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English National Ballet : Ek / Forsythe / Quagebeur, Sadler's Wells


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Anyway, I enjoyed the Ek Rite of Spring a lot, although I thought it perhaps sagged a bit in the middle.  Sure, it's not Bausch, but I thought it was a good, if different, reaction to the score (and liked it MUCH more than Woman With Water :( ).  But in retrospect I wouldn't put Blake Works and Take Five Blues on the same bill, certainly not next to each other: too much of people being dressed in blue and dancing to a sequence of short pieces of music - a bit more variety would have been a good thing.  But I very much like the Forsythe, with its seemingly infinite number of combinations.  I'm just not so keen on James Blake's voice and having a whole evening of struggling to identify dancers due to the lighting.  (But I did notice new recruit Haruhi Otani drawing the attention on multiple occasions).

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3 minutes ago, Bluebird said:

 

What about Hans Van Manen's Four Schumann Pieces? If I remember correctly, it was choreographed on Anthony Dowell.

 

Never seen it.  Must have been before my time, then.

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21 minutes ago, alison said:

 

Then all I can say is that you've been going to the wrong ENB triple bills - many of them have been sell-outs :)  ENB has obviously cultivated an audience for their more modern triple bills in London that BRB hasn't yet managed to.  And anyway, Ek and Forsythe would be pretty tempting to a lot of dance lovers.

But I’ve never missed any ENB SW matinees for a few years now 😂 never mind I probably am misremembering past shows. Pleased you enjoyed the Ek 😊

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One of the reviewers described the Quagebeur and Forsythe pieces as 'pop ballet'.

 

I think it’s an apt description, which I shall remember and re-use, and that the reviewer was being complimentary. 

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8 hours ago, Bluebird said:

What about Hans Van Manen's Four Schumann Pieces? If I remember correctly, it was choreographed on Anthony Dowell.

 

https://www.operaballet.nl/ballet/hans-van-manen/repertoire/four-schumann-pieces

 

That was almost 50 years ago. I'd say it counts as an early work. Van Manen has made over 80 pieces since that, how many of them have entered the repertoire of British companies?

 

 

22 hours ago, bridiem said:

if traditionalism = cherishing tradition, then I rejoice in it

 

definition: the upholding or maintenance of tradition, especially so as to resist change - and that's what I meant, the lack of curiosity and openness, the disinterest in surprises or new styles. There are so many ways to make ballet, on pointe or not; it's not either Ashton or Kylián, the beauty lies in the fact that both can be very wonderful and right.

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15 minutes ago, Angela said:

That was almost 50 years ago. I'd say it counts as an early work. Van Manen has made over 80 pieces since that, how many of them have entered the repertoire of British companies?

 

The only one I can think of is 5 Tangos at BRB, only a little later than the Four Schumann pieces I think.

 

I agree that he's very underrepresented in this country.

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15 minutes ago, Angela said:

definition: the upholding or maintenance of tradition, especially so as to resist change - and that's what I meant, the lack of curiosity and openness, the disinterest in surprises or new styles. There are so many ways to make ballet, on pointe or not; it's not either Ashton or Kylián, the beauty lies in the fact that both can be very wonderful and right.

 

Or: the adherence to traditional beliefs or practices, which is what I meant. Which does not involve a lack of interest in surprises or new styles; there may simply be disagreement as to how worthwhile particular new works or choreographers actually are.

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17 minutes ago, Angela said:

; it's not either Ashton or Kylián, the beauty lies in the fact that both can be very wonderful and right.

 

I wish we had more exposure to Kylian in this country.  Some of my most memorable highlights have been NDT and NDT2 performances in the UK.  My first exposure was ENB performing Petite Mort and then Rambert.

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Yes I saw the Van Manen Four Schuman pieces and I loved that and always wonder why it’s not revived from time to time. So would definitely like to see more of his Work. 
It was definitely performed  on the ROH stage so am assuming it must have been the Royal doing it and seem to remember Makarova was in one of the couples. Lovely music as well. 

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Given that directors of British companies do stage works by quite a range of choreographers, it would be interesting to know why they have generally not chosen works by Kylian or van Manen.

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It's perhaps tangential to the discussion thus far - but when Cathy Marston became Director of the Bern Ballett in 2007, her first Bill included Concertante by Hans Von Manen.   It was, I think, the work's Swiss premiere, but that may not reflect significantly on how much of his work has been staged over there.  

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How well publicised was the BRB triple bill?  I receive emails from them, but the only thing I can remember receiving recently was one about the Nutcracker.  In my case it wouldn't have mattered as I wasn't in the UK at the time anyway, but did everyone else receive plenty of notice?  

 

Also, the timing seems a bit poor, to have two triple bills by UK ballet companies within 3 (?) weeks of each other?  ENB have a very loyal following in London, as their base is in London, even if they do spend a lot of time on tour. So maybe people went for the triple bill by the company they know, rather than the one they are slightly less familiar with?  Pennies possibly being on the tight side in the run up to Christmas?

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2 minutes ago, Fonty said:

 ENB have a very loyal following in London, as their base is in London, even if they do spend a lot of time on tour.

 

That is the most hilarious thing I have read this week!  The Spring UK tour was jettisoned some years ago and the Autumn tour is all of 4 weeks!

 

You do make a good point about London loyalty though.

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To be honest, @Jan McNultyI am a bit out of touch with the touring schedules, as I have spent most of the last 3 or 4  years out of the country.   So I haven't really been paying attention.  I am mainly in the country at Christmas, when it is wall to wall Nutcrackers, and it wouldn't bother me if I never saw that ballet again!

 

 

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5 minutes ago, Fonty said:

To be honest, @Jan McNultyI am a bit out of touch with the touring schedules, as I have spent most of the last 3 or 4  years out of the country.   So I haven't really been paying attention.  I am mainly in the country at Christmas, when it is wall to wall Nutcrackers, and it wouldn't bother me if I never saw that ballet again!

 

 

 

On a more general note, I would love the company to tour some of its mixed programmes - they always look inviting to me.  The trouble is that it is back to the chicken and egg - mixed bills don't sell up north so does the company try to build a provincial audience for mixed bills or do they just give us what we deserve - interminable Nutcrackers and Swan Lakes, which do tend to sell.

 

I know what I would prefer but I realise that forumites who would welcome a mixed programme in their area are in a minority within the general population.

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A late review of ENB’s triple bill from me, as we’ve had a hectic week, and despite the fact that there were technically no rail strikes this weekend, late running engineering works have delayed everything....including posting this! 

 

Glad to see ENB’s marketing department abandoned the strange poster concept for the Forsythe double bill in April and used more traditional, clear and attractive posters this time- a photo of Emily Suzuki and Isaac Hernandez in Blake Works 1 with Suzuki in an exuberant arabesque, showing potential audiences who don’t know the programme what they might expect. I think that definitely helped ticket sales compared to the April shows’ more sluggish start. Also very pleased for Stina Quagebeur that her surname was in large bold letters together with  Forsythe and Ek- how thrilling for an upcoming choreographer! 

 

I saw the second cast, with Francesco Gabriele Frola, Katharine Khaniukova, Junor Souza, Eric Snyder and Haruhi Otani leading BW1, Minju Kang, Claire Barrett, Chloe Keneally, Hamish Longley, Archie Sullivan, Giorgio Garrett, Rhys Antoni Yeomans, and Jose Maria Lorca Menchón dancing Take Five Blues, and in The Rite of Spring, Precious Adams and Fabian Reimair as  the parents, Breanna Foad in the featured role of the daughter and Frola as her bridegroom.

 

Great to see a packed auditorium on a wet Saturday afternoon- from the buzz and chat around me, there seemed to be a lot of audience members who had been unable to get to the theatre during the on/off rail strikes during BRB’s visit, who had postponed their ballet outing to this week, a number who had come just for the Mats Ek, and families with dance student offspring (there was a 50% discount for children). 

 

All three works were danced with great polish, confidence and commitment. Impressive to see the care and hard work put into presenting the premieres and BW1 after having just finished tours of Swan Lake to two cities.

 

I enjoyed all three ballets and though not much of a Mats Ek aficionado, I really enjoyed this new version of Rite of Spring he has created for ENB, as well as - it must be said- those glamorous swishy shiny kimono-like robes designed by Marie-Louise Ekman, which not only catch the light beautifully, but were also used as symbolic imagery and as part of the choreography to reveal more of the characters’ feelings.

 

I haven’t always been as keen on the more dramatic Ek works (eg his Woman with Water and his Giselle- though admittedly his Giselle  was a groundbreaking work for its time, that paved the way for others to do “reboots” of the classics, such as Matthew Bourne and Akram Khan) but I do like this one in its unusual take on the story (with dancing, movement and no gimmicks). Also, anyone who can create such a lovely solo for the bridegroom that shows off Frola’s impeccable line, elegance and artistry (would like to see Coloma in the role too) gets top marks from me! Actually, I also enjoyed Ek’s solo for Sylvie Guillem several years ago called Bye, which was a really subtle, gentle and eloquent depiction (with lots of dancing!) of the female character’s life. 

 

I have enjoyed watching Stina Quagebeur develop her choreographic voice with her early works like Nora, and now this jolly and sweet chamber piece for a small group of dancers, who look like they’re hanging out and spontaneously improvising to jazzy music, in their attractive blue costumes with festive little lanterns above them. The ensemble was terrific but I was especially curious to see Minju Kang, who had just joined from Northern Ballet (and danced with them at Linbury Theatre last week- busy month for her!) ....what a delightful and charismatic ballerina she is, with surefooted pirouettes, some firecracker fouettes, and neat light jumps and pointe work. Couldn’t believe that she was listed on the website and in the programme as only having an artist position upon ENB when she had been a prominent soloist at NB....she looks more than ready for lead roles like Clara, Odette/Odile, etc and a higher rank. Well, perhaps a vacancy will come up later and a promotion will follow very soon. A joyful and fun performance from the whole cast and Stina has done a beautiful job extending it from her lockdown mini piece for film and stage. My only tiny quibble is that the programme and cast sheet really ought to include Dave Brubeck and JS Bach in the music credits, as the original themes were clearly written by them! 

 

Blake Works 1 was joyful, fun and beautiful as it had been last April, with outstanding performances from all the cast. While the steps are clearly beautiful and the two pas de deux and various solos full of virtuosity, the really tricky bit, in my opinion, is the ensemble work, especially when coordinating lightning fast passages that then meld into slow synchronised combinations with the whole ensemble. It’s actually quite difficult to shimmy in unison, and with everyone having the same lines and positions, even in theory if anyone can shimmy! Delightful to see BW1 again with the same energy, passion and grace that we had enjoyed seeing last spring. 

 

If there was any quibble at all, it would be the order of the pieces. I do understand that perhaps the Ek premiere was our last to show its importance and the respect accorded to  Mars Ek, and Take Five Blues not put first in case it was missed by latecomers, but the effect of having BW1 first followed by TFB had the effect of feeling like the show started with a big celebration and then a smaller version of a similar classical-dance-to-recorded-pop (both dresses in blue!) which isn’t fair to Quagebeur’s choreography.

 

Had I  programmed it, I would have started with TFB, with the drama and storytelling of TROS in between the two “plotless dance” works, and ended with BW1, which feels like a sort of “finale” piece because of its large cast so as to maximise the impact of each work. I’d also have liked to see the first cast and was sad not to be able to (especially after seeing Suzuki in the dramatic looking rehearsal clips and photos) during a very hectic week, but hopefully the three ballets will return in the repertory in future. But the slightly lopsided programming didn’t detract from the wonderful dancing too much, and the audience gave the dancers and ENB Philharmonic (fantastic playing of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring) a warm and enthusiastic response.

 

Re: the discussion up thread, I think ENB will look fantastic in van Manen’s ballets!  I’ve only seen BRB performing his work in the U.K. in the last few decades, if you don’t count visits by Dutch National Ballet,  Nederlands Dans Theater and NDT2 when they’ve brought his ballets. More Kylian (RB used to dance his work) would be very welcome too, in addition to ENB (Petite Mort) & BRB’s (Forgotten Land) recent performances. 

 

Edited by Emeralds
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3 hours ago, Fonty said:

How well publicised was the BRB triple bill?  I receive emails from them, but the only thing I can remember receiving recently was one about the Nutcracker.  In my case it wouldn't have mattered as I wasn't in the UK at the time anyway, but did everyone else receive plenty of notice?  

 

Also, the timing seems a bit poor, to have two triple bills by UK ballet companies within 3 (?) weeks of each other?  ENB have a very loyal following in London, as their base is in London, even if they do spend a lot of time on tour. So maybe people went for the triple bill by the company they know, rather than the one they are slightly less familiar with?  Pennies possibly being on the tight side in the run up to Christmas?

I got emails and a post card type flyer from BRB, because I signed up to their mailing list ages ago but already knew about it and was planning to go. Must try to cancel the postal one to save them money and cardboard  etc. ENB had more posters in the Tube stations (and some London rail stations) than BRB did.

 

I think the sparse turnout for BRB was definitely due to the rail industrial action- they had four shows in the “firing line”, so to speak. Even after the Thursday one was cancelled in light of Poppy Day and the Saturday ones were called off at the last minute, the service on many routes were still limited or zero (eg I could not have even made it to the Saturday evening one - no trains running after 5.30). I was actually surprised that quite a lot of people  made it to the BRB Sat matinee! 

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10 hours ago, Jan McNulty said:

On a more general note, I would love the company to tour some of its mixed programmes - they always look inviting to me.  The trouble is that it is back to the chicken and egg - mixed bills don't sell up north so does the company try to build a provincial audience for mixed bills or do they just give us what we deserve - interminable Nutcrackers and Swan Lakes, which do tend to sell.

 

This is by no means news.  The Opera House's 1959-60 Annual Report mentions the ballet company's provincial tours which, though highly successful, "have revealed the essentially conservative nature of provincial audiences, who have preferred to play safe with the classics rather than risk a triple bill of novelties, and the repertory has been modified in consequence.  This seems a pity, but the problem of presenting novelties does not belong to ballet alone and is only too familiar to concert promoters."   The Report continued to state that TV could help by presenting modern ballets better suited to the small screen rather than concentrating on classics - a situation that some today might consider to have been a halcyon period!  

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22 hours ago, bridiem said:

it would be interesting to know why they have generally not chosen works by Kylian or van Manen.

 

For not showing Kylián's works there is a reason: Clement Crisp hated them, Kylián received bad and even hateful reviews whenever a work from him was on a bill, and other critics followed Crisp. Kylián wrote a text about it: http://www.jirikylian.com/visuals/text/critics_criticism/

I fear that at a time some 20, 30 years ago, everything coming from the continent was regarded as "Eurotrash" by some wise English critics. That was a long time ago, but apparently it had vast consequences for the repertoire of British companies.

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19 minutes ago, Angela said:

 

For not showing Kylián's works there is a reason: Clement Crisp hated them, Kylián received bad and even hateful reviews whenever a work from him was on a bill, and other critics followed Crisp. Kylián wrote a text about it: http://www.jirikylian.com/visuals/text/critics_criticism/

I fear that at a time some 20, 30 years ago, everything coming from the continent was regarded as "Eurotrash" by some wise English critics. That was a long time ago, but apparently it had vast consequences for the repertoire of British companies.

 

I get the impression that Kylian and a lot of other European (and British) choreographers are not that popular in the US either?

 

After seeing Petite Mort performed by LFB/ENB, I saw NDT for the first time in The Hague in 1989.  The performance included the world premiere of Falling Angels and I well remember the excitement of the audience and how wild everyone went when Jiri Kylian came on stage for the curtain calls.  I have really loved most of his works that I have seen and also those of Lightfoot/Leon.

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What a terrible thing that critics could have such an adverse affect. I suppose they must affect the more general public going to the theatre who have a lesser passion for Dance as to be honest personally I’m not that interested in what critics have to say I trust my own judgement on whether I like something or not!

Eurotrash is a very derogatory thing to say about a work even if you didn’t like it and I find this sort of attitude deplorable especially as I’m a diehard Europhile!! 
Still as you say Angela this was a long time ago so definitely time for things to change! 

 

 


 

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On 16/11/2022 at 03:25, Jan McNulty said:

 

I get the impression that Kylian and a lot of other European (and British) choreographers are not that popular in the US either?

 

After seeing Petite Mort performed by LFB/ENB, I saw NDT for the first time in The Hague in 1989.  The performance included the world premiere of Falling Angels and I well remember the excitement of the audience and how wild everyone went when Jiri Kylian came on stage for the curtain calls.  I have really loved most of his works that I have seen and also those of Lightfoot/Leon.

Other than the major classics like Ashton's Cinderella and The Dream, MacMillan's R&J, and Bournonville's La Sylphide (and Wheeldon's work), we don't get the opportunity to see many European choreographers. ABT just performed Sinfonietta and The Dream. The biggest exception I can think of is Boston Ballet. They have performed a number of Kylian's works over the years - Falling Angels, Sarabande, Petite Mort, Symphony of Psalms, Wings of Wax, Tar and Feathers, and Bella Figura. All have been really well-received. They have also performed works by Ashton, Cranko, Nureyev, Neumeier, Ekman, Elo, Bruce, Dawson,and other lesser know European choreographers. Now, my wish is that they would perform some MacMillan. And, I agree with you, Jan, I would love to see some Lightfoot/Leon. I wonder if cost is the issue.

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On 16/11/2022 at 08:20, Pas de Quatre said:

I was told by French ballet people that a similar thing happened with Roland Petit. After receiving very bad reviews from critics he decided never to bring his work (company? ) to Britain again.

Thankfully, ENB did acquire his ballets (eg Carmen, L’Arlésienne, Le jeune homme et la mort) before he passed away so he knew his work was appreciated by ENB (/LFB) and their audiences. In fact, at the time of his death, Wayne Eagling had already programmed a run of his ballets in a programme dedicated to him, and ENB were pretty much the first company (not counting his own Ballet National de Marseille) to perform a programme of his works after his death in tribute to him. Btw, I notice Ballet de Marseille seems to have been converted to a contemporary dance company now? 😢😥 With his wife Zizi Jeanmaire also now departed, I wonder what will happen to his works- the Paris Opera Ballet used to perform them regularly- I hope José Martinez will keep that going. His ballet versions of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and Massenet’s Meditation from Thais were also beautiful- I hope they don’t get lost forever. I had a video of TFS and used to watch Dominique Khalfouni and Denys Ganio (Mathieu Ganio’s parents!) in Autumn over and over- she was so elegant with glorious lines, and he was a charismatic and wonderful partner. 

 

I think back in the day (the last century!) many critics were actively trying to promote the idea that only the “British classical style” should be encouraged- Russian Kirov/Bolshoi style was put on a pedestal (even when the performances were sometimes not up to scratch), British style exemplified by Ashton, MacMillan ballets  and the dancing of Fonteyn, Dowell and Markova was next, Balanchine & Bournonville equal third, and everyone else was rock bottom -if they didn’t fit into or copy one of these four categories, they were trash, rather than judging each performance and creation on its own merits. Kylian, like MacMillan and Dowell, was actually a graduate of the Royal Ballet School! 

 

I’m glad Kylian is still around and can read about how much the audiences enjoyed Forgotten Land. I hope someone will stage or bring over Nuages and Verklarte Nacht- I love those two ballets. 

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