Saturday, 20 September 2014

Manon Insight: "Everybody wants to be Manon"

Manon insight evening, Royal Ballet, Clore Studio @ ROH - reviewed on 18th September

Edward Watson and Mara Galeazzi in the
Manon bedroom pas de deux
Photo: Bill Cooper
As Kenneth MacMillan's Manon celebrates its 40th anniversary, original cast members Antoinette Sibley and Anthony Dowell spoke at a Royal Opera House insight evening.

"We were spoilt. MacMillan put the choreography together so quickly  it just seemed to happen," explained Dowell. "The Des Grieux variation took just one session. Working with other choreographers, we'd think 'God, this is going to take forever!'."

"Manon has a bit of 'slut' about her. She's very sexy," described Sibley. "She's come from a convent and doesn't know about life. She really needs men and their touch... She's not a nice character. She's after what she can get. It's wonderful to have the opportunity to be nasty."

Royal Ballet Director Kevin O'Hare agreed: "Everybody  every ballerina wants to be Manon." Dancers Melissa Hamilton (who makes her Manon debut this season) and Matthew Golding were then coached  in the Act I bedroom pas de deux. The pair looked ready to go onstage and performed an exceptionally passionate MacMillan kiss, but Sibley and Dowell gave numerous musical corrections. Even the moment when Manon takes Des Grieux's pen and throws it to the side has a specific note of Massenet's music.

Sibley also guided Hamilton in some of the choreographic details: "Use the pliƩ. The down is as important as the up onto pointe. It makes the step more sensual... The arms should be heavy as if travelling through water. It makes you use the whole body."
Deborah MacMillan also spoke about her husband's ballet. "He went against the idea that ballet had to be perfect and beautiful. In real life, sex rears its not-so-ugly head. Manon is a sexy story! And everyone is as important as everyone else. There's an entire three act ballet taking place at the side of the stage."   

Whilst Manon received mixed opening night reviews (one critic complained that it was "so badly constructed that you can't applaud the entrance of the male star"), it has become a firm favourite with both dancers and audiences. Here's to the next 40 years of success!

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