Tuesday, 20 May 2014

The Australian Ballet's People's Day

Much fun was had.Here's my report for Ausdance http://www.ausdancensw.com.au/TheAustralianBalletPeoplesDayByLynneLancaster/1902/2/3/0/0/ The people's day is the public's opportunity to watch class and see behind the scenes of The Australian Ballet and in this case, class was on the agenda.The audience ranged from young babies in mother’s arms to restless, kicking toddlers, older more interested schoolchildren right through to grandparents and dance teachers. Theatrical black seemed to be the general colour of choice for class this year although yes, there were some splashes of colour and even striped leg warmers ! Our thrilling morning began with an introduction and welcome by Natasha Kusen and interview of the six Telstra Award ( TBDA )nominees ; Dimity Azoury (Queanbeyan, ACT), Imogen Chapman (Kelmscott, WA), Ingrid Gow (Randwick, NSW), Cristiano Martino (Adelaide, SA), Rina Nemoto (Tokyo, Japan) and Jade Wood (Cairns, QLD .They were asked various questions eg when did they start ballet ( most at about the age of three or four ) , what roles they were playing in the current season of ‘Manon ‘ , what their dream roles to play were .Insight was also gained about settling in to the Company , a dancer’s daily life with class , rehearsal etc .As well ,the women were asked about individual preparation of pointe shoes etc.The six nominees were thanked and then mobbed by their young fans for autographs before returning to the stage for class. Some other members of the Company arrived early and were quietly stretching /preparing during the interviews .Brian Cousins the marvellous accompanist was hidden behind the piano. We would have been privileged to see about a third of the company taking class on stage , the others were in separate studios. Assorted bits of the set for that evening’s performance of ‘Manon’ were visible .The class was crowded and one dancer used the piano as a barre .Four portable barres were used. Fiona Tonkin arrived , dynamic , petite and intense , wearing black , often walking on high demi pointe , to give today’s class. Nothing missed her all seeing eye. For this first ,barre section of class , almost all the women wore ballet flats and not their pointe shoes .The atmosphere is quiet , focused and concentrating . Tonkin rattles off the various enchainments she wanted extremely quickly and usually didn’t repeat it. Class began with tendus and flexes to wake up the feet , then plies followed by rondes des jambes. Arms were generally in unison, although there was allowance for some individuality. More tendus and rondes des jambes in assorted variations followed.By the time we reached grand battements and turns most of the dancers were ‘marking’ the given now more complicated enchainments with their hands , making it easier to remember.Fondus and tricky fast petit batterie led to developes and grand battements .Barre work concluded with provision for releves and stretches , the barres being shifted and the women changing into their pointe shoes . Tonkin gave some general corrections and also at times indicated what she was looking for with foot or hip placement , pull up , weight transfer etc. if an enchainment was ( or was not ) performed correctly. The class split into small groups to allow for space to perform the various exercises , starting gently then becoming harder and harder and more flashy and athletic .Pirouettes and adagio arabesques began softly , searching for a pure ‘line’ and control. Things speeded up with glissade assembles that had the dancers flying. Another enchainment of brise voles was ‘Bluebird’ from ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ like .Towards the end there was a double rondes des jambes section, cabrioles were included and showy double tours for the men who had a wonderful expressive ‘line’. Conscious of the time,Tonkin made some general corrections after and then declared class finished to a round of applause. There was a very short break (interestingly , no particular ‘cool down’ exercise was given) and it looked like the dancers would be going straight into rehearsal as we filed out . The fascinating Australian Ballet ‘s Peoples Day was at the Opera House April 14th

The Royal Ballet's Sleeping Beauty

Here's my thoughts for Sydney Arts Guide http://www.sydneyartsguide.com.au/royal-ballets-sleeping-beauty/ In this huge production by the Royal Ballet the dancing is superb, especially by the two leads. It has an extremely ‘traditional’ feel about it and is a 2006 attempt to reconstruct the famous 1946 Oliver Messell production that reopened the Royal Opera House after World War 11, starring Fonteyn and Helpmann. This current production was always all about remembering the company’s immensely rich heritage. Monica Mason, then artistic director, set out to restore most aspects of the now legendary 1946-67 production by Ninette de Valois (director), Oliver Messel (designer), Ashton (coach and supplementary choreographer) and Fonteyn (prima ballerina). Ms. Mason also included in this version items fashioned in 1968 (by Ashton) and 1994 (by Anthony Dowell) for subsequent productions , and a new Garland Dance by Christopher Wheeldon. If analysed intently , as another of my colleagues has recognised , bits of phrasing and staging can be variously dated to Fyodor Lopukhov and Vera Trefilova in the early 1900s, Serge Diaghilev and Bronislava Nijinska in 1921, Margot Fonteyn between 1939 and 1955, Frederick Ashton between 1946 and 1968 — as well as, above all, the original 1890 production by Marius Petipa. The mime included was nuanced ,clear and understandable . Musically the orchestra under Valery Ovsyanikov was tremendous At times it has a very Old Fashioned feel about it, appropriate, I guess, for a story book fairytale ballet. The lavish set designs are magnificent with fabulous layers of texture. The court dazzles with its opulence.( The king and queen, Aurora’s parents in gold or silver ,and overdone pompous sneering Cattabalutte with his feathers and frills…) The corps de ballet ensemble was in tremendous form, the tricky complicated interlocking of the Garland waltzes for example in Act1 were very well done. In this version in Act 1 the fairies have cavaliers and also pageboys bearing the gifts. The Prologue fairies were terrifically danced.The fairytale characters in Act3 for the wedding in this version include Puss in Boots and the White Cat (much fun) , Red Riding Hood and the wolf and the showpiece Bluebird pas de deux ( the Bluebird tremendously danced by Valentino Zuccehetti ) . Sarah Lamb as Aurora is superb and dances divinely .Grace Kelly like she is cool calm and regal in Act 1, enchanting at her first entrance. She had solid balances in the testing Rose Adagio – and it is interesting to see that here she gives the first lots of flowers to the her mother the Queen , the second she hastily tosses at the Queen’s feet , to be picked up by a pageboy . In the grand pas de deux at the finale she radiates charm and elegance. Her solo has explosive turns and jumps . My quibble however is about her Act1 costume which I found most unflattering .The three quarter sleeves break the ‘line’ of the arms and it looks like pink fairy floss with a touch of tomato ! I also noticed that several of the costumes for other characters have elbow frills that break the ‘line’ of the arms . Our dashing very handsome Prince Florimund , Steven McCrae , was terrific and made as much as he could of his role .There is not much opportunity for character development even allowing for the ‘I am bored and lonely’ solo in the Act2 hunting scene and yes the Countess has her eye on him! He dances superbly, demonstrating his glorious clean technique including marvellous cabrioles and mix of tremendous turns in his solo in the Act3 Wedding Grand Pas de deux. As well he is an attentive thoughtful partner – the tricky swooping fish dives were handled very well. For the big wedding Grande Pas De Deux in Act 3 both Florimund and Aurora are wreathed in huge smiles. Our Lilac Fairy Laura McCulloch (in another very disappointing costume) was sweet and yet strongly protective and a terrific dancer . She has huge, dewily very expressive eyes and radiated benevolence . Dramatic, malevolent Carabosse was excellently played by Kirsten McNally Her scuttling rat attendants were quite scary and I liked her escape /descent but in some ways it was like a panto villain. In this version she is possibly younger than is generally thought and creeps on in an exquisite enveloping cloak and hood to give Aurora the dangerous spindle. Similar to the Paris Opera version seen recently there were three women arrested just previously for knitting, Cattabalutte hiding the incriminating needles behind his back, but this is all rushed through and there is no indication that Carabosse organized any of it . More than worth seeing for the dancing , this is a very traditional version , fascinating from a historical perspective . Running time – allow 3 & ½ hours includes backstage documentaries and interviews.