Monday, 16 July 2012

Royal Ballet School

Annual Matinee, Royal Ballet School, Royal Opera House – reviewed on 15th July

Royal Ballet School students performed charmingly in their annual main stage performance at the Royal Opera House.

Year 9 students paraded the stage with sparkling technique, flawless pirouettes and neat group formations in opening work Jubilation. Brightly coloured costumes and exuberant choreography abounded in Alistair Marriott’s Simple Symphony, where three main couples and a supporting entourage created playful shapes to reflect the varied sounds of Benjamin Britten’s musical accompaniment. Dancers excelled in the unusual movements of Jiří Kylián’s Un Ballo from curled-up foetal positions to banging fists on the floor.

Other choreography didn’t allow the young dancers' talents to shine. Matthew Hart’s Olympic-inspired Games for Gods displayed a huge cast in repetitive Grecian poses and sport movement imitations. Contemporary work Uneven Ground included impressive lifts and jumps but was at odds with its lyrical guitar soundtrack. Choreography to Yondering by John Neumeier was like a tediously protracted barn dance.

Paquita was undoubtedly the afternoon’s highlight, with Mayara Magri, who joins the Royal Ballet company next season, seeming to hover in the air as lead dancer. Anna Rose O’Sullivan and Lachlan Monaghan also stood out with their musicality and vivacity, and the ten-strong corps de ballet was impressively uniform and poised.

The Grand Défilé which always concludes the show gives every student from across the school the chance to dance onstage. With an impressively large number of young performers displaying superb technique and clean lines, it is clear to see why the Royal Ballet School deserves its international reputation for excellence.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Dance Holland Park

Dance Holland Park: emerging choreographers’ showcase, Opera Holland Park – reviewed on 7th July
English National Ballet commenced Big Dance week 2012 with a showcase of five new works by emerging choreographers from West London companies. In gorgeous park surrounds and with live string quartet accompaniment, a diverse programme inspired by the current season of Opera Holland Park was presented.
Arcadie Rusu of the Romanian Cultural Institute choreographed contemporary dance work, Hunted Devotion. Inspired by Falstaff, Rusu used the opera’s title character to explore the “dramatic truth” behind comic figures.
Kali Chandrasegaram & Khavita Kaur in This Wicked Desire
Photo: James Jenkins
To original music from Cosí fan tutte, Katie Ryan’s The Wicked Desire used bharata natyam movements to depict two dancers’ struggle to choose between desire and virtue. Costumes represented a similar conflict with glamorous and modern corsets contrasting traditional trousers and red painted fingers and toes.
Buoso, by Naomi Deira of Union Dance Company, showed two male and two female dancers swathed in black lace, swirling, collapsing and unfolding their bodies to dramatic percussive sounds.
Combination Dance Company’s Lucia took the most literal inspiration from its opera, Lucia di Lammermoor. With short scenes portraying the title character through romance, family manipulation and descent into madness, Anne-Marie Smalldon’s choreography showed three females representing the same role and being showered with, tormented by and left morbidly lying in flower petals, in this absorbing piece.
English National Ballet dancer James Streeter’s duel-like duet took inspiration from Yevgeny Onegin. To a commissioned score by Janine Forrester, two men dramatically circled each other, performing acrobatic leg extensions and lifts in ContraVersus. Alternating between tender counter-balances and more aggressive movements, the work made a powerful conclusion to the Dance Holland Park performance.
Whilst not all the choreography was successful, the opportunity to create for a major stage and work with live musicians gave these five young artists a fantastic chance to experiment. Such opportunities are what make Big Dance so wonderful and should be heartily encouraged.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Birthday Offering Triple

Birthday Offering/ A Month in the Country/ Les Noces, Royal Ballet, Royal Opera House – reviewed on 3rd July
Birthday Offering was created in 1956 to celebrate the Royal Ballet’s 25th anniversary. This year it commemorates not a birthday but the end of Monica Mason’s ten-year term as company artistic director. Originally designed to highlight the company’s talent, it features complex solos for seven leading ballerinas, a lyrical pas de deux and grand Russian-style group sections. More than 50 years later, it is frequently revived for celebrations and remains in sparkling form.

To Alexander Glazunov’s triumphant score, Frederick Ashton’s choreography feels zingy and fresh. A stellar cast of top company members take the lead roles; Yuhui Choe playfully flicks her wrists, Roberta Marquez jumps explosively and Marianela Nuñez moves her feet with a rapid precision that matches perfectly the delicate string sounds. Nuñez’ pas de deux with real-life partner Thiago Soares is delightfully understated with the couple executing extended balances with ease. Birthday Offering is a truly joyful ballet and one in which the Royal Ballet excels.

Second Ashton work, A Month in the Country, is performed with equal flair. In an 1850 Russian country house, stifled housewife Natalia finds desire and exhilaration in the form of her son’s tutor, Beliaev. Lead Alina Cojocaru displays her character’s every minute emotion, powerfully evoking the audience’s sympathy and making the ballet’s final moments utterly heart-breaking. Her lover, Federico Bonelli, dances with poetic softness and a modestly-displayed but clearly fervent passion. An excellent supporting cast complete the picture, with Iohna Loots as charming and naïve ward Vera deserving particular praise.
The Royal Ballet in Les Noces
Photo: Tristram Kenton, courtesy of ROH
Bronislava Nijinska's Les Noces, originally created for the Ballets Russes, ended the evening with a bang. To Igor Stravinsky’s masterful vocal score, it depicts wedding rituals as Bride (Kristen McNally) marries Bridegroom (Valeri Hristov). The corps de ballet take the most integral roles here, with bold and tribal choreography based on simple sequences of predominantly walking and jumping performed en masse. Although the cast didn’t have the absolute unison required to make the boldest statement, the ballet does not fail to haunt with its brown-clad figures forming elaborately interweaved and striking group poses (see image above).

This was another marvellous triple bill by the Royal Ballet, intelligently put together by Monica Mason. New director, Kevin O’Hare, has a lot to live up to.