Dance: The art of Performance

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Ballet starvation is a little recognised condition. Its chief symptoms are long evenings spent listlessly looking through old programmes, feverish anticipation of the slightest trace of balletic activity and an unusually swollen bank balance. Chronic sufferers get round the problem by watching endless videos. Either you own the films or you watch them on cable. Performance channel occasionally throws up a new bit of dance, but most of the time it's happy to repeat existing material on a neverending loop. This week you get three big chunks of classical ballet starting with tonight's rerun of the Royal Ballet's La Fille Mal Gardee.

This true ballet d'action was born in 1789 and was considered revolutionary at a time when ballets were deliberately artificial entertainments, mostly concerned with classical subjects in tragic mode. Jean Dauberval chose instead to create a comedy set in the farmyard. Lise lives with her mother, the Widow Simone, who wants her to marry a rich idiot. Lise would rather have the handsome young farmer Colas and the ballet's action tells how the lusty young couple outwit the ambitious old lady. It was a subject ideally suited to Frederick Ashton's wit and to his flair for creating believable characters. His version, created in 1960, was an immediate success. He stuck firmly to the original scenario. The bewitching mime sequence in which the solitary Lise imagines her marriage to Colas and the children they have together was taught to Ashton by the great Tarmara Karsavina. The really Ashton touches are found in the dancing chickens, the maypole, the clog dancing and the extraordinary character of Alain the idiot, created by Alexander Grant. Performance screen the ballet tonight. Lise is danced by the great Lesley Collier, whose sweetness and virtuosity made her one of the greatest interpreters of the role.

Later this week you can catch the Kirov Ballet in The Stone Flower and the documentary Dancing for Mr B in which six Balanchine ballerinas (including Maria Tallchief, Allegra Kent, and Darci Kistler) discuss the great man and his working methods. Get some Maltesers in, stick a cardboard cut-out of someone's head in front of the screen and you're away.

La Fille Mal Gardee, tonight 7pm; The Stone Flower, Mon 9pm; Dancing for Mr B, Thurs 10.30pm

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