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Subject: "MacMillan bill" Archived thread - Read only
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Conferences What's Happening Topic #468
Reading Topic #468
Jane S

19-01-00, 08:57 PM (GMT)
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"MacMillan bill"
   Leaving aside all discussion about the merits of the ballets, I was really shocked and worried by the standard of performance of this programme last night (18/1). Even making all possible allowance for the dress rehearsal problems and the likelihood that some of the company have flu, too many of the dancers looked either under-prepared or simply not up to what they were trying to do. The men especially seem to have lost, or never been taught, the art of giving dramatic weight to what they are doing - essential surely in MacMillan.

I've seen all these ballets years ago and they were all not only better danced, but MUCH better danced. What is going wrong? At least three of the suggested candidates for Dowell's job were in the audience and they must all have seen a huge amount of work to be done.

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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: MacMillan bill Stuart Sweeney 19-01-00 1
     RE: MacMillan bill Fuzzy face 20-01-00 2
         RE: MacMillan bill Stuart Sweeney 20-01-00 4
             RE: MacMillan bill Jane S 20-01-00 6
  RE: MacMillan bill Lynette 20-01-00 3
     RE: MacMillan bill Eugene Merrett 20-01-00 5
         RE: MacMillan bill Marie 20-01-00 7
             RE: MacMillan bill Shirley 20-01-00 8
             RE: MacMillan bill Eugene Merrett 20-01-00 9
                 RE: MacMillan bill Marie 22-01-00 10
                     RE: MacMillan bill Eugene Merrett 22-01-00 11
                         RE: MacMillan bill Marie 22-01-00 12

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Stuart Sweeney

19-01-00, 11:14 PM (GMT)
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1. "RE: MacMillan bill"
In response to message #0
   I should start by saying that I don't have the advantage of having seen earlier performances of 'Rituals' and 'Gloria' as Jane has.

My overall impression of the evening was of an unexpectedly marked difference in performance standards between the principals and the others. This was in contrast to the last Sadler's Wells season when I felt there was an encouraging homogenity and sometimes the soloists stole the show.

In 'Concerto', Leanne Benjamin was delightful and much more impressive than two of my favourites, Morera and Yanowsky. Not enough time for rehearsals?

'Rituals' is such a one-off, it's tricky to make comparisons on a first viewing, Although I enjoyed Chloe Davies and Bruce Sansom in the puppet section.

In 'Gloria' Acosta and Wildor scored heavily in pure dance terms compared with Urlezaga. I enjoyed the choreography of this work with the exquisite sculptural quality of much of the pdd work and the vibrancy of the solos. However, I did feel that compared with works such as 'Swansong' or 'Planted Seeds' that the work was not as powerful emotionally. Did you find earlier performances more dramatic, Jane?

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Fuzzy face

20-01-00, 01:30 PM (GMT)
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2. "RE: MacMillan bill"
In response to message #1
   I absolutely agree with you Jane. However, I think the standards of the company have been declining for some years, and they are certainly not the great company they were in the 1970's & 1980's. It makes me sad to think that new comers are seeing really wonderful works danced so poorly. I think Dowell has a lot to answer for.

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Stuart Sweeney

20-01-00, 04:24 PM (GMT)
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4. "RE: MacMillan bill"
In response to message #2
   I saw nothing of the Royal Ballet in the 70's and only little in the 80's. However, I thought that the Company looked on very good form in the Sadler's Wells season last year with several outstanding casts for 'Giselle', Viviana Durante wonderful in 'Ondine' and other outstanding performances from Mukhamedev and Revie in 'The Turn of the Screw', Sansom in 'Rhapsody' and Galeazzi in 'Fearful Symmetries' to name but a few.

Overall, my impession was that the reviews from the London critics for the season were stronger than those for the Bolshoi with the exception of one or two casts and productions by the latter.

While it would have been good to open at the new ROH with a more consistent standard of performance, I am not despondent. It's early days.

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Jane S

20-01-00, 06:09 PM (GMT)
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6. "RE: MacMillan bill"
In response to message #4
   Stuart - to answer your question about Gloria: yes, it was much stronger emotionally in earlier performances. I don't think it had, or was intended to have, the sort of emotional impact you get from the other works you mention - it has always seemed to me more elegaic, focusing on loss and regret with anger implied but not often explicitly expressed; but on those terms it could be quite moving. This week I felt almost nothing of that came across till the last couple of minutes. I have to say I don't find it as wonderful a work as may others do, but even so it makes me sad to see it under-performed to this extent - it is selling both the audience and the choreographer short.

On your more general view of the company, I admire your optimism but I don't share it. I agree we have seen excellent individual performances over the last seasons, and there are some dancers who are reliably excellent (though I don't think you can really include either Durante or Mukhamedov since they don't belong to the company any more); and occasional works where the whole company rose to the standard one hopes for - Fille last Christmas, for instance. But on the other hand there have been performances - of MacMillan's My Brother My Sisters and others - which suffered from exactly what I saw the other night: dancers who are doing the steps but don't seem to know what their role is about - or if they do know, they're not letting us in on it. If Tuesday night's performance had been given by a visiting company we hadn't seen before, I'd have said it was a shame they chose to open with a work (Concerto) that was clearly too difficult for them, and that they needed to put a huge amount of work into the interpretation of the other two pieces, and to rethink some of the casting. I would have hated to have been there with a knowledgeable visitor from Paris or New York.

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20-01-00, 03:12 PM (GMT)
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3. "RE: MacMillan bill"
In response to message #0
   I didn't see this performance, but I thought that on the 12th, Concerto certainly didn't look to me to be danced anything like as well as it had been on previous ocasions.

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Eugene Merrett

20-01-00, 05:39 PM (GMT)
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5. "RE: MacMillan bill"
In response to message #3
   I must agree with everyone regarding the RB standards. But I am told that RB hit rock bottom in the mid 80s and it was Dowell who improved standards to what it is now.

My opinion is that the RB is a First Division Company but not premier league. But I think that Yoshida is the finest classical ballet dancer in the world today.

However although some dancers are technically not up to it they can still pull off very delightful performances. I remember seeing Hatley in SB standing in for Gulliem. Now technically dancers like Dupond (the new POB etoile) and Gulliem will have Hatley for breakfast! But Hately personality really shone through. She thrilled the crowd who were expecting to see Gulliem. I certainly preferred her SB to either Gulliem or Dupond.

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20-01-00, 10:59 PM (GMT)
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7. "RE: MacMillan bill"
In response to message #5
   I'm sorry Eugene but I can't let you say that Sylvie Guillem and Aurélie Dupont are only technical dancers.They are complete dancers showing a lot of expression and scenic presence.Guillem has perhaps even too much personality.It is not because a dancer is technically perfect that he is cold and that he lacks personality.Technic is necessary , if a dancer doesn't have any technics he can't show any thing else,he can't concentrate on the artistic part.I've seen Guillem and Dupont in SB at Opéra Bastille.I've also seen Durante in SB on video and I'm sorry to say that but I don't find her extraordinary ,she is "coincée" and has affected manners , a sort of caricature of the ballerina.

I wondered why you've always critised Guillem why you actually hate her (I had a look at your review on Giselle with Guillem and Hilaire) and now it's the turn of Aurélie Dupont.Now I Know why : it's because they are french.I don't think it's very honest to do that.Did you have a sentimental deception with a french woman-or perhaps you are probably the typical anti-french British.

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20-01-00, 11:29 PM (GMT)
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8. "RE: MacMillan bill"
In response to message #7
   Actually I don't think Eugene hates French dancers (he is equally derisive about Bussell) - he prefers shorter dancers!

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Eugene Merrett

20-01-00, 11:49 PM (GMT)
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9. "RE: MacMillan bill"
In response to message #7
   May I refer to my review of La Bayadere with Isabelle Guerin, Laurent Hillaire and Elizabeth Platel. I spoke very highly of all the dancers and the costumes etc. Check it out at the ballet home page and vidoe review. Feel free to post or email your views.

I do have a problem with Gulliem in classical ballet but I believe she is unsurpassed in modern dance. But I am not the only one who feels that way - many of my friends dislike her intensely. And so does Clement Crisp - ballet most respected critc. One of my friends describes her leg extension as having the grace of a roman catapult throwing a rock.

I did like Dupond in POB. She very much in my attention because I am watching the Paris Sleeping Beauty Production. But I thought Hatley's personality really gave her the edge even if her technique was a bit dubious!

Dance Europe last year had an article about Hatley SB and compared her performance to POB Elizabeth Maurin (hardly the best techical dancer in the POB). The reviewer more or less said exactly the same thing as I did - just substitute Dupond for Hatley.

I think the coment that I am anti-French is not entirely fair. However I do show preference to artists (not just in dance) who are subtle and underplay their role. No-one can say that Gulliem does that. When I instinctively turn my head away when she does one of her long leg extension it cannot be due to anti-French prejudice.

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22-01-00, 02:31 PM (GMT)
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10. "RE: MacMillan bill"
In response to message #9
   Do you just consider Guillem as a dancer only capable of doing leg extensions?You shouldn't focalize on that , Eugene.I don't agree with you when you say that "no one can say that Guillem is subtle and underplays her role".She is subtle and also an actress.Her leg extensions are natural.When other dancers try to imitate her their leg extensions sem unnatural and sometimes awful.Some jealous dancers say that these extensions are unappropriate.Guillem's leg extensions are part of her.Instead of focalizing on such physical characteristics you should consider her dance in a whole.I think the genius of Guillem is the sense of movement she has , the way she moves in the space and the capacity of communicating emotions with those movements.It' s all the question of artistic.You seem to be confounding dance and acting , a dancer is not an actor.Smiling doesn't exempt a dancer from dancing correctly.I think that in dance the artistic impression comes from the technics , from the movement.The important thing for a dancer is the way he moves.In piano for example the most important thing for a pianist is his "touché"-it's the only thing you can't work, you have it or not.

So I think that Sylvie Guillem has this special thing , as well as Nicolas Le Riche.She has also the tecnical abilities , a perfect silhouette and acting capacities.

I don't think it's good to rely too much on dance critics and in critics in general.There are various people among the critics.It's good to read other people's opinions but not consider them like gods.

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Eugene Merrett

22-01-00, 05:51 PM (GMT)
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11. "RE: MacMillan bill"
In response to message #10
   I do focus on the very high leg extension of Ms Gulliem because I absolutely hate it. But there is a place for it the angular, more forceful ballets of Forsythe etc.

My first realization that there is something wrong about Sylvie leg extension was in a performance of RandJ. In the ravishingly beauty farewell pdd when Juliet sees Romeo for the last time Gulliem began to use her very high leg extension. I began to hear gasp of astonishment from the audience. But is this appropriate for that particular pdd! It is meant to be a passionate farewell not a vehicle of techncial virtuosity. Moreover the audience became detached from the emotional intensity of the scene to admire Ms Gulliems technique. I cannot accept that Macmillan would have approved.

I am sorry but I cannot disagree more about dancers and acting. To me acting is as important as the dancing (providing a sufficient technical standard is reached) particuarly in the dramatic ballets. And surely you would agree to this in ballets like A Month in the Country, La Fille Mal Gardee or the serious MacMillan Dance Dramas (I do not consider them to be ballets). These dance-dramas have fully developed stories and are of a serious. They are not grand spectacles of exotic dancing but drama in their own right. Acting is essential to these ballets.

Maybe I suggest that you examine the Durante video of SB. Go to the Fairy Variaton in prologue where the dancer points her fingers upwards to emphasize strength of character. Compare the dance on the POB video with the dancer on the RB video (Belinda Hatley). The POB dancer is stronger but I think Hatley has more personality.

The analogy to that of a pianist is not appropriate. A musician is creating abstract sounds whilst a dancer is creating a personality of stage.

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22-01-00, 07:34 PM (GMT)
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12. "RE: MacMillan bill"
In response to message #11
   I'm sorry Eugene but I don't find Guillem's leg extensions ugly.In the pdd of RJ that you mention the use of high extensions could be interpretated as a sign of passion , despair , extreme feelings.Anyway I don't think that high extensions are unappropriate in classical ballets.I don't think Guillem is provoking the public when she does her extensions .Everything is natural , it's more a question of suppleness than technical virtuosity.When people see things they are not used to see , they often have vivid reactions.You like english ballet.

There are different styles in ballet.The english tradition of ballet is not the same one as the french one .The english ballet has a long tradition of theatre and drama(Ashton , Macmillan , Fonteyn etc).The french style is more about lyricism , poetry(Serge Lifar) elegance(Chauviré).The english dancers try to act.The french dancers try to dance neatly , with grace.It's 2 differnt ways to dance.Perhaps these distinctions do not exist anymore since ballet becomes more and more international.It's a good thing that the RB keep the english repertory (Macmillan bill and Ashton revisited) unlike the POB that only gives Nureyev's versions of the classics.His choreographies are technically very difficult but lacks often of poetry.I would like to see more Lifar's ballets at the POB.

Anyway Guillem was promoted étoile by Nureev.It means that she is technically strong.But I don't think she is only that.When I compared a pianist to a dancer , I meant that both had to have something indispensable to their art and that is innate , the "touché" for a pianist and the sense of movement for a dancer.

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