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The Royal Ballet in ten years' time?


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In his introduction to the stream of the Sleeping Beauty mixed bill to celebrate the RB’s 90th birthday, Michael O’Hare spoke of his vision for the company. I wonder what your vision is for the RB ten years from now - whether potentially good or not so good outcomes?

 

In a dystopian spirit, here is a report of an imaginary news conference in 2031 hosted by Lord Boris Johnson, Chairman of the ROH, and Sir Wayne McGregor, recently appointed Director of the company, on the retirement of Sir Kevin O’Hare.

Lord Johnson said it was fantastic that a bally company should have lasted 100 years, and that its new Royal Charter would reflect its role as standard-bearer of British values. Under its new brand “The Royal Ballet Dance Theatre Company” (RBDTC), it would be a truly forward-looking global enterprise.

Announcing plans for the birthday celebrations, Sir Wayne said that the highlight would be his new work “Catastrophe” spread over four evenings, a setting of the entire Wagner Ring Cycle. The work would concern the breakdown of all cultural norms in light of the climate crisis, expressed through the metaphor of dance. The final evening, entitled “Breathless”, would take place in complete darkness, the dancers communicating their movements through specially amplified breathing apparatus. It was, he said, the culmination of 25 years of technological and scientific breakthroughs in the world of ballet.

There would be a new production of La Fille mal Gardee, re-conceptualised – to reflect Britain as it is – as a dispute over an arranged marriage. The Ashton repertory would be streamlined to better reflect the choreographer’s own wishes. Sir Wayne stated that Ashton only ever thought that Fille would survive him, with perhaps Symphonic Variations thrown in. He was therefore going beyond Ashton’s expectations in providing space for these and three further works – Marguerite and Armand and Rhapsody as “ideal celebrity vehicles”, and a slot for divertissements which could include bits and pieces from his other works. There would however be a MacMillan Festival focusing on the choreographer’s later works which would be a perfect fit with “Catastrophe”.

The company would honour its heritage by bringing exciting new viewpoints to its 19th century works. The first production would be a mash-up consisting of the Prologue from Sleeping Beauty, the mentally ill scene from Giselle, and the denouement of Swan Lake, with vibrant new electronic versions of the music. Sir Wayne commented: “This new fragmented approach will really bring these old works to life. It’s what the dancers want.”

After many years of draftworks, it was obvious that hardly anyone wanted to make ballets in the classical idiom any more and so the board has created a new Theatre Games Department under the tutelage of Crystal Pite to develop new ways for dancers to interact with each other. This would be entirely in line with the traditions of the RBDTC, and of the wishes of its founder Dame Ninette de Valois. On being informed that Madam had been clear that classical and contemporary styles ought to be kept separate, Sir Wayne appeared nonplussed, but ended by saying that whatever she said it was all a long time ago now.

 

 

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Dystopian though this seems I am confident there will still be a Royal Ballet in 10 years time, though i do share concerns about the balance between Classical and Contemporary really shifting.  I very much feel that the clock is ticking under the Ashton repertoire and i can see it being crowded out.

 

Were i to worry about the future of a company it would be BRB.  i cannot see that continuing without full hearted support from the City Council.  As the demographic changes i feel that a full sized classical ballet - and orchestra - is on notice.

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P.s.  remember, the two most scary expressions in ballet - 

1) an imaginative/modern new interpretation 

2) a specially commissioned score

Edited by Two Pigeons
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19 minutes ago, Two Pigeons said:

P.s.  remember, the two most scary expressions in ballet - 

1) an imaginative/modern new interpretation 

2) a specially commissioned score

 

Don't forget the lighting by 'whoever does dark'.

 

In 10 years' time, Sir Kevin O'Hare may very feasibly have retired and been replaced by Sir Carlos Acosta.

 

Great topic and a great piece to kick it off!

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18 minutes ago, Two Pigeons said:

P.s.  remember, the two most scary expressions in ballet - 

1) an imaginative/modern new interpretation 

2) a specially commissioned score

 

Well I loved Akram Khan's Giselle, as one example; if reimaginings are done well they can be thrilling. And it would very sad if no new ballet scores were ever commissioned. But I do now tend to hear these phrases with a high degree of wariness, I'm afraid.

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30 minutes ago, capybara said:

 

Don't forget the lighting by 'whoever does dark'.

 

 

yes, how long before 'Lighting by' becomes 'Gloom managed by' I wonder....

 

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I thought I'd missed a few months and we were doing Spooky Halloween Stories. 

 

I have a mixed but overall negative opinion of reimagining the classics. Some of them have been alright, a few good, but I think I approach them with lower expectations than the actual classics. I can't speak for others but I'm not expecting the most incredible thing I've ever seen, I'm expecting to compare it to the version I already know, which in my opinion takes away from the overall experience. 

 

And as for electronic music, particularly a full-length ballet, that petrifies me. I think I'd get a headache. 
 

 

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8 minutes ago, MaddieRose said:

And as for electronic music, particularly a full-length ballet, that petrifies me. I think I'd get a headache. 

 

 I've only ever fallen asleep in one ballet - a McGregor - and that was despite the thumping electronic music!

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3 hours ago, Two Pigeons said:

P.s.  remember, the two most scary expressions in ballet - 

1) an imaginative/modern new interpretation 

2) a specially commissioned score

 

There are some very impressive/interesting commissioned scores (particularly some of those for Northern).  There are also some absolutely shocking ones!

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I, for one, flee to the great classical ballets as an escape from this crazy world. It saddens me to think of them altered or reimagined. Sometimes they are the only things that make sense... 

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2 hours ago, Meetmeatthebarre said:

 I've only ever fallen asleep in one ballet - a McGregor - and that was despite the thumping electronic music!

 

You seem to be describing my feelings about the NYCB Justin Peck’s The Times Are Racing!  😬 

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I loved Christopher Gable/Michael Pink's reimagined Swan Lake for Northern.  I absolutely adore David Nixon's re-imagined Swan Lake for Northern.

 

I love Akram Khan's Giselle.

 

I've been very lucky to see a number of Northern Ballet performances danced to commissioned scores - Philip Feeney's Dracula, his 2 versions of Cinderella and his utterly fabulous score for Streetcar to name but 3.  The late Paul Reade's scores for Hobson's choice and Far from the Madding Crowd are absolutely spot on.  Carl Davies' score for Cyrano is utterly magnificent.

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7 hours ago, bridiem said:

 

Well I loved Akram Khan's Giselle, as one example; if reimaginings are done well they can be thrilling. And it would very sad if no new ballet scores were ever commissioned. But I do now tend to hear these phrases with a high degree of wariness, I'm afraid.

I thought Khan Giselle was very slick. And pretty awful. 

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24 minutes ago, Darlex said:

I thought Khan Giselle was very slick. And pretty awful. 

 

I liked it a lot the first time round and much less the second, which for me is the big test.

Edited by Lizbie1
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1 minute ago, Lizbie1 said:

 

I liked it a lot the first time round and much less so the second, which for me is the big test.

I got wise after Chroma. First time around, just like, OMG! Second time around, just like, OMG, did I really fall for that? Very nice lighting both times. 

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8 hours ago, capybara said:

 

Don't forget the lighting by 'whoever does dark'.

 

does that make Kenneth Tindall   the  second ' ballet Dark Knight'  called  Kenneth then ( the first being Mac Millan)?    thinking  about the lighting  for Shape of Sound in particular  ... 

@Jan McNulty Your thoughts ?

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9 hours ago, NJH said:

does that make Kenneth Tindall   the  second ' ballet Dark Knight'  called  Kenneth then ( the first being Mac Millan)?    thinking  about the lighting  for Shape of Sound in particular  ... 

@Jan McNulty Your thoughts ?

 

I always think that Kenny's regular lighting designer (Alastair West) is a genius.  The stage may look dark but you can always see the dancers.

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15 hours ago, Jan McNulty said:

I loved Christopher Gable/Michael Pink's reimagined Swan Lake for Northern.  I absolutely adore David Nixon's re-imagined Swan Lake for Northern.

 

I love Akram Khan's Giselle.

 

I've been very lucky to see a number of Northern Ballet performances danced to commissioned scores - Philip Feeney's Dracula, his 2 versions of Cinderella and his utterly fabulous score for Streetcar to name but 3.  The late Paul Reade's scores for Hobson's choice and Far from the Madding Crowd are absolutely spot on.  Carl Davies' score for Cyrano is utterly magnificent.

 

 

For all that you are completely right Janet, I cannot imagine Hobson's Choice, Far From the Madding Crowd or Cyrano ever being commissioned today.  They would all be regarded as being too dated.

 

I do feel that Paul Reade's most untimely death robbed the music and ballet world of a huge talent.  For my money David Bintley never found a successful replacement.

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11 hours ago, Darlex said:

Rina - love your post, but how come Michael taken over from Kev? Explain please!!! 

Thanks Darlex. Just a slip of the pen so to speak. Maybe Freud would have something to say about it!

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1 hour ago, Jan McNulty said:

 

I always think that Kenny's regular lighting designer (Alastair West) is a genius.  The stage may look dark but you can always see the dancers.

absolutely  

the lighting for the filmed version of Casanova was fabulous and the way shape was lit in the Stan and Audrey  was fab 

 

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4 minutes ago, Rina said:

Thanks Darlex. Just a slip of the pen so to speak. Maybe Freud would have something to say about it!

remember a freudian slip is when you say one thing and mean your mother  😉

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21 hours ago, bangorballetboy said:

 

There are some very impressive/interesting commissioned scores (particularly some of those for Northern).  There are also some absolutely shocking ones!

 

I like Joby Talbot's scores for Alice and Winter's Tale very much.  They are melodic and fit the stories beautifully, in my opinion.  I anticipate a good score for the next one: Like Water for Chocolate.  

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On 16/07/2021 at 18:49, Jan McNulty said:

I loved Christopher Gable/Michael Pink's reimagined Swan Lake for Northern.  I absolutely adore David Nixon's re-imagined Swan Lake for Northern.

 

I love Akram Khan's Giselle.

 

I've been very lucky to see a number of Northern Ballet performances danced to commissioned scores - Philip Feeney's Dracula, his 2 versions of Cinderella and his utterly fabulous score for Streetcar to name but 3.  The late Paul Reade's scores for Hobson's choice and Far from the Madding Crowd are absolutely spot on.  Carl Davies' score for Cyrano is utterly magnificent.

 

I think the Northern are exceptional at story-ballets and really deserve to be more widely appreciated than they are. I'd rather take a bet on a NB "newer" production than Royal or ENB!

 

(Also I have a soft spot for Pineapple Poll, and the NB have been the only company staging it in recent memory...)

Edited by Meetmeatthebarre
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2 hours ago, Meetmeatthebarre said:

 

I think the Northern are exceptional at story-ballets and really deserve to be more widely appreciated than they are. I'd rather take a bet on a NB "newer" production than Royal or ENB!

 

(Also I have a soft spot for Pineapple Poll, and the NB have been the only company staging it in recent memory...)


It’s BRB who perform Pineapple Poll.  It was a mainstay of their mid scale tours and saw the final performance of Robert Parker (at The Lowry).

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14 hours ago, Jan McNulty said:


It’s BRB who perform Pineapple Poll.  It was a mainstay of their mid scale tours and saw the final performance of Robert Parker (at The Lowry).

 

Loved Pineapple Poll when I finally got  a chance to see the BRB perform it.  My first thought?  "How come the RB doesn't perform this?"

I don't mind reimagined versions of the classics, I just don't want to see classical ballet companies doing them in place of the original, or at the expense of their more traditional rep.  I am a huge fan of Matthew Bourne's versions of the Tchaikovsky ballets.   I was very amused to see his version of the Kingdom of the Sweets, and thought it was as good (if not better) than the classical one, but I have never really been a huge fan of the RB's Nutcracker, I have to admit.  The final act of his Swan Lake never fails to move me.  However,  I have no desire to see the RB or any other classical company performing it.  

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