“Honestly, I just can’t stand seeing productions of the classics any more, because I know how far it is from Petipa’s intentions,” Alexei Ratmansky told me a few months back, when we began discussing preparations for his new Sleeping Beauty, based largely on his interpretation of historical sources. He said many other things too. You’ll find them here, in this extensive q&a.
I’m just back from the Ashton festival at Sarasota Ballet, a four-day tribute to the choreographer. Under the directorship of Iain Webb, the company has been undergoing a major expansion over the past few years. By any measure, the festival was a big success, with strong performances, expressive dancing, and a powerful sense of style and common purpose.
And a short excerpt: “The advantage of putting all these ballets on the stage in quick succession is that the audience begins to see all sorts of interconnections and motifs running through the works. Thus, in Monotones II (1965), there is an echo of the slow trio near the beginning of Valses Nobles et Sentimentales, in which a woman is slowly revolved by two men and shown from all angles, the center of a slow-moving planetary system.”
ABT is performing Frederick Ashton’s pseudo-classical fantasy “Sylvia” this week. It’s a marvelous ballet, taken on its own terms. Full of stylish detail, tender scenes, and ravishing music, it is also completely silly and over-the-top, with more than a whiff of the music-hall.
“The designs are intentionally old-fashioned, quaint, many-layered, full of drapery and chiaroscuri that turn the stage into a lavish popup book. The first tableau, a sylvan glade with a stony outcrop, reveals a little bridge in the background and a three-tiered fountain topped by a statue of Eros. The statue later turns out – surprise! – to be a dancer slathered in white body paint. The second act takes place in a kind of orientalist fantasy-land, Cairo by way of the the Moulin Rouge.”