When Clement Crisp has reviewed a ballet, I often think I have little to add to it. But …
I’ve barely managed to see Natalia Osipova since she’s become a regular at the Royal Ballet, but I managed to grab a single ticket for this triple bill, hoping against hope that Sweet Violets would have been trimmed and tightened since its debut. No such luck: it was as incoherent as ever, and while I thought I might be distracted by getting to see the lovely costumes close up, instead I was just … waiting. Waiting for Osipova. And wondering: who in the hell ever thought of putting Liam Scarlett side by side with Balanchine? It was like steak and Wotsits sitting on a plate together, the same jarring experience as the exhibit of Turner and Helen Frankenthaler I saw in Margate. It’s clear when you’re seeing a masterpiece for all time – and it’s ever so clear when you’re not.
Finally we got to “Danse a Grande Vitesse,” which I’d found robotic and dull when I first saw it. But somehow, with a Wotsits appetizer and the brilliant dancing of Osipova, I relaxed into this performance, with the dancers making beautiful curving motions of the trains and gears, with the odd “I am the French goddess of Victory!” moments, with the incessant Nyman score. Suddenly I had a vision: combine the choreography (and funky deconstructed train) of DGV with the costumes and pathos of the other, and you could have Zola’s La Bete Humaine. Blood, sex, death, and fast trains: it would be awesome. Thinking about this kept me highly amused for the rest of the evening – I mean, it would help the Royal Ballet recoup their investment from Violets and mean we might manage to not ever have to see it again! It was a very cheering thought.
(This review is for a performance that took place on Wednesday, May 21st, 2014. The final performance will be May 26th.)