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Subject: "The RB in DC/Thurs. and Fri. night" Archived thread - Read only
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Conferences What's Happening Topic #1747
Reading Topic #1747

10-06-01, 02:34 PM (GMT)
Click to EMail smw380 Click to send private message to smw380 Click to add this user to your buddy list  
"The RB in DC/Thurs. and Fri. night"
   I don't know that I have much to add to the many reviews already posted here, but I was very fortunate to be able to attend two performances by the RB in Washington. I went with a friend who is the dance editor for the Village Voice, so we had amazingly good seats, and were right in the whirlwind of critics and important dance people who had shown up for the occasion.

The mixed program on Thurs. night left me reeling with pleasure. Les Rendevous was as fresh as if it had been made last week. I liked the dresses, though the men's costumes seemed a bit silly to me. The set was a little over the top, I thought. The dancers were terrific. especially Yoshida and Jaimie Tepper. Yoshida's positions are so precise, it's like watching her dance under a strobe light. She seems to pause for a microsecond in each position of every movement. Rendevous opened the program on such a happy, energetic note.

I, of course, was awfully excited to see Adam Cooper dance in the Thais pas de deux, and I wasn't disappointed. It's a quiet, slow piece, with very difficult low lifts and subtle but passionate emotion. I thought Cooper and Benjamin were lovely, beautifully matched in their strength and fluidity. I'll tell you -- if I ever need to be carried around four inches off the floor for a long time, I want Adam Cooper to do the carrying. His partnering was flawless. Oh, and he sported a gleaming, freshly shaved chest, for those interested in such details.

Symphonic Variations was wonderful, though I thought the dancing was uneven. I was especially impressed with Cojocaru, but the men were not as precise as I would have hoped. But it's a gorgeous piece, and was very well performed.

Then came the wonderfully unexpected Soupirs. I can't even begin to say how much it meant to me to be able to see this performance. I felt absolutely honored and incredibly fortunate. I can't add anything to the superlatives that have already been showered on this piece. It was so lovely, and so moving. It brought out for me how this company is not only amazingly musical, but they are such fine dancing actors. So much feeling conveyed with a gesture or a glance, such complete immersion in the roles. It was a high point of my career as an audience member. I'll never forget it.

Marguerite and Armand isn't my favorite Ashton, but I thought it was very well done as the program closer. When Guillem and Cope were side by side doing extensions, it was like an illustration of parallel lines going on into infinity. I thought he was wonderful, but she was astonishing. It was very passionate and very sad and really just great. I don't know if it was sincere or not, but Guillem seemed to be very moved by the thunderous cheers she received on her solo curtain calls.

On Friday, I was able to attend a panel discussion on Ashton with David Vaughn, Clive Barnes, and a charming man whose name has entirely escaped me, who is the administrative director of the RB. They talked about Ashton's work, focussing a lot on the legal issues involved in keeping the ballets alive as the rights move into new hands. I wanted to ask a question about the kinds of dancers Ashton was drawn to, but I felt too shy.

We saw Fille Friday night, from even better seats than the night before. It was so much fun, just a delight from beginning to end. Yoshida was so appealing and funny, and danced flawlessly. She seems to barely touch the stage, she's so light and alive. And her face is wonderfully expressive. Johan Persson is an amazing dancer, with huge jumps and a perfect line, but his face was a bit immobile -- he has a lovely smile, but it felt sort of plastered on after a while. Ashley Page as Simone and Jonathan Howells as Alain were great (actually, when Alain was trying to dance, and kept putting on this big, fake smile, he looked a bit like Persson), and the whole place was abuzz about the chickens. It was a wonderful night.

So that's it. I apologize for my lack of articulateness on the performances, the best I can really say is that it was all magnificent, and the RB is a great, great dance company. Let them come back soon!!

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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: The RB in DC/Thurs. and Fri. night Susan Black 10-06-01 1
     RE: The RB in DC/Thurs. and Fri. night Susan Black 10-06-01 2
         RE: The RB in DC/Thurs. and Fri. night smw380 10-06-01 3
     RE: The RB in DC/Thurs. and Fri. night Anthony Russell-Roberts 09-08-01 7
  RE: The RB in DC/Thurs. and Fri. night Claire Ostinett 11-06-01 4
     RE: The RB in DC/Thurs. and Fri. night Claire Ostinett 11-06-01 5

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Susan Black

10-06-01, 02:57 PM (GMT)
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1. "RE: The RB in DC/Thurs. and Fri. night"
In response to message #0
   >>On Friday, I was able to
>attend a panel discussion on
>Ashton with David Vaughn, Clive
>Barnes, and a charming man
>whose name has entirely escaped
>me, who is the administrative
>director of the RB. They
>talked about Ashton's work, focussing
>a lot on the legal
>issues involved in keeping the
>ballets alive as the rights
>move into new hands.

I think you must mean Anthony Russell-Roberts, Administrative Director of the Royal Ballet, who is Frederick Ashton's nephew. At the Ashton Conference at Roehampton College in 1994, he said:

"Maybe a further question that some of you might have is: why is there no Ashton Foundation? As Ashton's nephew, it is a difficult question to answer. I think that, much the same as happened with Balanchine, there will come a time when his friends and collaborators to whom he left the ballets will feel that it is the right moment to club together and to form a foundation. I would leave you with the reassurance that things are in very good hands"

His closing sentence seems rather charmingly naive. Certainly there was no suggestion of a Trust taking over the rights when Anthony Dowell was interviewed by the Washington Post during the week. Dowell was left the rights to "The Dream" and "A Month in the Country." (Accordingly to Antoinette Sibley, Ashton "left all his works to his favorite male dancers,because he figured the ladies would be taken care of by their husbands.")

Ashton was was very clear that anyone wanting to perform either of these works would need his permission. "I'd have to be involved," he says. "That's how you protect and keep the essence of any choreography."

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Susan Black

10-06-01, 03:00 PM (GMT)
Click to EMail Susan%20Black Click to send private message to Susan%20Black Click to add this user to your buddy list  
2. "RE: The RB in DC/Thurs. and Fri. night"
In response to message #1
   >Ashton was was very clear that
>anyone wanting to perform either
>of these works would need
>his permission.

I meant Dowell, not Ashton.

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10-06-01, 11:08 PM (GMT)
Click to EMail smw380 Click to send private message to smw380 Click to add this user to your buddy list  
3. "RE: The RB in DC/Thurs. and Fri. night"
In response to message #2
   Yes, it was Anthony Russell-Roberts. There was some very vague discussion of the idea of a foundation. There seems to be some anxiety about keeping the ballets danceable, what can be revived, what's lost already. One problem seems to be that as the original heirs die, the rights move farther out of the dance community. But there was obviously a lot of interest in keeping things together, and in 2004, Ashton's centenary, I'm sure there will quite a lot of activity.

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Anthony Russell-Roberts

09-08-01, 06:33 AM (GMT)
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7. "RE: The RB in DC/Thurs. and Fri. night"
In response to message #1
   >His closing sentence seems rather charmingly
>naive. Certainly there was no
>suggestion of a Trust taking
>over the rights when Anthony
>Dowell was interviewed by the
>Washington Post during the week.
>Dowell was left the rights
>to "The Dream" and "A
>Month in the Country." (Accordingly
>to Antoinette Sibley, Ashton "left
>all his works to his
>favorite male dancers,because he figured
>the ladies would be taken
>care of by their husbands.")

I never mind being thought of as charmingly naive! There is absolutely no inconsistency between what I said about the copyright holders to whom Fred Ashton left his ballets clubbing together to form an Ashton Trust. The model for the Balanchine Trust is that the rights aren't taken over at all, but remain firmly vested for at least one lifetime with the heirs. What happens is that the Trust ensures on behalf of the copyright holders that the ballets are staged by the right people, & only if then & only if desired by the copyright holders does the Trust negotiate terms for each staging. Obviously in Anthony's case he will continue to stage the ballets during his lifetime. Eventually as copyright holders die the rights would finally go many years later to the foundation.

Anthony Dowell is fully in agreement with these proposals, which to take flight will need to have the approval of all the numerous copyright holders

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Claire Ostinett

11-06-01, 01:05 PM (GMT)
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4. "RE: The RB in DC/Thurs. and Fri. night"
In response to message #0
   The Washington Post review appeared today.

By Sarah Kaufman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 11, 2001; Page C01

Frederick Ashton called "La Fille Mal Gardee," his sunny, sweetly lyrical ballet, "my poor man's 'Pastoral Symphony.' " Like Beethoven's Sixth, the Ashton ballet celebrates an idealized countryside in a lemony glow, an Edenic setting for love. The Royal Ballet paid worthy tribute to the work in its performances of the full-length ballet this weekend at the Kennedy Center Opera House.

Ashton's 1960 treatment of the story is full of fun and even slapstick, and the Royal Ballet dancers seemed to revel in "Fille's" good-natured comedy. But though this production feels springy and fresh, "Fille" (the title translates as "The Unchaperoned Daughter") is actually one of the oldest ballets in existence, much predating such 19th-century works as "Swan Lake," "Giselle" and even "La Sylphide." The original, by Frenchman Jean Dauberval, dates from 1789, the year of the French Revolution; the ballet, in fact, was itself a revolutionary act, focusing not on royalty or mythology but on ordinary people.

Lise, a farm girl, is in love with Colas, a farmer, but Lise's mother wants her daughter to marry the son of a rich vineyard owner. Lise and Colas's scheming to get around the mother's constraints form the whole of the ballet, which culminates in their marriage after the two have been mistakenly locked in a bedroom together. (Honor, not just passion, is now at stake. You see, teens have been outsmarting their parents for centuries.)

Ashton's genius here is in taking an old-fashioned ballet and infusing it with a modern sensibility and wit. He improves upon the story-ballet formula of having a few key principals dance while everyone else onstage sits around and watches -- and whileeveryone in the audience reads the program to find out what'shappening. There's no confusion, no implausibilities in "Fille." Ashton's choreography clearly delineates the characters and the story, and the richly detailed staging allows the whole ensemble to take part in the tale.

Friday night's casting was not perfect, but still the ballet worked. Miyako Yoshida as Lise and Johan Persson as Colas emphasized the lightness of the ballet, though they were not an ideal pair. Yoshida is a small-scale dancer, delicate as a cat and utterly soundless. But she was nearly swallowed up by "Fille." She seemed to have dropped down from some airier realm into the earthy rustic setting, and though her dancing was flawless, smooth and pinpoint-precise, she lacked a sympathetic connection to her surroundings.

Persson was technically assured, with a long line and easy jump, and seemed genuinely smitten by Yoshida. But his Dentyne smile never dropped, and his was a one-note portrayal.

The mother, Widow Simone, is one of the ballet's most memorable characters. The disapproving, controlling maternal figure is a stock character in many ballets, but here she (he, really; the role is danced in hilarious drag) is nearly as much a part of the action as her daughter. Ashley Page, who danced the role Friday, gave her an unpleasantly hard edge. Jonathan Howells, as Alain, dullard son of the vineyard owner, nearly stole the show; he combined the rubbery mugging of Pee-wee Herman and the gangly grace of Ray Bolger.

Ashton fills the ballet with conviviality; this is a nostalgic view of a countryside lost forever, and the group images are monuments to a sweeter time. A pink satin ribbon is the reigning metaphor: In their first duet, Lise and Colas entwine each other in it, and it is used in inventive ways with the corps de ballet. In the cornfield scene, the two lovers thread their way through a row of dancers, each of whom holds a ribbon taut like a bow, forming a phalanx of cupids. In another grouping, Lise gathers the ends of the ribbons in one hand while her friends circle her, each holding one of the other ends; the ribbons become spokes of a wagon wheel. Ferdinand Herold's music does not rank among the greatest ballet scores, but it is filled with birdsong and has several engaging melodies.

What would a barnyard ballet be without livestock? "Fille" opens with a quartet of dancing chickens and their vainglorious rooster (dancers -- all of them good sports -- under the feathered costumes), who get the audience laughing even before they take a step. But that's not the end of the animal attractions. While "Giselle" may have its pair of borzoi hounds, a real pony makes a cameo appearance here.

The Kennedy Center's ballet season began with a celebration of George Balanchine and ends with this one for Ashton. While not every element of the center's aim to honor the 20th century's greatest choreographers is in place -- the Antony Tudor tribute remains an unfulfilled promise -- the season has been smartly bookended. The Royal's visit is particularly poignant, since it's the last look we'll have at the company in an unbroken link to its British heritage. When Artistic Director Anthony Dowell steps down, who knows what the priorities will be -- he'll cede control to Ross Stretton, an Australian who made his name dancing for American Ballet Theatre and does not come from the Royal Ballet tradition. Whatever the company's future, we have been left with a glowing look at its past. One hopes it will not be forgotten.

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Claire Ostinett

11-06-01, 05:22 PM (GMT)
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5. "RE: The RB in DC/Thurs. and Fri. night"
In response to message #4
   This is what the San Francisco Chronicle said:

Royal Ballet's week in D.C. capped by moving reunion
Celebrated troupe in superb form

Allan Ulrich, Chronicle Dance Critic Monday, June 11, 2001

Washington -- Antoinette Sibley and Anthony Dowell were dance's dream couple 35 years ago, and they stirred fantasies again Thursday evening, when the partnership was briefly revived during the Royal Ballet's triumphant, weeklong return, after a six-year absence, to the Opera House of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The decades melted away as the pair exhumed Sir Frederick Ashton's bittersweet "Soupirs" (Sighs), a 1980 piece d'occasion about two ex-lovers meeting over a park bench and arousing unhappy memories. Sibley, 61, does not dance the work on pointe now and Dowell, 58, still partners gallantly, if with reduced prowess, but they were, as Kennedy Center president Michael Kaiser reminded us in a preperformance speech, the "heavenly twins" of ballet, and there was something ineffably celestial about this fleeting reunion.

The prolonged ovations and floral tributes served as a reminder that this tour also marks Dowell's farewell as artistic director of the Royal Ballet, which he has led for the past 15 years, longer than any other person. The visit, which concludes in Boston next week, is primarily a tribute to Ashton, whose works, featured exclusively in two programs during the past six days, have drawn considerable interest from the American dance press, which rarely sees on home ground the ballets of this 20th century master.

In the 1930s Ashton made his first dance for the Vic-Wells Ballet, the precursor of the Sadlers' Wells Ballet and, finally, in the 1956, the Royal Ballet. And it was Ashton whose ballets served to define English classical dance. Since the troupe's U.S. debut tour in 1949, Americans have been in love with the Royal Ballet. And the Ecuador-born choreographer, who died in 1988 laden with honors, was the reason.

The fare in the mixed program included the slyly exuberant "Les Rendezvous, " the austere geometrical masterpiece, "Symphonic Variations," the flavorful "Thais pas de deux" and the one-act drama, "Marguerite and Armand," unseen in this country for decades. Ashton's full-length comic narrative "La Fille mal gardee" concludes the visit this afternoon.

The tour also heralds a new generation of Royal Ballet dancers, most of whom do not carry British passports and most of whom were making their American debuts with the company this week. This infusion of talent may be what this venerable institution needs to retain its primacy among international companies when Australia's Ross Stretton assumes the director's reins next season.

The jaw-dropping performance Thursday came from Bucharest-born Alina Cojocaru, who joined the Royal Ballet only two years ago and was recently promoted to principal. In Margot Fonteyn's old part in "Symphonic Variations" (1946), she displayed the form, the internal tensions and the musicality of a major ballerina. This six-dancer abstraction, set to the Cesar Franck work for piano and orchestra, exposes every lapse in a dancer's technique, and yet demands that they incorporate every flourish into a web of brilliantly conceived combinations.

Cojocaru's colleagues, Tamara Rojo and Sarah Wildor, represented starry casting; the men were showier. Sweden's Johan Persson launched his pirouettes with a smile of self-satisfaction (Denmark's Johan Kobborg got it gloriously right Wednesday). Nor did Cojocaru's partner, Nigel Burley, seem settled in his assignment. Still, "Symphonic Variations" looked splendid in Sophie Fedorovitch's original design of greenish yellow side panels and backdrop, and the Franck sounded wonderful in the hands of pianist Philip Gammon and conductor Paul Murphy.

Anthony Ward's new production of "Les Rendezvous" (1933) is all frou-frou gaudiness (the women wear polka dot frocks and Jamba Juice logos on their heads), but this frisky diversion (set to Auber music) floated on high spirits and intricate pointe work. Kobborg and Miyako Yoshida melted hearts Thursday in their "Adage des Amoureux," and Jaimie Tapper's quicksilver attack in the "Pas de Trois" was worth watching, too.

Adam Cooper, now a Royal Ballet guest, and Leanne Benjamin evoked a world of forbidden sensuality in the dreamy, gauzy 1971 "Thais pas de deux." Then, France's charismatic Sylvie Guillem headed "Marguerite and Armand," a version of "Camille" devised in 1963 for the aging Fonteyn and the youthful Rudolf Nureyev, all set to an orchestration of the Liszt B Minor Piano Sonata.

Ashton was discreet; this Marguerite is carried as much as she dances. Yet, Guillem brought sensitivity and a tragic delicacy to the consumptive courtesan.

Her partners, alternately, were Nicolas Le Riche (passionate but unruly) and Jonathan Cope (correct but anemic). The eloquence was muted, but it was there.

The Royal Ballet's visit is one component of a major arts festival, "UK/KC. " Still on the boards this month are the Shared Experience Theatre Company in a dramatization of George Eliot's "The Mill on the Floss" and London's renowned Almeida Theatre in Frank Wedekind's "Lulu."

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