Prince of the Pagodas

August 11, 2008 at 1:42 am | Posted in Ballet Review, DVD Review | Leave a comment
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Over three long nights I watched this DVD of the Royal Ballet’s 1990 production of The Prince of the Pagodas. Warning – contains plot details.

Aug 7, 2008 by Show_Hanger

Prince of the Pagods has a strong story going for it: a contested kingdom; sibling rivalry; competition for a woman’s hand in marriage; fighting for the woman you love’ and more. Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s version features some very good dancers: Darcy Bussell, Jonathan Cope, Simon Rice and Fiona Chadwick. Yet, it did not engage me; I was not held in thrall – certainly not in the way Romeo and Juliet does. I feel that the ballet was let down by the music. The music was generally uninspiring; It just did not enhance and support the emotional elements of the story.

This was the first time that I had seen Dacry Bussell dance. Some years ago I read her biography, and was very pleased to find this DVD at the library. She is a joy to watch; she is svelt, not skinny; she graceful, yet athletic – wonderful jumps; her arabeques are a joy to behold; no wonder she was MacMillan’s muse!

Act I sets the scene. The king divides his kingdom between his daughters – Princess Rose (Bussell) and her half sister Princess Epine (Chadwick). Unfortunately, it is not an equal division; Princess Epine is given a smaller portion, and it is clear that she is not happy. Four foreign kings arrive in search of brides. During the ensuing ‘struting’, Princess Epine ousts her father and takes the crown from him. Princess Epine turns Princess Rose’s fiance – The Prince (Cope) – into a salamander and transports him from the kingdom.

Act II seems to one long dream sequence. Princess Ross, accompanied and assisted by the court fool (Rice), searches for the Prince. She rejects the four kings and her perserverance is rewarded – she finds the prince and her love returns him to human form.

Act III see things set right. Princess Rose and the Prince return to her father’s kingdom – now ruled by Princess Epine. In a series of superbly choreographed gritty fights, the Prince vanquishes the four foreign kings. The king is restored. Princess Epine is banished. Princess Rose and the Prince marry – or at least formally engaged.

This ballet has a unique piece of choreography – a pas de deux with one dancer ! The king of the east dances with himself – constantly looking at himself in a handmirror!

I think the ballet was staged at Covent Garden and filmed by the BBC in 1990.


Aug 7, 2008 by DVD_Hanger

The DVD had two items on it: the Ballet and a documentary –Out of Line – on the life of Sir Kenneth MacMillan.

The DVD helpfully puts a summary at the beginning of each Act.

The documentary was facinating. We see MacMillan as a dancer. We see three of the dancers he has used as instruments to aid his choreography – his muses: Lynn Seymour, Alessandra Ferri and Darcy Bussell. The first two are interveiwed, Seymour extensively; but Bussell not at all for some reason.

The documentary covers much of MacMillan’s career as a choreographer, though how objective it is I don’t know. But it appears to have been pretty controversial. MacMillan seems to have been constantly at odds with the traditionalists and the critics!

The DVD is worth getting out for the documentary alone.



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