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Royal Ballet - Ashton mixed bill


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Finishing my posts, as I've had stallings and lost material hence writing separate reports, Scènes de ballet (which I don't know well, admittedly) seemed out of sorts last night. The men were heavy in their landings, the girls out of sync in a way that certainly didn't look intentional and although Yuhui Choe has her admirers who lament her lack of promotion, from the Balcony Stalls she was certainly giving a First Soloist performance last night, lacking in projection and brilliance. Zucchetti seemed most successful to me, although I absolutely take on board a previous poster who found his performance demi-charactère rather than danseur noble. 

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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

 

I think you’ve got this a little wrong.  I was at all the performances and, although I don’t have the cast sheets to hand, I’m pretty sure of the following:

 

The 2nd and 3rd performances were both danced by the following cast: Hamilton/Muntagirov/Naghdi/Acri/Stock/Zucchetti

 

The 4th performance was danced by Nuñez/Clarke/Naghdi/Hay/Choe/Dyer

 

The 5th performance (last night’s) was was danced by Nuñez/Clarke//Magri/Hay/Stock/Dyer

 

Edited to try to highlight where my memory differs from yours

Edited by Bluebird
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A bit of delay in my posting on Tuesdays performances as have really nasty virus at the mo and was very glad to get through the night without any annoying coughing (thank goodness for Olbus Oil Pastilles) but also due to the great performances by the dancers especially in SV and Month where I was so absorbed by the dancing my brain forgot to connect to my cough!!

 

Anyway I realised that I'd never actually seen Scene de Ballet before and I thought I had so difficult to judge on one performance but I did find it difficult to connect to which is unusual with Ashton for me. There was nothing wrong with the dancing especially from Lamb and McRae who were very stylish .....but I think I need another viewing of this before I can really form a judgement but it was the ballet I least enjoyed in fact.

I really love the Isadora piece and wish it was performed more often though judging from some comments around me I was in the minority here. I know it must be a bit annoying for today's dancers to be reminded of some long ago interpreter of a role but I did see Lynn Seymour perform this and I think her style of interpretation is closer to Isadora than Helen Crawford. It does require a certain amount of abandon and I felt that this interpretation was a bit too athletic ........though it is hard I think for highly trained ballet dancers to let go of some of their technique. However I'm glad someone was prepared to have ago and I still enjoyed Crawfords performance especially the rose petal bit so a big Thankyou to her for being a vehicle for this ballet........incidentally I didn't know Romany Pajdek was also performing this and I would have liked to see her too......she really stood out in the recent Royal Ballet in Class and I too don't know why she is not given more to do.

 

Well I really enjoyed SV and so good to see Reece Clarke in this .......for such a young dancer .......and it seems having to stand in at the last minute...... I thought he was pretty good. The last time I saw him was as a student at the Yorkshire Ballet Summer School and he stood out then and was one of the students chosen by Dowell to work on a Romeo and Juliet section. You felt then he was going places and here he was giving a very fine performance! But not the only one. On Tuesday I thought the whole cast was excellent and really enjoyed all their performances.......with Clarke backed excellently by Hay and Dwyer..... Nunez a star anyway but Choe and Naghdi also showing great promise for the future. So altogether very satisfying.

 

However Month was my favourite of the evening and I needn't have worried about Osipova (from what others have said) I thought she was wonderful in the role just a younger Natalya than others may portray her but nothing out of place just great interpretative dancing. Again there was a strong cast with Hay(again) and Hayward really excellent in their roles and Bonelli very believable as the young opportunist but nevertheless made you believe he did have real feelings for Natalya. And you felt her great disappointment at the end. I didn't want it to end and certainly have no complaints about the pianist ........if you just look at a page of Chopin music it's enough to make you run a mile!! I thought she played with great feeling too.

So a wonderful evening ......which supported the journey home in that terrible rain in London on Tuesday .....but unfortunately my brain finally connected to the virus again and had to spend yesterday in bed!

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James, with regards to your comments about Yuhui you forgot to add the words "In my opinion"

In my own opinion and that of all my friends at the performance, she was absolutely wonderful.

With respect, I did write "from the Balcony Stalls."

 

Some years ago, I really enjoyed seeing Yuhui Choe in Dances at a Gathering and am sorry that the promise displayed then doesn't seem to have been fulfilled. I don't know if the stalling of her career is due to management prejudice or a levelling out of her own achievement, but dance also deals in absolutes, and I'm afraid I see no reason further to modify my comment beyond what I had already done. 

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Can we not just assume that we are all expressing our opinions without endlessly having to qualify what we say with 'in my opinion' 'I feel' etc?

 

 I think its a useful qualifier  - otherwise it can come across as if speaking absolute fact and is a 'superior' version to others. Just my opinion of course!  ;-)

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 I think its a useful qualifier  - otherwise it can come across as if speaking absolute fact and is a 'superior' version to others. Just my opinion of course!  ;-)

 

And James has just posted that "dance also deals in absolutes" - so is he claiming that his view on Yuhui Choe is an absolute, and therefore valid - as opposed to the views of Tony Newcombe and his friends, which are merely their opinions?

Edited by FrankH
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And James has just posted that "dance also deals in absolutes" - so is he claiming that his view on Yuhui Choe is an absolute, and therefore valid - as opposed to the views of Tony Newcombe and his friends, which are merely their opinions?

Of course, it's on opinion, with the disclaimer cited, but at a dispassionate level i'd stand by what I wrote.

Edited by Jamesrhblack
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Unless somebody uses the term "one" I assume if they are using "I" then it's their own opinion.

 

I do try to use "I" but may occasionally forget and say "one" which I know is awful .....as if speaking for everybody but my reviews are just speaking for myself and don't expect everyone to agree with me!

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I'm surprised to hear that Pajdak has been with the company for 10 years - I just assumed that she is a lovely dancer who has joined the company in the last few years rather than a decade ago.

 

I'm part of the apparent minority of people who really like the Brahms Waltzes, and thought she was fantastic in it - elegant and floaty, but also expressive and unleashing bursts of energy like a coiled spring.

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I should have said that Reece Clarke's unison dancing with his considerably shorter male colleagues was impressively in unison - schooling shows.

Yes. That I *did* appreciate.

 

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

I think she's more or less contemporary with Steven McRae, in which case ten years would be about right. 

 

.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.

 

Although Margot Fonteyn, I think it was in the late 80s when she was coaching Bussell in something, said that all the dancers today were technically better than she had been. So I guess that means that technique is overrated.

 

James, with regards to your comments about Yuhui you forgot to add the words "In my opinion"

In my own opinion and that of all my friends at the performance, she was absolutely wonderful.

 

I'm somewhere between the two. I very much enjoyed her performance, but at the same time I did appreciate someone's comments from earlier in the run about it being a bit small-scale.

 

A bit of delay in my posting on Tuesdays performances as have really nasty virus at the mo and was very glad to get through the night without any annoying coughing (thank goodness for Olbus Oil Pastilles) but also due to the great performances by the dancers especially in SV and Month where I was so absorbed by the dancing my brain forgot to connect to my cough!!

It's funny how concentrating hard can suppress a cough. I've probably mentioned the concert I was at at the Festival Hall a few years ago, sitting in the choir stalls, where the conductor was hacking quite badly between movements (and I mean the sort of thing which ought to be pretty uncontrollable), yet while he was actually conducting I had no idea that he was unwell. I try to apply the same principle when I get a mid-performance cough (after a highly embarrassing 10-minute, mid-row cough while watching SWRB at the Wells years ago, where I had to push past everyone else to leave the auditorium), although while your throat is in paroxysms it can be quite difficult to concentrate sufficiently hard.

 

Can we not just assume that we are all expressing our opinions without endlessly having to qualify what we say with 'in my opinion' 'I feel' etc?

 

If we do that, then every time we express a fact, won't we have to state that it's a fact so as to make the distinction between opinion and fact? I'm not sure that wouldn't be even worse.

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I don't doubt that Fonteyn said that Bussell was stronger technically than she had been. If asked she would probably have said the same thing about the ABT cast that she coached in Birthday Offering in 1989. But her comment about their performance was  " They're doing the steps but they're forgetting to dance".

 

I think that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to compare the technique of dancers who were trained in a world in which musicality and sensitivity to the intentions of the choreographer were paramount and technique was a means to that end with those for whom technique seems to be an end in itself. In the past dancers who were only able to reproduce steps ,however brilliantly they did so, were described as" mere technicians." and were unlikely to be seen  outside a very limited range of roles.Today technicians  dance in everything, for good or ill, and bring their aesthetic, that nothing can ever be too extreme,with them. Audiences come to see the nineteenth century classics only in terms of the set piece technical display pieces and somehow we seem to have gone back to the end of the nineteenth century where bravura displays of technique mattered more than anything else.The same audience which sat on its hands when presented with Mark Morris' Beaux, an inventive and musically sensitive ballet for an all male cast, goes mad when it is presented with a cliched balletic tribute to the Russian school which is all jumps and pirouettes. Technicians rule OK!

 

I think that the current problem is one of performance style rather than technical ability. If you are trained in the Vaganova technique you will learn that it teaches you the correct way to execute every ballet step. You are likely to struggle when you need to modify what you have been taught at school in order to comply with the stylistic requirements of another school or choreographer. I know that Donald McLeary  expressed concern that some dancers failed to understand that as ballet is a theatrical art form you can not simply transfer what you have learnt in class onto the stage.It puzzled me at the time but I have now read David Wall's comments on coaching.He said that he was often challenged by dancers who asked whether he was saying that what they were doing was wrong and that he had to explain that he was asking them to do things differently.I leave it up to you to decide how much of a problem this is for the company at present.

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I don't doubt that Fonteyn said that Bussell was stronger technically than she had been. If asked she would probably have said the same thing about the ABT cast that she coached in Birthday Offering in 1989.

 

 

I think Fonteyn was always very modest about her own technical abilities.  I remember performing at an RAD demonstration when I was tiny, and she came on stage afterwards to say a few words.  I always remember her saying that the current set pieces were so difficult, she thought she would have struggled if she was a student now. 

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Do I dare comment on this bill after the response which I got last time I posted? Well, here goes.

 

I enjoyed this performance much more than the last one, helped no doubt by my position higher up. Sarah was a little too cool and mannered for me in Scenes; I preferred Yuhui in the role. I was very impressed with Reece Clarke in SV. It's hard to believe that he is only 19. He had tremendous poise and had a lovely quality of movement. Rupert was a bit of a revelation in Month as I had never imagined him as a love rat but he was very convincing in the role and danced very elegantly. The piece worked really well as an ensemble. I hadn't really noticed Rakitin before but Gary Avis told his story as the admirer thwarted by the arrival of a younger and more attractive rival. Zenaida came across as a mature Natalia but that worked well as it threw into relief her jealousy of her younger ward and rival. She was utterly convincing in the role and so expressive in her acting. She danced with great finesse. I found the whole piece really absorbing.

 

On the subject of wigs, Rupert had his own hair last night. I agree with the journalist (Judith Mackrell?) that they can make certain ballets look rather fusty and old-fashioned, but my biggest objection to them is the choice of colour. Blond wigs on dancers who have naturally darker hair can look rather odd and often there's no need for them.

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I finally got to the Ashton bill last night and have to agree with the disappointment many seem to have felt with Scenes de Ballet - if this had been a school show I'd have thought they coped very well but for a full company performance it was nowhere near good enough. Elsewhere I was impressed by Reece Clark's apparent composure in Symphonic Variations and I also liked Magri - and Nunez of course.

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My goodness, Jane, only one viewing? How disappointing.

 

Yes, Pennefather had his own hair the other night, and it did indeed look a lot better. (Interestingly, I noticed that Francesca Hayward's Vera's hair was several shades darker than regulation, too, which looked more convincing.) What always bugs me with this production, though, is that Matvei, the footman, for no apparent reason also has the very golden blonde hair that Kolia has. It always leads my mind to speculate about a byblow from an extramarital affair somewhere, which I'm sure is totally inappropriate :)

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Saw Tuesday night.

SV was excellent! Far the best of the 3 performances I have seen, this was the only one which I think achieved the sense of serenity intended by the piece. It was beautiful and Reece Clarke most excellent once more, with the right calm, majestic presence- bravo to him-also Nunez.  James Hay jumped superbly.

 

I loved Month this time- Yanowsky inhabited the role so convincingly. I was a little less impressed by Pennefather( nice hair though)

but very pleased to see and impressed with Emma Maguire who had great sprighliness as Vera.

I agree that Scenes was not quite all it should be and for me it was the corp being a mite untidy that slightly let it down. I liked McRae and Lamb very much.

I thought McRae had the sharpness, style, elan and precision the piece needs ( didn't Ashton say the piece is meant to be "sharp and precise" or something, and "NOT too  English"?

The corp needed to be just that tiny bit sharper, in my view.

 

But still very enjoyable.

 

Crawford was good as Isadora , despite a couple of slight slips. She got a great reception.

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Rupert was a bit of a revelation in Month as I had never imagined him as a love rat but he was very convincing in the role and danced very elegantly.

 

"Love rat"?  I've always seen this character as an innocent, quite out of his depth.  I suppose that's down to the dancers I've seen in the role before but I must say I rather like the idea of this characterisation.  Good for Rupert!

 

 

On the subject of wigs, Rupert had his own hair last night. I agree with the journalist (Judith Mackrell?) that they can make certain ballets look rather fusty and old-fashioned, but my biggest objection to them is the choice of colour. Blond wigs on dancers who have naturally darker hair can look rather odd and often there's no need for them.

 

So true and it's not as if the plot depends on the colour of someone's hair.

 

Linda

Edited by loveclassics
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I agree with your Bonelli interpretation of this role Aileen.

 

The sort of annoying "love rat" that you can't help liking ......even though you feel you should dislike.....because they have an attractive personality too!! It's almost as if they can't help themselves!

 

I did feel Bonelli had some beginnings of genuine feelings for Natalia though.

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