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ENB Beyond Ballets Russes


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Well, any worries about Ksenia taking on such a big role (I didn't have any) were banished at her debut last night. She excelled as The Firebird and her costume (very different) was wonderful. The whole programme was thrilling and the new Rite costumes were stunning.

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here are a couple of samples of ENB's prog 1 - more to follow via DanceTabs:

 

 

Some pictures from the ENB: Beyond Ballet Russes (Prog 1)...

 

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Firebird: Laurretta Summerscales (Purity); Ksenia Ovsyanick (Firebird); Adela Ramirez (Celebrity)

© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

 

 

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L'Apres-midi d'un faune

© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

 

 

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Faun(e)

© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

 

 

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The Rite of Spring - Erina Takahashi

© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

 

 

 

See more here, before long...

Dave Morgan's English National Ballet - Ballet Russes set

Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

Edited by zxDaveM
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I saw both casts on Saturday, not that they were many changes unfortunately, this was one of those programmes where the design, costumes and music really did outweigh the effect of the dancing, although it was in the spirit of the Ballets Russes. Firebird looked very slick and had the most "ballet" dancing but used the shorter concert hall suite of music, very exciting choreographically and I can understand why George Williamson is held in high esteem, but there was no real structure to the piece, all the dancers made impacts though. Nijinsky's Faun looked better at the matinee with Anton Lukovkin and Begona Cao, he had more animal magnetism than Dmitri Gruzdyev , but I thought it was a mistake to run the 2 Fauns together, especially as the second one was the piano score, Faun(e) passed me by rather. The costumes for Rite dominated, but from further back the dancers were just a mass of dark brown/black, I much prefer the CG version, at the matinee Tamarin Stott was very good as the Chosen One, as was Erina Takahashi in the evening.

 

The second programme looks much more promising, I was watching Train Bleu on DVD and can't make out a long enough solo for the Anton Dolin character, but it should be very funny and spectacular, wish they were dancing the whole ballet.

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My twopenn'orth:

 

Giving the chance to the very young George Williamson to rechoreograph The Firebird (now apparently just known as Firebird) was brave, maybe foolhardy. I know nothing of his antecedents and hope someone will fill in the details. The couple of clips of short works of his on YouTube don't give one much idea of his style or capabilities. What we're given here is a completely different scenario from the Fokine, the only common character being the Firebird herself. She is surrounded by other allegorical types - Purity, a Celebrity, Muses, an Army Captain and a Peacock. All this rather implies a narrative but that passed me by. The Firebird was more a victim than the powerful figure of the original. Her feathers are plucked by the other characters, though then restored. There was quite a lot of well-performed dancing around. It's a very big ask to take a score as well-known and specific in narrative detail as this and make something completely new out of it. I didn't think it worked.

 

Nijinsky's Faun is a wonderful and strange work - the music is wonderful and the choreography is strange. I'd forgotten just how gorgeous the score is. It is a very small-scale work and maybe it got lost in the vast spaces of the Coliseum and maybe I was seated too high. Whatever, I didn't find the hieratic movement style came across, nor the drama such as it is, and the scandalous ending looked as if it might have been toned down for a matinée audience!

 

Whatever Clement Crisp has to say, I like Dawson's Faune(e). It's set to the two piano transcription of the original score and performed on a bare stage open at the back and to the wings. The pianos are on stage and it all hints at a rehearsal studio, maybe a reference to Jerome Robbins' wonderful and very different version. There are two men, an older and a younger. Their precise relationship is undefined: master and pupil probably, lovers maybe. There are too few effective pas de deux for men - this is one of them. In contrast to the Nijinsky piece which only uses the Debussy score as a backdrop, Dawson expressed the ecstatic nature of the music rather beautifully.

 

What a good idea to redesign MacMillan's Rite of Spring. I don't know whether the impetus came from ENB or from Lady MacMillan but it was fully justified by the result. Kinder Aggugini's costumes are black with dark coloured decorative panels and all the dancers wear black wigs or maybe they're caps. The effect is to make one look at the piece with fresh eyes. Given that the ballet is a regular part of the Royal Ballet's rep it is very sensible of ENB to produce an alternative version, as they have with that other RB staple, Manon.

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I'm afraid I didn't take to the redesign for Rite. Black costumes on a black stage with a black backdrop. It's asking a lot of your lighting designer isn't it ? It was well lit but most of the detail of the costumes that you can see in the pictures just disappeared in the theatre. I think its a good idea to bring in new designers. But I suspect that people who design clothes do so with the intention of them being seen from relatively close quarters. Stage costumes are a rather different matter: you need to be able to "read" them from quite a distance, and these just didn't work in that respect. I preferered their previous designs (which I preferred to the RB ones, in fact).

 

Very good dancing in Rite though - they have always done this well. The programme is uneven in outcome, though you have to applaud their ambition. Gutsy performance from Ksenia as Firebird.

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I agree that the detail of the Rite costumes were lost, certainly from where I was sitting and without binoculars. I only saw them in the photos. I liked the effect of the huddled ant-like masses, quite different from the light-coloured RB version.

 

Alison, I'd not seen the ENB Rite before. Did they not use the Sidney Nolan costumes?

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John, ENB previously had designs by Yolanda Sonnabend for 'Rite'. The new costumes have tightly curled wigs and I totally agree that one sees the ballet with new eyes - personally I felt I could see the choreography much more clearly than previously and for me it gave a greater poignancy to the fate of the Chosen One as you could actually see a face for a change!

 

Beryl, I think I can help with the Train Bleu solo - it is very short but very acrobatic interspersed with the dancer strutting around like a sailor or one of the 'beach boy's in "Le Biches" - deceptively difficult! I saw Nathan Young rehearse it last week. It isn't really the sort of solo one would normally put by itself in a programme but I think it is meant as a tribute to Dolin, the company's founder.

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Having not reviewed before I hope you will be kind! My daughter and I saw the Sunday Matinee performance and our thoughts/observations are as follows; Firebird passed us by a little. Not having seen the the ballet before we had no preconceptions but although the dancing was well executed we didn't follow the story telling and added to which the lighting on stage was dark which was very annoying. We enjoyed the simple movements and portrayal of Nijinsky's Faun and we too felt that the ending had been somewhat tamed! The duet performed by the two guest male dancers was beautiful. Very lyrical, lovely lines and fluid quality..we weren't sure why it was called Faun(e) however but enjoyed it just for the sensitivity that they both conveyed. The highlight for us was Rite of Spring. We haven't stopped talking about it! The energy and focus of the dancers completely absorbed us in the piece. Seeing the whole of the dancers bodies in the new costumes somehow made the choreography become mesmeric and we felt the tension build. The 'Chosen One' was scooped up and absorbed into the crowd on many occasions, so, so clever and when Tamarin Stott 'hopped' effortlessly in and out of the opening and closing of the dancers legs and arms lying on the floor we were in awe! FABULOUS.

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In another thread, aileen asked: "I know that this is off topic but could you tell me about the flower throw last night. I've never seen this at any performance by any company. Also, were there some debuts last night? Who were they and in what roles?" so I thought I'd answer it here.

 

I don't remember, in all my years of ENB-going, seeing a flower throw there before, but it was highly deserved: the company made a great job of Rite. You get them occasionally at the ROH, although more rarely these days. It looked to me to be staff throwing them from the stage boxes, to judge by the colours they were wearing. As for the dancers, ENB tweeted last night "Special mention for @guimenezes15 and Pedro Lapetra for a tremendous last minute replacement tonight :-) #Firebird #RiteofSpring" so I guess that partly answers your query. I certainly noticed Pedro in Rite.

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Alison, from one of his tweets it seemed that Guilherme Menezes performed in Firebird last night. Does anybody know what he danced? He was already down to dance in Rite as one of the elders. How often do you get twins (or siblings) in one ballet company!?

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Couple of things:

  • In 1989 (or possibly 1990) Lynn Seymour made her comeback in a major role as Tatiana in Onegin. At the curtain call the stage was COVERED in presented bouquets and loads of people from the audience were showering the stage with flowers. I've never seen anything similar with ENB since.

  • Identical twins are not unprecedented with ENB! The Gianetti twins (Stefano and Maurizio) danced with the Company in the mid-late 1980s. The first time I saw them was the mandolin dance in Ashton's R&J. I thought I was seeing things till I realised!

 

In Germany, the Bubenicek twins (Jiri and Otto) are still dancing although now with different companies (Otto still with Hamburg and Jiri in Dresden). Looking at NYCB there seem to be a couple of sets of siblings. At BRB we had Michael and Kevin O'Hare and now have Rory and Iain Mackay and Jenna and Callie Roberts.

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She was dancing with ENB. They had some wonderful guest artistes dancing Tatiana. It was an LFB (now ENB) performance of Onegin that converted me into a fan of classical ballet (on 26th May 1984!). It wasn't until some years later that I realised just whom I had seen - Marcia Haydee, who created the role! I also saw Natalia Makarova, Ekatarina Maximova and Eva Evdokimova guesting in the role. Notable in-house dancers that I saw were Jeanette Mulligan, Elizabetta Terrabust and Josephine Jewkes.

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How often do you get twins (or siblings) in one ballet company!?

 

Leana and Vanessa Palmer in the RB, some years ago. And two of the three female dancing Clarkes - was it Simone and Jessica? - were sisters, I believe. Didn't both dance with BRB? Come to think of it, talking of Clarkes, did I see that a couple of the more recent "4-pack" of Clarkes, one of whom at least is I think still at the RBS, were dancing in the same company? I also think Leanne Benjamin's sister used to dance professionally, although I'm not altogether certain they were in the same company. And I suppose Adam and Simon Cooper sort of overlapped in AMP. I must admit that I hadn't made the association between Jenna and Callie Roberts, though.

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I don't believe Simone and Jessica were related although they were both with BRB at the same time.

Oh right, perhaps the other Clarke whose name escapes me was one of them, then. (Or perhaps I was just misinformed at the time)

 

Thanks, Jane, for the information, too.

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Going even further back, Gavin and Gary Pollard (Australian) danced with London Festival Ballet in the late 1970s/early 1980s. As far as I remember, they were not twins but were extremely similar-looking.

 

With regard to flowers, in the same 'era', there was a chap named Sam who would go to Covent Garden Flower Market (already at Nine Elms) and buy boxes of flowers to throw at the stage, both at RB performances and LFB, although I think it used to be mainly at the Coliseum as it was more difficult to get close enough to the stage at Festival Hall. He and a few others would stand each side of the stage (invading a box if necessary) and 'pelt' the dancers. It was known amongst us fans as a daffodil shower!

 

I remember Madonna Maree Benjamin with RBS and then in the company but she didn't stay too long. However, she went into television and I remember seeing her name as producer/director? of the documentary "The Secret Life of Margot Fonteyn".

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