LAST EDITED ON 27-05-01 AT 01:46 AM (GMT)
Gosh, Bruce, I thought you were going to write one yourself - which is why I posted mine on Ballet Alert. But if no-one else is going to say anything....then I'll post it here too, with a few corrections and additions - and apologies to those who have read it already.
Actually, I'm not sure if this qualifies as a proper review. The Gala was such an emotional occasion that I found it hard to be objective. It was also my first Gala and I was still in a state of shock when I wrote this.
(I was also still in shock that I'd managed to be there at all. Like so many others, I applied for a ticket, but didn't get one. So in a fit of insanity - or so I thought at the time - I went down to London to queue for returns, expecting to find that 10,000 other ballet fans had had the same idea. To my amazement, I was second in the queue, but the word was that there was a waiting list of 100..200...700 depending on who you'd been talking to. There was NO chance of returns. NONE. But the queue didn't budge and eventually....we got in. Amazing.)
Inside, there were tons of flowers. The programmes were being sold by girls from The Royal Ballet Upper School (wearing blue tutus and mostly standing in taking-a-call ballet poses). They looked sweet and told me they had standing room for the performance. (In the light of a posting on another thread, I would have to say that I didn't actually notice whether they were thin or not. I DID notice that they were very polite and that there was someone with them, a teacher, I presume.)
As for the Gala itself, Anthony Dowell narrated between performances (at the end of each one, the dancers curtseyed - or bowed - to him before going off stage) and was both interesting and audible (important for those of us in the upper Amphi). The dances were from roles for which he was famous.
I'm not going to go into detail about everything that happened, however, or it would take about six months to write it all down. Perhaps other fans will help me out here and add things, or expand on what they liked. I'll just mention the highlights (for me!). The standard of dancing was very high throughout the evening, but I think the men felt they had a lot to live up to.
The first half of the programme was:
- a piece for all the boys at the Royal Ballet School - great to see the students dance (and dance SO WELL!).
-'Scherzo' from the 'Dream' (Ethan Stiefel, Giacomo Ciriaci, Jane Burn, Mara Galeazzi, Laura Morera and Jenny Tattersall.) Well danced by all.
- The black swan pdd from Swan Lake with Yoshida and Johan Kobborg - liked Kobborg very much in this and Yoshida, as usual, danced beautifully.
- 'Monotones' with Zenaida Yanowsky, Maurice Vodegel-Matzen, Alastair Marriott. (Really liked Zenaida in this.)
- First highlight for me was the 'Awakening pas de deux' from 'Sleeping Beauty' - some Ashton choreography I'd never seen before (but would like to see again). The Kirov play this music during the interval before the Awakening scene. It was beautifully danced by Belinda Hatley and Igor Zelensky.
- The 'Troyte' solo from 'Enigma Variations' came next, well danced by Edward Watson, who got quite a good reception from the audience.
Beforehand, Dowell told us about one of his early performances. He had a tricky entrance through some scenery and the music was supposed to start when he got on stage. One day they had a famous guest conductor (I'm still not sure who this conductor was - can anyone remember?)...and the music started while Dowell was still in the wings. 'I don't think I've ever run so fast,' he said, and it took him some time to catch up with the music.
- Another highlight was the 'Thais' pdd (Leanne Benjamin and Roberto Bolle). Roberto looked absolutely stunning....and his dancing was brilliant too. Leanne, too, did a good job.
Talking about his first performance in the role, Dowell said they hadn't had much rehearsal time, (and the costumes were a tricky), so he and Antoinette were extremely relieved that it had gone well. But when Ashton came out for his applause at the end, he held up his hands for quiet. 'Would you like to see it again?' he asked. That, said Dowell, was his only experience of an encore. (Apparently this story was told in the film about Dowell which was screened the night of the Gala.)
- And the first half ended with the third act pdd from Manon with Viviana Durante (greeted ecstatically by her fans, though in the main this audience was not particularly responsive) and Jonathan Cope (looking great). This was an emotional interpretation, movingly danced.
The interval. Floral Hall was a mob scene. Forget finding anyone you knew or getting a drink. But wonderful to see everyone in 'black tie'.
- Once again we began with the Royal Ballet School, this time performing excerpts from 'Souvenirs', an interesting and amusing ballet choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon. Wonderful to see so much young talent. And I spotted some pretty powerful jumping.
- Act II pdd from 'Giselle' with Viviana Durante and Kumakawa. For many fans, this was another very emotional moment, and it was good to see both of these dancers back at the Opera House.
- 'A Month in the Country' with Alina Cojocaru and Jonathan Cope. Alina was charming in this, but I would have liked to see her in something more challenging. And Cope danced very well, as usual.
- Another highlight for me was the good old Don Quixote pdd with Carlos Acosta and Tamara Rojo. Acosta was brilliant (intricate and complicated jumps, great height...) Wasn't sure about Tamara at first, but her fouettes...! Usually I count, but this time I lost track. I think, however, that there were at least three triples amongst them. (Yes, all right, she moved a bit...but so did ALL the Bolshoi stars I saw last week, so I'm not going to worry about this.) The audience went crazy.
- Adam Cooper and Sarah Wildor in 'Varii Capricci' - looking great together.
- Luke Heydon in Kulygin's solo from 'Winter Dreams', who did a good job with this (but I prefer him as Bottom).
- Final highlight: Well, we thought the evening was almost over, but the lights dimmed and then we saw a short pdd for Sibley and Dowell. The story concerned the accidental meeting of two ex-lovers on a park bench, who discover that they are each reading the same poem.) I found this extremely moving - and I COULD NOT believe how great they both looked together and how well they danced. I did wonder how Dame Antoinette managed to perform this in shoes with quite high heels, however.
- The programme ended with the Finale from 'Symphony in C' (Yoshida, Yanowsky, Benjamin, Bull, Cope, Acosta, Kumakawa, Persson.) Great stuff. At the end the back curtain went up and we saw all the students from the Royal Ballet School (of course half the proceeds of the evening were going toward the new building for the Upper School of the RBS so it was right that they should be there.) Someone told us later that the Gala had raised £700,000 for the new building. And later it was announced that one of the new studios would be named for Sibley and Dowell.)
- And then we had FLOWERS. Lots of them. And also a 'flower shower' from above. Great to see Darcey Bussell come out with a huge bouquet for Dowell. (Darcey looked terrific.) Then two rather chubby footmen appeared bearing more enormous bouquets...one of the footmen lost 'his' wig....and everyone laughed as they recognized Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders. And finally Dowell himself appeared again, with yet another enormous bouquet which he presented to Antoinette Sibley.
What a night.
One thing I WOULD have liked to see was a standing ovation (perhaps they don't do these at Galas?). I wanted to get up after the Sibley/Dowell pas de deux - but dithered and couldn't decide what to do. Finally, at the very end, I thought - Who cares what people think - and stood up and clapped. (A feeble gesture, I know, and probably too late, but I'm glad I did it.)