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Subject: "Aston Revisted Programme, 18/3/2000 " Archived thread - Read only
 
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Conferences What's Happening Topic #592
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Lynette

20-03-00, 01:56 PM (GMT)
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"Aston Revisted Programme, 18/3/2000 "
 
   I donít think itís possible to review Ashtonís Marguerite and Armand, without acknowledging whether you have seen live the original (and until now, the only) cast of Fonteyn and Nureyev, for whom this provided one of their most celebrated roles. Well, I havenít. All I have seen is a filmed version, made very late in Fonteynís career. Those who remember the original can lapse into a wistful dreamy gaze when recalling it that provokes a certain envy. The film version, however, seemed very stagey and mannered with nothing that explains the place it holds in peoples memoriesÖ.but yet there are occasional flashes, Fonteynís tottering walk, broken, on pointe, that are suddenly fiercely piercing. Iíve always been rather touched by the idea that Ashton would let no one else perform it, and that he offered it to them alone. There seemed to be such grandeur in the gesture, effectively condemning the work to oblivion because it could never again be the same. So my thoughts about the revival were somewhat mixed. I knew Iíd have to see it though.

Casting Guillem in the Fonteyn role was an obvious move from the box office point of view. This programme, of which there are only three performances open to the general public, sold out long ago. There has been considerable publicity: we are told Guillem was approached by Dowell to do this some time ago, but has only recently agreed., and there has been plenty of teasing speculation of who ĎTBAí might be when she is not partnered by Le Riche. As a result, itís very difficult to report on this without any preconceptions, just looking at the dance that unfolds. For the record, though I admire Guillem for the actress she has become and for her phenomenal body, I have had mixed feelings about her in Ashton roles: they donít need her hyperextended legs.

In the event, it was Guillem the actress who dominated the piece. The level of expectation which had been built up was such that the actual experience was not quite overwhelming. It was touching, finely danced and passionate, with an exquisitely detailed performance by Guillem at the heart of it. But it didnít quite sweep me off my feet or leave me sobbing (though I have to report considerable sniffing in the audience). Perhaps the reason, for me, is that Le Riche, although a very fine and polished dancer, just isnít as great an actor: although the steps were impeccably performed, he did not really project Armandís passion and urgency. Only in the confrontation scene, where he tears the diamond necklace from Margueriteís neck, did he seem to communicate the real force of his feelings. Guillem, however, can use the tiniest means to convey Margueriteís state of mind - the turn of her head, the set of her shoulders. When I say that in a sense you donít notice her dancing, itís because she is subsumed in Marguerite, she is Marguerite, and the dance seems the most natural expression of her thoughts. Technique did seem to be there purely in the service of the role, and not for its own sake.

As a work, Marguerite and Armand is intensely concentrated, and itís a surprise to realise itís as long as 35 minutes: it flashes by. In some senses this compression is very typical of Ashton, paring down a story to its absolute essentials: in others itís untypical, with a passion and daring physical abandon that you can imagine the young MacMillan watching with an appraising eye. Guillem approaches the role in a way which works brilliantly for her, and I am glad that this work has been revived: perhaps more performances can bring out an intensity between the lovers which is still just slightly lacking right now.

Marguerite and Armand was the closing work on an Ashton quadruple bill. Is the rapid death Ashton seems to have envisaged for M&A better than the slow drawn out decay of a work, when the traditions and schooling which underpins it are no longer the same ? This is a question one has to ask about the Ashton heritage and the Royal. The RBís standards of dancing in Ashton programmes in recent years have been pretty variable, with some wonderful and loving productions like Fille being offset by some uncertain and uncomfortable performances in productions such as Birthday Offering and Enigma Variations. This eveningís programme included some of Ashtonís greatest work; the performances seemed generally serviceable, rather than outstanding.

The evening opened with a revival of Les Rendezvous, an early Ashton from 1933, where he is at his lightest and most charming. It has been redesigned, with a startlingly ugly set in primary colours. The costumes (big polka dot dresses for the women, stripy blazers and boaters for the men) have clearly been put together by someone who thinks this tired old choreographer needs a bit of jazzing up and plenty of clashing colours to keep us awake. I did feel for the girls in the corps, who were wearing gloves that looked more suitable for washing up. Anthony Ward is the designer responsible.

The cast was led by Darcey Bussell, with a debutante-like innocence and sweetness. She was partnered by Roberto Bolle, who found his way through the detail of the steps well enough, but didnít interact particularly with his partner. The highlight was a pas de trois, particularly Jamie Tapper. Itís not very spectacular - thereís no great jumps or lifts, but just intricate and beautifully executed detail as they circle the stage, flirting all the while. Quite delightful. The dance for ten men of the corps was also very well done - again itís very intricate and detailed, and was put across well, with great clarity. Itís a lovely opening piece and puts you in a benign mood for the rest of the program.

I was so pleased when the Thais pas de deux was added to the originally advertised programme, because itís one of my favourite Ashton pdd, and I have very fond memories of Nunn and Benjamin in it. In my mind it has always been a very perfumed, intense experience - everything you need to know about memory, desire and lost love in six minutes. Unfortunately, thatís not the experience I had on this evening. The dancers were Viviana Durante and Jonathan Cope - both fine dancers, but who have very rarely, if at all, danced together before. (He is rather too tall for her.) Cope is normally an exemplary partner, but this performance showed clear signs of under-rehearsal or lack of familiarity with each other. It didnít flow as it should, and some of the lifts looked effortful rather than liquid. The chemistry that both these dancers can engender in other partners was lacking. Perhaps I am being a little harsh here (ÖerÖ in the way some will be for M&A..) because the audience adored it and responded with real fervour.

If the re-designers ever get their hands on Symphonic Variations, it really will be time to man the barricades. Sophie Fedorovitchís designs are such a perfect settling for the work, and underscore its structure and logic. Sadly, all three female members of the cast (Yoshida, Hatley, Wildor) were injured, and their places were taken by Jane Burn, Mara Galeazzi and, in the lead, a new joiner from the corps, Alina Cojocaru. It was a good performance from someone from the corps, quite assured and calm, but it wasnít a real fairy story star-is-born stuff. Unusually for this work, it was the men, particularly Bruce Sansom, who were most notable. There are only six dancers: no one leaves the stage in the duration of the ballet, there is nowhere to hide. There is no narrative: everything superfluous is pared away to reveal Ashtonís confidence in the simplest, most pure gestures, which just need perfect execution. Itís a lot to ask for; there were a few fluffed moments, and it didnít maintain the illusion of effortlessness. It didnít have the impact that some performances of this work have done, and had a comparatively muted response from the audience. Itís still a greater work than Marguerite and Armand, but it doesnít offer a star vehicle in the same way. A pleasure to see it none the less.


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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: Aston Revisted Programme, 18/3/2000 Alexandra 20-03-00 1
     RE: Aston Revisted Programme, 18/3/2000 Kfan 20-03-00 2
         RE: Aston Revisted Programme, 18/3/2000 Penny 20-03-00 3
         RE: Aston Revisted Programme, 18/3/2000 jhanner 24-03-00 10
  RE: Aston Revisted Programme, 18/3/2000 Helen 20-03-00 4
  Aston Revisted 16 & 18/3/2000 Bruce Madmin 21-03-00 5
     RE: Aston Revisted 16 & 18/3/2000 Stuart Sweeney 21-03-00 7
         RE: Aston Revisted 16 & 18/3/2000 Naoko S 24-03-00 8
  RE: Aston Revisted Programme, 18/3/2000 alison 21-03-00 6
     RE: Aston Revisted Programme, 18/3/2000 Fuzzyface 24-03-00 9
  RE: Aston Revisted Programme, 18/3/2000 Helen 24-03-00 11

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Alexandra

20-03-00, 02:09 PM (GMT)
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1. "RE: Aston Revisted Programme, 18/3/2000 "
In response to message #0
 
   What a pleasure to read. Thank you, Lynette. (Sigh. Wish newspaper reviews could be this long and detailed.)

Alexandra


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Kfan

20-03-00, 03:49 PM (GMT)
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2. "RE: Aston Revisted Programme, 18/3/2000 "
In response to message #1
 
   To Lynette,

I enjoyed reading your review on the Ashton Revisted performance - 18/03/00, an I have to say I agree with most of what you said.

However I did think that the M&A was a little more moving, than you described and I was very dissapointed with the Symphonic variations piece. It had been greatly highlighted in the news papers as something to be seen despite the fact that the three leads were injured. However Alina C, just didn't quite cut the rave reviews she had been given. However, she is still very talented and I hope to see more of her in future.

The Thais Pas De Deux was just terrible, despite a lovely beginning from Durante, when she floated on stage.

Overall though, I think that the evening had been worth it just to see M&A at the end.

Karen


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Penny

20-03-00, 04:39 PM (GMT)
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3. "RE: Aston Revisted Programme, 18/3/2000 "
In response to message #2
 
   I should have said this under this thread but I wrote it under the 16/3/00 thread. I saw 18/3/ programme and as I have said, Viviana was lovely in what she was allowed to do but it was a pdd and Cope let her down in spite of being a good partner for Guillem. He was very casual and careless with her and even if you are not a Viv fan, this piece suits her physique, her style of movement and her exotic looks beautifully. I get the impression that 16/3 Thais with Bolle was better and I am sorry I missed this. I was very disappointed with Thais although Viv did her best. It was an otherwise enjoyable evening although Symphonic Variations apart from the men was a little disappointing.


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jhanner

24-03-00, 01:15 PM (GMT)
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10. "RE: Aston Revisted Programme, 18/3/2000 "
In response to message #2
 
   I saw the Thais pas de deux a few days later with the same casting.

Durante was terrific - she just seemed to melt into some of the lifts but Cope was less certain as Lynette mentioned.

Also, it does seem v.obvious that he is a little too tall for her. Surely this could have been solved at the casting stage??


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Helen

20-03-00, 07:38 PM (GMT)
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4. "RE: Aston Revisted Programme, 18/3/2000 "
In response to message #0
 
   I mistakenly put my opinions about Saturday on the 16/3/00 thread as well. Briefly, I didn't think Marguerite and Armand worked (I'm one of those who does remember Fonteyn and Nureyev's early performances), I enjoyed Alina Cojocaru in Symphonic Variations, and I really enjoyed Thais although everything you say about partnering is true. It's such a lovely piece. Les Rendezvous was good in spite of the designs. If anyone wants the details, they'll have to go to the other thread!


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Bruce Madmin

21-03-00, 08:51 AM (GMT)
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5. "Aston Revisted 16 & 18/3/2000 "
In response to message #0
 
   RB Ashton Bill - 16.03.2000 and 18.03.2000

I promised some further thoughts on the Ashton Bill after I saw it again on the 18th. Given that much of the casting was the same it's always interesting to see how the dancers may have changed their interpretation and how one's own thoughts on new pieces may have moved on. Rather then re-architect the original words I thought it would be nice to leave them in place and add some clarifying thoughts on what transpired. It's also easier to do it this way of course! As usual I try not to read what others have said first - it's great fun subsequently seeing points of commonality (or otherwise)

Some initial thoughts on the RB Ashton Bill -
I see it again on Saturday and will do a
'proper piece' at that time - goodness knows
what proper means though!


Les Rendezvous I found the best piece on the
night - despite the quite horrid new sets.
Darcey Bussell and Jaimie Tapper were terrific
and Roberto Bolle gave a polished performance in
a frothy light piece of fun. And I did like the
costumes.

The bright stylised set designs (by Anthony Ward) - of purple scenery, green trees and a schizophrenic sun of yellow and orange - continue to grate and at the least one yearns for a forester to turn up with a chain saw and 'do' for the trees once and for all. Then just some magnolia over all that purple and we would be there....

The dance - it's effectively the goings on at a sunny garden party - is light and buoyant stuff and with a call for nifty footwork. It also asks Darcey Bussell to do some brief if amazing things in bending over backwards - reminiscences of Les Biches and not something you see so much of these days. At times Darcey ran short of a few steps, but overall she looked pretty, secure and happy in the role. Roberto Bolle pleased many, though I wish his legs were a bit longer. This is probably just sour grapes on my part though - every woman in the house seems to go weak at the knees for him.

In the Pas de Trois Jaimie Tapper continued to win me over - what lovely, rapid feet. And Jonathan Howells was an ideal complement to her - beaming and jumping so jauntily - Justin Meissner as the other partner looked a bit less happy though; sometimes his body seems not to want to cooperate.

This is such a light piece it would have been easy to dismiss it as perhaps not something worth bringing back. Well thank goodness they did and hopefully we will see more of it over the next few years.

Thais pas de Deux. Durante and Bolle pleased
everybody, but somehow my eyes don't see his
proportions as right and Mukhamedov does it
with a conviction that few can match.

Somebody noted that Irek had probably never danced it - silly me: must have been getting confused with another pdd I'm afraid. On Saturday it was the turn of Viviana Durante and Jonathan Cope - dancers I love to bits. Unfortunately they appeared to be under-rehearsed and it looked pretty ungainly at times. Separately they were bliss, but that's hardly the point in a pas de deux. An unexpected low point.

Symphonic Variations. A sublime piece but
unfortunately the original lead girls are all
injured and so we got Alina Cojocaru, Jane
Burn and Mara Galeazzi. Perhaps understandably
it was all a little tentative and the easy
nature of the choreography got lost at times.
But clearly Cojocaru (currently in the corps)
is destined for much greater things - just
can't report that it was fairy tale and she
brought the house down etc. The boys - Sansom,
Kobborg and Essakow were the ones to watch -
superb dancing and so nicely understated.

The same cast and this time I felt happier with the girls who seemed more together and aware. Although its' stated to be only 18 minutes long it actually feels much longer and more sustained - you just can't take your eyes away for an instant. For the six dancers, who are on stage all the time it must feel like an hour long piece and towards the end, in the final 'happy' phase some start to tire a little.

Of the boys I remember the most lovely jump from Sansom - landed with absolute perfection - so utterly simple and yet satisfying. Kobborg's Danish style also seems to lend itself to this Ashton piece - a marvellous technique displayed in such an understated manner, and all the more powerful because of it.

From 1946, Symphonic was something of a turning point for Ashton as many saw him in a new and more serious light. With time available he honed his choreography right down and any semblance of a story is long since gone. The sets, by Ashton's friend Sophie Fedorovitch, feature a dusty green and cream back cloth overlaid by some black geometric lines - some talk of images of growth - simple and yet complex. The costumes are simple too: mainly white, though the metallic caps for the boys can look strange these days. Dowell must have been aware that there probably would have been a riot if he decided to try and commission new designs!


Marguerite and Armand. It's very difficult to
see something like this for the first time
having heard so much about it. Hype would be too
cruel a word but many expectations have been
set. On a first viewing Guillem and Cope did
not do so much for me. I don't think the
problem is them so much as the piece itself -
it all happens at such a pace one does not
feel so drawn in and to understand the
characters and start to feel their plight.
Very much "wham, bam, thank you ma'am". Some
of the choreography is elegant and expressive,
but for love/sex its hard to beat what
MacMillan has done. I kept thinking that Manon
does this all so much better. However this was
a first viewing and I look forward to seeing
it again on Saturday with Le Riche guesting.

Well I liked M&A more the second time - somehow it all seemed rather slower and hence to be better paced. I don't think the dancers had so much to do with this as me knowing more about the structure of the piece perhaps.

Le Riche is an animal! He has amazing stature, with the most prodigious technique and the strangest of haircuts. Such athleticism and frighteningly convincing as the angry rejected lover. Of all Guillem's partners he must be the one who, while being the good partner she needs, actually vies with her the most for your attention. And he is not trying to show off or upstage her (heaven forbid the man that might try that!) - it's a natural magnetism and eagerness that he has.

I think I had to see Ashton's Month in the Country something like 10 times before I came to love it (kid you not) and I hope I get there sooner with M&A. I used to find Month rather boring though and that's certainly not the case with M&A. I wonder if I will ever get to the bottom of why some Ashton works take their time with me?

I don't necessarily share the view that Ashton is old fashioned - does romantic love really age?: I think not. And while MacMillan does sex and passion incredibly well I also see in his (MacMillan's) work a more tender and romantic side that I find does rather more for me at this point in time.

I've written more than I thought and possibly
been harder than I expected - it is a nice
programme and I'm glad they have brought back
such works for us. Worth seeing!

The last performance of this programme is on Wednesday and you may just be lucky and get a seat or a standing position on the day. Enjoy it while you can because the new RB Director may do rather less for Ashton's work than the last.., and that was considered not enough by many. Marguerite and Armand fares better and will be seen again in the RB season in July. All details in Listings


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Stuart Sweeney

21-03-00, 01:36 PM (GMT)
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7. "RE: Aston Revisted 16 & 18/3/2000 "
In response to message #5
 
   Thanks for taking the trouble to review the Ashton bill twice, Bruce. It made an interesting read in itself, but also for the insights about how the performance seemed to the same individual on different viewings, both through differences in the peformances and as the works became better known to the viewer.

From my own experience, it is clear what a difference my mood can make. I can remember after a tough day realising that I wasn't nearly calm enough to begin to relate to a contemplative work, which others enjoyed greatly. I wonder how many bad reviews are a function of indigestion or a bad day with the Boss or the washing machine.


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Naoko S

24-03-00, 00:01 AM (GMT)
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8. "RE: Aston Revisted 16 & 18/3/2000 "
In response to message #7
 
   Absolutely agreed with Stuart's comments.
When you are too tired or your mind occupied with something, it is
difficult to concentrate on the performance or have an open
mindedness - in all likelihood you will end up being a cynical
moaner who criticise literally everything!

For these reasons I nearly abondoned my ticket last night (22/3)
- I'm so glad I didn't do that. This was my second viewing
of Ashton bill and I enjoyed greatly - far better than the previous
viewing. Bruce is quite right in saying that it takes a bit of patience
(repeated viewing) until one can truly enjoy Ashton works.
Good thing to know that next time I will certainly have more fun!

Special mention on the evening should go to Durante, who appeard
in Thais pdd and Symphonic Variations. This may astound many readers,
but personally I have had uneasiness towards her in rather dramatic roles;
sometimes her acting was just too much for me. It was a joy to
see her in these abstract pieces where I could purely enjoy her
dancing; her tremendous gift as a dancer was well revealed in Symphonic
Variations. In this lyrical piece the way she controlled the
movements (her balance never fails!), the way she threw out her limb,
and just the way she looked made her stand out among others.

In Thais pdd, though the partnering with Cope was far from perfect,
Durante looked ideal for the role; the color of the costume (burnt
orange) and Massnet's sensual music suited her like a dream.
(Another mention on Symphonic... is Yohei Sasaki, another truly gifted
dancer. No other dancer I know has such an effortless
smoothness and neatness...)

As Lynette pointed out I too was impressed by Guillem's delicate
approach for details in M&A - especially in the brief pdd with
Armand after his father's visit. Marguerite's confusion and
desperation was obvious to see - it was the highlight of the piece.
Le Riche - yes, he was an animal, and quite rightly so! But then
I wished I could see more of the nuance/change of pace in his performance.
Basically he was so tense from the beginning through to the end -
even in the supposedly happier scene he appeared as if he was
in a full of anguish! (In this regard how I wished to see in
him the hint of his fellow POB etoile Laurent Hilaire -
effortlessly romantic!)

Hope to "discover" the treasure of M&A in the summer...



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alison

21-03-00, 01:06 PM (GMT)
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6. "RE: Aston Revisted Programme, 18/3/2000 "
In response to message #0
 
   It's comforting to know I wasn't the only one who thought the girls in Rendezvous had just come from finishing the washing-up! Seriously, the designs are fun, but they just completely ruin the impression of the dance - far too busy. I'd have been happier with the costumes BRB used when last I saw it.

M&A (with Cope) didn't make much impression on me when I saw it, although I agree there was a lot of sniffing in the audience. However, I realised rather belatedly that I never did feel that Guillem was able to project as far as the rear amphitheatre, and that I should have gone for standing downstairs instead. I could see through my binocs that she was acting very hard, but, maybe because of the rather subdued lighting, it wasn't coming across.

I also wanted to say how well I thought Kobborg had adapted to the Ashton style. It was good to see him taking (presumably with good grace?) a subsidiary role in Symphonic rather than the "lead" - a lesson which I wish a few other dancers could learn.


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Fuzzyface

24-03-00, 10:56 AM (GMT)
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9. "RE: Aston Revisted Programme, 18/3/2000 "
In response to message #6
 
   I absolutely agree with you about Kobborg. I also agree that Guillem's face did not project up into the amphitheatre. I thought she was woefully miscast, and the sequence that I really remember- Fonteyn's heart breaking bouree off stage after her humiliation- just when for nothing.


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Helen

24-03-00, 07:06 PM (GMT)
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11. "RE: Aston Revisted Programme, 18/3/2000 "
In response to message #0
 
   LAST EDITED ON 24-Mar-00 AT 07:57 PM (GMT)

I agree with Fuzzyface that the famous "bourree off" at the end of the "Insult" scene in Marguerite and Armand was either missing or very unnoticeable. I thought at the time that perhaps Guillem was (very wisely) avoiding trying to compete with memories of Fonteyn. I feel one should try to avoid comparisons - each performance should be judged on its own merits - but in something like this where the image is so strong it's very difficult not to compare. I don't think that Guillem was "woefully miscast", though.


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