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Royal Ballet Polyphonia/Sweet Violets/Carbon Life bill


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Well, I see that the initial Tweets regarding "Sweet Violets," including some from Company members, go somewhere well beyond enthusiastic. "Carbon Life" will be over soon, so we'll see whether that has had a similar effect and, no doubt, Arts Desk will have a review by morning.

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I didn't found them at all disappointing .... almost the opposite.

 

Sweet Violets was I thought very accomplished in every respect. I thought the choregraphy was exciting and expressive and told the story, although I really do think you need to know who's who before you watch it to appreciate it properly. The costumes, lighting and sets were very arty looking, atmospheric and exquisitely period. The music fitted the piece and was beautifully played. I saw it twice yesterday and it definitely benefitted from a second viewing, at the rehearsal I thought it was a bit long but not so in the evening. All the first cast were outstanding.

 

Carbon Life. I'm not Mcgregor's No 1 fan but neither am I a complete detractor. I didn't expect to like this given what I'd seen of the costumes and I wasn't sure about the music - I'd only really heard of Boy George ! But last night I thought it was exhilarating with some fabulous ensemble images and thrilling dancing (I enjoyed it far less at the rehearsal). I thought the pdd between Watson/Cowley was bit too much like all the other McGregor I've seen, much more interesting were the pdd for the other 2 couples particularly McRae/Lamb. I enjoyed most of the music although I could have given the rapper a miss. I could see that aspects of the costumes created some arresting images, particularly the skirts but I HATED the boots and the masks !

 

Polyphonia I agree with Ismene Brown the choregraphy is very clever - the danger is that anything less than a perfectly synchronised perfromance and it looks a messy jumble. Fortunately, yesterday evening it was pretty much perfectly danced:it was a relief to see that RB men can dance in time together. I liked seeing younger members of the company having the opportunity to show what they can do and I thought they acquitted themselves very well indeed: Stix-Brunell, Dyer. To be really picky I'm unsure about the combination of one of the tallest men in the company (Kish) with one of the smallest women (Benjamin). From the second cast at the rehearsal I have to say Yasmine Naghdi danced the girls solo exquisitely, she's a must see.

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So tell us more - what did you think, Dave?

 

I'm more than probably in the tiny minority on this one - but I really loved the new McGregor, Carbon Life. Always had been hoping that someone would do ballet to rock, rather than bleeps and tweeps, or the more usual 'classical' music. Its more my sort of thing. The first song (behind the gauze) was fun - though impossible to photograph! - but the second song was just fab. Sorta like the opening of the Capulet Ball, but at the on trend nightclub and I am a big fan of Alison Mosshart (the singer), so result for me. Other parts i liked in it were the Sarah Lamb - Steven McRae duet, the Ed Watson and Olivia Cowley one, and Ed and Eric Underwood 'duet' in the black carbon crystalline outfits.

 

Perhaps expecting too much after the clips we saw on the RB YouTube day, I found the new Liam Scarlett piece a little disappointing. That's not to say I didn't like it, and perhaps subsequent viewings will burn it more into my soul. Really liked the opening and closing sequences (which we have seen on afore mentioned youtube viewings, and at the master class), and the 'in the wings' of the theatre sequence, but some of the other scenes seemed a bit muddled, or rushed through. Constrictions of the music (which was fab) I guess.

 

Polyphonia is a piece i really like anyway - even if a couple of the Ligeti sections are a bit frantically untuneful and lend the dancing the same frantic quality.

 

Its a bill i'm looking forward to seeing again several times

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I could see that aspects of the costumes created some arresting images, particularly the skirts but I HATED the boots and the masks !

 

 

 

I generally hate masks full stop - but these seemd in keeping with the theme, so not totally horrid in my eyes. Better without them I'd agree. Loved the dodecahedral-like tutus though!

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I disagree with Ismene Brown as well. Knowing Liam is still so young, it's an amazing achievement. Given time, it will further develop into something truly amazing and lasting. I loved it and the cast was amazing! The dancers in "Carbon Life" gave it their all but CL is not something I'd watch a 2nd time.

 

Annamak: "From the second cast at the rehearsal I have to say Yasmine Naghdi danced the girls solo exquisitely, she's a must see.

 

I fully agree. Yasmine Naghdi (partnered with James Hay in "Polyphonia") really blew me away at the General yesterday with her exquisite dancing and her precise, wonderfully controlled technic. She "speaks" with her arms and the lines she creates are simply stunning (she had the same effect on me when I saw her dance McMillan's Concerto-2nd Movement in Birmingham, a few years ago). For a young dancer - who is "only" an Artist- she was in full command of the Stage. I couldn't take my eyes of her and I hope we soon get to see more of her. I'll be watching her cast again next week :)

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Annamak: "From the second cast at the rehearsal I have to say Yasmine Naghdi danced the girls solo exquisitely, she's a must see.

 

I fully agree. Yasmine Naghdi (partnered with James Hay in "Polyphonia") really blew me away at the General yesterday with her exquisite dancing and her precise, wonderfully controlled technic. She "speaks" with her arms and the lines she creates are simply stunning (she had the same effect on me when I saw her dance McMillan's Concerto-2nd Movement in Birmingham, a few years ago). For a young dancer - who is "only" an Artist- she was in full command of the Stage. I couldn't take my eyes of her and I hope we soon get to see more of her. I'll be watching her cast again next week :)

 

I'll be thirding that! Its a shame her solo (when we saw her in the rehearsal that is) was so darkly lit, even in comparison to the rest of the piece, or I'd have gotten some super photos...

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I'll see for myself next week, but an immediate thought is that Liam Scarlett's "Sweet Violets" has encountered what appears to be a central issue in staging modern, narrative ballet: How much detail do you include if you are not to lose your audience? Ismene Brown (Arts Desk) appears to think there's too much here, Anna's post 7 infers something of the kind, Chris Wheeldon drew comment on the number of incidents in "Alice," yet I seemed to see complaints last week about Eifman having reduced Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina" to just three characters. There's a school of thought that you should be able to go to a theatre and immediately pick up what is being shown, and another that a bit of prior homework does much to encourage active engagement with what the choreographer is trying to put across. For a balanced diet, no doubt we need both!

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These are my brief thoughts on the programme, recorded immediately I got home last night (well before I had read any of the critics - still haven’t read any..):

 

Wheeldon’s ‘Polyphonia’ with its controlled , surprising and witty choreography was, with hindsight, probably the strongest item of the triple-bill ….. Scarlett’s ‘Sweet Violets’ proved what a thrilling prospect he is; the choreography was a triumph over the too-ambitious target he had set himself with the murky and confused tale of the painter Walter Sickert and the 'Ripper' murders - I grew bored with the theme of Victorian prostitutes and their scummy clients doing things to each other on beds, but couldn’t tear my eyes from Scarlett’s lusciously logical and tender choreography.

 

McGregor’s ‘Carbon Life’ was the first piece from him that I have liked – it was fast, fun and the live music - provided by a distinguished group of on-stage muscians – was a plus..

 

(Sorry, couldn’t clearly identify any of the dancers in any of the three pieces – was sitting too far from the stage and at an angle to it (and I need new glasses anyway…)

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Ian you're right, it is a dilemma. Liam Scarlett does seem to have tried to compress a three act ballet into 48 minutes. I think he nearly succeeded. I saw it twice yesterday. Once (at the general rehearsal), confused and without the benefit of a synopsis, with little clue of the identity of the characters, and then in the evening having read the few introductory lines in the programme which were enough to pretty well sort things out for me. Narrative ballet can rarely (I might say never) stand alone and my 'controlled trial' yesterday proved the point again to me. It's not cheating to want a bit of help with the story.

 

And Ann, you're not the only one needing new glasses. The only thing that Ismene Brown seemed to like in Carbon Life was "an attractively spun duet for Sarah Lamb and Edward Watson." I missed that though there was one for Lamb and Steven McRae. All these chaps with slicked-back hair do look rather alike.

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And Ann, you're not the only one needing new glasses. The only thing that Ismene Brown seemed to like in Carbon Life was "an attractively spun duet for Sarah Lamb and Edward Watson." I missed that though there was one for Lamb and Steven McRae. All these chaps with slicked-back hair do look rather alike.

 

 

Especially when they are both redheads!

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I really enjoyed Sweet Violets as a piece of dance but thought it didn't quite work as theatre. As soon as the lights came up on the middle music hall section, I expected to be lulled into a happy bit with bright red dresses whirling round which would make whatever gruesome ending Liam had in store all the more horrific. However it seemed rather like Onegin wandering round the ball but we did know why Onegin was there. For me, have Sickert on the sidelines for a while and have more of the red dresses facing the audience, then I'd be happy - at least until the next murder!

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The evening opened with Wheeldon's Polyphonia. I'd only seen it a couple of times before, and I really enjoyed it, but from where I was sitting up near the gods it looked quite dark and bleak, and without my powerful binocs I would have been a bit lost. But that doesn't detract from the beautiful way it was danced, and how in sync all the dancers were with each other, both physically and artistically. A lovely solo from Beatriz Stix-Brunell (who used to dance with Wheeldon's Morphoses before being asked to join the RB), some nice pdd and couple of ravishing set pieces from all 8 dancers made this a special performance of the piece.

 

Well, opinion is certainly divided about Carbon Life!! I was very surprised to find that I really liked it, especially considering that I am not a MacGregor fan (I loved Chroma, liked Infra, loathed Limen and LFE). I think I just loved the excitement of it, and its originality. I'm not talking about the originality of the choreography, but of the whole; the music, the staging, the lighting, the costumes, the makeup and the brilliance of the dancers. I think it was also relief: relief that MacGregor has finally expanded out from the usual disjointed, jerky type of pieces he makes and used more neo-classical steps. Yes, the jerkies were still there, but not as much. I think I'd have lost the will to live if I'd had to sit through another half an hour watching dancers who looked like they'd just been electrocuted. As always in a MacGregor piece, there was so much to look at it (and with the addition of famous people at the back of the stage there was even more) that I will need at least one other viewing of this to really formulate an opinion....but I can't see that it will change much. My 21 year-old daughter absolutely loved it and she said that all her friends would come and see it even if they'd never seen a dance production before, and had never even considered that they might walk through the hallowed doors of the ROH! She thought it was a great way to get young people through those doors.

 

I really enjoyed Scarlett's Sweet Violets too. The dancers were all wonderful, and a truly special mention of Laura Morera; where has she been all season?? Where was her Juliet? She is one of the best dance actresses in the whole company, and to my mind she is criminally underused. In any case, in this small role she made a real impact and I hope to see more of her next season (her Manon is still my favourite). Many people think that Sweet Violets is busy and confused. I remember people saying exactly the same thing about MacMillan's ballets if they hadn't read the programme or didn't know the stories. Imagine trying to make sense of Manon or Mayerling if you just go in as a 'virgin'. Yes, you can tell the basic premise of what's happening, but you don't know how the peripheral characters, or indeed some of the main ones, are related to each other, or what their purpose is. Liam is not, at the tender age of 23, a consummate storyteller yet; but he will be. MacMillan and Ashton both knew how to home in and get the story across, but SV is not a story as such. It is vignettes of the goings-on in someone's mind and in his reality, and if a mind is warped or disturbed, it is not going to perceive life in a nice easy timescale or a narrative that goes from A to B. SV tells the story of a mind, and of certain things that happened around a murderous period in Victorian history, and the consequences of not being a 'good' girl in that time. I thought the choreography was very good, ranging from daring to erotic (and no-one does erotic like Rojo!) to raging fury to despair. Liam is an incredible talent for one so young (and understands 'dark' at such a young age!) and I think there is so much more to come from him. I really look forward to following his career from now on. Maybe he will even one day be the third part of the English triumvirate....it's always been Ashton, MacMillan and ??? I truly hope that Liam Scarlett will answer that question.

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'...> Maybe he will even one day be the third part of the English triumvirate....it's always been Ashton, MacMillan and ??? I truly hope that Liam Scarlett will answer that question<...'

 

Oh Sim, don't put too much on the poor lad's head! I always worry about young dancers and choreographers who get lavisly praised when they're scarcely out of the paddock. Yes, his work so far has been thrilling and yes, it is difficult not to get excited at what's in store, but personally I never allow myself more that a cool nod and a few carefully-chosen words of approval lest my publicly-expressed enthusiasm scuppers his chances. Superstition, I suppose, but I'm taking no chances!

 

In my mind though, I am already rejoicing.....

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The only thing that Ismene Brown seemed to like in Carbon Life was "an attractively spun duet for Sarah Lamb and Edward Watson." I missed that though there was one for Lamb and Steven McRae. All these chaps with slicked-back hair do look rather alike.

The error has been corrected. Oh, the power of reader feedback!
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I know what you mean Ann, but I am just a little person saying that I see some great potential from this young man; I sure hope it won't put pressure on him! Please don't think that I am putting him in the same league as Ashton and MacMillan.....yet. All I'm saying is that he has more potential to follow in their footsteps than anyone else I've seen, and that considering his young age, I think he has so much more in him stored up for the future; and as he grows and experiences more of life, I have high hopes for his ability to draw out all of life's aspects, like MacMillan did. I'm so glad you agree with me!

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I'll be thirding that! Its a shame her solo (when we saw her in the rehearsal that is) was so darkly lit, even in comparison to the rest of the piece, or I'd have gotten some super photos...

Yasmine's solo reminded me of her Cinderella Summer Fairy Solo with which she won the YBDY award in 2009. Wonderful!

That's not to say that Beatriz' solo was any less beautiful.

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Yasmine's solo - Wonderful!

That's not to say that Beatriz' solo was any less beautiful.

 

There were both superb weren't they. Hope they don't have to continually 'compete' for the same roles though - like to see more of both of them

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Some photos from the latest Royal Ballet triple bill - Polyphonia, Sweet Violets and Carbon Life:

 

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Polyphonia - Sarah Lamb & Johannes Stepanek

© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

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Alexander Cambell and Bennet Gartside in Sweet Violets

© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

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Olivia Cowley & Edward Watson (with Alison Mosshart)

© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

 

 

See more...

Dave Morgan's Royal Ballet triple bill, a set on Flickr

Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

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Both young dancers are at the start of their career, and interestingly with a totally different training background: Yasmine was fully trained at the RBS and Beatriz has had American training (and a year at the Paris Ballet School if I am not wrong). Yes Dave, hopefully they won't have to constantly compete for the same roles! I saw Yasmine's performance in "The Dream"/ "Peaseblossom" and her capability of dancing "Ashton" so beautifully was obvious (as Silke H. says was evident when she won YBDY 2009). I personally love her English, lyrical and feminine style of dancing. I am afraid I can't commend on nor compare with Beatriz's "Polyphonia" performance as I haven't seen it. I think they are both stand-out Artists in their own way, with great potential. There are many dancers in the company I love to watch, there is so much talent in the RB, and every dancer contributes to making it into such a wonderful company. The RB's variety of dancers is so great and each one of them is unique but as in any other company there are always a few who do stand out!

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A question on "Carbon Life." I was watching some of the 'RB LIve' highlights this afternoon and, in the conversation with Wayne McGregor and Mark Ronson towards the end, Ronson mentions that his on-stage group will be playing orchestrations by Rufus Wainwright with the ROH orchestra under Barry Wordsworth and that there had already been a rehearsal. However, Jenny Gilbert's review today (Independent) makes a point of the fact that there was no orchestra at all on the opening night. Do any of you closer to the action know what transpired in the intervening 10 days or so to cause what sounds like a pretty significant change of plan?

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A question on "Carbon Life." I was watching some of the 'RB LIve' highlights this afternoon and, in the conversation with Wayne McGregor and Mark Ronson towards the end, Ronson mentions that his on-stage group will be playing orchestrations by Rufus Wainwright with the ROH orchestra under Barry Wordsworth and that there had already been a rehearsal. However, Jenny Gilbert's review today (Independent) makes a point of the fact that there was no orchestra at all on the opening night. Do any of you closer to the action know what transpired in the intervening 10 days or so to cause what sounds like a pretty significant change of plan?

Yes, a member of the orchestra told me a while ago that they had been rehearsing the music for Carbon LIfe. In addition the cast sheet for the opening performance credits the Orchestra of the ROH with Barry Wordsworth as conductor and Ania Safonova as associate concert master for Carbon Life. Yet the orchestra pit was dark throughout the performance. A mystery!

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Were the two new ballets truly as dispiriting from an artistic perspective as the Arts Desk review suggests?

 

No. Sweet Violets is very watchable but has a few wrinkles to iron out. It is easier to understand who the characters are if one reads the programme note beforehand but, in my opinion, there is some intentional ambiguity about what certain characters represent. The piece contains some wonderful choreography and is a good step on for a young choreographer.

 

Carbon Life is enjoyable but as usual with McGregor, contains more style and less (if any) substance. There is more lyrical choreography than in some of his earlier pieces but there is a complete lack of originality - very easy to cover off every square on the McGregor bingo board. Whilst I enjoyed it the first time I saw it (FGR), I enjoyed it less the second time and I fear that downward trend will continue on repeated viewings.

 

Away from all that, there are some great performances from all the dancers involved, some of whom, I think, are underused in Caron Life.

 

Lee McLernon

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I am not able to get to see any of the current performances of this triple bill. I am curious as to how Carbon Life would be performed in the future. Can the songs be sung by anyone, given that Boy George and the others are not likely to be able to commit to future performances?

 

And do you think part of the attraction for younger audiences are the singers themselves? Or does that just add to the overall feel of the ballet, and it doesn't matter who is doing the vocals?

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