Onegin Insight Evening, Linbury Theatre, 5 November 2001
Insight Evenings at Covent Garden are always something of a lucky dip: you are never sure which dancers you might see, or who will be talking. Yesterday’s session presented the organisers with a bigger than usual headache: Don Q was being filmed in the main house that night, and lots of the Onegin casts would be performing. So the dancers we ended up with Adam Cooper, Johan Persson (recovered from his knee injury), and Gemma Bond: she had to rush off to change to appear in Act 2 of Don Q. The dancers were rehearsed by Jane Bourne from Stuttgart Ballet, who has set Onegin on many companies. Monica Mason provided further introductions and commentary.
The evening was really more of a very gentle introduction to Onegin than an analysis of it. Edward Thorpe provided an introductory short biography of Cranko and a description of the narrative of the work. Philip Gammon described the different sources of the music (look out for a couple of items that you may remember from Winter Dreams). There is a further event in the Linbury in the new year as part of the choreographers series – ‘What to look for in Cranko’ which may go into the actual choreography rather more. This was only glancing discussed. Monica Mason recalled dancing in Cranko’s works, and indicated she thought he grew out of the same environment as Ashton and MacMillan, and shared some of MacMillan’s characteristics in the way that dancers were pushed physically – the height of the lifts, and so on.
There was an interesting discussion of the difficulty in setting a completely new full length work on the company, and the difficulties of getting the detail and the nuances absolutely right. Mason pointed out that when new dancers joined the Royal and danced, say, in Manon, the company as a whole knew the ballet so well that they could absorb them. But a work which was new to everyone was much more difficult – she indicated how useful it was that at least Persson knew his role from a previous company. Any new work would take time to settle. There was much discussion of the role of notation and video. Reid Anderson had been over earlier, and would return for the final week of rehearsals to the final polish: but Jane Bourne does most of the preparation. She watched Bond and Persson rehearse an Olga / Lensky pas de deux, and gave various corrections. We also saw Bond and Cooper in a little flirtation dance with linked hands (it reminded me a little of Ashton’s Neapolitan dance, very fast, very tricky), and Cooper in a solo.
This is Gemma Bond’s first role of any substance. She is very young and looked quite shy and said she had initially felt rather overwhelmed. She was determined to get the details right and asked for a chance to repeat a section. Persson’s partnering was very attentive. I hope rehearsing in front of a friendly audience gives her confidence – she looked very attractive. There wasn’t much characterisation evident from the dancers yet, apart from Cooper. Persson’s smile is even more dazzling at close range. Both he and Cooper spent some time answering questions. It was obvious that very considerable thought and effort has gone into the preparation and rehearsal of this production – I felt inclined to go and book for some additional casts.