Friday, 11 November 2016
Yesterday's Panel Discussion on Reimagining Classics
Standard YouTube Licence
Yesterday I attempted to watch the streaming of a panel discussion on the topic of Reimagining Topics that I had mentioned in English National Ballet's Reimagining Classics Panel DiscussionThe 10 Nov 2016. The discussion was chaired by Sarah Crompton and took place at English National Ballet's studios in London. The panellists were Tamara Rojo and Gavin Sutherland of English National Ballet, Robert Icke of the Almeida Theatre who had created a new version of the Oresteia ( Ὀρέστεια) and Mark Evans of the Victoria and Albert Museum which had recently staged the Botticelli Reimagined exhibition.
I say "attempted" because the transmission broke down 6 minutes into the discussion and I did not get it back until half way through. Also, when it did come back the sound quality was appalling which meant that I struggled to hear Icke at all because he spoke very softly and I could not hear any of the questions from the floor at all. Having said that, it was certainly better than nothing and I managed to make a few notes here and there.
The discussion had been prompted by Akram Khan's Giselle which I reviewed for this blog (see Akram Khan's Giselle 28 Sept 2016). That production has not yet opened in London. I could not help thinking that it might have been better to hold the discussion in one of the cities in which Akram Khan's work has already been performed or at least to have postponed the discussion until after 19 Nov when it will have finished its London run.
I should also add that Northern Ballet has held events like yesterday's and while the first of these was all over the shop (see My Thoughts on Saturday Afternoon's Panel Discussion at Northern Ballet 21 June 2015) the second was much better (see Tell Tale Steps 2 17 June 2016). Wisely Crompton began by asking each of the panellists to define "classical". So far as I could hear what he said, Icke seemed to define classic in terms of live and dead and that a classic was something dead and Rojo said she agreed, Sutherland considered what classic meant in terms of music and talked about heritage and techniques. Evans said he had actually looked up the word in the Oxford English Dictionary ...... and then the transmission was lost.
That was a pity because the discussion was just getting interesting at that point. In a sense, Giselle is not a classical work at all but a romantic one. I don't know whether anybody mentioned that distinction in London while they were offline but, if they did not do so, maybe they should have done because giving rein to free expression is one of the characteristics of romanticism.
The transmission resumed in the middle of a comparison of Skeaping's Giselle with Akram Khan. Rojo said the timing had been deliberate because she wanted her audience to compare the two. Ideally she would have run them on alternate nights. I think she was right to have done that. As I said in English National Ballet's other Giselle 22 Oct 2016, I plan to watch that show in the New Year. Surprisingly, Rojo said that she had faced some resistance to premiering Akram Khan's Giselle in Manchester. Personally, I think that was a good choice. The performance was received rapturously in the Palace on the first night. Possibly better than it would have been received in London where audiences would have seen other Giselles.
There was no time for questions from the internet audience which was a pity. I would have suggested that there are other more plausible updates of Giselle such as Mats Ek's and that you don't have to change the score or story to make a work relate to modern audiences. But I don't want to be too negative. Commissioning Akram Khan was a bold decision and in that I support the company 100%. We do need to try out new things if ballet is to retain its popularity and relevance.