlist?

Anyone who is interested in the company, its artistic identity and its future development will inevitably start at some point to think about the riches left unperformed in the company's back catalogue and about the Ashton repertory in particular. It is not nostalgia which prompts this but the certain knowledge that there are important works by Nijinska, Fokine, Ashton, and others quietly mouldering away which rarely see the light of day but deserve their place in the company's active repertory rather than being granted the occasional exhumation under the category "Heritage Work" and are then generally cast in a way that suggests that management lacks complete  confidence in the work's ability to attract an audience on its own.

 

There may be all sorts of reasons for the neglect of a particular work or works which seem perfectly valid to management. The excuses include the cost of reviving a work and the perception that a certain style of ballet will not appeal to the current audience, of course the AD's personal taste may come into it but no one will admit that openly.The cost of revival is almost certainly management's justification for the neglect of works  like Les Noces and The Song of the Earth. Long neglect of ballets like these means an entire cast will be on a steep learning curve working their way into the ballet whenever the work is revived, with the result that most audiences will see a less than perfect  account of them. This sadly does not seem to matter.

 

Casting is a dark art which calls for an understanding, on management's part, of the dancer types required in many of the older works which lie dormant, collecting dust in the company's heritage cupboard. While dancers today are very versatile they are not suited to every role that may need to be filled. Seniority, technical ability, fame and popularity are no substitute for suitability for a specific role whether in works by Fokine, de Valois or Ashton. Management failed to make a compelling case for Les Sylphides, La Fete Etrange, Lilac Garden and Birthday Offering when they were last seen on the Opera House stage. Indeed they probably put paid to arguments for their significance or their regular revival. The company's revival of Les Sylphides struggled to establish any sort of mood other than tedium and was scarcely the evocation of the Romantic era which Fokine had intended it to be.

 

There are plenty of neglected Ashton ballets which I think would be worth reviving. They range from works he made for Rambert in the years immediately following Diaghilev's death when the future of ballet in this country was so uncertain to those he made at the very end of his career.Some are entertainments,some have dance as their subject, some are abstract works while others are clearly story ballets. If you say "Balanchine" you know you are talking about abstract works; if you say "MacMillan" you can be pretty certain the work in question will be dramatic but if you say "Ashton" it is not that obvious what sort of dance work it will be. Perhaps that is one of the reasons for the neglect of such a large part of his output. The problem is that it is difficult to  find an all encompassing description for his output which ranges from Capriol Suite to Varii Capricci. As the company's centenary is only ten years away I should like to think that Kevin would do more than merely pay lip service to Ashton's memory and the contribution he made to the company's repertory by making a much greater part of his output available to the audience on a regular basis. The ballets which tend to be revived at present are not representative of the range and variety of his output for the company and even his earliest surviving works are worth investigation for their sheer energy and inventiveness.

 

The work of the Ashton Foundation has reminded me of how much I enjoyed The Walk to the Paradise Garden all those years ago while it has also shown, I think, that Foyer de Danse would be worth reviving. 

The Fonteyn centenary was a reminder of other works that have been out of the repertory for far too long. It suggested that the full Apparitions would be well worth reviving with the right cast. The excerpt from Ondine suggested that the title role is one that Hayward was born to dance . Now while I hope that Kevin revives it for her , the ballet I would most like to see revived, is Daphnis and Chloe which was last staged in 2004 for the Ashton centenary. The company has several young men who would be excellent as Daphnis while I can think of at least three dancers who should be given the opportunity to dance Chloe.

 

I have seen next season's programme and to be honest the choice of full length works  does not come as that much of a surprise.It is essentially a couple of works held over from last season, the perennial Nutcracker plus the works which probably were scheduled for revival this season any way. No doubt casting details will make what is proposed look a bit more exciting.I can't help wondering whether Wheeldon has made a sensible choice of subject for his new ballet. I am not convinced that the novel or the film based on it will transform that easily into a ballet as the family relationships in the story appear to be too complex to be easily portrayed in balletic terms.  I sincerely hope that it proves to be another Winter's Tale rather than a Strapless or Wind. 

 

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Have been talking about this on another thread but is there any reason why Van Manen’s Adagio Hammerklavier is hardly ever performed by RB any more. 
I would love this to be performed by ether company RB or BRB 

 

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As far as the Royal Ballet main company is concerned Adagio Hammerklavier seems to have been a work seen in a single season, 1976. The performance database suggests that it had three performances at Covent Garden in that one season and was not subsequently revived. Four Schumann Pieces is another Van Mannen work that it would be nice to see again. However I would not give either of them priority over works in the company;s back catalogue or works drawn from the Tudor repertory which we get to see so rarely. If it was up to me and I had the opportunity to select the ballets to be programmed for one season or over several seasons then Ashton would be my first choice for revival. I would ensure that his ballets were part of the regular turn over of repertory rather than the occasional revival. It is noticeable that Ashton's demi-character works rarely get an airing. The other works I would love to see again are de Valois' Job in its entirety, not just Satan's solo, Les Biches  and a triple bill of Tudor's works drawn from the following list Lilac Garden, Dark Elegies, Pillar of Fire, Echo of Trumpets, Moments Musicaux and Gala Performance. There is one Tudor work I don't need to see again and that is The Leaves are Fading which I think of as substandard Tudor.

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1 hour ago, FLOSS said:

I can't help wondering whether Wheeldon has made a sensible choice of subject for his new ballet. I am not convinced that the novel or the film based on it will transform that easily into a ballet as the family relationships in the story appear to be too complex to be easily portrayed in balletic terms.  

Reading the long, complicated and involved synopsis on wikipedia of this protracted saga, with numerous characters and endless twists and turns,  I did chuckle at the thought of the likely bafflement of the audience.....and  at the idea of another conflagration ending- (Frankenstein 2?) It seems a rather strange choice.

But, it could be good, who knows.  So much depends on the music.

 

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I’ve just been reading about it too and have to say it doesn’t immediately appeal but it could be turned into a sort of black comedy punctuated with some love duets from what I can determine from the very long and involved story but not having read the book or seen the film perhaps that is not giving it justice! 
I saw the performances of Adagio in November 1976 and loved it as my memory tells me ...well I love the music for a start anyway....but remember it as being very beautiful with simple stage backgrounds and costumes.....also a highlight being getting a young Wayne Eaglings autograph!  


I had forgotten about Four Schumann pieces and I did see that too. 
Of course I don’t have an insight into the technicalities and restraints on Artistic Directors of Companies on what they can/ should/ choose to include in the Rep etc. 

  

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3 hours ago, FLOSS said:

The other works I would love to see again are de Valois' Job in its entirety

Jod would be one of my top choices for a revival, along with Checkmate. Though while I'm sure you know lots about them I don't, I just want to see them because they're mentioned in Lorna Hill's Sadler's Wells books & sound interesting. For instance Satan is described as rolling down a staircase & I'd love to see how that would be done without the RB men getting even more injured than they have been in recent seasons!

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Interesting to read Dawnstar’s desire to see Job stemming partly from reading about it in a children’s fiction book. So many ballets I would like to see are in part due to pictures in the Princess Tina ballet books  I loved as a child. Shadowplay, Graduation Ball, Card Game, Daphnis and Chloe, Birthday Offering, Les Biches .....  to name a few. Of those I’ve listed, I have only managed to see Birthday Offering.  It’s sad to say but I can’t see how a torch can be held for such ballets to be revived if there is no exposure to them now in the form of released extracts from archives, masterclasses etc, more initiatives such as those by the Ashton Foundation. 

 

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9 hours ago, Odyssey said:

Interesting to read Dawnstar’s desire to see Job stemming partly from reading about it in a children’s fiction book. So many ballets I would like to see are in part due to pictures in the Princess Tina ballet books  I loved as a child. Shadowplay, Graduation Ball, Card Game, Daphnis and Chloe, Birthday Offering, Les Biches .....  to name a few. Of those I’ve listed, I have only managed to see Birthday Offering.  It’s sad to say but I can’t see how a torch can be held for such ballets to be revived if there is no exposure to them now in the form of released extracts from archives, masterclasses etc, more initiatives such as those by the Ashton Foundation. 

 

 

Gosh, I've only been watching ballet since 1984 and I've seen all of those except Shadowplay.  Now I feel really ancient!!  

 

LFB used to do Grad Ball, which is when I saw it and I was so disappointed in it - I just thought it was silly.

 

David Bintley opened his first season as Director of BRB with Birthday Offering (in a double bill with his fabulous Carmina Burana).

 

Les Biches annoyed me when I saw it at ROH as a newbie - at the time I was in my very symmetrical phase and thought some of the moves were asymmetrical.  I would love to see it again as I am sure I would love it now!

 

Daphnis and Chloe and Card Game have both been performed this century by BRB and I love and would love to see again both of them.

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Echoing of Trumpets should be ENB's natural territory, it was in their rep in the 70s, but much has changed since then. I will have to look up Moments Musicaux - dismayed I have never heard of it!

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15 hours ago, Darlex said:

Echoing of Trumpets should be ENB's natural territory, it was in their rep in the 70s, but much has changed since then. I will have to look up Moments Musicaux - dismayed I have never heard of it!

 

I’ve seen a Soirée Musical by Tudor, perf by ABT’s JKO School and ABT Studio Co.

https://www.antonytudor.org/ballets/soiree-musical

Did he also create a ballet to Moments Musicaux?

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I wholeheartedly welcome the comments of Floss above, but I would like to add another neglected name to the list of heritage choreographers - Leonide Massine.  

 

Dame Ninette did much to embed his work in the repertoire of the Royal Ballet.  He came in person to mount his Diaghilev successes of La Boutique Fantasque and The Three-Cornered Hat in 1947 and danced the miller himself with great success, partnering Margot Fonteyn.  He also danced the can-can in La Boutique Fantasque with Moira Sheaer and later with Alexandra Danilova.  These were the only Diaghilev ballets to be premiered in London, rather than Paris or Monte Carlo, but their centenaries in 2019 went unnoticed, notwithstanding a plaque on the wall outside Masala Zone in Floral Street, recording that Picasso painted the scenery for The Three-Cornered Hat in that building.

 

Massine came back at the end of 1947 to revive his later ballet, Mam'zelle Angot with Fonteyn and Alexander Grant.

 

Madam invited Massine back again in 1962 to revive another of his Diaghilev ballets, The Good-Humoured Ladies, with Diaghilev ballerina, Lydia Sokolova, returning to make guest appearances as the elderly Silvestra and with Anya Linden leading the cast as Costanza.

 

The last Massine seen at the Royal Ballet was Costanza's solo at the reopening gala in 1999, presumably coached by Anya Linden.

 

These ballets often featured in the programmes of the touring company and more recently BRB performed The Three-Cornered Hat.  The ballets were immensely popular with audiences, but Massine sadly seems to be so far from the taste of current ballet managements that his ballets are all but forgotten. 

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19 hours ago, li tai po said:

I wholeheartedly welcome the comments of Floss above, but I would like to add another neglected name to the list of heritage choreographers - Leonide Massine.  

 

Dame Ninette did much to embed his work in the repertoire of the Royal Ballet.  He came in person to mount his Diaghilev successes of La Boutique Fantasque and The Three-Cornered Hat in 1947 and danced the miller himself with great success, partnering Margot Fonteyn.  He also danced the can-can in La Boutique Fantasque with Moira Sheaer and later with Alexandra Danilova.  These were the only Diaghilev ballets to be premiered in London, rather than Paris or Monte Carlo, but their centenaries in 2019 went unnoticed, notwithstanding a plaque on the wall outside Masala Zone in Floral Street, recording that Picasso painted the scenery for The Three-Cornered Hat in that building.

 

Massine came back at the end of 1947 to revive his later ballet, Mam'zelle Angot with Fonteyn and Alexander Grant.

 

Madam invited Massine back again in 1962 to revive another of his Diaghilev ballets, The Good-Humoured Ladies, with Diaghilev ballerina, Lydia Sokolova, returning to make guest appearances as the elderly Silvestra and with Anya Linden leading the cast as Costanza.

 

The last Massine seen at the Royal Ballet was Costanza's solo at the reopening gala in 1999, presumably coached by Anya Linden.

 

These ballets often featured in the programmes of the touring company and more recently BRB performed The Three-Cornered Hat.  The ballets were immensely popular with audiences, but Massine sadly seems to be so far from the taste of current ballet managements that his ballets are all but forgotten. 

Please don't forget that Sir Peter Wright revived Massine's Choreartium for BRB with very considerable success.

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2 hours ago, Two Pigeons said:

Please don't forget that Sir Peter Wright revived Massine's Choreartium for BRB with very considerable success.

Choreartium was so beautiful as I remember, though I only got the chance to see it the once. Probably no Massine ballets have been performed in their entirety by a British company (or by any company in Britain) since Choreartium and Tricorne were last performed by BRB in the early nineties -but  that's 30 years ago now. I would also like to see the quirky Parade on stage again.

 

So a vote for ANY Massine ballets back at Covent Garden. I would also like to see some ballets which were planned, but had to be scrapped last year: Tombeaux/ Monotones 1&2/ Ratmansky piece/ Valses Nobles et Sentimentales/ Dante Sonata (from BRB at the Linbury)

 

 

Edited by Darlex
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I vote for either Choreartium or Les Presages...majestic works that I’ve seen as staged by Tatiana Leskova, a real genius stager, pedagogue and feisty taskmaster. Ex-Ballets-Russes, based on Rio (98-yrs-young, with fellow stagers in Rio, Chicago, etc. who could assist).

 

I’ve often wondered if the masterpieces from mid-20th-C (1930s to 1970s) aren’t performed so often...yet companies throw money left and right to new choreographers, with iffy results? We see lots of 19th-c classics, some Diaghilev early-20th, lots of current choreography, but hardly any mid-20th-c heritage, except for Balanchine.

 

Tudor, Massine & Ashton need better advocates & lobbyists. It can’t be THAT expensive, compared to commissioning work & taking chances, can it? Not every commissioned ballet is a masterpiece.

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My late friend and I absolutely loved CHOREARTIUM when it was performed by BRB.  For us, out of a career of highlights, this was Joseph Cipolla's finest hour.  Samira Saidi was incandescent in the second section too.

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I totally loved Choreartium, too, and agree with Jan that Samira Saidi was at her most impressive in it.

.A few years later I was doing a public interview, pre-matinee, with David Bintley. That morning I had received post from Dutch National Ballet on future programmes and was very excited that they were planning to do Choreartium. In the pre-interview chat with Mr Bintley I burbled on how pleased I was that DNB were going to do BRB's production of it but was sternly informed that it was a dreadful ballet and the company would never do it again while he was director. Needless to say I went to Amsterdam to see it and all the posters across the city were of BRB dancers in it.

I can't imagine that Carlos Acosta will programme it either.

It was this ballet that made me like Brahms; before then I'm afraid I found his music boring. It also made me like Massine as a choreographer, it's so different from some of his comedic ballets.

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1 hour ago, SheilaC said:

I totally loved Choreartium, too, and agree with Jan that Samira Saidi was at her most impressive in it.

.A few years later I was doing a public interview, pre-matinee, with David Bintley. That morning I had received post from Dutch National Ballet on future programmes and was very excited that they were planning to do Choreartium. In the pre-interview chat with Mr Bintley I burbled on how pleased I was that DNB were going to do BRB's production of it but was sternly informed that it was a dreadful ballet and the company would never do it again while he was director. Needless to say I went to Amsterdam to see it and all the posters across the city were of BRB dancers in it.

I can't imagine that Carlos Acosta will programme it either.

It was this ballet that made me like Brahms; before then I'm afraid I found his music boring. It also made me like Massine as a choreographer, it's so different from some of his comedic ballets.

 

The early ‘90s BRB production of Choreartium was during the Sir Peter Wright period, yes? With new directors come changes. Bintley wasn’t a fan but perhaps Acosta will feel differently in time. 

 

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I have read this thread with interest.   I agree with so many people that there are many, many ballets that I would love to see again, or for the first time.  

 

Now, I know this might be slightly contentious, but I wonder if the reason that so many of these things are no shown very often, if at all, is because the dancers themselves don't want to do them?  I know the Director has control of the programming, but even so I suppose a certain amount of thought has to be given as to whether or not the works will suit the company as it is now.  I remember enjoying Les Patineurs when it was revived, but I have to say some of the dancers didn't look entirely comfortable with the choreography, and didn't seem to convey the idea that they were dancing on ice.  Likewise, I was so disappointment when I saw one of the revivals of Birthday Offering.  The dancers were dutifully going through the steps, but that was just about all I could say for it.  

 

When Ashton is performed correctly, as it was originally intended, then it is wonderful.  Performed by dancers who are giving it their best shot but don't really enjoy doing it, and you wonder why on earth the ballet became so popular in the first place.  My all time favourite is Symphonic Variations, and I live in fear that one day it will be staged to cater for the seeming preference of today's dancers for a slower pace, and all the other things that suck the life out of not just Ashton, but works by other choreographers as well, and which have been discussed on this forum many, many times before.  The second act of Swan Lake is usually ruined for me, because the horribly slow pace makes Siegfried look as though he is struggling to prevent from escaping a female who has inherited the characteristics of some slightly too heavy land mammal, rather than those of a swan attempting flight.  Ok, slight exaggeration there, but often a bird is not the first thing that springs to mind when I watch it.    

 

On the other hand, the dancers seem to love performing Wayne McGregor's stuff.  I assume it is because they get the chance to have something choreographed especially for them?  I have seen just about all his works, and I am not his greatest fan.  He has his moments, but the modern style of choreography is not to my taste.  However, one thing about it is that with regards to classical ballet technique, it hides any possible errors.  I wouldn't know whether it is being danced brilliantly or not, whereas something like SV, or some of the other works mentioned, expose any technical weaknesses ruthlessly.  

I have made my deliberately controversial remarks, and will now sit back and wait for others with much greater knowledge then me to explain the superior technical abilities of today's dancers. 🙂

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1 hour ago, Fonty said:

Now, I know this might be slightly contentious, but I wonder if the reason that so many of these things are no shown very often, if at all, is because the dancers themselves don't want to do them?  I know the Director has control of the programming, but even so I suppose a certain amount of thought has to be given as to whether or not the works will suit the company as it is now.  I remember enjoying Les Patineurs when it was revived, but I have to say some of the dancers didn't look entirely comfortable with the choreography, and didn't seem to convey the idea that they were dancing on ice.  Likewise, I was so disappointment when I saw one of the revivals of Birthday Offering.  The dancers were dutifully going through the steps, but that was just about all I could say for it.  

 

Very plausible - and I don't think I'd be the only person whose riposte would be that they should be *taught* to like it, and failing that professional pride should see them through.

 

(There are a number of things I dislike doing in my job but that's not a valid excuse for making a mediocre fist of them.)

 

We hear that the dancers need to be kept happy but with the RB in its current form I don't see many of them rushing for the exit were more of the back catalogue to be staged at the expense of new works.

 

As a side note - I'm not a great fan of McGregor but a point in his favour must be that he brings cachet in certain circles at home and abroad.

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2 hours ago, Fonty said:

I have read this thread with interest.   I agree with so many people that there are many, many ballets that I would love to see again, or for the first time.  

 

Now, I know this might be slightly contentious, but I wonder if the reason that so many of these things are no shown very often, if at all, is because the dancers themselves don't want to do them?  I know the Director has control of the programming, but even so I suppose a certain amount of thought has to be given as to whether or not the works will suit the company as it is now.  I remember enjoying Les Patineurs when it was revived, but I have to say some of the dancers didn't look entirely comfortable with the choreography, and didn't seem to convey the idea that they were dancing on ice.  Likewise, I was so disappointment when I saw one of the revivals of Birthday Offering.  The dancers were dutifully going through the steps, but that was just about all I could say for it.  

 

When Ashton is performed correctly, as it was originally intended, then it is wonderful.  Performed by dancers who are giving it their best shot but don't really enjoy doing it, and you wonder why on earth the ballet became so popular in the first place.  My all time favourite is Symphonic Variations, and I live in fear that one day it will be staged to cater for the seeming preference of today's dancers for a slower pace, and all the other things that suck the life out of not just Ashton, but works by other choreographers as well, and which have been discussed on this forum many, many times before.  The second act of Swan Lake is usually ruined for me, because the horribly slow pace makes Siegfried look as though he is struggling to prevent from escaping a female who has inherited the characteristics of some slightly too heavy land mammal, rather than those of a swan attempting flight.  Ok, slight exaggeration there, but often a bird is not the first thing that springs to mind when I watch it.    

 

On the other hand, the dancers seem to love performing Wayne McGregor's stuff.  I assume it is because they get the chance to have something choreographed especially for them?  I have seen just about all his works, and I am not his greatest fan.  He has his moments, but the modern style of choreography is not to my taste.  However, one thing about it is that with regards to classical ballet technique, it hides any possible errors.  I wouldn't know whether it is being danced brilliantly or not, whereas something like SV, or some of the other works mentioned, expose any technical weaknesses ruthlessly.  

I have made my deliberately controversial remarks, and will now sit back and wait for others with much greater knowledge then me to explain the superior technical abilities of today's dancers. 🙂

 

 

Not controversial to me at all Fonty!

 

I saw a ballet some years ago (I prefer not to say which, or even the company) which was not for me.  It obviously wasn't for one of the leading dancers either because you could tell he was literally just going through the motions.  I saw it again when it was revived with a different dancer in the role and (no matter what he may have thought of the ballet) it was danced with gusto and the dancer looked as though he was having a ball.

 

On another occasion I saw a plotless short work that the dancers obviously loved performing but again it was not for me.  One of them said to us later that they had just loved working with the choreographer.  One of my friends actually said she didn't like it and he responded that creating it had been a fabulous experience but perhaps it didn't come over quite as well to the audience.

 

IMHO, Frederich Ashton was a genius and those works that are still regularly revived are masterpieces.  I believe they are deceptively simple and dancers find the choreography challenging but that is not an excuse for them not being performed regularly!

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I don’t think that there is any evidence of RB dancers being resistant to dancing the works from the back repertoire which are being talked about.

Directors make decisions, not company members, although I’m sure that, within the framework of an upcoming season, there will always be some dancers who will want to push for roles - and who can blame them.

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The conversation above inspired me to ask some of these questions on the Open Barre podcast. @FLOSS I hope you don't mind, but I name dropped you when speaking about Frederick Ashton...!

 

Hopefully the conversation is insightful!

 

You can access the podcast via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts! You can also listen via the links below...

 

https://open.spotify.com/episode/7dTPPZPjVsaz2AS4TCRIxm

 

https://podtail.com/en/podcast/open-barre/ 

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