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Do you think that smaller ballerinas are more suited to Symphonic?

 

I think in that ballet it's more important that the dancers are similar sizes to each other. There's a lot of harmony in Symphonic Variations that might be lost, or at least reduced, if the dancers were wildly different sizes.

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I have copied this quote from another thread, because I think it is relevant here:

 

"One of the things I keep hearing is older dancers and teachers saying that the younger dancers are so much better technically than in the past but that so much is also being lost - the subtlety, the epaulement, the lightness, the speed and precision and so on."

 

The question I want to ask is in what way are the younger dancers so much better technically?  Because things such as lightness, speed and precision are vital for any dancer, surely? 

 

They certainly seem to be essential for Ashton's work, looking at old clips of the original cast.  Which is why some of the current generation of dancers seem to struggle, and others give a workmanlike performance, but never really get to grips with it properly.

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It seems to me that the essence of the Ashton style are exactly those you name. However, with the current fashion for taller, more athletic dancers the finer points are being lost. Added to that, most current choreography goes with the fashion. If you think about much of David Bintley's more recent work and compare it with earlier works such as Galantaries and Tombeau (apologies for all spelling errors) you can see a clear trend away from the Ashton influence towards more contemporary work.

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I have copied this quote from another thread, because I think it is relevant here:

 

"One of the things I keep hearing is older dancers and teachers saying that the younger dancers are so much better technically than in the past but that so much is also being lost - the subtlety, the epaulement, the lightness, the speed and precision and so on."

 

The question I want to ask is in what way are the younger dancers so much better technically?  Because things such as lightness, speed and precision are vital for any dancer, surely? 

 

They certainly seem to be essential for Ashton's work, looking at old clips of the original cast.  Which is why some of the current generation of dancers seem to struggle, and others give a workmanlike performance, but never really get to grips with it properly.

 

I think by "technically better" they mean that the current crop of dancers are much more flexible and can do things the previous generation wasn't trained to do, partly because a lot of the contemporary ballet choreography seems to require dancers to become human pretzels so much of the time.

 

The first time I saw this was in this article, specifically an observation by the RBS teacher Anita Young: "They're so lovely," Young sighs after the class. "And their legs go far higher than ours ever did. All this, though…" And here she strikes an attitude, the position pliant and alive, her arms framing her face with subtle épaulement. "All this is gone." But if her pupils go for eye-catching hyperextensions and "six-o'clock arabesques" rather than nuance and refinement, it's perhaps because they know that in an audition they have to grab a director's attention fast. In a mercilessly unforgiving milieu, their instincts are fine-tuned for survival.

 

I know I've seen comments like that since coming across that one, I just don't remember where.

 

I also read (not sure where, but it might have been Kathrine Sorley-Walker's book about Ninette de Valois) that de Valois cited fast, neat footwork as characteristically British because it was the basis for so much of the folk dancing in Scotland and Ireland and I think she also included English Morris dancing in that observation. And that she'd tried to incorporate this characteristic in ballet teaching for this reason. She and Ashton both went back to national dance for some of their inspiration; I'm not sure it was such a big deal for Kenneth MacMillan, and I don't see much evidence of it in works by choreographers like Wayne McGregor. So if that characteristic isn't being used, and the training now is more focused on the upper body because that's how the Vaganova training tends to be, then it's not surprising if dancers are coming out of school less prepared for the specific challenges of the Ashton repertoire. 

 

Then again, in some ways I blame Ashton himself. If he hadn't had that prolonged snit in the early 1970s after getting chucked out of the directorship, but had done what he was supposed to do and carried on making ballets on an annual basis, there would have been more reason for the company style to accommodate him rather than refocusing on MacMillan. But as long as he effectively disappeared, and then just sat there muttering about how the company wasn't up to doing his work any more, I suppose a degree of parting of the ways was inevitable. Hopefully things are being rectified now, though, as people are beginning to realise that we're getting to crunch time in terms of many of his works being permanently lost as the dancers who knew him are beginning to die out. I suppose we're lucky in a way, though. I dread to think what would have happened if Ross Stretton had stayed at RB for five or ten years.

Edited by Melody
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Smaller dancers are more likely to be able to dance with the precision,speed and musicality required in Symphonic than tall dancers.Stage managers' reports which can be found for some of the performances on the Royal Opera House's Performance Database reveal that performances of the ballet have got slower over the years.

 

The stage manager's report of the first performance records  that the original cast took sixteen minutes to dance the piece which suggests that the speed at which the music was played was much closer to that experienced in the concert hall than is the case today when, depending on the cast, it may take them eighteen or nineteen minutes to dance the piece.An extra two or three minutes to dance such a short piece represents a significant slowing down.in the sixty eight years since its premier.

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Smaller dancers are more likely to be able to dance with the precision,speed and musicality required in Symphonic than tall dancers.Stage managers' reports which can be found for some of the performances on the Royal Opera House's Performance Database reveal that performances of the ballet have got slower over the years.

 

The stage manager's report of the first performance records  that the original cast took sixteen minutes to dance the piece which suggests that the speed at which the music was played was much closer to that experienced in the concert hall than is the case today when, depending on the cast, it may take them eighteen or nineteen minutes to dance the piece.An extra two or three minutes to dance such a short piece represents a significant slowing down.in the sixty eight years since its premier.

 

One remark on this Floss:  in my previous post (35) I added (source: Wikipedia) : "In the first production and early revivals the work was regarded as making such demands on the dancers that they took no part in any other ballet on the same evening's bill.[7] Margaret Dale in conversation with David Vaughan commented, "Even though Symphonic Variations more than any other ballet creates a feeling of serenity, for the dancers, in the beginning it was an 'absolute marathon', and made demands on them that had never been made before. ... It was a test of sheer stamina that very few British dancers could stand at that time."[7

 

It has been observed that dancers such as Zucchetti and Naghdi dance simultaneously in Scenes de ballet AND Symphonic Variations. Could that not be a reason SV is danced a little bit slower in 2014? Dancers in the early productions clearly only danced SV and nothing else that night. 

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Smaller dancers are more likely to be able to dance with the precision,speed and musicality required in Symphonic than tall dancers.Stage managers' reports which can be found for some of the performances on the Royal Opera House's Performance Database reveal that performances of the ballet have got slower over the years.

 

The stage manager's report of the first performance records  that the original cast took sixteen minutes to dance the piece which suggests that the speed at which the music was played was much closer to that experienced in the concert hall than is the case today when, depending on the cast, it may take them eighteen or nineteen minutes to dance the piece.An extra two or three minutes to dance such a short piece represents a significant slowing down.in the sixty eight years since its premier.

 

This doesn't surprise me at all.  I have been moaning for years that the music seems to be getting slower and slower for some productions, particularly Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet. 

 

I suppose the current stars would argue that this is because they are technically much more advanced.  "Let's not bother with all those rapid single turns in time with the music.  Let's just throw in some triple or quadruples wherever I feel like it.  Then I can leave out all that boring footwork stuff as well, because it won't fit in, so I'll just stand on one leg and show off my balance....." 

 

Sorry, any professional dancers who might be reading this.  But it does feel like that sometimes, when I am watching.

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Fonty - I agree!  I was once sent a clip on Facebook of a ballerina in the Rose Adagio, who balanced for so long it actually disturbed me!  Totally broke all continuity, especially as the audience clapped wildly every time she changed princes!  It stopped being artistry and became more like the Chinese circus version of Swan Lake where she promenades on pointe on the prince's head!

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Went to last night's performance and felt all glorious Ashton works looked in even better stead - more of a piece shall we say - than when I first saw them in this run the week previous (short of Ms. Shipway's determinedly clockwork keyboard performances.  Still, even there, many will quite rightly hold consistency up as a virtue.)  McRae was certainly not having an 'off night' last evening as some here suggested he was in the opening presentation of this string of SdeB.  While Lamb may struggle with some aspects of precision in speed of Ashton's petits allegro (which Osipova and Hayward both joyfully elivate with ease) her central SdeB presence was that of an Aurora in full bloom.  SV is, as ever, a masterpiece and came rather easier together by this team - the same as in the second performance - as one might well have expected.  This was my first sighting of Crawford's Duncan and I was as much attracted to the muscular maturity of her take as the abbreviated pauses between the waltzes themselves.  Month - again danced by the second team - appeared to somehow blossom.  You could see Osipova's determination to simplify her initial (eg., opening) fussiness and, as ever with this fine artist, she bravely breathed her own life through the choreography.  Even more on this occasion I was impressed by just how much closer her choices are to that of the Natalia Petrovna in Turgenev's play.  She toyed frivolously with all until the games her petulance had inspired suddenly - and it was of a definite sudden - ran out; i.e., were proverbially up.  Osipova's final moments in this role last night were amongst the most chilling I have ever witnessed and the capacity ROH audience seemed to explode in their deserved approbation.  Hayward continues to dazzle as Vera and the mother/daughter cameos between the two women were ever radiant and telling.  

Edited by Bruce Wall
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Bruce, I would agree.

 

It was my first viewing of the programme. Scenes I thought was danced very well, withMcRae very good, very sharp and in the spirit of the piece., Lamb also.

I liked Crawford's work in 5 Waltzes-and it is not easy in my view to make this work to a modern audience and in this mighty venue.

Symphonic Variations cast its spell over me again. It is a stunning work and needs a  lot of viewings. I very much liked Muntagirov who seemed ideal in his nobility and elegance. I was a little unsure about the others..... only a little unsure, it was danced well, but there was a slight feeling of uncertainty at times, when in this ballet you really want utter solidity and conviction.

 

Month in the Country went very well- I had forgotten how much detail there is in it, and how brilliantly the choreography conveys mood, drama and character. It is a very rich and subtle work. I can see why some think Osipova was dancing in a different mode to the piece itself. The beauty of her dancing  was compensation enough;  however that is partly because I know I am going to see Yanowsky....

 

 I do see what people mean that she (and others) might want to present her own interpretation of Turgenev - BUT surely it is Ashton's interpretation of Turgenev the dancers should be trying to express,  not their own? The ballet is not the play.

 

I agree with you Bruce that the piano playing could have been better.

I was perhaps on the look- out for shortcomings after reading all the posts but it was a fine evening-if only the intervals were not so long. 30 minutes really is a lot.

 

I am keen to hear other views of the SV compared to earlier performances.

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I've seen a couple of references to "mother/daughter" with respect to Natalya and Vera in Month.  It is important to remember that Vera is Natalya's ward and there is an age difference of just 12 years, so it should be a very different relationship.  It's a central tenet of the original play that Natalya sees Vera as a rival in matters of the heart.

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I am so jealous of you all being able to see this lovely programme - I am coming to the UK the weekend after next for a cousin's 80th birthday celebration and of course there are no performances of it on the dates I am there.  :(  :(  :(  Perhaps they'll make a DVD of it.  Did anyone notice cameras filming it at any performance?

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 I can see why some think Osipova was dancing in a different mode to the piece itself. The beauty of her dancing  was compensation enough...

 I do see what people mean that she (and others) might want to present her own interpretation of Turgenev - BUT surely it is Ashton's interpretation of Turgenev the dancers should be trying to express,  not their own? The ballet is not the play.

 

For me the “The Month in the Country” is one of the most faithful ballet interpretations of a literary work.

Helped by the beautiful scenography Ashton grasped the atmosphere of Turgenev’s play and keenly appreciated its poetry as well as its prose. The idillic setting of the country-house estate makes the background for some yearning by almost every character in this story and, in fact, for three romantic love triangles. Ashton managed to translate the characters’ love aspirations - some just touching, some colliding - into dancing movements so skilfully that you can feel the ‘lacework’ of Turgenev’ dialogues through it.

Natalia Petrovna’s personality is the same in both the play and the ballet and Osipova fitted beautifully into this setting.  She is a ‘hothouse plant”, adored by her husband whom she doesn’t love; she is toying with the family friend Rakitin and his sophisticated feelings for her - and suddenly  she is smitten with feelings for a young man. All this was convincingly portrayed by Osipova and adorned by her light and effortless dancing, with gorgeously expressive arms. Bruce Wall already mentioned the final scene where she, almost motionless, was truly dramatic.

 

‘bangorballetboy’ is right about the relations and age of two female characters: Natalya Petrofina is 29 and Vera is 17. 
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Having waited many years to see "Symphonic Variations" again (it IS my favourite Ashton) I did not want to miss the opportunity to see as many performances as I could get tickets for. I attended last night and "Scenes de ballet" had greatly improved compared to the Opening Night performance.There was less pointe shoe noise when the corps moved around, they were sharper in their movements, crisper, and had a much better use of arms and wrists. Sarah Lamb got it this time and she was really beautiful. I felt Steven McRae on the other hand was "weaker" or has he toned it all down a bit? Perhaps I am too used to his "showing-off" style of dancing (not meant in a bad way). 

 

I appreciate "Five Brahms Waltzes..." for what it is, Helen Crawford and Romany Pajdak are both lovely in this role but the piece really bores me (not their fault!), at least the music is enjoyable.

 

Last night the 2nd cast performed "Symphonic Variations" and included the 1st cast dancers Muntagirov and Naghdi. I must say I do prefer the 1st cast, and Nunez to Hamilton who does not project as well as Nunez in the centre role. I did not see the Ashton style in the way she used her upper body, contrary to Nunez. Hamilton's footwork was not as fast as it should be nor did I notice the "luminosity" in her as described by Luke Jennings in his review (and I was sitting in the Orchestra Stalls). Zucchetti was good and Stock and Acri performed well but it was Naghdi who danced with the greatest of ease. She also has that vital subtle lightness in her facial expression and eyes (absent in other dancers) and a beautiful Ashtonian use of her upper body paired with fast footwork. Needless to say Vadim Muntagirov is simply gorgeous in SV. The music was played slower last night compared to previous performances.

 

I always enjoy watching "Month in the Country",Osipova was better this time around but my soft spot for Yanowsky in this role, together with seeing Emma Maguire back on stage, makes me prefer the 1st cast again. 

 

All in all this Ashton Mixed bill is something I'll treasure for a long time and I do hope Mr. O'Hare will show us more Ashton ballets in the future.

 

In answer to Dance*is*life: I have not seen any cameras filming any performance (I have seen them all up to now).

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I think that it is a good thing for the reputation of the Royal Ballet as a custodian of the Ashton repertory that these performances are not being streamed into cinemas or recorded for posterity because at best the performances of Symphonic and Scenes have not been good enough. While it is true that the first night cast for Symphonic were good that combination of dancers is not being repeated during this run. I  do not think that the second cast would have made it onto the stage in the past.While I am genuinely interested in seeing Reece Clarke dance in Symphonic I think it unlikely that he can redeem the situation with the second cast.

 

I know that several people on this site have expressed pleasure at seeing this mixed bill but I have to say that, so far, only the first night cast have come anywhere near giving the sort of performance that I expect to see when Symphonic is staged and that neither the corps nor the principal dancers in Scenes have come anywhere near what I expect to see when Scenes is performed. Scenes is an abstract ballet but the performers should create a mood of mystery and the dancer in the ballerina role should bring out the sense of fun and delight that is in the choreography because of the way that it plays with Petipa's classicism and Aurora's variations.

 

Even if you don't know the Sleeping Beauty you should get the feeling that the main female dancer is enjoying what she is doing Lamb gives me the impression that she is not having a good time and there is for me an air of dogged determination about her performance.Choe brings a sense of fun to her performance but she dances on far too small a scale.I am not commenting on Choe's height but on the lack of scale of her performance.I think that in her case it is a question of temperament and that she is by nature a miniaturist.In the past this ballet was danced by ballerinas or those that had it in them to achieve that status. Dancing a few performances of Aurora does not make you a ballerina. A Ballerina is someone who dominates the stage without moving a muscle, who compels your attention and draws you into her world when she performs. Doing the steps as set is only the starting point and yet for me the current performers have not progressed beyond that. The main male role requires effortless elegance and beauty of movement. Dancing in which you are not aware of any of the mechanics required and where the dancer displays a simple movement and leaves you smiling at its sheer beauty.Unfortunately neither McRae nor Zucchetti are, at present, able to provide dancing of the style required. They both perform the role as demi-character dancers which, they are by nature, rather than the danseurs that both aspire to be.

 

It as if when management set about casting this programme they started with Month in the Country and looked at Scenes and Symphonic as after thoughts.Before anyone comes back to say that Matthew Golding was originally cast in Symphonic, on the basis of what I have seen of him so far, I thought that piece of casting bizarre to say the least. That original casting decision seems to me to be symptomatic of the status that Ashton enjoys at the Royal Ballet at present. if they had been serious about this programme they would have cast Symphonic first using the best people available , considered really carefully whether they could put on a good cast for Scenes, decided that they could not, then cast Month and then put on another Ashton piece such as Patineurs which would have given the younger dancers the chance to show what they could do rather than "having a go" at something which they were unsuited for or not ready to do. 

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A very erudite reflexion on this Ashton mixed bill Floss and I agree with almost if not all the points you have raised.

 

I have been upset about the 2nd cast being allowed to perform Symphonic "in that state" (to quote Ismene Brown) www.spectator.co.uk/arts/dance/9354212/birmingham-royal-ballet-and-the-royal-ballet-battle-for-the-heart-of-english-dance/)

and fully share Brown's remarks about Hamilton. It is very unfortunate that two excellent 1st cast dancers were mingled into a 2nd cast. 

 

Instead of wasting time preparing a 2nd cast they should have maximised rehearsing the 1st cast (and have a few covers on standby). We have had the opportunity to enjoy the Opening Night cast just once but at least I am relieved and happy Nunez will be dancing the centre role for the remaining 4 performances. What young Clark will bring to the role remains to be seen, I wish him luck.

 

I'll be watching two more performances but my rant about SV is over!

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I thought Osipova (her last in this run) and the entire company breathed stunning life - nay, defining poetry - into a miraculous MONTH tonight.  Curious what others thought.  Hayward and Hay were simply breathtaking in their dramatic detail and Bonelli has so grown in the depth of his characterisation over but a few performances.  (I think I have seen all of this particular contingent.)  Congratulations to Reece Clarke for a most commendable job.  I saw his formal SV debut last night (am truly shocked that no one here has commented thus far on such an occasion) ... and tonight he was even more steady at the helm.  The future potential is clearly obvious.  Indeed, SV gave a good account of itself I thought - better methinks than was witnessed in SdeB.  They are of course - all three - rightful jewels in the RB crown.  Long and repeatedly may they glitter in London - and via the cinema - the world.  Must now get some sleep.  

Edited by Bruce Wall
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I second that. The Month cast has gelled beautifully, and Bonelli went from slightly nondescript in his first outing to the best I've seen him since Giselle with Cuthbertson. Month is a beauty to behold with 4 strong performers in the leads.

 

I sat too close to the stage today to see much of SdeB, but watching parts of it very close by really allows you to focus on the individual steps and small movements which made me appreciate the ballet a lot more than previously.

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I'd been looking forward to this programme very much, quite as much for the choreography as the dancers, so perhaps the anticipation had proved too great as enjoyment proved very muted until Month in which Osipova was truly exquisite (not a trace of exaggeration, quite the reverse - she's the only Natalia I've seen not to get an embarrassed laugh at the melodramatic exit through the side doors) with her astounding fluency and musicality illuminating score, choreography and character in a remarkable way. She wasn't afraid to show Natalia's irritability and her bleakness at the end was manifest. If her first performances had been overblown this just shows how a true artist will learn to strip away what is unnecessary to convey the simplicity of truth, Bonelli seemed more varied and involved than I had ever seen him while his high extensions and lyrical line spoke of sensibility allied to a certain narcissism. Hayward and Hay were also outstanding and although I read criticism of the pianist in earlier posts I actually found myself at one point during the final pas de deux noting how very beautifully she was playing. Terrific.

 

As my iPad has a disconcerting tendency to freeze and then lose text, I will continue my thoughts in a further post.

Edited by Jamesrhblack
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I third that! In particular SV was far far better than the performance I saw on 28th. Nunez was fuly in command of the steps and projected, I thought, the right air of serene control. I was very impressed by Reece Clarke, who really looked the part but also acted it and showed great confidence in this exposed role.

Yhui Choe as I had expected was right in the Scenes role and she and Zuchetti worked harmoniously together, which brought the piece into focus much more successfully.

 

Month in the Country was also much better in my view. Osipova was much more acting the steps ( Ashton so brilliantly gives you everything, like a magic recipe, , you just have to do it perfectly to get the effect)  rather than overacting the emotions at key points. I thought she was really excellent, as was Bonelli. A great evening.

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 I was very impressed by Reece Clarke, who really looked the part but also acted it and showed great confidence in this exposed role.

 

 

Month in the Country was also much better in my view. Osipova was much more acting the steps ( Ashton so brilliantly gives you everything, like a magic recipe, , you just have to do it perfectly to get the effect)  rather than overacting the emotions at key points. I thought she was really excellent, as was Bonelli. A great evening.

 

I agree.

 

As well as dancing really well, Reece Clarke maintained a calm gravitas which suited the piece beautifully.

 

And, by her fourth performance, Natalia Osipova had divested herself of all the somewhat frenetic gestures she had shown earlier and was truly excellent last night.

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Symphonic Variations is so beautiful but I don't understand the constant switching of casts. Shouldnt cohesion between the six dancers be paramount, and that can only come from repeated performances. Although technically precise and disciplined, I thought that with the exception of Nunez, incongruously leading a very junior cast, the dancers maintained technical and musical precision but at the expense of the glow that comes from total control of the material. Both James Hay and Tristan Dyer seemed winded by the end. Opposite them were Mayara Magri (the third dancer for this role? Emma Maguire is photographed in rehearsal in the programme but I don't she's danced a public performance) and Letitifa Stock, neat and well matched but seeming small scale. Reece Clarke did excellently. A handsome physical presence with some beautifully articulated dancing, although the effort of some of the partnering was apparent. Nevertheless, hugely commendable and great to see him seizing this opportunity so well.

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I was very impressed by Reece Clarke at the RBS matinee earlier this year when I thought that he gave a very stylish performance as Jean de Brienne in Raymonda Act 3. But I thought that when he joined the Royal Ballet he would probably spend several years as the balletic equivalent of a spear carrier before being allowed out to do the Swan Lake pas de trois and Florestan and his sisters. So I was pleasantly surprised when his name appeared in the casting of the current revival of Symphonic. The decision to alter the casting must have come very late in the day as there are no rehearsal photographs of Reece or biographical details about him in the programme  while it contains Matthew Golding's biography and what appears to be a rehearsal photograph of him.We shall probably never know whether the cast change was a result of the rights' owner exercising a power of veto over the management's proposed casting. But like many others I do not feel disappointed at being denied the opportunity to see him dance in this ballet.

 

I had hoped that we might see something of Reece during his first year but I did not expect that it would be in something as challenging as Symphonic which leaves the dancer so very exposed with nothing to hide behind; no character or choreographic fireworks to distract the audience's attention from any slight technical imperfection or momentary inattention. While it may not have been the greatest performance of Symphonic that I have ever seen it was an extremely satisfying one. As Reece is considerably taller than the other men in the cast I think that they did exceptionally well to dance in unison. He is tall,elegant, partners well.has a clean technique and did not look at all out of place dancing with Nunez and the rest of the cast. While he may not have quite the stylishness that Muntagirov brought to the role the gap between the quality of the performances given by the two men is very narrow indeed and probably has more to do with the difference in their ages and stage experience than anything else. Reece is, after all, only nineteen and while it is true that Henry Danton must have been about that age when he danced in the first performance he was dancing the role taken by Tristan Dyer in last night's cast not that taken by Michael Somes. James Hay continues to grow into the Brian Shaw role, last night it was a lot closer in style to the manner in which Michael Coleman used to perform it than it had been on first night, Perhaps by the end of the run his turns will be slightly off centre as they should be.

 

It often seems that performances of triple bills involving revivals are periods of extended open rehearsals until, with luck, it comes together in the last couple of performances. This certainly seems to be the case for Symphonic if only it were also true for Scenes. The corps is still not a cohesive group and a friend told me that on Tuesday evening the female corps looked as if they were performing the " Mistake Waltz" rather than vintage Ashton.

 

 Pajdak, it would seem, has been blessed with what Ashton once described as a dancer's greatest gift that of "apparent spontaneity" since she dances the Five Brahms Waltzes with an air of abandon which is missing from Crawford's performance. Padjak's Isadora grows with each performance, She appears to be in complete "possession" of the steps  and rather than just doing them she dances the ballet. I recall that some time ago there were discussions about what Pavlova and others meant when they said that when you performed a ballet you should forget the steps. These two dancers give audiences the opportunity to understand what they meant. Here you can see the difference between a dancer whose performance is focused on not making a mistake and one who has the ability, in this ballet at least, to take what she has learned in the rehearsal room and use it to give a performance which is about far more than  the correct reproduction of steps and arm positions  

 

It must be very confusing for Osipova dancing in so many ballets in such different styles in such a short time but  last night she certainly showed us Ashton's Natalia Petrovna and her performance seemed very much part of a company performance rather than that of a star. Each of the newcomers to this ballet have deepened and developed their performances since their first night. A very satisfying performance to end a programme which is still a bit too much of a curate's egg because Scenes is still not being performed at the level that it demands. 

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Symphonic Variations is so beautiful but I don't understand the constant switching of casts. Shouldnt cohesion between the six dancers be paramount, and that can only come from repeated performances. Although technically precise and disciplined, I thought that with the exception of Nunez, incongruously leading a very junior cast, the dancers maintained technical and musical precision but at the expense of the glow that comes from total control of the material. Both James Hay and Tristan Dyer seemed winded by the end. Opposite them were Mayara Magri (the third dancer for this role? Emma Maguire is photographed in rehearsal in the programme but I don't she's danced a public performance) and Letitifa Stock, neat and well matched but seeming small scale. Reece Clarke did excellently. A handsome physical presence with some beautifully articulated dancing, although the effort of some of the partnering was apparent. Nevertheless, hugely commendable and great to see him seizing this opportunity so well.

 

No, I don't really understand all the switching, either.  Plus I'm getting very confused about the "first" and "second" casts.  Presumably Choe wasn't in it because she was dancing the lead in Scènes de ballet instead.  And it did look very odd to have the very tall Reece Clarke (who acquitted himself well, as others have commented) combined with much shorter male dancers.  I wonder how tall he is?  Must certainly be over 6 foot, I would assume, and, if he's only 19, may not have reached his ultimate height yet.  (Nor, for that matter, do I understand the casting of particularly tall dancers in the central male role: yes, you need to be capable of partnering a tall-ish ballerina, but Michael Somes wasn't that tall, I don't think.)  And, James, I like your "glow that comes from total control" - that's perhaps what's been missing for me so far.  I thought I detected some rather tired extensions of arms and legs from the men towards the end, too (I was looking at them perhaps more than the women).

 

Scènes de ballet could still do with some tightening-up and greater cohesion among the supporting cast.  I'm not sure whether Zucchetti's partnering has improved since the last time I saw him, or whether it's just that, watching from the other side of the auditorium, his difficulties are less obvious: I still saw one lift which looked effortful.  Choe, with her musicality and wit, continues to impress, as does Romany Pajdak in her rendering of the Brahms Waltzes.

 

A Month in the Country with the second cast was greatly improved on their first performance, I thought: much less histrionic, and some lovely dancing from Osipova.  I rather found myself wishing, though, that she had been a bit more emphatic on her departure through the double doors: it's always struck me that that should emphasise the "drama queen" aspects of Petrovna's personality.

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 I thought I detected some rather tired extensions of arms and legs from the men towards the end, too (I was looking at them perhaps more than the women).

 

Scènes de ballet could still do with some tightening-up and greater cohesion among the supporting cast.  I'm not sure whether Zucchetti's partnering has improved since the last time I saw him, or whether it's just that, watching from the other side of the auditorium, his difficulties are less obvious: I still saw one lift which looked effortful.  Choe, with her musicality and wit, continues to impress, as does Romany Pajdak in her rendering of the Brahms Waltzes.

 

 

And I thought all dancers these days were supposed to be so much better technically.  :)  

 

I am surprised that Scenes is still looking a bit ragged as well.  Very odd. 

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James Hay did look at the sky but he didn't really tilt off centre. I should have said that Reece Clarke's unison dancing with his considerably shorter male colleagues was impressively in unison - schooling shows.

 

I also enjoyed Romany Pajdak's spontaneity in the Brahms. You could hear her exhaling before she launched into movement. Reading the programme, I was surprised to learn that she had been in the company for ten years and yet has done so little of solo import before this how incredibly frustrating for her, and what a waste of talent and potential.

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Re. the casts for "Symphonic Variations" I count six different casts (correct me if I am wrong).

 

If the 1st cast had danced all performances we would have a jewel by now (we know how dancers/a performance improve(s) after a few outings, Osipova included!). That's why I can never get my head around critics reviewing an Opening Night. 

 

Opening Night cast

Nunez/Muntagirov/Naghdi/Hay/Chui/Dyer 

 

2nd performance

Hamilton/Muntagirov/Naghdi/Acri/Stock/Zucchetti

 

3rd performance

Hamilton/Muntagirov/Naghdi/Hay/Chui/Dyer

 

4th performance

Nunez/Clarke/Naghdi/Acri/Stock/Zucchetti

 

5th performance

Nunez/Clarke/Magri/Hay/Stock/Zucchetti

 

6th performance

Nunez/Clarke/Naghdi/Hay/Chui/Dyer

 

7th performance

Nunez/Clarke/Magri/Hay/Stock/Dyer

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And I thought all dancers these days were supposed to be so much better technically.  :)  

 

I am surprised that Scenes is still looking a bit ragged as well.  Very odd. 

 

 

James Hay did look at the sky but he didn't really tilt off centre. I should have said that Reece Clarke's unison dancing with his considerably shorter male colleagues was impressively in unison - schooling shows.

 

I also enjoyed Romany Pajdak's spontaneity in the Brahms. You could hear her exhaling before she launched into movement. Reading the programme, I was surprised to learn that she had been in the company for ten years and yet has done so little of solo import before this how incredibly frustrating for her, and what a waste of talent and potential.

IMO Pajdak, who is a lovely dancer, should have jumped ship and gone to BRB (as some dancers before her have done :)

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.When it comes to the nineteenth century classics it seems to me that all the talk about  improved technique has more to do with hyper extensions and the ability to perform tricks such as holding balances for an eternity or squeezing in extra steps whether or not the music permits it than anything else. The fact that this is not what you see in older recordings of these works is taken as evidence of lack of technical ability when it has far more to do with the aesthetics of the period. Many of these " advances in technique" would have been criticised as vulgar and unmusical in the past.

 

Then of course there is what Geraldine Morris describes as the "absolutism"of Vaganova technique which means that anything danced or created using another technique is by its very nature flawed. And finally there is the assumption that  the dancers of today and those of the past approach performance in the same way and seek the same effects. Danilova wrote in her memoirs that in Russia in the early years of the century ballet had been used to tell stories or to create a mood but that it had during the Soviet era become a mere display of technique.That aesthetic has,it seems to me.crept into the way that ballet is performed in the West   It may even go some way to explain why dancers in revivals of older repertory are so concerned  about being seen to execute steps correctly that they sometimes forget  to dance the ballet and produce a performance that seems mannered.and dull.

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