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English National Ballet, Swan Lake at Royal Albert Hall, June 2013


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Derek Deane's 60-Swan arena production of Swan Lake for English National Ballet opened once again last night in the Royal Albert Hall.  It normally works well with the public at large and there was certainly enthusiastic Twitter comment afterwards last night.  But not everyone agrees.  Ismene Brown, in her overnight review for the Arts Desk, considers it as being all about "numbers, geometry, soulless mechanics," and some other grumbling Tweets are appearing this morning.

 

http://www.theartsdesk.com/dance/swan-lake-english-national-ballet-royal-albert-hall

 

But put all of that aside.  If you go during this run, what do you think about it?

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I attended with a friend / critic last night .... This is certainly 'swan XXL' ... or 'circus swan' if you prefer ... but, let's face it, it IS the RAH and you have to take that on its own merits as well.  So enjoyed seeing Tamara glow in the third act (her natural home) ... but then Odile is in the driver's seat there.  It's clear that Tamara prefers to steer.  Maybe for that reason Golding looked more comfortable there too.  While not the most expressive of dancers (he seems to have one all-purpose knob fixed on his expression pallet) his native Canadian largess gives him the necessary stealth to eat space so crucial for any principal to register in this arena.  Osipova and Vasiliev or certainly Ashely Bouder would have them panting in an appropriate vehicle.  Still, here, one longed for the informed elan of, say, a Sarafanov or Fairchild or T. Angle who, at least in this very moment in time, simply seem have it ALL (and this is, after all, a craft of seeming in detail).  Looking at the cast sheet I was most looking forward to seeing the potential of J. Acosta in the Neopolitan.  (He must have worked out his visa problems as he did actually appear.) ... Sadly he gave a very messy telling.  Steps were fudged in execution.  It was what my mother would have termed 'muddied'.  The boy MUST learn that the whole is what ultimately counts not simply the flash otherwise his partnering, as it was here, will ALWAYS remain, - at least from my position, Row 10, Section J, Door 3 in the stalls - disastrous.  Perhaps it looked better from a different angle but something tells me it most likely didn't.  All this said the audience seemed to love it.  I pray it does indeed help fill the ENB coffers.   

Edited by Meunier
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Although it was the second cast at the Royal Albert Hall for the general rehearsal photocall, the audience were very appreciative of the performance with Daria Klimentova and Vadim Muntagirov and all the Dances were greeted with genuine applause. Here are a couple of pictures from my set, Dave's should be along shortly.

 

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The Swans in Act II 
 
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Prince Siegfried - Vadim Muntagirov, Odette - Daria Klimentova and Rothbart - James Streeter 

 

More pictures on www.johnrossballetgallery.co.uk

Edited by johnross
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Did Ismene Brown like the RB's R&J and BRB's Nutcracker at the O2, I wonder. I think that it's inevitable that in a huge space subtlety has to be sacrified to spectacle. There are always going to be some disadvantages with an in-the-round presentation. I suspect that for most people the large swan corps is the highlight of this production.

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a few more pics from the Swan Lake (in the round) of the ever lovely ENB, at the albert Hall right now! Its a fabulous sight, all those swans, and I can't wait to see it properly myself, next week!  :-)

 

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Swan Lake: English National Ballet - lead Swans

© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

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Swan Lake: English National Ballet, Lead Swans (Ksenia Ovsyanick, Jia Zhang)

© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

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Swan Lake: English National Ballet (Odile - Daria Klimentova)

© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

See more...

Set on Flickr - ENB's Swan Lake at The Royal Albert Hall, June 2013

Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

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Without wishing to re-open previous debates (or offend foreign born dancers), there must be few British (and British trained) ballerinas who have danced this role in the last few years and Lauretta's debut is all the more remarkable.

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Deborah Bull? Lauren Cuthbertson? Weren't Leanne Benjamjn, Alina Cojocaru and Matianela Nunez all trained, albeit sometimes briefly at the RBS? That's just from the Royal Ballet...

 

Aileen did say 'few' ballerinas and specified 'in the last few years'.  

 

I was also present at Laurretta's debut and was really impressed with the confident and assured manner of her dancing.  The friend I was with remarked that nobody would have known it was the first time she'd danced the role in public.  Congratulations to her.

Edited by Bluebird
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Only the first two are British. Alina and Marienela could not really be said to have trained at the RBS; they only spent about a year there and Marienela was dancing professionally before she came to the RBS where she spent time because she was too young to work in the UK. Deborah Bull retired some years ago. I didn't say that there were *no* British ballerinas that had danced this role recently, but that there were very few. Lauren is a notable exception as are Begona at ENB and Natasha at BRB. I find it quite sad that there is so little interest in Laurretta's achievement but, as I have observed before, there is little interest in companies other than the RB on this forum (although Laurretta's achievement has at least been welcomed in the Doing Dance section many of whose contributors are at the sharp end of things as it were, with children training at vocational schools and aspiring towards a career in ballet).

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 I find it quite sad that there is so little interest in Laurretta's achievement but, as I have observed before, there is little interest in companies other than the RB on this forum (although Laurretta's achievement has at least been welcomed in the Doing Dance section many of whose contributors are at the sharp end of things as it were, with children training at vocational schools and aspiring towards a career in ballet).

 

Dear Aileen, I think two contributing factors why feedback on Laurretta's DEBUT may have been somewhat curtailed:   (i) cost (the price of these seats are genuinely expensive in a period where most people's personal disposable income is contracting and therefore the reality of monetary choices are often constricted against desire) and - much more fundamental - (ii) her debut was on a mid-week matinee when many people now gainfully employed (and therefore able to afford to see her both in terms of leisure time and money) are not able to attend.  Of course, I understand that this does not account for those fine readers of the wonderful balletcoforum who are either (i) independently wealthy or (ii) on a scale of benefits larger than, say, the now ever burgeoning (or so it seems to me) number of common working 'people' with ever-shifting levels of pension attainment dates and a multitude of other statutory and sociological concerns ever gathering upon all of their plates as they step up to bat.  Somehow, I'm certain that Laurretta herself would understand this and would know (I pray) that the support 'in general' for her fine work is rife within the  willingness of our collective spirit.  I am sure - well, I would hope - that the interest in the development of any notable performing artist such as Laurretta (and I, for one, have much admired what I have seen in her ascension) would be of keen interest to ANY and ALL balletomanes no matter where they may hail from.  

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Meunier, I wasn't expecting everyone to trek over to the RAH for Laurretta's performance, but it would be nice if a bit more interest in her debut were shown on this forum. When (and I'm pretty sure that it *is* when rather than if) Melissa Hamilton debuts as O/O I'm sure that there will be a torrent of thoughts and views on the forum.

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I agree with Meunier that Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall is cripplingly expensive but I also concur with Aileen insofar as there appears to be minimal interest on this forum in companies other than the Royal Ballet. This is a pity, especially as one can access ENB elsewhere quite cheaply - as we do. Also, if you become an ENB Friend, the opportunities to watch rehearsals and attend events are not all taken up by higher levels of Friend!

 

Besides Laurretta, up and coming dancers to watch at ENB include: Ksenia Ovsiannick (ex ENB School); Nancy Osbaldeston (also British and ex ENB School) and Shiori Kase (ex RB School). All have been given leading roles this year and have done splendidly.

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Without wishing to re-open previous debates (or offend foreign born dancers), there must be few British (and British trained) ballerinas who have danced this role in the last few years and Lauretta's debut is all the more remarkable.

 

couldn't see it, as was at work. Think this fairly broadly applicable...

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I find it quite sad that there is so little interest in Laurretta's achievement but, as I have observed before, there is little interest in companies other than the RB on this forum

 

Given that some 1/3 of the posts on this thread are about Laurretta, I would hardly describe that as "so little interest".  What is perhaps disappointing is that there has thus far been so little response on other casts.

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On a side note - and as a way of attracting potential interest in the dancers - and knowing Tamara's desire to 'step forward' in terms of branding ... I, myself, would love to see film portraits such as are available on the website of the VIENNA STATE BALLET for the dancers at ENB.  While they are not, of course, dressed by a leading fashion designer - let alone the legendary Vivenne Westwood - one gets the distinct feeling that each dancer has an input in terms of their own personality for the film segment here ... and the whole gives a very clear picture of both life in and around their opera house and the repertory of their company.  It is interesting to note that there are filmed segments for all principals (here noted as first soloists) and others in the soloist - AND EVEN DEMI-SOLOIST - level (including Scottish/UK dancer, Grieg Matthews who graduated from the RBS.  This filmed provision, in the RB, would stretch to First Artists.  (I do not believe there are even RB bios on the ROH site but I may be wrong.)  It is interesting also to see that there is only SIX (6) dancers in this substantive Austrian subsidised company at ANY soloist or principal level who was actually born/reared in Austria.  Manuel Legris (surely one of the finest dancers of the last half century ANYWHERE -- well, surely one of the finest dancers I have had the privilege of seeing internationally) has obviously had a keen effect on this company compared with the last time I had the privilege of seeing them which was a couple of decades ago now.  

 

http://www.wiener-staatsoper.at/Content.Node/home/kuenstler/taenzerinnen/uebersichtsseite-Taenzer.en.php

 

If such a fine record of introduction were to be possible I, myself, would understand if a company/opera house wanted to restrict their filmed/photographic personnel to specific dedicated artists to help 'build a mutual brand'.  If such dedication were sustainable - and that point is, I suppose, arguable - and the results as fine as they are here - then it would, I think, not only be understandable but applauded by a vast many. 

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 What is perhaps disappointing is that there has thus far been so little response on other casts.

 

I have commented elsewhere that Vadim's Siegfried is absolutely breathtaking. People around us on Wednesday night, some of them clearly new to ballet, were gasping at his solo and coda in the black swan pdd. Daria matched him every step of the way in a performance she had dedicated to the memory of David Wall and which, therefore, must have been an emotional and difficult one for her - and a poignant one for us. Both of them 'filled' the vast arena which, on the basis of past experience, not everyone seems able to do.

 

I sense that Meunier's point about pricing has affected (multiple) attendance on the part of many ballet regulars. But it is good that the ENB's ventures at the RAH attract so many parties of people who do not normally patronise the ballet - a lot of them in the 23 - 45 age group.

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It's interesting that people, even relative newcomers to ballet, are prepared to pay the high prices at the RAH. Is that because it's Swan Lake? Or the RAH? Is the RAH a more appealing venue for ballet newbies and occasional ballet-goers? I've certainly had to fork out a lot more money than I usually pay to see ballet and have ended up sitting in a box for one of the performances which I'm a bit apprehensive about as I'm going with my daughter and we are not sitting in the front seats.

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It's interesting that people, even relative newcomers to ballet, are prepared to pay the high prices at the RAH. Is that because it's Swan Lake? Or the RAH? Is the RAH a more appealing venue for ballet newbies and occasional ballet-goers? 

 A lot of the people at the RAH seem to be on day coach trips to London, which include Swan Lake so the choice is virtually made for them. However, the venue does appear to be an attraction in itself. Also, it is conveniently near to the museums, Kensington Palace, Hyde Park and the Albert Memorial and all that makes an attractive package.

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As there must be readers here who are unfamiliar with the Royal Albert Hall, a tweet from ENB earlier today links to an instagram photo taken from up top that may convey some idea of the spatial challenge that mounting ballet productions there involves:

 

@ENBtweets: Great photo taken by @BalletandPhotos! We're lucky to have such a great audience every night! Thank you! http://instagram.com/p/axhfKov5GY/

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It's interesting that people, even relative newcomers to ballet, are prepared to pay the high prices at the RAH. Is that because it's Swan Lake? Or the RAH? Is the RAH a more appealing venue for ballet newbies and occasional ballet-goers? I've certainly had to fork out a lot more money than I usually pay to see ballet and have ended up sitting in a box for one of the performances which I'm a bit apprehensive about as I'm going with my daughter and we are not sitting in the front seats.

 

It's definitely a prestigious venue, in the same way the Royal Opera House is. I don't know the history of the coliseum or Sadlers Wells, but I don't get the same sense of history or occasion when I got here.

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It's definitely a prestigious venue, in the same way the Royal Opera House is. I don't know the history of the coliseum or Sadlers Wells, but I don't get the same sense of history or occasion when I got here.

 

I'm not sure that it's exactly prestigious, but it's certainly high-profile and well-known, not to mention easily accessible from areas West.

 

It's interesting that people, even relative newcomers to ballet, are prepared to pay the high prices at the RAH. Is that because it's Swan Lake? Or the RAH?

 

Partly both.  Plus the top prices are a lot lower than for e.g. the Royal Ballet in the same work, and there's not the stigma of the ROH to contend with.  *Plus* there are indeed a lot of coach parties which go to these things, so I suspect they're obliged to go for whatever price level the organiser has selected (I have a feeling that RAH group booking discounts are pretty generous, especially if they're anything like the sort of discounts we got through going via the ballet class)

 

I sense that Meunier's point about pricing has affected (multiple) attendance on the part of many ballet regulars. But it is good that the ENB's ventures at the RAH attract so many parties of people who do not normally patronise the ballet - a lot of them in the 23 - 45 age group.

 

Pricing: yes.  I'm wondering if the £6 jump in the one-but-bottom price has put off people who normally book those areas.  (I have noticed a lot of £10-off offers this year).

Non-ballet-patronisers: yes, certainly, but historically ENB seems to have had a problem with persuading them to move from these "in-the-round" productions to normal productions.  Presumably this isn't helped by them, as a guest company, not having access to the booking details from the box office (which I presume is the case here as elsewhere.  I certainly don't remember ever having anything about Coliseum seasons mailed to me via the RAH booking list).  I suppose they need to work really hard to build some sort of link between audience members and the company so that ENB has these details independently of the box office, wherever they are.

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I don't think it's fair to suggest that this forum is only really interested in the Royal Ballet at the expense of ENB. Personally I feel that I know far more of the ENB dancers than RB; partly due to the fact that ENB is a smaller company and partly because dd and I were so engrossed with Agony and Ecstasy. The access scheme at the Coliseum is better than those at the ROH and RAH, so even with a distinct lack of disposable income we manage to see ENB more often than RB.

 

Personally I'm delighted to hear of Lauretta's debut. I would have loved to have seen her perform but even the "accessible" seats at the RAH are often not suitable and trying to get a bus back to the Piccadilly line stations is nigh on impossible, meaning a long walk if you can't afford a taxi.

 

Hopefully she'll get a shot at another leading role at the Coli.

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I feel that much of the audience is probably unaware of who is performing Swan Lake at the RAH which, from ENB's point of view, is obviously not good for brand recognition. What draws the audience in is Swan Lake the ballet and the RAH as a high profile venue which most people have heard of and seen on television. Actually, the first Swan Lake which I took my daughter to was at the RAH. I can't remember why I chose this production. I suspect that I wanted to take her to see Swan Lake and saw an advert for it in the papers and so I booked it without debating which production or company to see. I think that a substantial proportion of the people who go to the ballet only occasionally (and I'm not just talking about London here) are not really concerned who the company is; they go because they want to see a particular ballet - either a really famous one such as Swan Lake, R&J or The Nutcracker or one based on a really well known story or fairytale such as The Great Gatsby or Beauty and the Beast.

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Oh, I think they're probably aware of the company in this case by now, but I suspect the majority wouldn't be particularly bothered about who's dancing (I wonder whether nightly sales fluctuate according to who it is - I suspect not by much).  That's probably only of interest to the keener ones among us.

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