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Do we need an Ashton Society?


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I would be more than happy to have an undiluted diet of heritage works, Lizbie, but since scheduling seems to be unfairly weighted in favour of what the young are thought to want - a perception that should surely have been questioned after the negative take-up following Carbon Life - a mix of old and new might open management's eyes to the possibility that they might actually enjoy traditional works.

 

As to the preferences of opera singers, that's a fair point. Perhaps someone with more in-depth, behind-the-scenes knowledge can answer that. Or perhaps its simply a matter of vocal development and the potential of irreparable damage from making poor choice of repertoire.

 

 

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3 hours ago, Jeannette said:

I’d love to hear from the Webbs as to why, after so many seasons championing Ashton at Sarasota Ballet, they’ve programmed only one smallish work by the choreographer (Valses Nobles) into their entire upcoming season. Any other company, I’d attribute it to post-COVID recovery and a need to refill the coffers with evening-long family blockbusters but that’s not the case here. 

 

Jeannette, you could try signing up for the talk they're giving to the London Ballet Circle, which I think is next month - there's a thread about it in the News section.  Guests are permitted :)

 

3 hours ago, Scheherezade said:

As well as satisfying the advocates of one or other genre, rarely performed "heritage" pieces and newly choreographed works can both be introduced to partisan audiences who may find that they really enjoy works that they would not otherwise have chosen to see, increasing the potential audience base for both. 

 

That was exactly what I was trying to get at!

 

2 hours ago, Lizbie1 said:

Thinking about the pressure to commission new works: I came to ballet via opera, so I find slightly alien the assumption that we must forever be commissioning something new. With the Royal Opera, there is maybe one Main Stage new opera per year, and in many years not even that.

 

Opera singers often speak of wanting to bring certain roles into their repertoire, but few seem very interested in having new works composed for them - they're more likely to be enthusiastic about reviving something which has fallen out of the repertoire (if only more dancers felt this way!). I'd be interested to know why their attitude seems to differ from dancers' in this respect.

 

That's a very good point, Lizbie.  Perhaps it has something to do that there are a lot more established "big" operatic roles to choose from, whereas in ballet people are still trying to create more of those "big" roles?  That doesn't explain the penchant for short ballets, though.

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12 hours ago, Rina said:

The first ballet I ever saw live (in my mid-thirties) was Capriol Suite

 

I enjoyed your post Rina, but felt a little envious when I read that you had seen Capriol Suite! I doubt I will ever get the opportunity. 

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Thanks Darlex. It was in 1986 at the old Sadler's Wells. I wish I'd kept the programme but it also included Five Brahms Waltzes. I think it was revived by Ballet Rambert. 

 

You can see it on the New York Theatre Ballet website where it's streaming free, along with La Chatte and several Tudor works among others. Enjoy!

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This is a most informative and useful discussion, and I add my voice to those calling for more Ashton on stage. Might I ask of those who have experience of the RBS or other ballet schools, the extent to which current training priorities could have something to do with the apparent slackening of interest in performing Ashton? In plain English, despite us being repeatedly told how much "better" today's dancers are, maybe they are now not all quite so good at Ashton? 

 

I was prompted to ask this by Julie Cronshaw's recent film about Cecchetti, which she has made available for free on YouTube (and so I hope it is allowed to link to it): 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Rina said:

Thanks Darlex. It was in 1986 at the old Sadler's Wells. I wish I'd kept the programme but it also included Five Brahms Waltzes. I think it was revived by Ballet Rambert. 

 

You can see it on the New York Theatre Ballet website where it's streaming free, along with La Chatte and several Tudor works among others. Enjoy!

 Antony Tudor is another great British Choreographer whose work is woefully neglected nowadays. Alina Cojacuru's programme at Sadler's Wells was the last programming here that included a Tudor ballet (sadly, not one of my favourites, The Leaves are Fading, as I find the music soporific; indeed, at one performance, at the Met, the great late critic Clive Barnes who was sat behind us, did fall heavily asleep).

His Lilac Garden is an exquisite masterpiece, I would have loved to see Alina do it, she would have delicately brought out its psychological truth, but Kevin O'Hare says it's not suitable for the ROH stage. Yet the RBS performed it there, some years back, and ABT performed it for many years on the huge stage at the Met.

Dark Elegies is a very different ballet, more timeless than Lilac Garden, and another masterpiece, which the Royal has performed (admittedly not very successfully compared to the moving performances by Rambert). Apart from the very varied works he made for Rambert, before he left for America, he later created a successful work on Dowell for the Royal Ballet (Shadowplay) and for the Royal Ballet Touring Company (now BRB) , Knight Errant.

Yet Tudor doesn't now even make it to the patronisingly termed 'heritage' works!

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What about Leonid Massine???

So many greats are being ignored as companies announce their repertoires for the new season!

 

I understand that company ADs want to fund their friends (fund living choreographers), make work on today’s dancers...but it’s a crime that this is done at the expense of most of our art’s heritage. The history of ballet consists of much more than Petipa and Balanchine.

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A point about opera vs ballet: in a way it's almost more important for great works of ballet to be regularly performed in a timescale that allows for authentic interpretation to be handed down, generation to generation.  Although there are, of course, fashions in operatic interpretation, it is my understanding that performances can be more easily retrieved from the printed page than is possible for ballet.  I am familiar with musical scores but my remarks are based on having seen and not fully understood ballet notation, which always looks somewhat vague to me.  So maybe I am wrong.

If I am correct, the case for proper preservation and production of historically important ballets (including of course those of Ashton and Tudor) is even more important.  And who is more responsible for this than the RB?  (Thank goodness for Sarasota Ballet.)

cf the Royal Danish Ballet's cherishing of Bournonville.

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I think the main problem with Tudor, at least on this side of the Atlantic, is that he has been effectively orphaned by Rambert's shift away from classical ballet (which looks irreversible).

 

The RB and BRB have a lot of their own back catalogue to look after, so taking someone else's on doesn't look likely. Maybe ENB would be a good fit?

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5 minutes ago, maryrosesatonapin said:

A point about opera vs ballet: in a way it's almost more important for great works of ballet to be regularly performed in a timescale that allows for authentic interpretation to be handed down, generation to generation.  Although there are, of course, fashions in operatic interpretation, it is my understanding that performances can be more easily retrieved from the printed page than is possible for ballet.  I am familiar with musical scores but my remarks are based on having seen and not fully understood ballet notation, which always looks somewhat vague to me.  So maybe I am wrong.

If I am correct, the case for proper preservation and production of historically important ballets (including of course those of Ashton and Tudor) is even more important.  And who is more responsible for this than the RB?  (Thank goodness for Sarasota Ballet.)

cf the Royal Danish Ballet's cherishing of Bournonville.

 

I think this is true to an extent, but we will never really know how, for example, a tenor in the early 19th century would have sounded as there was a big shift around then towards singing "from the chest".

 

Similarly, IIRC the bel canto technique - which many now see as the basis of good operatic singing! - was considered to be in a very precarious position at around the time Callas was learning her trade.

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42 minutes ago, Lizbie1 said:

I think the main problem with Tudor, at least on this side of the Atlantic, is that he has been effectively orphaned by Rambert's shift away from classical ballet (which looks irreversible).

 

The RB and BRB have a lot of their own back catalogue to look after, so taking someone else's on doesn't look likely. Maybe ENB would be a good fit?

Agree with your point about Rambert. Not sure that ENB would be interested, but it would certainly be another feather in Tamara's cap.

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4 hours ago, Rina said:

Thanks Darlex. It was in 1986 at the old Sadler's Wells. I wish I'd kept the programme but it also included Five Brahms Waltzes. I think it was revived by Ballet Rambert. 

 

You can see it on the New York Theatre Ballet website where it's streaming free, along with La Chatte and several Tudor works among others. Enjoy!

Fabulous! Thanks so much for this information that Capriol Suite is available to see online. I wouldn't have known otherwise...

Edited by Darlex
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3 hours ago, Geoff said:

This is a most informative and useful discussion, and I add my voice to those calling for more Ashton on stage. Might I ask of those who have experience of the RBS or other ballet schools, the extent to which current training priorities could have something to do with the apparent slackening of interest in performing Ashton? In plain English, despite us being repeatedly told how much "better" today's dancers are, maybe they are now not all quite so good at Ashton? 

 

I was prompted to ask this by Julie Cronshaw's recent film about Cecchetti, which she has made available for free on YouTube (and so I hope it is allowed to link to it): 

 

 

And there's also this below, which makes comparisons between technique past and present. I assume this presentation on YouTube is a condensed version of the research as the de Valois syllabus must have had many more exercises than those shown - at least it gives us a good idea. 

 

 

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I've just dug up my programme from 25th May 2005 - Rambert doing Dark Elegies, along with Mark Baldwin's Constant Speed (which I loved!), Momenta by Mikaela Polley (which I have no recollection of) and Tudor's Judgment of Paris.

 

😢

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1 hour ago, maryrosesatonapin said:

A point about opera vs ballet: in a way it's almost more important for great works of ballet to be regularly performed in a timescale that allows for authentic interpretation to be handed down, generation to generation.  Although there are, of course, fashions in operatic interpretation, it is my understanding that performances can be more easily retrieved from the printed page than is possible for ballet.  I am familiar with musical scores but my remarks are based on having seen and not fully understood ballet notation, which always looks somewhat vague to me.  So maybe I am wrong.

If I am correct, the case for proper preservation and production of historically important ballets (including of course those of Ashton and Tudor) is even more important.  And who is more responsible for this than the RB?  (Thank goodness for Sarasota Ballet.)

cf the Royal Danish Ballet's cherishing of Bournonville.

 

 

I am not an authority on this but it has been my clear impression that for the past few years the Royal Danish Ballet has rather turned it's back on the Bournonville style and repertoire.  It is mildly terrifying how quickly such a specialised dance school and be devalued, adulterated and then eventually lost.  

 

This threat is a real object lesson for those who wish to preserve the Ashton style.

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1 hour ago, maryrosesatonapin said:

  mo... (Thank goodness for Sarasota Ballet.)
 

 

“Thank goodness” for presenting one (1) 15-minute, relatively-obscure Ashton work next season?! Sorry, maryrosatonapin, as I wholeheartedly agree with 99% of what you wrote. But the sudden - hopefully not permanent - dropping of Ashton as a regular staple of Sarasota’s repertoire is upsetting. Maybe just to me but I suspect not. 

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I did wonder if the current Covid restrictions with regard to coaching made it impractical for Sarasota to be doing much Ashton this year.  After all, most dancers who worked with him are generally not in the first flush of youth, and probably based on the "wrong" side of the Atlantic.

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6 hours ago, Jeannette said:

 

“Thank goodness” for presenting one (1) 15-minute, relatively-obscure Ashton work next season?! Sorry, maryrosatonapin, as I wholeheartedly agree with 99% of what you wrote. But the sudden - hopefully not permanent - dropping of Ashton as a regular staple of Sarasota’s repertoire is upsetting. Maybe just to me but I suspect not. 

Goodness, I didn't know that.  Very disappointing!

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Admittedly the Ashton performed by Sarasota Ballet next season is a disappointment but what rare Ashton richness they've provided through their livestreams during the pandemic. Thanks to them, during this last year I've seen more Ashton performed than I've ever seen before. Some of it new to me, some I haven't seen for years and some a welcome return of an old friend. Ashton admirers have much to be grateful to for Sarasota Ballet, and hopefully the following season will see Ashton back to where he belongs as the pre-eminent choreographer on the Sarasota stage.

 

Also, to return to previous comments about the composition of triple bills. I've read with interest the various opinions about them. I understand why people think a triple bill should be a diverse mix of choreographers and styles to  challenge audiences and perhaps take them out of their comfort zone.  But from a purely selfish point of view I am relieved that this form of programing isn't nearly as prevelant as it was 5 or 10 years ago. Then, regularly, triple bills usually consisted of one ballet I  was really keen to see, one I wasn't too bothered about and one I didn't want to see at all. Consequently I very seldom attended a triple bill  as I couldn't afford a 400 mile round trip and a hotel stay just to see 40 minutes of ballet. On the other hand, recent mixed bills have been strong contenders for my favourite ballets, with the Ashton, Firebird and Winter Dreams mixed and triple bills. Long may they continue!

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On 23/06/2021 at 12:08, Lizbie1 said:

 

I think this is true to an extent, but we will never really know how, for example, a tenor in the early 19th century would have sounded as there was a big shift around then towards singing "from the chest".

 

Similarly, IIRC the bel canto technique - which many now see as the basis of good operatic singing! - was considered to be in a very precarious position at around the time Callas was learning her trade.

I agree that the manner of performance has changed - but the notes and musical directions are there in black and white, clear to see.  Is the same true for ballet notation?  I genuinely don't know but from what I have seen it appears to be more vague.

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20 minutes ago, maryrosesatonapin said:

I agree that the manner of performance has changed - but the notes and musical directions are there in black and white, clear to see.  Is the same true for ballet notation?  I genuinely don't know but from what I have seen it appears to be more vague.

 

I think it's pretty precise, in fact - where a ballet has been notated it's not unlike a music score. But others will know much more about this than I do.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Talking of Cecchetti, I am abroad at the moment, and reluctant to stream any Youtube video, so I haven't played the link above.  However, is it true that the Cecchetti method is not taught at the RB anymore?  It was never the main method of training, I don't think, but it used to be taught one day  a week years ago.  

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On 22/06/2021 at 14:48, Lizbie1 said:

Thinking about the pressure to commission new works: I came to ballet via opera, so I find slightly alien the assumption that we must forever be commissioning something new. With the Royal Opera, there is maybe one Main Stage new opera per year, and in many years not even that.

 

Opera singers often speak of wanting to bring certain roles into their repertoire, but few seem very interested in having new works composed for them - they're more likely to be enthusiastic about reviving something which has fallen out of the repertoire (if only more dancers felt this way!). I'd be interested to know why their attitude seems to differ from dancers' in this respect.

'Nessun Dorma effect' ? 

opera signers  often get   their greater  public  fame  from performing established works  ,  Dancers however get fame from new and challenging works  or being 'newsworthy' whether that is a rapid rise  through the ranks,   standing up to ADs   ( think Guillem's  'mademoiselle Non'  reputation)   or by  being difficult ( polunin )  or a First  e.g. Chase Johnsey at  ENB  or  to a lesser extent our very Own @sophie_rebecca and here RAD Inter Foundation merit

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  • 1 month later...
On 08/05/2021 at 22:34, jmhopton said:

Slightly off topic but I just noticed that ENB Schools summer programme includes a performance of Ashtons Les Rendezvous, staged by Christopher Carr. It said details are to follow shortly but I hope it will be streamed.

 

Les Rendezvous wasn't streamed but an extract from the ENB Schools performance of just over 4 minutes has recently been uploaded on Vimeo. It looks to have been well danced, especially noteworthy is the girl's solo where the movements of the arms and shoulders seem to be very Ashtonian. Hope Christopher Carr was pleased! 

https://vimeo.com/user110368952

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