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Royal Ballet: Balanchine and Robbins Spring 2021


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Really enjoyed the Royal Opera House livestream of the Royal Ballet in a Balanchine/Robbins' programme.

 

Loved Apollo, Matthew Ball, Melissa Hamilton, Clare Calvert and Fumi Kaneko were marvellous, it was interesting to watch a different interpretation of the role of Apollo after having watched New York City Ballet's recording they put up on YouTube channel last year. 

 

Marianela Nuñez and Vadim Muntagirov were just perfection in Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, so wonderful to watch them dancing again. Marianela Nuñez's smile is just pure sunshine matched by sparkling dancing and Vadim Muntagirov had as always incredibly beautiful lines and superb turning and jumping.

 

Dances at a Gathering was lovely too, found myself humming to the music of Chopin and enjoying the delicate dancing from the entire cast, a magical way to end the week.

 

I hope one day to get back to seeing The Royal Ballet live in person but for now this will do 

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I really can’t top that, Rob S, so I won’t try but I can’t let Thursday evening pass without saying how LinMM’s wonderful appraisal eloquently summed up everything that I felt about the performances of everyone on stage. I actually couldn’t have gone again on Friday; too soon after the complete and utter joy of Thursday, it would have broken the spell. 

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I caught up on the stream from last night, and went in with a completely blank mind. I can't speak for any other interpretations of these works, but only for someone who is seeing them all for the first time.

 

Apollo was probably the one I knew the least about, but I thought it was marvellously danced. Matthew Ball was incredible, and gave a performance that I can only describe with the words 'looked like he was possessed by the music'. I very much enjoyed Hamilton, Calvert and Kaneko, but Kaneko was a particular standout. I haven't seen much of her before, but I am now a Kaneko fan. Choreography wise I enjoyed Balanchine's use of interlocking hands, although I can only imagine how complicated it must be to learn. The ending on the stairs was absolutely sublime, and provided a wonderful ending to a wonderful piece. 
 

I must admit that at the end of the first portion of the Tchiakovsky Pas de Deux I thought it was over, and was very please when the variations happened. Anytime Nuñez and Muntagirov are onstage I am happy, but they had a radiant feeling that was infectious, even through the screen. I was rather awed by the solo parts, particularly when (forgive me for not knowing the technical names) Muntagirov did those spin-jumps around the stage. I enjoyed it so much I nearly found myself clapping at the end, like I was in the theatre with them.

 

Dances at a Gathering is a wonderful showcase of the talent the Royal Ballet has, and after identifying what colour everyone was (I spent a short while before the piece trying to figure out what Brick meant), I very much enjoyed it. Again the dancing was brilliant, and I quite enjoyed seeing the different combinations of pairings throughout the piece. There's not much I can single out as I thought everyone was brilliant, and I hope this is a piece that remains in the active repertoire as it does show off the skill of the dancers. Particular praise must go to the piano accompanist, who I thought was excellent. Like the ending of Apollo, I very much enjoyed the ending where everyone was on stage. 
 

All in all I'm very glad this was streamed, as for someone who in in the Midlands and can't always get to London, it gave me a chance to see three pieces I'd never seen, along with being reminded of the talent the Royal Ballet has

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About last night…I haven’t seen Apollo since Carlos Acosta and Darcey Bussell were in it, so had forgotten how much I’d previously loved it! I though Matthew Ball was fabulous as Apollo. He has such a magnetic stage presence that you can’t take your eyes off him. I also thoroughly enjoyed the performances of the muses, particularly Melissa Hamilton. The choreography was startlingly fresh-1928?!!

A quick break, then Marianela Nunez and Vadim Muntagirov! Wow! I think I cried with unbridled joy from beginning to end. I’m afraid I don’t know any of the technical terminology, but they were incredible. Their dancing exists in another sphere as does their obvious love of dancing. I was such an emotional wreck after their performance, I didn’t manage to watch Dances… I will watch it later today. 😊

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For my first trip to a performance at the opera house since last November, I booked for Thursday 10 June primarily to see Vadim Muntagirov and Cesar Corrales on the same bill.  If anyone was born to play Apollo, god of the dance, it has to be Muntagirov with his flawless technique and aristocratic delivery of Balanchine’s choreography, at times quirky, at times tongue-in-cheek but always elegant and with a purity that is a wonder to behold.  Of his muses, I felt Anna-Rose O’Sullivan had yet to get to grips with Polyhymnia’s solo and therefore made little of her character.  Mayara Magri, as Calliope, radiated sunshine with her meltingly beautiful technique and, in the final tableau, it was the eloquence of her lunge in on the staircase, from fingertip to fingertip and from head to toe, which made me inwardly gasp with delight.  Having been at the open dress rehearsal, I much preferred the cool classicism of Melissa Hamilton, with her expressive legs and feet, to Yasmine Naghdi as Terpsichore but neither of them quite lived up to my memories of Daria Klimentova and Agnes Oaks in English National Ballet’s staging which, in my opinion, was a more sophisticated and witty affair, in keeping with its 1920s Ballets Russes origins (and the one in which Muntagirov made his debut as Apollo).  

 

In “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux”, Natalia Osipova was an experience.  She certainly threw herself into it, quite literally so in the two fish dives in the Coda, brilliantly caught by Corrales.  However, I did not like all the faces she pulled or her messy footwork, and the lack of femininity in her solo was a disappointment.  Corrales pulled out all the stops in his solo and the Coda, dancing with a thrilling power and precision, especially the manège of the Coda.

 

At the dress rehearsal, I thought “Dances at a Gathering” felt about fifteen minutes too long, despite being well danced.  At this performance, it was lifted to another level by the miracle that is Marianela Nuñez as the girl in pink.  The music, sensitively played by Robert Clark, seemed to flow through her veins and the result was sublime, from her gloriously expressive technique to her beautifully nuanced facial expressions.  Hers was truly a performance to treasure.

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7 hours ago, Irmgard said:

Of his muses, I felt Anna-Rose O’Sullivan had yet to get to grips with Polyhymnia’s solo and therefore made little of her character.   

 

If you’re going to criticise someone on that basis, it would be appropriate to correctly identify the character.  

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46 minutes ago, bangorballetboy said:

 

If you’re going to criticise someone on that basis, it would be appropriate to correctly identify the character.  

Apologies!  Typing too late at night!  Of course, Anna-Rose O'Sullivan was Calliope and Mayara Magri was Polyhymnia.  

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Cast change for this afternoon...long day for Nunez and Muntagorov (but the cast sheet says Reece Clarke)

 

Balanchine and Robbins (roh.org.uk)

 

Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux
Cast Change

Conducted by Koen Kessels

Cast

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5 minutes ago, oncnp said:

Cast change for this afternoon...long day for Nunez and Muntagorov 

 

Balanchine and Robbins (roh.org.uk)

 

Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux
Cast Change

Conducted by Koen Kessels

Cast

 

The cast sheet still shows Reece Clarke dancing

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7 minutes ago, SPD444 said:

 

The cast sheet still shows Reece Clarke dancing

 

I saw that...and now the web page seems to be bouncing back and forth between the original and new casting

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I thoroughly enjoyed the live stream. This triple bill is wonderful and so successful in showing the strength and depth of the company. That they can present two quite different casts without any apparent ‘weak links’ is an embarrassment of riches. I have always been drawn to Apollo; such light and shade in the choreography and such a memorably, moving final tableaux. I found Matthew Ball’s Apollo quite majestic and haughty (in a nice way). I have seen other interpretations that have offered a more playful god, which provides a little more light and shade, but his striking demeanour gave him the wonderful gravitas the role also demands. I have always been a fan of Melissa Hamilton’s dancing and she is very at home in this role, technically secure, with some beautiful lines and quite coquettish in her response to Apollo’s attention. Fumi Kaneko  is a gorgeous, expansive dancer and I very much enjoyed Clare Calvert’s variation. I have read reviews that indicate the first cast is superb, but this cast definitely deserves praise.
There is nothing I can add to what has already been said about Nunez and Muntagirov. Just perfect. Their partnership is a joy to behold as they channel each other’s joy of dancing. Inspiring each other to attain even greater heights.

I cannot understand why some here  have found Dances at a Gathering to be over long. The variety of mood and various configurations of dancers makes for such a rewarding watch. The choreography plays about with the various tempo of the dances and it’s endlessly  fascinating to observe the nuances in the relationships between the dancers. I really don’t feel it’s fair to single out any one dancer as they were all, to my eyes, wonderful. They have been beautifully rehearsed, and the brilliance and fluidity of the dancing makes me so proud and excited about the future for this Company.  I would however mention that Teo Dubreuil has a striking stage presence and is an exciting prospect for the future.

Such a  lovely watch which I know I am going to make the most of repeat viewings before the streaming  window ends.

 

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On 07/06/2021 at 22:52, Geoff said:

Very good to see the show tonight. I’ll leave it to others to report on the dancers, this is just a brief note to update the critical comments I posted here last year about the Dances At A Gathering pianist Robert Clark. Based on tonight’s performance, his playing of these challenging pieces is now of a standard appropriate to Covent Garden (perhaps he had more time to prepare for this run).
 

I don’t withdraw what I wrote in 2020 but feel it only right to bring the record up to date. 


Well, after this pianist’s less happy playing on my second visit (Thursday, the HRH evening) I thought it best to charitably stay quiet, although some of his mistakes and drifting were obvious to everyone, including to those on the stage (when he forgot where he was in the music). 
 

But now I see that the Observer’s dance critic (whose lack of musical knowledge I speculated on last year) has again singled him out for high praise. And she uses exactly the same inappropriate description as she did in 2020: “played magnificently”. 
 

So, for the record, I apologise for misspelling her surname in 2020 (it is Crompton) but not for my comments. Perhaps she was only being lazy but there are better and more accurate ways of characterising his playing.
 

Sorry to go on but based on what people said last week I am not alone in caring about this music and worrying about the security of this player’s performances of it.


 

Edited by Geoff
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16 minutes ago, Geoff said:

Sorry to go on but based on what people said last week I am not alone in caring about this music and worrying about the security of this player’s performances. 

Yes, whilst I am far from being able to comment usefully on piano  technique I did think some things went a little awry on Thursday. Would there be any excuse in the fact that this requires an unbroken stint of over an hour of solo piano, some of which is pretty complex?

Edited by Richard LH
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I must say I do find DAAG overlong, which is why I look forward to seeing the streaming in episodes, also seeing a different cast.

 

Thought the Apollo cast were excellent, so good to see this ballet again, it looks so modern!  Especially good to see Melissa Hamilton.

 

The TPDD wasn't a favourite of mine before but the dancing of Marianela Nunez and Vadim Muntagirov has changed that, certainly the best performance I have ever seen, technical brilliance, warmth, and sheer pleasure and love of dance 🌝 

 

 

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I think DAAG sags in the middle - I've checked my watch more than once 30 to 40 minutes in and been surprised at how early it still was - but the last 20 minutes or so go quite quickly.

Edited by Lizbie1
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1 hour ago, Rob S said:

Kevin O’Hare appeared from behind the curtain to announce Osipova is injured

 

Diplomacy personified.

Of course, Kevin always makes such announcements when Principals withdraw late in the proceedings. I well remember that happening in relation to a fairly newly appointed Principal (genuine indisposition) and, when I mentioned that subsequently at the Stage Door, the dancer concerned responded, " Wow - that really makes me feel that I am a Principal now!"

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Dear Maddie Rose

 

I enjoyed reading your comments and thought I would reply to one or two points you have made.

 

I too enjoyed Fumi Kaneko's performance in both ballets; she is a perceptive actress.  Her Polyhymnia was vivacious and full of fun, ending in that moment of horror as she realises she has accidentally spoken.  As the green girl she brought an elegance and sophistication in the first solo - I loved her flirtatious backward glance at the audience.  She was knocked back by the three boys, but in the end she shrugged her shoulders and exited cheerfully.  I too am now a Kaneko fan.

 

You found the ending of Apollo on the stairs (the climb to the summit of Mount Parnassus) sublime.  Sadly the Royal Ballet is one of the few companies still performing the original version of the ballet with this ending.  Balanchine revised the ballet towards the end of his life to make it more abstract ("neo-classical") and less of a story.  He ends the ballet in this version with the so-called "sunburst" pose of Apollo with the splayed arabesques of the three muses - but this eliminates the sublime ending in silhouette on the mountain, which echoes the processional music with its sense of mission.  New York City Ballet and the Mariinsky (to name but two) use this dumbed-down ending.

 

You hope that Dances at a Gathering remains in the active repertoire.  So do I - it is a ballet I love.  It entered the repertoire of the Royal Ballet in 1970 and was performed very frequently until 1976.  It was then dropped from the repertoire and I thought I would never see it again - particularly as in those years there was no commercial video of the ballet.  I waited 32 years for it to return to the repertoire in  2008 - and since then we have seen it in 2009, 2020 (after another 11 years) and 2021.  I certainly hope we will not have another long wait.

 

People ask what Robbins meant, when the brown boy touches the floor in the final movement.  Robbins made the ballet in New York, but Rudolf Nureyev was the first cast in London and danced many performances here in the early 1970s.  For us, that moment in the ballet was a symbolic reference by Rudolf to the sacred soil of Russia from which he was exiled in those Brezhnev years.  It always brings a tear to the eye.

 

 

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4 minutes ago, li tai po said:

Dear Maddie Rose

 

I enjoyed reading your comments and thought I would reply to one or two points you have made.

 
Thank you for this! It was wonderfully informative! 

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I just watched the stream and brought my friend along. I'm only able to watch the tchai pdd at the moment, will write more after I watch the other 2 performances (I'm planning to watch Apollo, I don't know if I would watch DAAG). Nunez and Muntagirov are just so awesome in this, just when I think that the rehearsal last year was good, this is more or less even better. They are just pretty much perfection (I use the word pretty much because I believe that nothing is perfect in this world). Really love Muntagirov's entrechat, I don't know it's just so pleasing to look at, those double tours are so good, and most of all I like his manege, it's fast, powerful, and it looks so light and effortless. I also love Nunez's petit allegro and how she dances on the beat. I love how they use their hands and arms too. And of course I really love the sheer joy that they show. My friend who don't watch ballet as much as I do was also impressed. He loved how Muntagirov dance on the beat and how he beautifully use his feet during his solo variation. Now I'm looking forward to watch Matthew Ball's Apollo when I can. I'm sorry if I probably get some terminologies wrong, I don't dance but I do some research sometimes on the technique/terminologies and I'm still trying to understand them

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