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Subject: "Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance Now" Archived thread - Read only
 
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Alexandra

16-11-01, 05:18 PM (GMT)
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"Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance Now"
 
   I wondered what posters here thought of Clive Barnes' review of the Royal Ballet's American tour that's in the current (Autumn issue) of Dance Now (as always, an excellent issue, IMO). I agree with most of his points about the company as it looked in Washington. I was curious how it struck those of you who have the opportunity see the company more often than I have in the past few years. (Mr. Barnes, of course, is a long-time observer of the company.)


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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance No... Ann Williams 17-11-01 1
     RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance No... Alexandra 17-11-01 2
         RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance No... Roddy 18-11-01 3
         RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance No... Roddy 18-11-01 4
         RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance No... Claire S 18-11-01 5
             RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance No... Alexandra 18-11-01 6
                 RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance No... Mary Cargill 19-11-01 7
                     RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance No... Brendan McCarthymoderator 20-11-01 8
                         RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance No... Robert 21-11-01 9
                             RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance No... Alexandra 21-11-01 10
                             RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance No... Lynette H 21-11-01 11
                             RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance No... Tim Powell 21-11-01 12
                             RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance No... Brendan McCarthymoderator 22-11-01 13
                             RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance No... alison 22-11-01 15
                         RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance No... Bruce Madmin 22-11-01 14
                             RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance No... Robert 22-11-01 16
                             Dance on Television Brendan 22-11-01 17
                             RE: Dance on Television Robert 24-11-01 18
                             RE: Dance on Television Alexandra 24-11-01 19
                             RE: Dance on Television Susie Crow 24-11-01 20
                             RE: Dance on Television Alexandra 24-11-01 21

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Ann Williams

17-11-01, 08:51 PM (GMT)
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1. "RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance Now"
In response to message #0
 
   Alexandra, I think Clive Barnes' article is a thoughtful and balanced piece, but it makes painful reading for loyal followers of the Royal Ballet, doubly so because it is difficult not to agree with most of what he says.

Underpinning validity of his points is the fact that he has been watching the company for almost 60 years - not many of us can say that - and has had time to observe its slow decline. But even those of us who have been watching the RB for little more than ten years can judge it in comparison with companies like the Kirov, the Paris Opera Ballet and NYCB and can see that it is nowhere near the level of any of these companies.

It is interesting that he blames the decline partly on the Royal Ballet School which, he says 'seemed to have somewhere lost its way during the stewardship of it s former director Merle Park'. One can only echo his hope that matters will improve under the current RBS directorship. He complains also of the 'internationalisation' of the company and notes that comparatively few of the leading roles were taken by British dancers during the company's recent visit to Washington and New York. This latter point rings particularly true. In the RB's recent 'Don Quixote' not one of the leads - apart from Jonathan Cope as Basilio - was danced by a British-trained dancer (although I think Miyako Yoshida, who danced Kitri in a couple of performances, was partially trained at the RBS - I will be quickly corrected if I'm wrong here).

Barnes is kind about Anthony Dowell, and I suspect most of us here are seeing Dowell in a rosier glow now that he has been replaced by Ross Stretton who has made a very inauspicious start with both the resignation of Sarah Wildor and the mediocre production of 'Don Quixote'. But he is especially hard on the dancers, I think, with either faint praise or blunt criticism - Sarah Wildor gets the best of it and Belinda Hatley doesn't come off too badly, but that's it.

I love the Royal Ballet like family, but I fervently hope that its teachers and administrators read Barnes' article and take it to heart. For instance,why exactly, did they not call on Markova to show Yoshida the correct arm movements in 'Les Rendezvous'? If the dancers who actually learned the roles from the original creators are still around, why on earth not use them?


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Alexandra

17-11-01, 09:07 PM (GMT)
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2. "RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance Now"
In response to message #1
 
   Thank you for that response, Ann. I wonder -- if this isn't too delicate a question to ask, but I'm genuinely curious -- does the "internationalisation" of the company bother people there? Once upon a time, a great national company was supposed to represent the best of the nation -- in both dancers and choreographers (I know that some of the Royal's greatest dancers during the Golden Age, including Helpmann, Grant, Park, Mason, and Seymour) came from the Commonwealth, although they were always presented as British). This has changed. The flip side of the coin is that it's exciting to see good dancers and it shouldn't matter where they come from.

Or does it?

I can say from this side of the pond, people were shocked at how un-British the company was, and rather sad. It was London Festival Ballet (now English National, of course) that always had to import dancers. The Royal grew its own.

Enough from me -- what is the view here? I know you all talk about performances as they occur, and I'm always interested to read the views, but sometimes it's interesting to pull back and look at things in a broader frame.


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Roddy

18-11-01, 10:57 AM (GMT)
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3. "RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance Now"
In response to message #2
 
   >
>(I know that some of
>the Royal's greatest dancers during
>the Golden Age, including Helpmann,
>Grant, Park, Mason, and Seymour)
>came from the Commonwealth

Alexandra, if you look a little further you will find that MOST of the Royal's greatest dancers during the Golden Age were imported from the Commonwealth and elsewhere. And this does not include dancers who may have performed as soloists and in the corps. Of course this was at a time when Commonwealth countries felt much more a part of Britain and the dancers may have been presented as British - at least they would have looked British!
Perhaps the American audiences were shocked more by how un-British the company LOOKED than how un-British it 'was' and has been in the past. Was Nureyev criticised for being un-British?

But why should this be a sad thing? Maybe it is a necessary thing. It is certainly the case at American Ballet Theatre - just look at its current list of pricipals. Is it not a preferable situation to that at the Paris Opera where the world is deprived of seeing its stars and the French are deprived of seeing ours, unless on tour?

The day that the Royal Ballet closes its doors to foreign dancers/directors will be sad day for ballet in Britain and a sad day for ballet in general.


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Roddy

18-11-01, 10:58 AM (GMT)
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4. "RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance Now"
In response to message #2
 
   >
>(I know that some of
>the Royal's greatest dancers during
>the Golden Age, including Helpmann,
>Grant, Park, Mason, and Seymour)
>came from the Commonwealth

Alexandra, if you look a little further you will find that MOST of the Royal's greatest dancers during the Golden Age were imported from the Commonwealth and elsewhere. And this does not include dancers who may have performed as soloists and in the corps. Of course this was at a time when Commonwealth countries felt much more a part of Britain and the dancers may have been presented as British - at least they would have looked British!
Perhaps the American audiences were shocked more by how un-British the company LOOKED than how un-British it 'was' and has been in the past. Was Nureyev criticised for being un-British?

But why should this be a sad thing? Maybe it is a necessary thing. It is certainly the case at American Ballet Theatre - just look at its current list of pricipals. Is it not a preferable situation to that at the Paris Opera where the world is deprived of seeing its stars and the French are deprived of seeing ours, unless on tour?

The day that the Royal Ballet closes its doors to foreign dancers/directors will be sad day for ballet in Britain and a sad day for ballet in general.


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Claire S

18-11-01, 11:26 AM (GMT)
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5. "RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance Now"
In response to message #2
 
   Personally the internationalisation of the company worries me. I think this is one of the reasons so many people were unhappy with the resignation of Sarah Wildor - we know her dramatci abilities will suit her to dance work elsewhere but she was an English dancer, both in style and background.

Great dancers are always exciting to see, from whichever country they hail, but there is a danger of what makes a company so special being lost. If you look at the current list of RB principals only Bussell and Cope are RBS trained and progressed through the company to their current status. The increasing numbers of guest artists troubles me - they're all fantastic dancers but is Corella's Basilio for RB going to be much different from his Basilio for ABT? Will Steifel's Albrecht REALLY belong in Sir Peter Wright's version of Giselle, or will it be an Albrecht who makes guests appearances in many other companies? The casting for Onegin doesn't even look like RB and this is the production Ross Stretton wanted to open the season. At least Don Quixote was danced at the premiere by COMPANY principals.

I was delighted that Johan Kobborg joined RB as a company principal rather than as a transitory guest artist which is increasingly the case. If RB is such a bad way for men who can dance principal roles then it needs to recruit them. The company was rocked about four years ago when several leading men resigned to join Kumakawa's company in Japan - and it's been reeling ever since. Anthony Dowell never managed to replace them - either from within the company or without - with Kobborg and then Persson being the only principal to join in replacement. The company had often recruited guests to dance with Bussell if Guillem had snagged Cope (the problem being the lack of height in the company) but now it seems we need guests to dance with Benjamin, Cojocaru and Rojo - some of the smallest dancers RB has. If Johan Persson is a company principal shouldn't he be dancing La Bayadere instead of one of the two guest stars, who are also dancing in Giselle?

So far the first nights are being danced by company principals (except Onegin!) but these are being shared by a few dancers - mainly Rojo and Cojocaru who are new recruits to RB. I fear for a time (next season maybe)when even the first nights are peppered with glamorous guest artists, with the company dancing soloist roles behind them. Where are the British-trained first soloists blossoming into leading roles? I seem to remember Viviana Durante dancing her first Aurora as a soloist, and I think Belinda Hatley may have been first artist. Now all a soloist seems to be able to hope for is a short role such as Amour in DQ. I suppose we'll really have to worry when a female guest artist appears . . .

I wonder what Bruce Sansom thinks of it all? Sansom was such a loyal, valuable servant to the Royal Ballet, a truly English dancer who is now learning his trade in the USA. How likely is it that he'll be snapped up by an overseas company and his depth of knowledge and experience of RB will be lost to us, as is Wayne Eagling's. I hope the talents and experience of Sansom and Deborah Bull have a part to play in the future of the company. Maybe Bruce Sansom could be interviewed for the magazine? He seemed to have a few opinions on the company when he was over here with SFB in the summer!


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Alexandra

18-11-01, 01:29 PM (GMT)
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6. "RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance Now"
In response to message #5
 
   Just a quick reply to Roddy -- yes, Nureyev was criticized for being un-British! Or, rather, the decision to hire him was criticized, questioned, analyzed. Nureyev's hiring caused a huge stir, and there were many articles about, and interviews with, company men at the time who were not at all happy. When Makarova was a frequent guest she let it be known she'd like to join and, I remember reading, although the ballerina was never identified, one of the company's ballerinas said that would happen "over my dead body." (I'm not arguing that this is right or wrong, just pointing out what happened.)

But at the time that she hired Nureyev, DeValois also turned down Erik Bruhn, because she did not want to hire too many guests. One other small point is that Nureyev, at least in the Ashton era, was a real member of the company, not a fly-in-and-out guest. Finally, it isn't a question of looking British, but of having the same training that's the issue Barnes -- and many others -- are discussing.


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Mary Cargill

19-11-01, 06:52 PM (GMT)
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7. "RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance Now"
In response to message #6
 
   I saw the Royal Ballet a lot in the early 70's and though I haven't seen the company much recently, did see them in Washington, and by and large agree very much with Clive Barnes. Except that he said it was pointless to beat a dead horse, in reference to the Widow Simones. I think that horse should be contantly beaten, or it will never improve! Jonathan Howell's Alain proved that character roles can still be understated and subtle, and I think critics should keep criticising the overacting and general coarsness of the current Widows.

Mary Cargill


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Brendan McCarthymoderator

20-11-01, 05:49 PM (GMT)
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8. "RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance Now"
In response to message #7
 
   Clive Barnes's article is scarcely surprising. He comes from a group of dance critics and historians, mostly educated at Oxford before and during the Second World War, who share a particular version of how ballet developed in the UK. This 'myth', for want of a better word, is heavily Anglocentric and it underscores the 'Englishness' of the Royal Ballet. Barnes and his generation have a considerable emotional investment in this account, and they will naturally look askance at a more international Royal Ballet. (Why is this not such an issue with the Royal Opera or ENB?)

Just one other thing. Barnes's idealisation of the 1960s and early 1970s has to be suspect. His comments may have a certain validity, in that they set out his reactions to what he saw at the time. But given the ephemerality of dance, it passes my comprehension how he can meaningfully compare performances then with those of the present day.


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Robert

21-11-01, 02:16 PM (GMT)
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9. "RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance Now"
In response to message #8
 
   I am rather surprised at Brendan’s comments about Clive Barnes and his article. Read any book from the thirties forties or fifties on dance and there was a great interest and pride in British or often English ballet, it is not a myth. Ninette de Valious(daughter of an officer in the British pre partition army) always believed in training and teaching British people to create a national ballet. She even encouraged dancers to learn the national dances of this country as she thought it important. Like so many other people of her generation she also thought that the greatest dance and dancers had come from Russia.
Sadlers Wells ballet was certainly thought to be British and good, it was selected to become the national Ballet Company at Covent Garden rather than Mona Ingoldsbury’s International Ballet. (Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin had fled to America during the war.) I would also like to point out that the Opera at both Sadlers Wells and Covent Garden were supposed to be British or mainly British (including the Commonwealth). Although Madame offered work to Massine as he was finding the backlash against foreign artists difficult in America, the Royal Ballet remained fairly British and toured America to great acclaim helping to sell British goods ideas and particularly clothes as they went. Remember America admired us for our stance in the war, and Russia was a closed book.
When the first chinks appeared in the Soviet defences a few people including Nuryev defected. Madame was attracted as the Russian dance training was so good and to great surprise she took him on. Many people were appalled for various reasons. The left thought he was a traitor to the Soviet system (my father thought he had sold out for money!) many male dancers saw their career prospects disappear. The rest is history; he revived Dame Margot’s flagging career put lots of bums on seats and more or less destroyed the idea of British Ballet.
The Opera was also taking in foreign talent, Covent Garden stopped singing in English leaving Sadlers Wells later ENO to carry on singing without surtitles.
The Royal Ballet now is mainly an international ballet, rather like English football teams it mainly imports its stars or uses guests. We no longer think of Australians as Brits so Ross Stretton is just another foreign import in charge, as I said’ like football the BBC or the Dome. It may all be for the good. Recently I think I heard someone at NDT say they had no Dutch dancers at all. Perhaps it is time to close the school and tell the parents there is no hope for they’re dancing children.


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Alexandra

21-11-01, 05:25 PM (GMT)
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10. "RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance Now"
In response to message #9
 
   I should have realized that the divide on this question would be on whether one had seen the company in its pre-international state or not. (Nothing wrong with that; we all write from experience.) I did not realize that attending Oxford meant that all of one's opinions were valueless, however, mere mythmaking. Did I miss the charge of "elitism" in there?

Although of course, we all are a product of our experience, I've never understood the position that nothing that went before my experience is relevant to what I'm seeing today. From the first moment I saw ballet, I wanted to know where things came from and was eager to hear from older people how this dancer measured up, and why a performance I thought was absolutely enchanting was but a pale shadow of what had gone before. I quickly learned which of my "guides" couldn't see beyond "I loved Ballerina X and so I'll never like Ballerina Y" and which could back up their opinions with something more substantial. I think the idea that anyone who says a performance in 1940 or 1970 is better than now is a fool who's looking at things through rose-colored glasses is discounting a lot of useful information, but I've always had a historical bias.

I don't think the same questions do apply to ENB because of its history, Brendan. ENB was always an international company, It didn't have a great resident choreographer or a great school. I think a better analogy would be to national theater companies. Very few, as far as I know, have a large number of foreign born actors, not because of xenophobia but because of accent. Those who argue for native or not-internationalized ballet often do so because they want stylistic consistency; style is accent. Seeing a ballet by dancers trained in 40 different schools is like seeing a play performed by actors from London, Dublin, Paris, Prague, Moscow and Alabama. They all may be speaking English, but they're not going to be believable as members of one family. So if what ballet actually looks like matters to you, this will matter. I realize for many people this is not a concern -- line, style, the angle of the head, etc. aren't of particular interest. But I don't think that makes it wrong, or silly, or old-fashioned to consider them.

I agree with much of what Robert wrote, but did want to say that I wouldn't count Nureyev's joining the company as the end of British ballet. Nureyev was not stylistically jarring -- and he was not critical mass. The company did not copy him; he did not "infect" the style -- although many say he singlefootedly raised the standard of male dancing. Nureyev studied with Vera Volkova when he came to the West, and, although this isn't in many of the history books, Volkova had an important influence on the Sadler's Wells Ballet in the 1940s. Many members of the company took class with her -- including Ashton -- and she coached Fonteyn in the classical roles. (To go back farther, Volkova and Nureyev's teacher, Pushkin, had been the two models on whom Vaganova had worked out her technique, so Nureyev was very much a cousin. The exoticism came more from him as a person than from his being a foreigner.)

DeValois hired Nureyev when no one else would, because of political pressure. I'd say bravo to her for that. The 1960s are often referred to as the high point/high watermark/Golden Age of British ballet. Nureyev did not cause this; the company itself was greater, so strong in its identity that it could shelter and challenge (and learn from) a phenomenal talent while remaining itself. I think by taking him in DeValois not only showed personal courage, but realized that her company was strong enough as an institution for cross-fertilization, and since the company worked very well when DeValois and Ashton ran it, I think it's useful to study those times to find out why. What policies worked? What was merely "the times" and what was the people.


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Lynette H

21-11-01, 05:48 PM (GMT)
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11. "RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance Now"
In response to message #10
 
   I read the article and felt myself much in agreement with it - the Royal now does not look as homogeneous, as much like a *Company* as it did maybe even ten years ago. This is nothing to do with the nationality of the dancers, but their common experience of training and repertoire. The company is less and less the product of a particular school who all grew up watching their particular generations defining ballerinas, or whatever. They are a collection of individuals. Some of the imports fit in with the local style and repertoire better than others - Kobborg, for instance, looks much more at home than Persson who just looks wierdly out of place in pieces like Triad.

But to pick up on a slightly different point. Barnes suggests that Dowell was not well supported by the School, but I don't think this is quite so simple. In the last five years both Zamora and Parker (both products of the school) have reached principal level with BRB and are fine and much admired dancers. They would never have had the same chances with the Royal. Parker would proably be languishing like Edward Watson is now - another very fine dancer who is much admired, but not given nearly enough chances in significant roles.

Also at BRB, we have Ian Mackay, who left the RBS only a year ot two ago and is now dancing Siegfried. Another recent BRB graduate (Olivera) appeared as Odile for ENB within a year of graduating. I'm not so sure that the school isn't producing good dancers - but maybe they aren't choosing or being chosen to go to the Royal, or if they do go, they don't get the opportunities to develop that they might expect. I think there are a number of RBS-trained dancers at the moment (Sasaki, Cervera, Morera) who must look at the cast lists somewhat wryly.


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Tim Powell

21-11-01, 09:44 PM (GMT)
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12. "RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance Now"
In response to message #11
 
   I am not a dance critic or historian and was not educated at Oxford before the Second World War but I did start watching ballet at about the time Clive Barnes started writing about it.
For my part I found myself strongly in agreement with his article,further I equally strongly disagree with the posting from Brendan the tone of which I find not to my taste.I found it fascinating to listen to people who had seen great dancers from the past Nijinsky, Karsavina and so on. It was always a pleasure to go Cyril Beaumont's shop and listen to him when on occasion he could be drawn into reminiscences and observations.
We have had good replies on this thread and much revolves round the issue of foreign dancers in the company. In fact,if my memory is right,the school and hence the company drew only from the Commonwealth and when realities changed this we took foreign dancers via the school into the companies Ferri,Durante and Kumakawa as examples.
I would like to see a higher percentage of British, as opposed to English, members performing but to me the regret is that we have too few performers from the school these days.
An interesting point is made above by Lynette saying that the school has produced good dancers but the RB has failed to use them well. We certainly are still suffering from the loss of the K dance boys and it may be that the motivation for their actions were part of the same problem.
There is much to be said in favour of some imported dancers and Irek and Johann Kobborg are magnificent support for this but we should strive to have a strong representation of home grown performers as well.
Cobber Stretton is not in an easy position as far as the immediate composition of the company is concerned but I do hope that he stops the practice of importing dancers for senior positions who are by no means of the standard required and Clive Barnes noted that this was the case.
Many of us want to have a company,again,which is distinctive and has a character of it's own which does not mean hanging on to the past though it does mean having a respect for it.


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Brendan McCarthymoderator

22-11-01, 10:13 AM (GMT)
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13. "RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance Now"
In response to message #12
 
   Television, like ballet, harks back to a golden age in the 1960s. There is one big difference. In the case of television it is possible to rummage in the archives and actually to watch programmes which have achieved mythic status. Believe me, many of them are truly appalling. Those people who argue that television is better now than in the 1960s could make a convincing case based on good evidence.

By contrast dance is evidentially weightfree. Because there is a lack of evidence from film or video, we are heavily reliant on afterimages. Then the issue of "who is doing the seeing" is of very real account. And this is why I raised the issue of Oxford. Most of those who frame the dominant account of dance in this country went to Oxford. They were influenced there by a particular tradition of academic history, one which essentially buttressed a sense of national ideology and purpose. It was an Anglocentric tradition, not even a British one. Revisionism had not yet begun to influence the way history was written. So, in answer to Alexandra, this was why I raised Oxford. She missed the charge of "elitism", because none was implied. As to the use of the word "myth", all historiography has elements of myth and ideology. While in a multicultural Britain, we will tell the story with a different twist, history is always in need of purgation.

What I take issue with is a "'virgin birth' fully-formed- in- the mid 1930s" account of British Ballet, that underscored a certain aesthetic of 'Englishness', to the exclusion of much else. This is echoed in the present day. Last week I found it unsettling to read the following from a distinguished UK critic: "Those well-known Gloucestershire families, the Cojocarus, the Corellas, the Nunez, must be proud of their dancing children".

Yes, the Royal Ballet should radiate a sense of tradition and place - but it should also be pluralist, reflecting the society that Britain has become, and the reality of London as a great world city. The conversation about ballet as a national institution, which in essence this thread is, cannot happen in isolation from the wider conversation over the kind of Britain we aspire to in the future.


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alison

22-11-01, 01:37 PM (GMT)
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15. "RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance Now"
In response to message #11
 
   Thank you, Lynette. You've said a lot of things I intended to say but haven't had the time to. Further comments to follow when I get a chance.


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Bruce Madmin

22-11-01, 12:18 PM (GMT)
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14. "RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance Now"
In response to message #8
 
   LAST EDITED ON 22-11-01 AT 12:21 PM (GMT)

I'm handicapped by not having read the original Barnes piece (er.. I am a subscriber to Dance Now, but its elsewhere at the moment). But there are generic points bring raised here, though do forgive if a wander a little.

Ballet and dance exist in a broader social context. If de Valois were starting now RB would I believe be a different beast and in 50 years time people would be talking about a different Englishness. You can't ignore the current move to globalisation in all things either - anybody doing anything plays in a world market now and viewed in that light some of the things we've seen at RB are not unusual or bad. And as consumers we have expectations too. Tonight for dinner I'll have noodles and Kiwi fruit so why should 'English' ballet be stifled to variations on roast beef and cabbage? Companies have to adapt and change and globalisation is part of such change. I don't think that change always has to be done in the context of 'yes, but we can't change our core Englishness of course'. Creativity needs to be free to move on or none of the great things would ever had been discovered. And the best of the past gets worked in or preserved.

I think the problem of RB is that it has not had money sufficient to do much as well as it should coupled with Artistic management that seemed to struggle in the prevailing circumstances. There has been nobody really out there talking up ballet and dance and making it relevant to the mass of the people. and you need that for your box office and to coax more money from others. Kaiser, speaking for the ROH overall, was very refreshing in this respect but needed to stay for about 10 years to really get under peoples skin. The one clear exception I can think of is Bintley in Birmingham where accessibility is a marvelous reality and the city (not just lots of ABC1's) have taken the company to their hearts. But it remains just a Birmingham phenomenon for now.

Personally I think that the globalisation pendulum will swing the other way in a few years and there will also be a move to fresher, lower budget productions. de Valois started with dancers dancing to a gramophone and having to change the record every few minutes. And they had many new production most years. Costs are stiffing creative endeavour these days and we need to reverse-up on some stages and give much more opportunity for experiment and for dancers and choreographers to develop. If this is English or not I don't think is the issue, but RB dancers and others should be used and stretched more on different rep. Perhaps they could have a small touring company...!

I've wandered - apologies


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Robert

22-11-01, 05:51 PM (GMT)
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16. "RE: Clive Barnes' Royal Ballet Review in the Autumn Dance Now"
In response to message #14
 
   Brendon
Like Clive Barnes I may have a faulty memory about Ballet in the past, but I do know that TV has particularly deteriorated. One of the only programmes worth watching is Dads Army, and when was that made? The BBC used to employ people like Margaret Dale to produce dance programmes, apart from ITV’s (not BBC) programme about a ballet dancer wrestling there is nothing currently on terrestrial television, presumably you based your statement on a TV executive’s biased opinion, making a speech at Edinburgh.
Ballet in the thirties and forties may have been Anglocentric (whatever that means) and some of the writers and critics may have been to Oxbridge (there were not many other universities at that time and no one had warned them about the dangers of elitism) but in my memory it was exciting and interesting, ballet was also still part of the Modern movement in art, which is more than it is today. People often say they could not dance, Helpman was accused of walking about dramatically, but lots of them could dance and the British ballet was always good theatre. Ninette de Valious also trained actors for the stage. Maybe we do the classics better now with more expensive costumes and imported technical virtuosos but what I think of as the British ballet has almost left Covent Garden and is hanging on at Birmingham and is possibly influencing Matthew Bourne.
By the way what has Globalisation got to do with it? Someone threw a brick at me when I was trying to get to Covent Garden on May Day. If they had known where I was going I do not think I would have survived! The masked protesters were chanting something about globalisation I ran away.


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Brendan

22-11-01, 06:20 PM (GMT)
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17. "Dance on Television"
In response to message #16
 
   Robert,

On your specific point about TV, I was until last year a producer with BBC Television, and am familiar with the relevant archives. The best programmes from the 1960s were indeed very good. However many programmes of the time were risible by today's standards. Believe me.

The BBC still has an Executive Producer/Dance. He is Bob Lockyer. No-one has done more to develop the genre of dance for television. Bob retires in the spring, when he will be replaced by Ross MacGibbon, himself a former member of the Royal Ballet. Although BBC2 has been showing less dance, Roly Keating, the Controller of BBC Knowledge (soon to be BBC4) is an enthusiast for dance on TV. He is expected to commission many new dance programmes, once BBC4 is up and running.


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Robert

24-11-01, 02:52 PM (GMT)
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18. "RE: Dance on Television"
In response to message #17
 
   Brendan
You can quote relevant data and pull rank, but I had some slight involvement in television in the sixties and my view for what it is worth is that has deteriorated. I am pleased to know the BBC has someone for almost non existant dance it must be a very boring and frustrating job. I am delighted to hear that Ross MacGibbon is taking over, as I wish he had taken over the Royal Ballet.
This thread is not about television but about Clive Barnes views on the sad state of the Royal Ballet and I am inclined to agree with him even if I missed out on Oxford. I am sorry that good British dancers have had to leave or are abandoned at the bottom of the heap, and that it has now become an almost second rate international dance company with few distinctive features relying on expensive soloists flying in and out for the odd show. Multiculturalism should not mean the destruction everything from the past.


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Alexandra

24-11-01, 04:09 PM (GMT)
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19. "RE: Dance on Television"
In response to message #18
 
   LAST EDITED ON 24-11-01 AT 04:17 PM (GMT)

I've found all these responses interesting. I agree with those who say it's not the nationality that matters, but the schooling. Ferri, who joined the Royal when there was still distinctive schooling, looked so polished when she did her first Kingdom of the Shades scene for ABT that it was obvious she came from a great company. If children really come up through the school -- not just a six months finishing course -- of course they can be truly integrated into a company and be part of the whole, no matter where they were born.

I wanted to say a word, if I'm allowed, about the "it's not what it was" question, because I think there is often a misunderstanding about this. I can just speak here of and for critics who use this thought in a review. I think sometimes readers assume that when a critic says "the company doesn't look like it used to look," this means, "I don't want my rice pudding with a cherry on top. I want a strawberry, the way mother made it for me when I was three. And I want it in my pink bunny bowl and it better not be runny." I don't think this is usually the case. There is a way of looking at dance -- I don't say this is the only way, nor even that this is the way most people would want to look at dance, but it is one way -- where one has a strong mental image, a photograph in the head, so to speak, and match what one is seeing against those images. So it is possible to have a more concrete idea of past and present than mere nostalgia. It's matching the remembered line -- to pick a very basic, perhaps silly, example -- of "Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo" against what one is currently hearing: "Romeo, Romeo what though art for Romeo?" It is possible to say one is different from the other, and it's possible to say one is wrong, or even nonsense.

I also wanted to say that there are quite a few videos and films from the 1960s and 1970s. I don't know if Barnes regularly watches them, but they do exist (in the Dance Collection in New York, at least, and undoubtedly somewhere in England), and watching a film of Nerina in "Fille" right before the last Royal Ballet visit, when they danced "Fille" here, was very instructive. It's not only that small details are lost, but the phrasing, the way movements are matched to the music, the smoothness of the movements, the way what was once one single, legato movement is now three broken ones. (That's one of the things that sometimes makes Ashton look quirky, even silly to some people.) If that's part of your mental field of vision, then it's as obvious as if Lise came out wearing purple plaid socks, and just as jarring. (I hope I haven't given the next designer of "Fille" any ideas.)

p.s. Your television is much better than ours.


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Susie Crow

24-11-01, 07:56 PM (GMT)
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20. "RE: Dance on Television"
In response to message #19
 
   I think that this is a really interesting and pertinent discussion. On the existence of an English style I would like to quote from an account of last year's BIG Discussion Forum on Style and Schooling:

"Geraldine Morris began her presentation with a provocative questioning of the existence of an English style, highlighting the vagueness of its definition; nevertheless a consensus was evident as to its perceived characteristics. Later in discussion Frank Freeman and others were to add to her depiction of the quintessential "English" style exemplified by the Royal Ballet of the '60s. A melting pot of influences had given rise to dancers with a pure, precise, unmannered style which was attractively versatile for choreographers, had a sense of melodic line and was capable of intimacy and psychological subtlety. It was generally felt that this style had belonged to a distinct period and that Royal Ballet style had moved in other directions in the past 15 years, as a result of the importation of Soviet training methods into the school and an influx of foreign dancers into the company; it was claimed that only five of the current principal dancers were trained through the Royal Ballet School."

I think this confirms that an English style is a reality which exists in the bodies of an older generation of dancers, not just in the perceptions of the critics, Oxford educated or no. I think also that "English" in this context also does not refer to the nationality of individuals (after all de Valois herself was not English but Irish), but in a certain cultural context geographically located in England. De Valois wished to build an institution which emulated the great Russian schools and companies, while influenced by the artistic policy of Diaghilev, but the circumstances in which she developed her company - close links with the theatre, smaller theatres, scarce resources, commercial theatre, links with other art forms and artists - gave it a particular emphasis and characteristics very different from the models she was drawing on. The style was embodied in the choreographic creations made for the company, and being steeped in that repertoire formed dancers in that style. The style will not continue to exist if the dancers are not experiencing and embodying it through the repertoire.


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Alexandra

24-11-01, 10:14 PM (GMT)
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21. "RE: Dance on Television"
In response to message #20
 
   I'm glad you posted that, Susie (and I agree with your summation and analysis and am glad you pointed out DeValois's intentions so clearly). I have to say I chuckled at the idea of academics sitting around debating whether or not an 'English style' ever existed. I don't think dancers would have had the same debate. I've always envied older dancers, who could look at a dancer and not only tell you where they were schooled but who was the teacher!

I agree that the style was deliberately changed about 15 years ago, and I'm sure that's when the debate started. At a pre-performance talk in Washington (D.C.) about that time, I remember that Dowell was asked about the change in the style and said he was changing it to be more in conformity with that of other companies and that the reason for doing this was that the company would be better able "to compete." To some, this made perfect sense, while it upset others. And I guess this is at the root of my original question: compete against who? And is looking like everyone else the best way to compete? Is it better -- for the company, for the dancers, for the audience -- to have as a goal being interchangeable with other companies, or to maintain and develop an individual style? (I don't think it's a coincidence that this change occurred at around the same time that the Royal had an active, resident choreographer.)

I think one can vigorously argue both sides of the question. Since we're in an age of virtuosity -- and it's been a long, long age -- if a company concentrates on something else -- a more modulated technique, musicality, dramatic ability, etc. -- they're going to look out of step, especially to those not familiar with the company. On the other hand, when everyone does look alike and going to the ballet is much like traveling and visiting only airports and Best Western Hotels, will there be that much interest? To carry that analogy further, is it possible to maintain highways and byways (i.e., distinctive ballet, boutique ballet) along side those Best Westerns (the Wal-Marts of ballet).


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