sat 04/07/2020

dance

theartsdesk's Christmas Presents Guide

theartsdesk

With the lightning speed of online delivery, there is still masses of time to select the best and most enjoyable presents for Christmas, thanks to the taste and wisdom of theartsdesk's pack of writers.

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theartsdesk in Siberia: Cold Comfort Krasnoyarsk

ismene Brown

In England you may joke about having Siberian weather with minus 7 degrees. This is really what Siberian winter looks like - at minus 26 degrees. The river is gushing steam, a hellishly peculiar sight. After travelling for 16 hours and through seven time zones to get to Krasnoyarsk at six in the morning, I am not sure I’m seeing what I’m seeing.

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Design Secrets of Cinderella and The Nutcracker

ismene Brown

The designer of a fairytale ballet is far, far more important than the choreographer. It's those visions that lodge themselves in children's heads, in adults' memories, embedded with the music. And at no time more potently than Christmas when it's time for The Nutcracker and Cinderella.

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Romeo and Juliet in Opera and Ballet

ismene Brown

Those teenage lovers Romeo and Juliet will be dying nightly on a stage near you in various guises for much of the autumn - not as Shakespeare’s play, but as ballets and operas based on it. Next week both Birmingham Royal Ballet and English National Ballet field two of the more famous versions on their autumn tours, while at the end of the month the Royal Opera stages a rare revival of Gounod’s opera.

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Behind the Scene at the Museum: The Staging of the Diaghilev Exhibition

ismene Brown

The show's curator Jane Pritchard revealed this wonderful kitchen story in a unique walk-round with theartsdesk this week. Her two-year hunt ranged from Diaghilev's passport to glorious Nijinsky costumes, from the Ballets Russes accounts book to astonishing Picasso stage cloths, from precious notated scores by Stravinsky to automated Constructivist art, from ballerinas' slippers and early colour film to Yves St Laurent fashions.

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Being a Trock: Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Peacock Theatre

ismene Brown

Shortly before he died Merce Cunningham came to see the Trocks’ new parody of his work - he loved the dancing but hated the music. Pace the great man, for most of us watching it Wednesday night the entire thing is a miracle of comedic perception, from the three lanky fellows in strange unitards and weird hair, po-facedly hopping about the stage, to the two mad musicians in black at the side, bursting paper bags, gargling, shaving the microphone, and mooing gently.

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The Ballet That Began in the Bath

ismene Brown Scottish Ballet's Claire Robertson, Adam Blyde and corps in the extraordinary Scenes de Ballet

This week Scottish Ballet opens its new season with a ballet of genius that began life in the bath. The bath is a great place for inspiration. The Greek mathematician Archimedes discovered the law of hydrostatics in it. The choreographer Frederick Ashton also had one of his major lightbulb moments while having a soak, idly listening to the radio in 1947 when a new piece of music came on.

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theartsdesk in Milan: The Farce of Romeo and Juliet at La Scala

Natalie Wheen

How often has one sat at a first night at the opera or ballet, groaning at missed cues, horrors with costumes, disasters with lighting:  one thinks they should surely have got it right by this time? And the rest of the evening is somehow diminished by this upset. But then, how much do we in the audience understand about what it takes to put on a performance, where there are so many elements to co-ordinate and where, therefore, so much conspires to go wrong?

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Reconstructing Ballet's Past 2: Master Restorer Sergei Vikharev

ismene Brown

When Russia was plunged into Revolution in 1917, a chief balletmaster inside the Imperial Ballet in St Petersburg feared the worst. It was not simply the death of Tsars he feared, but the death of all culture associated with them, including the classical ballet that had grown to become an opulent wonder of the world. For 25 years all the ballets in the repertoire had been notated, their choreography, how the steps fitted the music, what costumes and sets should be.

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Reconstructing Ballet's Past 1: Swan Lake, Mikhailovsky Ballet

ismene Brown

You need very little for a Swan Lake. Tchaikovsky’s music, white swan-girls, a mooning boy, and 32 fouettés for the ballerina in black. That's about it, isn't it? Every traditional Swan Lake we see now is a sort of balletic pizza - a musical base scattered with ingredients collected from a familiar buffet, piled up by its stager or so-called choreographer according to taste (and often a large measure of vanity for sauce).

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