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Royal Ballet: A Diamond Celebration


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Well... I've returned from the cinema with mixed feelings.  The downside was that the live relay stopped halfway through so we were all given refunds!

 

My stand-out of the gala was Qualia. We were given print-outs of the wrong cast.  I recognised Melissa Hamilton but couldn't place her sultry partner.  I thought the work suited them both and it was completely gripping, astounding even.  Then when they took their bows I recognised that the male dancer was Lukas BB, who had resumed his normal smiling face instead of this Heathcliff-like, magnificent glowering creature that he was during the dance.  So I do hope @Dawnstar sat through the second part.

See US!! I thought was rubbish, visually and aurally.  Sissens gave it his best but it was simply dreadful.  I would've preferred it to be more hip-hop musically and choreography actually. Anything would be better than this.

Nice to see Alex Campbell again after so long (his waistcoat was the same fabric as our first settee!) He and O'Sullivan make a good partnership, physically, and seeing this little Ashtonian treasure was like having a delicious aperitif that left you wanting more.
Also nice to see and hear Ed Watson.  I've been told off before on this forum for commenting on looks, but I'm going to be naughty again and say that although Watson isn't classically handsome exactly, his bone structure and colouring are like a work of art in themselves so I do enjoy the odd chance to see him now that he has retired from the stage!  (This is purely an aesthetic comment, not a lascivious one!  I am of the belief that ballet is a visual art, and that the dancers should be, and usually are, beautiful.)

The Osipova/Macrae Pouffer piece had gorgeous music but came at the point that the film broke down, alas.

And I agree - Muntagirov looked ridiculously youthful again.  He must have a Dorian Gray type portrait in his attic.

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18 minutes ago, Tebasile said:

The Tanowitz - thrilling, loved loved loved it! Sadly most of the audience didn’t seem to. 


Echo this - it was the only piece to me that felt properly fresh and innovative, but still definitely ballet. 
 

some choreography I’ve never seen before and it felt very avant garde and a bit ballet russes / 30s deco atmosphere to me. 
 

also I really enjoyed the lighting and costumes and of course O’Sullivan and Bracewell were brilliant.

 

I remember also being pleasantly surprised and intrigued by Tanowitz’s Linbury work (sorry forget the name now). I really wish she would get picked to do a proper main stage work (1/3 of a mixed bill) as I think she’s doing something new and different but still feels like ballet. 

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1 hour ago, alison said:

I'm afraid that the Toonga piece, with dancers in dark clothing against a dark background, didn't come across well in this cinema :(

At the rehearsal this morning I struggled to see it at all. At the cinema this evening it was slightly better for being much closer in shot

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Just back from the cinema. What a terrific evening. Did I enjoy everything equally? No, but i enjoyed everything in the moment and thought it a splendid programme, referencing the past, celebrating the present and anticipating the future. It was good to be made to think, not just revel in, this art from that I have loved for over fifty years. Mmes Kaneko and Nuñez struck me as particularly gorgeous on the distaff side, but goodness the chaps were good too, with Ball, Bracewell, Campbell, Clarke, Hay, Richardson, Serrano and Sissens all really catching my eye (which isn’t to imply others were not impressive).

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Back from the cinema screening (and the rain) which I went to with a friend for her birthday (thankfully she enjoyed it!).

 

I was slightly apprehensive about some of the new works but overall I thought was excellent and actually the mixture of established and new works worked really well. I even quite liked "See Us!!"

 

Melissa Hamilton and Lukas Brændsrød were really quite something and probably not quite what a lot of the fairly "mature" audience were probably expecting!

 

Such a beautiful partnership with Marianell and Reece who were clearly thoroughly enjoying themselves.

 

For Four was terrific as was Prima - such enthusiasm from everyone. Zucchetti clearly is very talented and I hope the RB continue to nuture him.

 

The only downside was Dispatch Duet was I am afraid was risible - not helped at all by the music which was shocking. I am sure that piece had the least positive reaction and cause quite a few titters in the audience with me. Anyway I know what to expect on Saturday!

 

Interesting to see what casting will be for Saturday matinee.

 
 
 
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I really enjoyed this gala. I think the programme was extremely well thought out and the dancers were on sparkling form. The one piece I wasn’t wowed by was the Tanowitz piece, which surprised me as I’d quite enjoyed the rehearsal on World Ballet Day. I didn’t find anything new or particularly stimulating in the choreography.  Highlights for me were the Manon and Qualia pas de deuxs and the Wheeldon and Zucchetti pieces. Diamonds was joyful and a fitting way to end the evening. 

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Aaah Jamesrhblack you’ve just reminded me that Serrano was the other dancer with Joe Sissens who also stood out in that piece tonight as well as Ashley Dean and Marianna Tsembenhoi. 

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Enjoyed the Fille piece of course, lovely choreography and O’Sullivan and Campbell were sparkling and delightful. Have they been paired before? Think it worked well and hope to see this partnership maybe being explored. I do wonder whether the Fille piece is as well suited to a gala as some other excerpts - I think it is lovely regardless but I sense it fits better as part of the story of the wider ballet (not that we need any more reason to revive the whole thing hopefully next year!)

 

Loved the Manon pdd, was very sensual and Takada was brilliant in some of the slides (is there a more technical term). Excellent chemistry and really made me feel and understand the atmosphere immediately. Brilliant.

 

Qualia I enjoyed - very impressed by Hamilton’s strength and technique (rock solid on the slow turns and movements one leg on point) with excellent partnering from Lukas. Some really interesting choreography, my one complaint is it maybe went on a little too long for me which made it lose some impact as I thought it for a little repetitive towards the end. Why don’t we see more Hamilton, think it’s a real shame, she seems to particularly suit this more modern style of ballet and would like to see her get a leading role in perhaps the new MacGregor next year.

 

For Four was nice and I thought Ball and Hay stood out in particular (though everyone was great). Having said that I find Wheeldon sometimes a little “safe” and dare I say boring. I think for me whilst it was a good watch I found my mind drifting sometimes and wouldn’t rush to see it again - it felt sort of like I’d already seen it before even though I hadn’t which can sometimes be a good thing but here it was more of a negative for me as it felt a bit samey to some other stuff I think he’s done?

 

I echo some other comments about see us!! Really not for me and felt rather repetitive throughout, didn’t like the music (if it can be called music sorry) and felt a bit too much like Crystal Pite’s work. I don’t mind seeing things that I don’t necessarily like as audiences have diverse tastes, but my main issue with this piece wasn’t even that I didn’t personally like it, but rather it just didn’t feel like ballet to me. As part of this evening which is meant to look to the past/present/future I just don’t think it should have been included and not the direction I want the Royal BALLET to take. If I’m being strict I would also say I don’t think Pite is ballet - but I am no technical expert and maybe I’m wrong. At least Pite is doing something more interesting and affecting. 

I’ve already commented about Dispatch Duet above so won’t repeat it but thought it was fantastic. Give Tanowitz a main stage proper work!! Interesting this seems to be a bit marmite at the moment!

 

concerto pour Le deux was merely “ok” for me - didn’t hate it but didn’t love it. I can understand why the other choreographers have been selected as they have some relationship with the Royal in some way but this felt a bit of a random choice for me without any explanation why Pouffer was allocated a slot to this evening - unless I’m missing something?
 

I thought Prima was good but had a similar concern to for four about it feeling quite similar to pieces I’ve seen before with nothing new/exciting being brought to the table. However I appreciate Zuchetti is still in the early stages of his choreographic career and I did like this overall and think he will develop well. I liked the slightly funky costumes (except maybe Magri’s) and the dancing from the four principals was beautiful. Congrats to Zuchetti and I hope he gets more opportunities to choreograph as this definitely is “ballet”. Good to see the Royal supporting their own.

 

And what to say about Diamonds, I must say I prefer Symphony in C. But Nunez and Clarke were fabulous, the costumes and dancing superb throughout, really a sparkling piece that felt very dreamy and magical and a lovely way to end the evening. 
 

overall despite not being wowed by a few pieces and one dud (to me) I enjoyed the evening and it’s good to see the company on excellent forum and trying new things and enjoying themselves. I also felt the orchestra played quite well this evening and hope they do continue to keep mixing things up and innovating even if it’s not necessarily things I personally like (although please keep to ballet…)

 

my favourites were the manon pdd, Tanowitz, Qualia and Diamonds.

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I agree with the above posts.  I also had to suppress giggles during Dispatch…but actually there was nothing funny about it.  Awful “music”, awful costumes, awful choreography and an awful waste of two wonderful dancers.  Oh well, the rest of the evening made up for it!

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41 minutes ago, maryrosesatonapin said:

So I do hope @Dawnstar sat through the second part.

 

I did, but Qualia was in the first part straight after Manon & I was never going to miss Manon so couldn't have skipped Qualia. Though I'm afraid I didn't share your enthusiasm for it & would gave happily skipped it, especially the loud music.

 

The Toonga piece I didn't find quite as bad as I feared because I didn't think the music was too bad, more lyrical than I was expecting. Though given the relative lyricism of the music I couldn't understand why so much of the choreography was so dreadfully jerky & abrupt. I had no idea what it was supposed to be about. 

 

I liked the choreography of the Tanowitz piece rather more than the Toonga one (not that that's difficult) but liked the music less. It was not a good piece to experience from right above the percussion section: I wished I'd brought earplugs. Another piece where I wasn't sure what it was about. When they sat down either side of the proscenium arch at one point it felt like Tanowitz had run short of ideas & was giving them a rest!

 

The Pouffer piece I found unmemorable. During it I was thinking why is it that so many contemporary dance pieces have fairly drab costumes. Then Prima started, with costumes that looked like the designer had lots of short lengths of fabric in different colours going spare & decided to use them all at once!

 

I was amused when the audience applauded as the curtain rose on Diamonds. It felt like "Thank goodness, finally some tutus"! I thought Nunez & Clarke were both very good. I'd be interested in seeing them paired together more often.

 

Beforehand I'd asked an usher if curtain call photos were allowed after individual pieces or only at the end & was told the latter. I was therefore disappointed that the final curtain call only featured the Diamonds cast, though I can understand the other dancers may not want to have waited around.

 

I will now be praying I haven't caught covid or any other germs tonight because I did not think tonight was worth it should I have to miss next week's 2 Mayerlings I have booked.

 

Oh and apropos previous comments about missing parts of the programme, I was very surprised that 2 men sat in front of me didn't return for Diamonds. Given that was the one known piece that was announced from the start, it seems a bit odd to come if you don't want to see it. Especially as they were in seats that must be over £100 each for this programme.

Edited by Dawnstar
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Yes I forgot to mention how extraordinary Qualia is though didn’t like the music much. Hamilton is amazing in the positions she gets her body into however sometimes it looks a bit painful so not always enjoyable to watch!!  Some of those low arabesques on pointe on a bent knee…ouch! There are times when you feel her leg might detach from her body! The audience really seemed to like this one anyway. 

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Well.  Here goes. Cinema screening was great. Screen was clear and bright, sound good and I have no complaints about the quality of the broadcast at all. Presenters good (better than the last time I watched a live relay) and interviews interesting.

 

I loved, loved Diamonds. Marianela Nuñez was just perfect. The joy on her face as she dances is just heartwarming. I thought Reece Clarke was excellent - I particularly liked his solos, where I thought he shone and he is a strong partner too. I wasn't so keen on the height difference between him and Ms Nuñez - she is so delicate and he so, so tall. I feel her and Muntagirov or Bracewell are better matches physically. Saying that, I loved both of their performances and I felt Diamonds was a fitting work to choose for the gala.

 

I enjoyed the first third of the gala. Lovely to see Alex Campbell again, though I really did not like his costume - I think it needs updating. Qualia was excellent and I feel Melissa Hamilton excels in the sort of role she danced tonight. I enjoyed Manon - I love Massenet's music and the bedroom PPD is so beautiful. Both dancers were lovely. For Four was good (love the Schubert) but I felt a little underwhelmed. Dancers were brilliant, but it lacked a little sparkle for me, at times. I don't know what I was expecting, but it didn't quite deliver - nothing to do with the dancers though, they were terrific.

 

On to the next third - the part I was sceptical about. The Toonga piece surprised me. I thought I would hate it, but actually enjoyed it - I could see it perfectly at the cinema.  Very different but interesting. Sissens really is a talented dancer, IMO. Tanowitz's Dispatch Duet left me conflicted. Parts were interesting and innovative, some bits I found totally bizarre! I didn't enjoy the music that much, but that's ok. I did think the dancers were brilliant, but then again I am a huge Bracewell fan. I thought Anna-Rose O'Sullivan was excellent too. Concerto pour deux again left me conflicted. Not a huge fan of McRae's costume at all and I felt it didn't lend itself to the choreography, whereas Osipova's costume did. They are both amazing dancers. I liked the music but was underwhelmed by the piece as a whole - it was also very short. 

 

Prima was interesting. Disliked some of the costumes, I'm afraid, particularly Hayward's,  and to a lesser extent, Magri's - they did nothing for them and they are such lovely dancers and gorgeous women. However, Kaneko's was beautiful and elegant and complemented her choreography and dancing, I thought. Yasmine Naghdi was brilliant too and her costume not as bad as the two I disliked. Saint-Saens was divine! Vassilev was amazing - such virtuosity and he has a beautiful tone, which I always appreciate. Choreography was good, though again, as with For Four, I found myself a little underwhelmed at times - probably because I was distracted by some of those pesky costumes! I felt some were ungainly, unflattering and for me, ruined some bits. Strange for costumes to affect my enjoyment so much - but they really did.

 

So, the jewel for me, was Diamonds. I'm an old-fashioned girl, I think. I do appreciate new works and I don't expect to love everything. So, overall, good, I felt. I am looking forward to the matinee on Saturday, especially to see Marianela Nuñez.

 

I'll be interested to see if I feel differently about some of the costumes and choreography when watching at ROH. Unsurprisingly, husband (not a huge ballet fan, unless it's Nutcracker, of course, who had been dragged along rather grudgingly) disliked the majority but did like Diamonds - then again, he loves Tchaikovsky. He is not looking forward to Saturday . . .

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Might as well throw in my quick views:

La Fille and Manon duets - bliss! Akane Takada reminded me yet again why I like her so much

Qualia one of those pieces that reminds me why I like some of Mcgregor's work. Melissa Hamiton was very sinuous indeed!

For Four I found a bit dull. But then I always prefer ballet when there is at least one woman in it

 

See Us!! I struggled with a bit; Pite-lite, sans the flow Crystal gets with her dancers. Wasn't awful though

Dispatch Duet - bit bonkers, but in a nice way. I quite liked it. Second viewing will be interesting

'concerto pour deux' I found as dull as ditchwater

Prima was the new piece I was looking forward most, and it didn't disappoint. Loved the choreography, and all 4 dancers were a pleasure, a joy!, to watch. But heavens - what did they get them to wear?? Does the costume designer have a 4yo daughter by any chance?

 

Diamonds is always a classy act to end with. I don't know if was just me, but I seemed to get the impression the dancers really enjoyed dancing this, as much as I enjoyed watching it

 

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42 minutes ago, Dawnstar said:

liked the choreography of the Tanowitz piece rather more than the Toonga one (not that that's difficult) but liked the music less. It was not a good piece to experience from right above the percussion section: I wished I'd brought earplugs. Another piece where I wasn't sure what it was about. When they sat down either side of the proscenium arch at one point it felt like Tanowitz had run short of ideas & was giving them a rest!

I thought the same! The camera was on O'Sullivan for the first part when the dancers were on each side and I just thought, um, are they having a 'time-out'! Your poor ears - that percussion sections sounded loud at the cinema! Some parts of the Tanowitz choreography I liked and found memorable though. There was one bit which did make me quietly giggle to myself . . .

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Obviously I was really there for ‘Diamonds', and it was wonderful and I found lots to enjoy in the programme. 

 

Contrary to previous posts, I positively enjoyed 'Concerto pour deux', particularly as it followed hard on the heels of 'Dispatch'. I found Osipova and Macrae brought a sensitivity to the relationship of the dancers to the music and the choreography.

 

I'm afraid I felt that in 'Dispatch' the dancers were let down by the music and the choreography.

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Back from the ROH.... I booked for Diamonds, and that was tonight's saving grace. 

 

There was much to like, but not much to love and I felt that what the ROH provided in galas during the lockdowns far  surpassed what we got tonight.

 

I really disliked Dispatch, I don't know if I hated it more because I felt as if it was a waste of these two dancers and the only thing we saw from the wonderful William Bracewell, it felt cruel that that was the only glimpse we got of him. I was a bit worried in the rehearsal from World Ballet Day, it seemed a bit thrown together then and it felt it really.

 

See Us, unfortunately came across a bit like a high school/college dance performance more than anything else. 

 

Melissa was great in Qualia.

 

I thought For Four was good, it's always a joy to see all of those men dance.

 

Manon, excellent, Akane was flawless. 

 

Prima was the best of the contemporary for me, but most of that was due to Fumi who was stunning in every way. She danced beautifully, I couldn't take my eyes off of her, her face was beautiful and she had the only costume that didn't look as if it belonged in the circus. I have no idea what was going on with the other three, but their costumes were just hideous. Poor Magri seemed to draw the short straw, but it was a close call!

 

Diamonds felt like a saving grace. It was glorious. The whole cast were beaming and seemed to be dancing with pure joy.

Reece was wonderful, sometimes I feel as if he is pasting on a smile at times, but his joy seemed to come from within.

Marianela  was Marianela, what more is there to say? She was beautiful and this partnership really has grown so much (I saw them for first time they partnered when Nela replaced Natalia in the Tchaikovsky PDD last minute and it's miles apart) They really worked beautifully together.

It was a wonderful third act and well worth going for, but somewhat underwhelming.

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I thought that Alexander Campbell and Anna Rose O'Sullivan gave a superb account of the Fille pas de deux - fiendishly difficult and beautifully danced even out of context. Brilliant opening to the evening. I also really enjoyed the Manon pas de deux - I haven't seen Akane Takada for ages so it was lovely to be reminded of her qualities, and Calvin Richardson was terrific - can't wait to see him do the whole ballet.

 

Melissa Hamilton and Lukas BB were excellent in Qualia, and I enjoyed watching it but by the end felt that the endlessly bendy doll choreography for the woman was really getting a bit demeaning, especially when she's then picked up and carried away at the end. I very much enjoyed For Four and thought all the men were wonderful and the music was beautiful and beautifully played.

 

I found the music for See Us!! (why the exclamation marks??!!) very heavy-handed for no obvious reason, and the choreography ditto. It was very repetitive with a limited vocabulary and I really don't think it needed dancers of this calibre to perform it. Dispatch Duet was more interesting, but only sporadically so and I wasn't always sure if what was happening was clever or aimless... in fact I thought the most interesting sections were the ones we saw during the Insight last week. But it was beautifully performed by Bracewell and O'Sullivan.

 

I can't find anything good to say about concerto pour deux - I thought the music was awful, the choreography incredibly dated and clichéd and the costumes horrible. I have no idea how this could have been considered a suitable work to programme. Moving swiftly on... Prima was in my opinion a very good work ruined by its costumes. Has the designer ever seen a ballet and understood how dancers move and what NOT to do with ballet costumes?? Apart from the dayglo colours, there seemed to be plates on the hips of two of the dancers, and flounces on all of them that completely hid and distracted from the choreography. Which was a great shame because it was a well-constructed and interesting piece and beautifully danced by all four women. It just cried out for simple costumes, maybe even just leotards (though Kaneko's long skirt did play a part in the choreography, I suppose). So I thought it was promising but frustrating.

 

Very much enjoyed Diamonds, especially Nunez though I do agree that Clarke is so much taller than her that it was a bit visually unsatisfying - the discrepancy was so large it made Nunez look positively doll-like. But she overcame that through the sheer grandeur of her dancing. I also enjoyed the scale and musicality of Claire Calvert's performance. I thought the other dancers started off quite carefully but grew in confidence as the work went on, and it finished in great style. 

 

All in all, an interesting but indigestible and strangely programmed evening. Kudos to the dancers for embracing so many styles and doing whatever is asked of them with such commitment.

 

 

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I have just caught up with all the apprehension, anticipation and comments on this thread.  I had a thoroughly depressing evening, saved only by Diamonds.  Several people adjacent me left in the second interval and unfortunately for them missed the best part.

 

The evening started promisingly with a delightful quotation about Fille from our own Bangor Ballet Boy, but the promise was immediately dampened by a pas de deux without sets or setting - and Lise's solo omitted, presumably because her friends were not there to support her with ribbons.

 

The second part opened with a world premiere - See Us!!  I found this ballet downright offensive, riven as it is with violence, rage and hatred, reflected in a deafening and discordant score and unrestrained, hysterical stomping in the choreography.  It reminded me immediately of yesterday's violent blitz in Ukraine.  It should have a health warning about its upsetting content. 

 

Given that this ballet was commissioned as part of a celebration, I find it extremely disrespectful to the audience and the Friends to serve up this poem of hatred.  At least Pam Tanowitz and Valentino Zucchetti had the sensitivity to gauge the nature of the commission and the atmosphere of the evening.

 

Thank heaven for Diamonds, with Marianela, Reece Clarke and the company on sparkling form.  They helped me to forget the low points which preceded them.

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46 minutes ago, emmarose said:

There was much to like, but not much to love and I felt that what the ROH provided in galas during the lockdowns far  surpassed what we got tonight.

 

Yes, I agree with you there.

 

The Tanowitz left me a bit perplexed at first, but as it went on it started to remind me of the work at the Barbican for the Merce Cunningham centenary in its discontinuity and bittiness - wasn't she a former Cunningham dancer, or am I getting confused?  Then I started noticing snippets of other ballets and things in there ...

 

And I'm going to bring this up again in the hope that some of our US readers can shine some light on the subject: years (decades) ago, I'm sure I read something (was it in Barbara Newman's Striking a Balance?) which indicated that the ballerina in Diamonds is supposed to go through the pas de deux almost unaware of, and not making eye contact with, her partner until that moment at the end when he suddenly kisses her hand.  But I don't think that's what I've seen at the RB.

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Liked first part - particularly my first Qualia, and enjoyed the Robbins-eque Wheeldon piece. Second part was again good, all pieces had a place on the menu. I thought the Toonga would be definitely worth a second look, loved the Tamowitz with its mean spikiness and knock-out dancing, thought the Osipova piece a good gala serving, and Prima I liked for its vintage ode to the ballerina style in the manner of Ashton and Birthday Offering. And I liked the costumes! Sadly the siren call of South West Trains made me miss Diamonds, but I’ll catch it on an encore showing in Berlin when I’m back. I was just so glad to have been there in person. Just a pity that two pieces had to be danced to recordings - took the edge off the enjoyment. 

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The most fascinating set of reviews for ages, - especially the very great disagreement about the Tanowitz piece. I need to see it again now to work out whether I think it was brilliant or awful! but at least it related to ballet,

whereas the Toonga was nothing to do with ballet,  and it's inexplicable, vague aggression was just unpleasant to me. As others have said, it did feel a bit like Pite - but her very skilful pieces, which I don't much like personally,  have a clear purpose and effect.

I felt that the dancers in this piece should have had the opportunity to shine in something that was some form of ballet- I wonder if anyone asked them.

 

I am glad I am not alone in thinking the costumes for Prima - which I liked a lot - were a disaster which positively hampered the dancers and the piece.   I know the days of Nureyev wielding scissors may be over, but surely RB would listen to these fine Principals saying, 'I cannot dance in this clown ensemble'?

 

I did find it interesting to see the new pieces, on the whole.

 

We all agree on Diamonds anyway.

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12 minutes ago, Mary said:

 

I am glad I am not alone in thinking the costumes for Prima - which I liked a lot - were a disaster which positively hampered the dancers and the piece.   I know the days of Nureyev wielding scissors may be over, but surely RB would listen to these fine Principals saying, 'I cannot dance in this clown ensemble'?

 

 

I don't think I've heard any of the dancers saying that!

 

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7 hours ago, alison said:

 

 

And I'm going to bring this up again in the hope that some of our US readers can shine some light on the subject: years (decades) ago, I'm sure I read something (was it in Barbara Newman's Striking a Balance?) which indicated that the ballerina in Diamonds is supposed to go through the pas de deux almost unaware of, and not making eye contact with, her partner until that moment at the end when he suddenly kisses her hand.  But I don't think that's what I've seen at the RB.

An interesting point Alison which prompted me to look up remarks in the book you mention. ( For those unfamiliar with the title, it’s a series of interviews with some -now, legendary dancers ).

The comments were made by Merrill Ashley. She was referring to Balanchine’s instruction to her in a wider sense. “Don’t look at your partner. Don’t relate to your partner. Just let him do everything.” Ashley notes, “Sometimes that seems completely right to me, because sometimes people get too involved in creating something other than what Balanchine intended.”  She later adds, “ And yet other times, I miss relating to my partner. Some pieces of music are so romantic that you just stare in your partner’s eyes- certain odd moments in Diamonds, for example.”
 I recall watching a rehearsal by the late Patricia Neary when she was coaching Marianela in the Diamonds pas de deux . She commented something like ‘the joy of the dance shines through in you’.  I thought at the time this was such a lovely remark and spot on. 
Not to put a dampener on Marianela’s exquisite presence on stage and the magnificence of her dancing last night, and whether it is because of the deployment of closeups that is a regular feature of ballet screenings, but I did find myself distracted by Marianela’s “swooning” at the expense of the beauty of the movement.

 

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10 hours ago, MJW said:

[RE 'Dispatch'] - I am sure that piece had the least positive reaction and cause quite a few titters in the audience with me. Anyway I know what to expect on Saturday!

 
 
 

 

[RE 'Dispatch'] - The titters were I think intentional.  It was, I thought, very witty.  I have a feeling that Baryshnikov - who it seems was in the audience - would have loved this.  Won't be surprised if it doesn't very soon show up at his Arts Center.
 
It's rare that you get satire in ballet - and this one was blessedly oh, so specifically balletic - so deeply rooted and certainly laser sharp in terms of overall formal structures.  The humourous interplay with so many fascinating quotations/penetrating takes from Cunningham, Forsythe - but most especially Tudor and Balanchine - (including the sit out - which so made me giggle) - was stunning in the extreme and it blessedly didn't overstay its welcome.  Both dancers excelled - but I thought Bracewell a revelation.  How I would love to see him tackle the last movement of the Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet, say, or - hopefully soon at this address - the final PDD of Agon - or certainly to see the two of them do Duo Concertant on a bill.   
 
One added comment - How glorious to see James Hay back in such breath-taking shape.  There can't have been too many other dancers whose stunning lyrical line - always wafting THROUGH the music - is consistently pinpointed by such a miraculous port de bras.  Such a gift for us all.  
 
 
Edited by Bruce Wall
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10 hours ago, Dawnstar said:

I was amused when the audience applauded as the curtain rose on Diamonds. It felt like "Thank goodness, finally some tutus"! I thought Nunez & Clarke were both very good. I'd be interested in seeing them paired together more often.

 

 

I found myself start to clap when the curtain opened and asked myself why I was clapping.

But yes, it very much felt like, at last, something spectacular was happening.

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42 minutes ago, Bruce Wall said:

How glorious to see James Hay back in such breath-taking shape.  There can't have been too many other dancers whose stunning lyrical line - always wafting THROUGH the music - is consistently pinpointed by such a miraculous port de bras.  Such a gift for us all.  

....how could I have neglected to say- what a long overdue feast of wonderful James Hay:  he is a dancer I could watch all day  long for his musicality, understated lyrical style, lovely lines,  and marvellous use of his eyes.

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10 hours ago, Dawnstar said:

The Toonga piece I didn't find quite as bad as I feared because I didn't think the music was too bad, more lyrical than I was expecting. Though given the relative lyricism of the music I couldn't understand why so much of the choreography was so dreadfully jerky & abrupt. I had no idea what it was supposed to be about. 

I was in the cinema and here at least (Broadway, Letchworth) the lighting was pretty poor (as with previous streams) and the focus could have been sharper. The lack of adequate lighting was  particularly noticeable  for Toonga's piece, but I convinced myself to regard this as a bonus! Dawnstar I agree about the relationship of the choreography with the music -  there was no real connection between the two. As to the meaning of "See Us!!"  Toonga  has seemed unwilling, or unable, to explain it (beyond saying, in effect, the title just means "look at us dancing this"). However, I assume it is a sort of observation relating to aggression/fighting in some undefined context. I am not sure why Toonga has been chosen to work with the Royal Ballet, and  I got the impression that he is not really sure either! 

 

9 hours ago, bridiem said:

Melissa Hamilton and Lukas BB were excellent in Qualia, and I enjoyed watching it but by the end felt that the endlessly bendy doll choreography for the woman was really getting a bit demeaning, especially when she's then picked up and carried away at the end.

Yes I would agree... I seem to have seen a lot of the same from various  of McGregor's works. I found it quite disturbing and unenjoyable by the end.

 

Otherwise there was much to enjoy, especially, of the PDDs, Takada/Richardson in Manon, and Campbell/O'Sullivan in Fille,  although I do think (as Darcey Bussell implied, talking  to Ed Watson in one of the screened interviews) that there can be a  danger in showing certain extracts from narrative ballets in galas, in that the full context (and scenery) is inevitably lacking.  

 

Like some others, I am unsure, as yet, about "Dispatch Duet" ...I found it sort of clever, and sort of annoying, at the same time! Perhaps seeing it live on Saturday will assist. Either way, O'Sullivan and Bracewell are to be highly commended.

 

I liked "Concerto Pour Deux" ...I have rather a soft spot for ballet danced to a vocal score. Seeing Osipova in this reminded me of her in "Medusa" which I also enjoyed. Great to see McRae fully fit again (I still shudder when I recall seeing his achilles injury in Manon in 2019) and I'm now looking forward to his Rudolf in Mayerling with Takada next week. 

 

I loved the two "4" pieces - the Gentlemen in "For Four" and the Ladies in "Prima" - I felt (in contrast to Toonga for example) both choreographers really listened to, and respected,  the music, and designed the steps and movements accordingly. The dancing was especially impressive from the  Gentlemen and I am totally with Bruce regarding James Hay!

 

"Diamonds" looked spectacular and I am very much looking forward to seeing this live...hoping for the same sort of Balanchine thrill I got from seeing the RB perform   "Symphony in C". Wonderful dancers performing ballet to music by Tchaikovsky...what could be finer? 

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Was this in any way a celebratory evening?  And if so, of what?  I cannot think of a more rag-bag, poorly put-together evening at the RB, except perhaps Ross Stretton’s truly appalling gala for the late Queen.

The company are in magnificent form…such a pity what they were given to dance often did not match their artistry.

Diamonds was, appropriately, brilliant all round.  Thank you, thank you.

For Four - intelligent and showing a full understanding of the male ballet dancer’s body.  All superb with James Hay and Matthew Ball the stand outs.

Prima - fun, cheeky, in homage to the RB’s history but marred by childish costumes.  Superb violin paying from Vasko Vasiliev of course.

Fille pdd - beautifully danced but not an opener on a bare stage

Manon pdd - again beautiful, but as sexy as a packet of custard creams.  MacMillan is not ‘nice’ and his choreography should be as even the programme states ‘visceral’. 

Dispatch duet - interesting but looking like a 1970s mash-up of Cunningham and Clarke…it felt VERY period.  Clever and intelligent though.

concerto pour deux - inconsequential and dull.  Mimsy music, mimsy choreography.

see Us!!! - ranting, hollow, devoid of meaningful choreography (as opposed to gestural socio-political shouting).  Part Pite, part Shechter, it was unoriginal and in no way celebratory.  Why use A-class ballet artists for this posturing?  OK for a local community dance group but the Royal Ballet?  Depressing that the company felt thus was in any way appropriate.

 

What all this mish-mash had to do with 60 years of the Friends is anyone’s guess.  Pity the poor dancers.

 

 

 

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Few thoughts from me after last night:

 

  • Fille – loved this, thought that Anna-Rose and Alex were fantastic. Bit of a shame that they didn’t do the full PDD with the ribbons, but any Ashton on the ROH stage should be taken a bonus at the moment!
  • Manon – fantastic. Fingers crossed that Calvin is given the opportunity to dance this next time round
  • Qualia – first time seeing this and I really enjoyed it which was surprising as I’ve not really enjoyed anything that McGregor has done recently. Maybe this earlier piece felt a little less contrived?
  • For Four – really enjoyed this, great to see all 4 dancers on top form, showcasing their different styles/strengths. Shame about the costumes though especially the tops which I thought were hideous!!

 

  •  See Us!! – really didn’t like this, felt like a A Level dance showcase. I wasn’t sure quite what this was doing in a ballet programme for a ballet company. All I could think was what a waste of beautifully trained ballet dancers. I think it was trying to be a bit like Crystal Pite which in my mind isn’t ballet either just dance. I might be in the minority but when I go to see the Royal Ballet, I expect to see ballet!!
  • Dispatch Duet – at least this could be called ballet! I think it started off ok, but then ran out of steam and ideas very quickly. Still, it was lovely to see William Bracewell at least
  • Concerto pour Deux – very forgettable but I suppose was marginally more enjoyable than the previous two pieces. The costumes, especially McRae’s were interesting…
  • Prima – finally a piece which appreciates and utilizes classical ballet and classically trained ballet dancers!! Really enjoyed it, especially after seeing For Four which I felt this piece was a tribute/mirror to. I hope that we get to see more of Zucchetti’s works on the Main Stage – I think (if he wanted it) the Resident Choreographer role should definitely go to him when the position next becomes available. Sadly another ballet with appalling costumes that did absolutely northing for the dancers!

 

  • Diamonds – Fabulous. Marianela being Marianela putting my faith back in ballet after the (mostly) depressing second act! I agree with the height difference between Reece and Marianela, but their partnership worked really well and both looked to be really enjoying themselves – as did the rest of the cast. The audience applause when the curtain came up at the start did make me smile – perhaps everyone was thinking, finally something that will definitely be ballet!!

 

So overall, loved the first and third Acts. With the exception of Prima, it would take a lot to make me see the second Act again.  

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Someone refers above to the late Patricia Neary.  As far as I am aware, she is still rocking on at the age of 80 [her birthday was exactly 3 weeks ago], large as life and full of energy.  She created the second girl in Rubies at the premiere in 1967, but she always claims she was a baby ballerina!

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  • alison changed the title to Royal Ballet: A Diamond Celebration

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