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 Post subject: 2007 Edinburgh International Festival - Ballet
PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 5:44 am 
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This will be the topic for discussions, reviews and links pertaining to the two ballet companies performing at the Edinburgh International Festival:


Royal Ballet of Flanders: 18 - 20 August - EFT (finally, putting dance in the proper theatre!)
** rep is one ballet by Forsythe

Scottish Ballet: 18 - 20 August - Playhouse
** rep includes Trisha Brown, Stephen Petronio and Ashley Page (this is a ballet company?!)


Last edited by ksneds on Fri Jul 20, 2007 3:26 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 5:55 am 
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From my point of view, this is one of the weakest Festival dance selections in years.

For my tastes, the Festival seems to be moving too much towards contemporary dance, even in the selection of rep for the ballet companies. In Edinburgh we get plenty of great contemporary dance during the year, but the festival has been the only real chance to see proper classical ballet, especially with neither ENB nor BRB touring here much, fewer visiting classical companies and Scottish Ballet veering sometimes towards the very contemporary.

Even WORSE the two ballet companies are performing at exactly the same time! To me this is inexusable, especially since it's the two ballet companies. It creates huge problems for the press and splits the audience, which will surely not help ticket sales. This suggests to me that there is a management problem - either they cannot attract enough companies to have a good choice of times or they don't realize the problem which they are creating.

To be honest, I would much prefer an additional rep visit by the Scottish Ballet rather than seeing them during the Festival. Right now we get the Christmas full-length 'ballet' after New Years, which means we don't see the company between August and January, and then rep in the Spring. The Festival appearance always suffers because the company is stuck in the awful Playhouse.

And I feel the International Festival should be, well, [mostly] international. This is a chance to bring in outside talent - let the Scottish Ballet have a proper theatre and space to breathe later in the fall. Not to mention that it doesn't seem like ideal programming to have them doing a Trisha Brown piece when the Tricia Brown Company is coming to perform as well. [Though I presume that was more a fluke since rep is often selected more than a year in advance]

I'll be interested to see where the press ends up on Friday the 18th. My interest is certainly more towards the Forsythe, especially since it's in the Festival Theatre.

Kate


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2007 8:16 am 
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Scottish Ballet announces a quartet of promotions:

SCOTTISH BALLET ANNOUNCES DANCER PROMOTIONS FOR 2007

Scottish Ballet is delighted to annouce that Kara McLaughlin, Luke Ahmet, Gregory Dean and Christopher Harrison have all been promoted from Artist to Coryphée. Kara McLaughlin joined Scottish Ballet straight from the Dance School of Scotland in 1996, thus creating a piece of Scottish Ballet history, and her performances with the Company include her role as a Stepsister in Ashley Page's Cinderella. Luke Ahmet joined the Company in 2003 and has danced roles such as Iago in Peter Darrell's Othello and The Equerry in Cinderella. Gregory Dean joined Scottish Ballet two years ago, performing as, among others, The Prince in Cinderella and the title role in Othello. Christopher Harrison also joined Scottish Ballet in 2005, and he caught the attention of audiences and critics alike with his stunning performances in Jerome Robbins' Afternoon Of A Faun at the Edinburgh International Festival 2006.


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 18, 2007 12:53 am 
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Quote:
'It's surreal madness'
by JUDITH MACKRELL for the Guardian
published: August 16, 2007

During its first three decades, the Royal Ballet of Flanders made little impact on the world stage. It failed to pick up the kind of stellar repertory or cast that audiences would travel a long way to watch. In the past two years, however, all that has changed - and this weekend Belgium's only classical ballet company will head the dance strand at the Edinburgh international festival with a work that had acquired cult status, William Forsythe's Impressing the Czar.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 18, 2007 6:27 pm 
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The weather outside is frightful, but the dance was oh so delightful!

The Royal Ballet of Flanders seems to have been quite a success even one suspects that many in the decidedly more mature Festival Theatre audience probably weren't expecting Forsythe's decidedly not-traditional ballet. I was quite pleasantly surprised that it appeared to be a near sell out despite the horrible scheduling which pitted the opening nights of the Scottish Ballet and the Royal Ballet of Flanders against each-other. The Scottish Ballet opening performance featured a world premiere, but one wonders if the company's very, very contemporary repertoire turned off the 'more mature' audience.


My review:
Royal Ballet of Flanders
"Impressing the Czar"
August 18, 2007
Edinburgh Festival Theatre

The best approach to William Forsythe's "Impressing the Czar" is one with absolutely no preconceptions at all. If you think you've seen it all in ballet, think again. A three-act compilation of dance, drama and controlled chaos set to music that ranges from classical to computerised,"Impressing the Czar" defies categorisation and easy description. One just has to sit back and enjoy the spectacle. And what a spectacle it was! The evening's performance, marking both the UK premiere of the full ballet and the Edinburgh International Festival debut of the Royal Ballet of Flanders (?), was one to remember. The ballet was danced to non-sensical perfection by the company, which displayed a technical command un-matched in recent Festivals.

'Impressing the Czar" was built around the iconic second act, "In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated". Most frequently performed on it's own "In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated" refers to sole stage decoration, a pair of golden cherries which hang in the middle of the stage, somewhat elevated above the dancers. Thom Willems electronic score is fascinating, providing a driving beat, an almost plaintive moan and a sensual shiver. The choreography – Forsythe at his finest - is striking, powerful, angular, off balance, but classical to the core. The traditional underpinnings are no surprise since the piece was choreographed for the Paris Opera Ballet in order to show off the company's classical dancers in more contemporary context. The dance itself is full of shapes created by technically fiendish sequences that require headlong entrances into suddenly static positions and duets with limb stretching poses. Férial Simon's costumes – blue-green leotards with black tights for the women and green unitards on the men are among the most simple, but yet most recognizable in ballet.

The piece unfolds on a bare stage – for all three acts Forsythes opens up the full expanse of the large Festival Theatre stage, giving the audience a rare chance to grasp it's enormity. Even the first set of wings are removed, leaving the dancers to stand, walk and run around the edge of the stage, watching the action or posing from the sides and back of the stage. This excess of action, a competition for the audience's attention, is something Forsythe uses multiple times in the full ballet. In this, the most athletic of the sections, the company was electric, in particular Claire Pascal and Wim Vanlessen. Though lithe and impeccably controlled, the tiny Aki Saito seemed a bit overwhelmed by the vastness of the large stage.

The opening and closing acts, which combine dance, theatre and spoken word, were born from the 'somewhat elevated' cherries of the second act. When the cherries were chosen for Act 2, Forsythe looked for instances of cherries in works of art in order to find inspiration for the rest of the ballet. In the end, it was a portrait of St. Sebastian with the requisite cherries, which drove the creation of Act. 1, "Potemkin's Signature" and the three-section concluding act. Sebastian (Jim De Block) himself appears as the central figure in these acts, looking almost like Nijinsky's faun in a black and white patterned, pleated skirt.
"Potemkin's Signature" is best described as controlled chaos of the most inexplicable, non-sequitor kind. Bits and pieces of different eras and stories collide to fill the stage with an utterly implausible, but totally fascinating clash of action. A tilted tiled floor takes up on half the stage, and provides a backdrop for various characters and St. Sebastian to pose. Two men in 1950s fifties black suits (the outstanding pair of Rob Fordeyn and Sebastian Tassin) twist and turn in synchrony, while a cluster of wome in Renaissance era dresses bustle around the stage, dancing at intervals to the score of mixed Beethoven, Leslie Stuck and Thom Willems.The costumes, all deep metallic colours – dark bronzes, golds and coppers – give the piece a feeling of age. Weaving in and out of the other characters are a couple (Altea Nuñez and Sanny Kleef) whose unitard costumes and edgym but frequently interrupted pas de deux hint at "In the Middle" to come In the midst of all this action, there are two Catholic schoolgirls, one of whom is involved in a phone call of sorts with the mysterious Rodger Wilcot. The conversation, carried out to perfection between Helen Pickett, a former dancer turned actress guesting with the company, and Craig Davidson, seems to mix elements of an air-traffic control tower and a Jasper Fforde book-hopping adventure, and with references to kilts, tartan and Edinburgh has clearly been edited for the Festival performances. It's all highly improbable, and intentionally too much for the eye to take it at once. So as Forthyse intends, each person focuses on a different series of dancers and actions, creating their own story. The ending of the section, with full cast twisting and turning – schoolgirls, suited men and Renaissance women alike, is impressive, and special note should be made of the male trio who were absolutely spot on in the repeating series of pirouettes.

The final act begins with the hyperactive auction of Act 1 characters, now gilded in gaudy gold, in "The House Mezzo-Prezzo". It's mostly a chance for Helen Pickett to shine, with Jim DeBlock's disembodied head appearing in a box on her desk to offer his bid. [Presuming this was indeed DeBlock and his voice, his English was impressively unaccented]. It's Forsythe gleeful jab at the commercialism that has consumed the modern world – what kind of a world is it where history is for sale?

The penultimate sections "Bongo Bongo Nageela" and "Mr Pnut Goes to the Big Top" are the "Oops I Did it Again" of the ballet world, only Forsythe beat Brittany Spears to the idea by more than a decade. In one of the best spoofs of classic ballet to ever prance across a stage, 40 be-wigged Catholic schoolgirls – male and female – take to the stage, surrounding St. Sebastian in a hip-hop take-off of "Giselle". Through the years saints have found many a way to die, but Sebastian must be the only one to have have faced death and resurrection by Catholic schoolgirls. There's even a rapping trio (one assumes talented dancers since no singing credits were provided), though unfortunately their lyrics were rendered unintelligable by the over-amped sound system. The dancing was powerful and energetic, but perhaps the section dragged on too long because the ending seemed sudden and un-rewarding. The audience seemed a bit confused, as if they were expecting a final return to the land where it all began. It's unfortunate because it appeared to cost the dances the rousing applause that they rightly deserved.

The Royal Ballet of Flanders has a hit in this revival of "Impressing the Czar" and if I've totally confused you by now, the only answer is to go an experience it all yourself!


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 19, 2007 3:48 pm 
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A long afternoon - fabulous dancing, but it all just started blend together, and it seemed to be the Scottish Contemporary Dance Company, not the Scottish Ballet:


"Ride the Beast", "For MG: The Movie", "Fearful Symmetries"
August 19, 2007 4pm
Scottish Ballet
Edinburgh Playhouse

The Edinburgh Playhouse audience might forgiven for being a bit surprised by the afternoon's on-stage fare. The Scottish Ballet has been moving towards a more diverse, contemporary based repertory, but this year's Festival program may have been a step too far in the non-balletic direction, and to much of the same thing – three contemporary pieces, all with contemporary music and based around a group of 10-15 dancers. Nonetheless, the high quality of the performances in the three pieces, "Ride the Beast", "For MG: The Movie" and "Fearful Symmetries" confirmed Scottish Ballet's place among the upper echelon of dance companies.

Without a doubt, the highlight of the program is Stephen Petronio's "Ride the Beast", a fascinating 26 minutes of dance set to Radiohead's distinctive sound. The cast of 13 includes three distinct groups and a solo male, the quartets each distinct in the colour of Benjamin Cho's costumes. Cho's signature braided silk fringes appeared in the form of wing and tail-like fringes giving the dancers in black, white or multicoloured leotards the appearance of exotic birds. The avian theme continued in Petronio's choreography, which took full advantage of the dancers' balletic training and contemporary talents. Petrionio stretches his dancers into long shapes with sharp edges such as a flat foot or angled arm. The effect of the movement is highlighted by the decision to use bare feet and streamlined costumes, which allow the dancers line to extend from hip to pointed toe. The final image a ballet leaves is the most important, and Petronio gives his audiences vision to remember: thrown into shadow by intense backlighting, the dancers one by one freeze into a pose, their clustered bodies coming together to create an eye-catching shadow-scene.

Ashley Page's top contemporary pair, Paul Liburd and Diana Loosemore set the electric tone and Eve Mutso's performance again begs the question of why she still remains just a soloist. However, it was Gregory Dean who caught my eye. A tall, but elegantly proportioned dancer, Dean exudes a silent strength. The choreography emphasized his long line and superb control, and it's no surprise that Dean has just been promoted to coryphée.

Trisha Brown's "For MG: The Movie" may have been a welcome challenge for Ashley Page's dancers, but it was too much, too different to be an appropriate centerpiece for this Festival program. Alvin Curran's electronic score together with Brown's sets created a eerily realistic underground world, a fan of sunbeams filtering down through an unseen grate and the sounds of the outside world echoing in from above, interspersed with a plaintive melody. The sounds are at first urban – rattling train, clanging tin can, children's screams, then reflect nature – bird hoots, a buzzing bug and a dog barking.

The dancing, however does not match up to the world that has been created. The program begins with two dancers standing still on the stage, another dancer running relentless circles around the stage, stopping, starting, slowing down, speeding up. It's interesting for a few minutes, but soon it becomes relentless, tedious and the audience was visibly restless. Eventually other dancers join the action, appearing and disappearing, all movement in very slow motion. Tama Berry and Diana Loosemore tackled the fiendish slow-motion choreography with impressive dedication, though occasionally their poses seemed jarringly out of synch suggesting that they needed a few more rehearsals to master Brown's very different movement style. Brown's tan unitards were also highly unflattering on all but the slimmest dancers, especially in the dimmer moments of Spencer Brown's lighting scheme. The juxtaposition of movement with stillness was intriguing, but at over 30 minutes, the piece dragged and ceased to hold the attention. Set as part of a trilogy of Brown pieces where it could be seen in the context of Brown's use of modern techniques like release techniques (mentioned, but frustratingly not explained in the program notes), "For MG: The Movie" might have worked. However, for the Playhouse audience, the majority of which are unlikely to have much experience with modern dancer and expecting a more balletic program, the piece failed to connect. With Trisha Brown's own company appearing in a week's time, it might have been best to leave the modern dance to them.

After an evening of Forsythe choreography to taped music, and sitting through the electronic, taped scores used by both Petronio and Brown, it was an overwhelming relief to hear the John Adam's "Fearful Symmetries" being played live by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra (under Nicholas Kok's experienced baton's). Named for the Adam's composition, Ashley Page's fast paced ballet, was a pleasant if not entirely memorable ending to the evening. Page's dancers skim across the stage in fast synchrony, clumping together and dissipating out into the wings. Like Petronio, Page uses colour to group his dancers, but while the vibrant hues were visually striking, the skirt like shorts looked silly on the men. Far more attractive in their simplicity were the women's black tunics, which gave the ballet a sleek elegance without disrupting the dancers' lines. Erik Cavallari, as the male soloist, looked in his element. Not surprisingly then, this is one of the best performances I have seen from Cavallari, who sped through the swift steps with an unforced, slick power.

"Fearful Symmetries" was a welcome change from the forced slowness of the previous piece, but my attention, and I fear that of many audience members, was diminished by an excessively long interval which pushed the afternoon towards and ungainly 3 hour long length. The reason for the long interval was apparently to allow the switch of sets – George Souglides' huge hanging arc on stage right, which frames Page's ballet, certainly is integral to the piece, but the interval needs to be shortened if this is to be a successful program. Regardless of the interval, the 30 minute length of the piece seemed to stretch Page's choreographic inventiveness – I have found his most striking pieces to be his short pas de deuxs – and the attention span of the audience. The lighting was by Peter Mumford.

I continue to be unimpressed by the decision to have the Scottish Ballet perform in the gloomy, poorly designed confines of the Edinburgh Playhouse. This afternoon's program was also marred by what would appear to be a sound system ill equipped to deal with the electronic music – the sound was fuzzy and indistinct a times. I am also increasingly frustrated by the tendency to blast taped music to a near painful decibel level. The quality of the music does NOT improve with decibel level and music that is loud enough to distract the audience only takes away from the peformers. This awful habit is by no means limited to the International Festival, but is is surely NOT helped by the vastness of the Playhouse, which undoubtedly necessitates higher volume levels to project the score all the way out to the distant balconies.

This marks the end of my International Festival dance experience, and it stands out as the least impressive of the last four years. Both ballet companies – Scottish Ballet and Royal Ballet of Flanders – are at the top of their game, but the overlapping scheduling and repetitive repertoires – Forsythe was superb, but it all begins to melt together when you blend it with Petronio, Brown and Page – made for an un-fulfilling two days of dance going. I would remind the International Festival organizers that Edinburgh suffers no shortage of superb contemporary dance – the Alvin Ailey Company which visits in September runs rings around Scottish Ballet in terms of contemporary competence and repertoire – but it's good ballet we are sorely lacking. Bring up Balanchine and Robbins, Forsythe and Petipa, Wheeldon and Ratmansky, Welch and Dawson, the Ballet Boyz and MacMillan. Australian Ballet anybody….


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 Post subject: Royal Ballet of Flanders & Scottish Ballet
PostPosted: Thu Aug 23, 2007 1:04 am 
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Quote:
Evenings of beauty and bemusement
in the Financial Times
published: August 21, 2007

The Flanders troupe, committed and well schooled as they are, are neither as sharp nor as sassy as their Paris and London predecessors in the work; and I missed the playfulness that Guillem, Bussell, Bull and Bolle brought to it, all showing that you need to be a supreme classicist in order to turn yourself and your technique inside out. But the dance world has moved on since 1984 and the edge that now cuts is Wayne McGregor; it now seems very 1980s in its harsh brashness.

...

Scottish Ballet’s resurgence as a company of worth under Ashley Page is further confirmed by a new triple bill, the most inconsistent element of which was Stephen Petronio’s new commission Ride the Beast, energetically set to a selection of Radiohead songs. There were moments when I felt that choreographic leitmotifs were becoming over-repetitious, but Petronio then produced vignettes of real beauty and interest,
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Quote:
Dance: Impressing the Czar, Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
by ZOÊ ANDERSON for the Independent
published: August 21, 2007

But the ballet is tiresomely up itself, a choreographer admiring his own intellectual games.

...

After all that, the middle comes as a relief. The Flanders dancers are quick and committed They could put more contrast into these pull-you-this-way-yank-you-that-way steps, but this is a forceful performance.
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Quote:
Triple bill soon runs out of puff
by ZOÊ ANDERSON for the Independent
published: August 22, 2007

Scottish Ballet's triple bill, new for the International Festival, has athletic dancing but a shortage of momentum. Only the liveliness of the performances keeps the ballets moving.
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 Post subject: Scottish Ballet
PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2007 2:37 am 
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Quote:
Beauty of the Beast is better than a night at the movies
by CHITRA RAMASWAMY for the Scotland on Sunday
published: August 26, 2007

Sadly, Trisha Brown's For MG: The Movie falls flat after so much excitement. She is the doyenne of contemporary dance (Petronio was the first male dancer in her company), but this is a post-modern work with a capital 'P', which feels at times inaccessible and too long. Dressed in skin-coloured leotards that make the dancers appear naked, one runs backwards and forwards in a figure of eight as others stand still, facing away from us, or lie on the ground. After the juggernaut of Ride The Beast, it feels a bit risky to programme something so esoteric.
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