Viscera/Infra/Fool’s Paradise Royal Ballet Mixed Bill, Saturday 3rd November 2012

This triple bill opened with Viscera, a work originally created on Miami City Ballet and presented for the first time by the Royal Ballet. Choreographed by the newly appointed Artist in Residence Liam Scarlett to Lowell Liebermann’s Piano Concerto No.1 this was a thrilling, exhilarating ballet. (more…)

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As well as transmissions from the Bolshoi Ballet, from October the Phoenix will be screening an exciting selection of world-class opera and ballet from the Royal Opera House.   Tickets go on sale to Members on Tue 28 Aug, and are on general sale from Tue 4 Sep… (more…)

Last minute warning – another live transmission from the Royal Opera House coming up this week at Oxford’s Phoenix Picturehouse, this time of the wholly delightful La Fille mal gardée.

Frederick Ashton’s final full-length ballet is one of his most joyous creations, imbued with his love for the Suffolk countryside. It is based on an 1828 French ballet and the music was adapted by John Lanchbery from Ferdinand Hérold’s original score. La Fille mal gardée was a resounding success on its premiere in 1960 and it has remained a firm part of The Royal Ballet’s repertory since. The title translates as The Wayward Daughter.

Ashton’s choreography calls for a high level of virtuosity from its principals – the youthful passion of Lise and her lover, Colas, is expressed in a series of energetic pas de deux. The ballet is laced with good humour and a whirl of dancing chickens, grouchy guardians and halfwit suitors take to the stage. Ashton affectionately incorporated elements of national folk dance into his choreography, from a Lancashire clog dance to a maypole dance, making La Fille mal gardée (despite its title) The Royal Ballet’s most emphatically English work. Osbert Lancaster’s colourful designs reinforce the robust wit of the production.

Taking the lead at this performance are Roberta Marquez as Lise and Stephen McRae as Colas – not to be missed!

Performance:  Wednesday 16th May 2012, 7.15pm

Booking information: Book online by selecting a time or call the Box Office:
0871 902 5736 (10p a minute from a landline)

http://www.picturehouses.co.uk/cinema/Phoenix_Picturehouse/film/Roh_Live_La_Fille_Mal_Gard_E/show/d90p03/

Apollo’s angels:  a history of ballet / Jennifer Homans

I began reading this book with high expectations.  The author is described as Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Columbia, and quotations on the flyleaf and back cover include statements such as “Here is the only truly definitive history of classical ballet” (International Herald Tribune) and “It will doubtless come to rank as the standard and authoritative work in the field” (Literary Review).  Although it is not published by an academic press, it bears some of the hallmarks of a scholarly work, with its extensive bibliographies, footnotes and evidence of original research.

The early chapters of the book dealt with periods of which I am largely ignorant until on p.39, I came across this footnote:  “Molière was gone:  he died onstage in 1673 while performing Le Malade imaginaire”.  Not so, according to Ivor Guest[1] or the Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, according to which he collapsed on stage and was carried back to his house, where he died.  This concerned me, and from Chapter 8, East goes west:  Russian modernism and Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, when the book moves territory with which I am more familiar, I became progressively more uneasy. (more…)

Reading the elegiac epilogue of Jennifer Homans’ history of ballet Apollo’s Angels, I am struck by her sense of doom.  As a ballet practitioner I have found much of the book a gripping and exciting account, and have been stirred by its scope and the provocation of its ideas as to ballet’s place in an often inimical world.   Yet aspects of her thesis trouble me; arising from her interpretation, inevitably condensed and therefore incomplete, of the rise and as she sees it decline of British ballet in the 20th century. This is a period part of which I have lived from the inside; as a child growing up schooled through that peculiarly British institution the Royal Academy of Dancing, inspired by images of Fonteyn and the Royal Ballet, later as a student at the Royal Ballet School, and then as a young dancer in the Royal Ballet companies experiencing the most richly varied ballet repertoire in the world in my own body, now transmuting this learning to communicate through teaching and choreography. (more…)

Last Sunday’s Observer magazine carried an article by dance critic Luke Jennings about young dancers at the Royal Ballet Lower and Upper Schools.  His contention is that the number of British born and trained dancers graduating from the Royal Ballet School into the Royal Ballet Company is diminishing annually. Of the talented and dedicated young dancers entering the School at 11 years old, the majority will be progressively assessed out, the number of places squeezed as they are increasingly joined by young dancers from overseas.  Of those British dancers who do succeed in winning a Royal Ballet contract few seem to make it to the top as principal dancers in starring roles.

Uncomfortable questions arise from these stark facts – about training methods and schooling, but also as to what companies are looking for in today’s international market.  What effect does such ruthless selection have on the cream of British ballet talent during and after the training process?  How important is it to develop a distinctive home-grown British style and dancers?  And ultimately what is the argument for taxpayer support if British children have such statistically slim chances of making it into the national companies?

To read Luke Jennings’ thought provoking article and some passionate discussion emerging from it:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2012/mar/25/will-they-make-royal-ballet

Romeo and Juliet (Royal Ballet), broadcast live to the Oxford Phoenix,
22 March 2012

The intensity and immediacy of this ballet makes it difficult to believe
that it is 47 years old.  On Thursday, Lauren Cuthbertson and Frederico
Bonelli danced with fierce sincerity; the moment that they first saw
each other, the audience knew that they were falling into the grip of an
inescapable but forbidden passion.  Cuthbertson’s growing revulsion at
Paris’ advances and her desperate appeals to her parents, were
heartbreaking, as were Bonelli’s pain at the death of Mercutio and his
excruciating anguish on killing Tybalt.

My one disappointment was in the dance at the beginning of the ballroom
scene, with which the Capulets convey so clearly and directly “This is
who we are, and we are together”, in a way that words cannot do, but
dance can.  It is hugely important, because the entire story turns on
the allegiances and enmity of warring clans, and this scene sets that
out unambiguously as part of the status quo.  Perhaps it was filmed with
too many close-ups, which disturbed the flow of the panorama, or perhaps
there was a slight lack of focus in the performance that diminished the
impact.  Otherwise, it was a totally compelling production.

There were particularly fine performances from a vicious Tybalt, a
mischievous Mercutio and an insolently engaging Whore, but alas the
cinema had no cast sheets, and I have been unable to find cast details
on the Royal Opera House website.  It was all the more irritating then that although
the cast were listed in the rolling credits at the end, far more
prominence was given to a repeating scroll of tweets at the foot of the
screen during the curtain calls.  However tweets have their uses:  it
was thanks to the fact that Alexander Campbell had already sent a tweet
that I was quick enough to spot that he had played Mercutio, as his name
rushed by.

Maggie Watson
25 March 2012