10 Reasons Why We Love Manon

A big helping of MacMillan is finally coming our way after a very Ashton-heavy season. Manon, one of his most famous full-length ballets, opens at Covent Garden on Thursday for a run of 15 performances and is to return during the autumn season. Having shortlisted it as one of our new season favorites we were asked via Facebook to write a post on “why Manon is supposed to be so great”. We know J-Ho would disagree, but we find MacMillan’s adult ballets seriously appealing, so we were eager to accept the challenge.

Below, in no particular order, are “10 Reasons Why We Love Manon“. Agree/disagree? Let us know via comment:

Left: Carlos Acosta as Des Grieux. Right: Tamara Rojo as Manon. Photos: Bill Cooper / ROH ©

1. The amazing Pas de Deux. They truly speak for themselves:

2. Des Grieux’s Act I solo. MacMillan found a way to use steps to convey everything about his characters. In one of the most beautiful adagios for a male dancer, Des Grieux opens up to Manon and reveals he is a romantic, a “what you see is what you get” kind of guy.

3. Manon’s coquettish signature walk en pointe.

4. The corps and character roles – the individual episodes taking place around the stage are just as interesting as the main action, so pay attention!

Artists of The Royal Ballet in MacMillan's Manon. Photo: Bill Cooper / ROH ©

5. The gorgeous music by Massenet originally arranged by Leighton Lucas, now freshly reorchestrated by longtime Manon conductor Martin Yates.

6. Drama, drama, drama! It is make it or break it in this ballet. It can fall flat with the wrong cast, but great leads bring highly individual interpretations to the story.

7. The dramatic “flips ‘n’ tosses” of the last Pas De Deux, requiring Manon to take some incredible leaps of faith.

Tamara Rojo as Manon and Carlos Acosta as Des Grieux in Manon, Act III. Photo: Bill Cooper / ROH ©

8. The costumes. Nicholas Georgiadis’s beautiful designs convey decadence in 18th century Parisian society – see for instance, Manon’s jewelry and gold embroidered dress in Act 2.

9. The complexity of Manon’s character – does she have flexible morals; or no morals at all? – How Manon is corrupted by a domineering older brother and how this all stems from MacMillan’s own personal experiences.

10. The riches to rags story. Refreshing after so many Cinderellas; not least because the underlying themes of frivolity and greed hold a mirror right back to our modern society.

And here are some of the things our tweeps love about Manon:

Love Georgiadis's costume, & complicated character RT @: 10 things we love about the #ballet #Manon - music, pdds, what else???
@naomip86
pchan/naomi
@ The pas de deuxs! And the corps -- what they're doing at the side is just as interesting as the main action!
@may_kwok
May Kwok
@ the drama! The gangplank! The shorn off hair! The (ahem) naughty bits!
@ the adult nature of the plot. Very grown-up ballet
@AliceLagnado
Alice Lagnado
@ The lifts in the last PDD! I was gobsmacked the first time I saw them and I still love them http://myloc.me/jeA6N
@CURZONPRODUCT
SEBASTIAN PETIT
@ The drunken pdd of course! Always a crowd pleaser.
@BBB_Mrs
Karen McLernon
The little "extras" the whores do in the background RT @: 10 things we love about the #ballet #Manon - music, pdds, what else???
@bangorballetboy
Lee McLernon
@ Seeing what remains of the original novel, which I used to teach. Many novels transfer disappointingly to stage; not this one.
@asanderson197
Anne Sanderson
The cheap whores in Act 2! RT @: 10 things we love about the #ballet #Manon - music, pdds, what else???
@Bennet76
Bennet Gartside
@ ... Macmillan/Geordiadis partnership of Gods & story which hits a hundred resonances - it's up there with Traviata 4 me #Manon
@dodynash
Dody Nash
...story is told in the steps & not defined by 32 fouettés, exposes how silly "romance" can be while still indulging in it... #ballet #Manon

Thanks to everyone who contributed!

Likes ballets that taste like 85% cocoa: pure, extra bitter, dark or intense. Her favorites are La Sylphide, Manon, Mayerling, Ondine, Symphonic Variations and McGregor's Chroma. A self-confessed Alexei Ratmansky devotee, she has seen (and adores) 20+ of his pieces. Non ballet: literature, theatre, opera, rock, art, food, travel, fashion, and foreign languages.

13 Comments

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  • April 21, 2011

    Emilia

    Ohh good calls again, the curtain raiser with Lescaut all by himself really is sinister, a real omen of things to come.

    We shared this on Twitter yesterday and now posting the link here in case any of you are interested in diving deeper into Manon’s motivations:

    http://philipkennicott.com/2009/06/28/manhandling-manon/

  • April 17, 2011

    rose

    The sinister curtain-raise to big brother crouched on the stage like a malevolent toad… the skin-creeping pas de trois between him, Manon and the old letch, complete with pointe shoe frottage moment…frisksome whores… the pass-the-parcel dance where Manon, in her moment of social triumph, is admired by a roomful of men…Des Grieux’s Act I solo, hovering between shyness and rapture…oh and Manon’s blue fur-cuffed robe *covets*

  • April 17, 2011

    Nina

    Thank you gorgeous Bag ladies! I am going to give Manon another try, and will watch one of my dvd’s tomorrow evening!!!

  • April 16, 2011

    Emilia

    Good calls guys!

    @Rachel – how could we forget the tart-dressed-as-boy!! I remember this Clement Crisp review where he praises RB soloist Iohna Loots for looking like a figure right out of a Vigée Le Brun canvas in that role.

  • April 16, 2011

    Rachel Handshaw

    The pas de deux, the complex characters of Manon, Des Grieux and Lescat and the little prostitute dressed as a boy. I love her!

  • April 16, 2011

    Katherine Barber

    Not to forget Des Grieux’s Act II solo as well!

  • April 16, 2011

    DaveM

    Leanne Cope stealing the money when the police raid (or at least stealing every scene she’s in).