A talk with chief critic Alastair Macaulay - The New York Times - about a comment from Richard Slaughter (Royal Ballet)! Nov. 2nd, 2017
Here the reproduction of a conversation that took place yesterday on my Page on Facebook! I feel free to reproduce it here because it is on my Facebook "Timeline" and open for everyone to read. This conversation gave me great pleasure, especially because I consider Mr. Macaulay THE Ballet critic worldwide and admire his work immensely.
I just read this today... and it gave me another - a very valuable - insight to Swan Lake's 3rd act: "The 32 fouettes serve to illustrate Odile's deception of Siegfried... current obsessions with technical achievements do not understand the narrative of the ballet. Human nature is such that it can't help utilising deception to gratify its innermost needs; (LOVE)? Do we actually have a moral code anymore?" (Richard Slaughter - Royal Ballet)
Attitude Bravo, Richard!
Alastair Macaulay The two most obvious things to discuss about Odile's 32 fouetté turns are (a) that they are an unsupported version of Odette's finger fouettés at the end of the lakeside adagio with Siegfried (b) that they change music after the first 16. With regard to (b), are they therefore unmusical, carrying on regardless of the different musical dynamics? Or does this change of music actually express, with the 32 fouettés, an unstoppable force? Either way, I can only say, after 42 years of watching the ballet, the drama is enforced if Odile begins each actual turn on the downbeat. Most modern Odiles, by adding multiple turns, lose track of the best. A friend who saw Fonteyn doing 32 single fouettés remembers that his heart was pounding - because of her musicality.
Attitude Thank you so much for such a rich comment... and yes, I do agree with you! Also because this "circus-like" tendency (are double fouette-turns really a "must"?) also disturbs the exact musicality that is required. Yes, Fonteyn (unfortunately I have never seen her doing these 32 fouettes as they - I think - were cut out of the Nureyev Version here in Vienna... if I am not mistaken, because already in 1966 she was not sure i she could make them... ) I can just, quickly, think of Makarova (Covent Garden, 1981 with Dowell): technically, some dancers nowadays would snub her performance and say, "terrible" but she was simply perfect because of her musicality and "vision" of the role - SHE was a swan... a quality that is becoming quite rare nowadays...
Alastair Macaulay Lots to say. Fonteyn insisted that, as the story shows, Odette is not a swan. The exaggeration of swan mannerisms is a Russian thing, beginning in the 1950s with Makarova. Not too many people who saw Makarova live as Odette called her musical, by the way; she took the music slower than anyone else and then, especially in the variation, danced after it, ending more than a second after the music had stopped. I saw the 1980 (yes) Royal performance live; it was edited by TV to look more musical for the screen. A great but highly controversial dancer; Odette-Odile was her most controversial role. (The first time I saw her dance it, 1976, I remember a Londoner exclaiming after Act Two, "All she thinks about are her bloody arms and legs". I disagreed, but certainly understood.)
Odile can do doubles if you keep the main fouetté action on the beat. Tiler Peck recently did the first sixteen as doubles, on the beat; then the second sixteen as singles.
Oh, Fonteyn's fouettés: they were never her best step (she loved the New York review that called them her "Cook's tour of the stage"), but she went on doing them until 1972. Only in her final year with the role, in her fifties, did she give up the fouetté effort.
Nureyev's Vienna production is disgusting (and unmusical) from first to last and has very little to do with the way he or she danced the role, often, with the Royal.
Attitude This is most interesting: you see, I never saw Makarova "live" in the roles... just on video - and if it has been edited to seem more musical... well that explains a lot. She took the music very slow... But also as Odille in the second act: just thinking about the pas-de-deux with Michael Denard (which I also "just" know from film...). Nureyev's SL Vienna production is really disgusting - as you said! I really do not like it... But I'll watch it again just because of the fouettes - I don't remember them... and I thought... But you are surely right. On her auto-biography she always say that she somehow dreaded these fouettes... I loved the "Cook's tour of the stage" ha ha ha... that is lovely. And that lovely lady had humour - and intelligence - and wit... I have not - up to this very day - seen a dancer with that superb upper-body quality... Thank you, dear Alastair, for making this comment page so rich with your knowledge and wisdom. I am very happy about that! Thank you!
Ricardo Leitner / attitude-devant