Posts Tagged ‘Chroma’

Great deal on Royal Ballet triple bill (Chroma, Tryst, Symphony in C)

May 6, 2010

To my surprise, LastMinute.com has a fab deal posted for the last Royal Ballet triple bill of the year, featuring Wanye MacGregor’s “Chroma,” the most exciting work of ballet I’ve seen in four years (score by the White Stripes, RAWK), and Balanchine’s “Symphony in C,” a touchstone of 20th century ballet. Prices are £35 for orchestra stalls (were £55) and £15 and £12 for stalls seats normally priced at £30 and £12. The deal is only good on May 22 and 23, but, seriously, at this price you must go. For me, at this price I can now afford to go twice and watch it close up.

Later: OOH, if you use the link on Travelzoo.com, if you pick tickets for the Saturday or Sunday 22/23rd shows, you’ll get the same deal, only you’ll only see it once you select a seat – the price will show up as the third option when you’re picking which seat to put in your basket.

Review – Birmingham Royal Ballet’s “Quantum Leaps” Program – Sadler’s Wells

November 11, 2009

Last night’s Birmingam Royal Ballet “Quantum Leaps” program at Sadlers Wells was a real treat, delivering two knockouts after opening with a bit of a wiffle. “Powder,” a quasi-classical 1998 production featured dancers in jammies (bras and fluffy underskirts for girls, briefs for the men) carvorting to Mozart, opened the night. I found it dry and forgettable.

Far more exciting, and the real reason I’m trying to cram this review in today (so I can encourage perhaps one more person to go), is David Bintley’s “E=MC2,” and, to be perfectly honest, its twin (in terms of newness), Garry Stewart’s “The Centre and its Opposite.” I cheated and didn’t bother reading the program notes for E=MC2 (okay, I was gossiping so much that I didn’t have time), but simply the title was enough to be evocative for me. This is what I experienced, though I can’t guarantee it’s in perfect order as I was too excited to take notes very well:

First scene: the dancers, huddled in a ball under a low-hanging ceiling, have their arms extended a bit, their fingers twisting and turning like a flamenco dancer’s. Light slices across them; their costumes have blazes across their chests that catch the light. It’s like a primeval world; the dancers are like a big … I can’t help but think of an atom or a chunky molecule. The music is utterly modern but good, not too pretentiously atonal, really fresh sounding and exciting. The dancers break apart and shoot off around the stage, swirling around, sometimes bent over at the waist with their arms swinging from side to side, reminding me of the versions of “Rite of Spring” that have a ball of people enacting a ritual in the middle of the stage. A blonde woman and a man get to do a fair amount of duets and solos, and WOW can they move, very fleet of foot, very limber. At some point I realize I have stopped writing about the show in my head because I am completely caught up in the movement.

Second scene: six men, three women, moving together, generally slowly, sometimes doing a momement together, sometimes in sequence. The men handle the women very tenderly. I am amused by the women’s costumes, which remind me of the posters for Raquel Welch’s Two Million BC. I am imagining chemical processes taking place, expressed in the medium of dance.

Third scene: a bright red square in the sky, a woman in a white kimono holding a red fan. A deafening boom (this made me angry as I think it was at hearing damage level). Clear Hiroshima reference, the negatives of the secrets of the atom, the white referring to the Asian death colors. Unfortunately I’ve seen too much good and authentic Japanese dance to like this bit. Just a little more work with an expert choreographer (especially in relation to the movement of the sleeves) could have punched this way up as dance instead of being a pseudo-Oriental pastiche.

Fourth scene: atoms dancing in space! The back of the stage is covered with lights (round incandescent ones), and I can hardly see the dancers because of the glare – they are practically shadows, flitting and hard to focus on. The dancers run back and forth, they are beautiful, they are joyous. I am reminded of little atoms dancing on the surface of the sun – they can’t be concerned about morality, they are just pure existence, flicking electrons to each other, fusing, fissioning (?), arcing away from the glowing surface and back. A second blond woman takes the stage, lithe, quick-stepping, and she is smiling, they are all smiling, and as she catches her partner’s eyes and grins, I think, “My God, they are actually having fun.” And I was, too, utterly caught up in the moment. Who knows if my interpretations reflected the program notes, I was excited enough to see something so rich that it was able to spark all of those connections in my head!

WHEW. I figured after that was over, what really was left? But BRB returned with “The Centre and its Opposite,” another brand new piece. The choreographer (Garry Stewart, must make the effort to see his Australian Dance Theater now) said in his notes that it was about dancers fighting to be the center of attention, and, wow, I could barely decide where to look and I loved it. The whole thing was done to this awesome industrial music and performed against a set with florescent lights standing up in rows on the sides and back of the stage and hovering over the stage in a lowerable wall. If ever there was movement a ballerina or danseur could do to make himself noticed, in this piece they were doing it; legs flipped up to ears, leaps, twisting, flipping, every trick in the book was out. It wasn’t sloppy, though – the movement had focus and made sense. It had the wild electricity of the first time I saw “In The Middle, Somewhat Elevated,” and I wondered, is this what Forsythe would have created if he’d been a newish choreographer now instead of 20 years ago?

Overall, this night ended with two such power packed ballets that I was left gasping for air, my hair kind of standing on end like it did the first time I saw “Chroma” (and the first time I saw Forsythe). I have always thought BRB was a strong dance company, and this evening fully supported my decision to really make an effort to see them each and every opportunity I get. I am truly sorry I can’t go see this performance again, but I do have tickets for Cyrano, which they’re finishing out their turn at Sadler’s Wells; with half priced tickets available, there’s no reason not to go.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesday, November 10th 2009. The final performance of Quantum Leaps will be tonight, Wednesday October 11th. Birmingham Royal Ballet finishes at Sadler’s Wells with performances of “Cyrano,” ending on Saturday November 14th.)

Review – Three Short Works (Voluntaries, The Lesson, Infra) – The Royal Ballet

November 27, 2008

Last night was my long awaited trip to the Royal Opera House to see Wayne McGregor’s new work, “Infra.” However, it was not the only work on the program; it was the final work on the program, which was rather a compliment, as my experience has been that mixed rep ballet sandwiches are usually stacked “nice/boring ballet” “the thing that makes you feel weird” “the big winner with the crowd scene that sends you home feeling energized.” “Chroma” got the “weird” placement, with the missible “Danse a Grande Vitesse” the supposed “feel good” finale, but it seems that the Royal Ballet were feeling more confident this time that McGregor could be the anchor for a show. It was a shame in some ways, but as there was nothing in the evening I really didn’t like, I mostly just minded that I wound up getting home after 11 PM on a weeknight.

“Voluntaries” (choreographed by Glen Tetley) was something I’d seen before, but I was still happy to see it what with Marianela Nunez leading the cast. The costumes are a horrible 80s look with big open chests for the men and the women in white, but it’s cool to hear the awesome Poulenc organ music blasting across the house while the women are being thrown around. To me the piece has a really primeval feel to it, with the big, sparkly, universe/sun cirhttps://webcowgirl.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php
Webcowgirl’s Theatre Reviews › Create New Post — WordPresscle on the back of the stage and the woman looking like they are being offered up as sacrifices; but though a lot of contorting goes on, I think it’s my conclusion that this work just doesn’t thrill me. Nunez was full of energy, lithe as can be, and amazingly muscular, but … I guess I wanted her to have an opportunity to do more and be carried around less.

“The Lesson” (choreography by Flemming Flindt) was a ballet I’ve actually been very interested in seeing since I first heard about it. What a story – wicked ballet master manipulates and kills student! My uncle said it seemed like an upscale Sweeney Todd, though it wasn’t quite – it was more of an Expressionistic piece, a comic Grand Guignol ballet, with a movie-like set of greens and blues and greys and yellows. Johan Kobborg did a great job of being a psychotic teacher – it’s actually one of the best “acting” roles I’ve seen for a man in a ballet in a dog’s age. Roberta Marquez was an adorable pupil, light on her feet, expressive, and impressive in her ability to dance while someone was holding on to her ankles (is this actually something they do in dance school?). Kristen McNally was fun to watch as The Pianist, a sort of assistant to the teacher, like Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney, but with huge, exaggerated actions. I was afraid I’d be terrified and shocked by the ending, but it was all over really fast and just came off as a bit of black humor, to my relief.

Well, then, on to the main event (after another thirty minute interval – what in the world are they thinking!), we finally got on to Infra, the star of my evening. Sadly, I can’t go on about it at length right now, as it’s late and I’m too exhausted to talk much. To me, the ballet seemed to be a lot about how people live and interact with each other, the kind of connections we make, the way you can be surrounded by so many people and actually be completely lonely. The movement didn’t have the shock to me of “Chroma,” which is probably in part because I’ve become more familiar with the vocabulary of movement MacGregor uses, but it also didn’t feel as sharp edged – but it was a more introspective piece overall.

The soundscape, by Chris Eckers, was very … well – it’s really hard to describe. There were violins playing at times, and at other times there were scratchy noises, and al the time this was going on, overhead there was a LED art thing by Julian Opie of people walking, walking, walking by, which I stopped paying attention to, though it kept going. And I got lost in the noise, and the movement, and the truly amazing lighting (Lucy Carter), and the dancers caressed and fought with one another, and they touched and brushed and manhandled each other, and Melissa Hamilton was tiny and so flexible and strong that at one point as Eric Underwood was folding her inside out, the people behind me gasped in amazement. And then all of these people came walking, walking, walking out of the wings, walking in an endless stream, mirroring the images that had been showing above them forever, while one woman fell apart in the middle of the stage, broken and ignored by the crowd … and then she disappeared into them, and “the great river ran on.” It was an awesome moment.

And, well, I guess I wish I could watch it again. I really liked it a lot.

  • (This review is for a performance that took place on Wednesday, November 26th. This was the last performance of this set of dances.)

  • Review – Mariinsky (Kirov) Ballet, Forsythe Program – Sadler’s Wells

    October 14, 2008

    Last night was a wonderful opening to the Mariinsky’s visit to London. I was especially excited when I read about it (seemingly months ago!) and saw that they were doing an all-Forsythe program. I am a huge Forsythe fan. Forsythe makes ballet exciting and full of energy in a way I would have never though possible. His dances show off the physical prowess of the dancers and completely strips away the “preciousness” of ballet, re-casting it as an event in which athletes at their prime show us just what they can do with the bodies and skills they’ve spent years creating. Also, Forsythe’s work seems so challenging that it changes the mentality of the dancers performing it. When dancing Forsythe, mild mannered performers suddenly become tigers, excited about performing something that pushes their technique. In short, William Forsythe makes great dancers excellent, and I love to watch that happen on the stage – it makes me want to jump up and shout, a feeling I get from almost no other choreographer out there (Wayne Macgregor excluded).

    The evening had four works, one of them (“Two Ballets in the Manner of the Late 20th Century”) presented as if it were one piece, but with works so thematically different I couldn’t really see it as a unit. The first ballet was “Steptext,” my favorite of the evening, a work for one woman (the brilliant Ekaterina Kondaurova, red haired and perfect for the role) and three men (Igor Kolb, Mikhail Lobukhin, and Alexander Sergeyev) done to the Bach Partita 2 in D minor. But the whole piece, including the music, messed with the audience’s expectations. First, the dance started without lowering the house lights – I think a dancer (Sergeyev?) just showed up on stage and started dancing without music (though perhaps the curtains were opened and he was just there). The audience kept talking, not noticing, while this main was moving his arms around in a hypnotic pattern – then there was a jolt of music – then silence again.

    The audience kept quieting down, but the house lights stayed up for a long time, then went to half light, then went down, but came up to midway before it was over. And the music was just a brief screech of the Partita for probably the first five minutes, during which the first dancer just walked off stage and the other two men showed up. When the woman showed up – dressed in red in comparison to the men’s sleeveless black leotards (and dominating the stage because of this) – she did a series of movements with her arms that appeared to be defining a box. This seemed to set up a language that was repeated by the men later in the piece.

    From this point forward the piece became more about the men dancing with the woman, although the men all had their own time in the spotlight and also danced with each other. The action was furious at times, with the woman lifted up, dropped into the splits, and then picked up again (a movement that made my husband’s and my jaws drop), rolled up a man’s body, and (I think) rotated, while leaning back and on her toes. She also ran backwards on the tops of her feet … it was crazy! Meanwhile, the men were like great gorgeous animals, their entrechat (is this the right word? – the crossing of the feet over each other) seemed to show that they were not just muscle but grace, also. I was entranced, and I loved the movement, and the fact I’d come to the show with only six hours of sleep just faded from my awareness. It was great.

    The next piece, Approximate Sonata, was a series of pas de deux about which I took few notes. The tracksuit-like costumes the men wore were pretty heinous, and Ryu Yi Jeon was so thin it made my stomach feel a little off, but the movement was good. I saw a theme I’d seen in Forsythe’s pieces before – a female dancer refusing to partner with someone, being approached and then refusing to let herself be touched. I like that, actually – it makes the dancers feel much more human, and kind of focuses your mind on some of the expectations of what will happen on stage. The piece ended with Ksenia Dubrovina (I think – it was the heaviest of the dancers, a really busty woman with incredibly strong legs, basically the embodiment of the strength you get with maturity versus the flexibility and agility that comes with youth) working through what to do (in Russian!) with her partner, then finally her dancing on stage while he sat and watched while the curtain came down, so all that you saw at the last was her feet.

    While I was watching this, my brain went on a bit of a tangent about the current state of choreography in ballet. First, in my mind, Forsythe seems the clear heir to Balanchine. He’s stuck with the story-free leotard ballet and continued to enhanced the skill levels of dancers. Second, why can’t most choreographers figure out how to make dance as exciting as this was? Christopher Wheeldon totally gets the “history” of ballet, but even though he wants to make it accessible to modern audiences, it seems like the second he gets the dancers on stage he goes all cerebral and forgets everything there is to know about modern culture. Wheeldon seems only to reference the ballet vocabulary, but Forsythe makes exciting movement that doesn’t need ten years of watching people dance in order to appreciate it. Or …. well, who knows, maybe I’ve been watching dance too long and I can’t tell anymore. But still, I find few people that seem to hit the sweet spot like Forsythe does. And he lets dancers be sexy. Yay for that.

    The third piece, “The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude,” is the one that’s getting all of the publicity shots. It was actually quite fun – three women in chartreuse tutus (Elena Androsova, Olesya Nobikova, and Evgenya Shklyarov) being terribly gamine and fairly classical as they danced with two men to Schubert’s Sympony #9 in C Major. However, the men were generally doing better in this piece than the women were – though I loved the happiness the girls were projecting (for once not looking like the sharks who’d fought their way up since kindergarten and just like young women doing what they loved), they seemed to be a bit … loose. They weren’t quite matching up with each other, they just didn’t seem to have the preciseness the dance required. I wondered if maybe they hadn’t rehearsed it for a few days or if maybe they were stiff from the plane ride over – at any rate, it didn’t seem to be as on as it should have been. (On the bus later, an elderly gentleman who really seemed to know his stuff opined that the entire female company was just trying too hard to be pretty instead of trying to do what the works required – a thought I feel had real merit.) Still, this piece really showed how pointe work isn’t some airy-fairy delicate thing for the ladies – it’s an activity that requires strength, dedication, and (I suspect) a high degree of pain tolerance. And even though this wasn’t done as well as it should have been, I still enjoyed myself. I mean, really, I was just having a great evening, and the joy of the dancers was infectious. And who was that charming woman with the black hair? (These were all corps girls so I can’t tell from the program.) She seemed terribly young but I feel like she’s got a great career ahead of her and I’d like to keep tabs on her progress.

    Finally, the evening was coming to an end (running rather late due to the many bows the dancers were taking, and can someone please tell Russian people not to talk out loud when the show is going on if they’re not actually in Russia?), and we ready for “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated,” which I’ve seen done three times by Pacific Northwest Ballet. It’s a great piece – an incredibly match of movement and music only really equalled in its force by Macgregor’s “Chroma” – and I love to see it performed. However, there was, once again, a certain sharpness missing to the movements of the women. The lovely black haired girl of the previous act seemed too delicate to be as hard as she needed, while the other dancers were frequently not giving their moves the … how do I say it … “plosiveness” they needed. When the kicks to the top of the body happen, you should about feel like you’ve just taken a thumping by a mule, and while the women were able to handle the element of flexibility, the razor edge was not there. This was, however, not true at all of Ekaterina Kondaurova, who powered her way through the whole piece as if it was the Olympics all over again and she was going for a gold. She flexed, she bent, she was a power to reckon with on pointe, she was on it. And Ksenia Dubrovina (if it was indeed her) cranked out her oldster power skills, fairly well spanking the younger women of the company. (Meanwhile the men were all pretty good in general – I apologize for not having too much to say but my notes were thin.)

    Overall, I think this was an excellent evening of dance, of the kind that rewards me for the many duds I have to put up with in my search for great ballet. Do check it out if you can, and, well, you might even want to see the Balanchine program, too – I know after last night I was thinking that twice in one week wasn’t nearly enough.

    (This review is for a performance that took place Monday, October 13th, 2008. The Mariinsky will repeat this program on Tuesday, October 14th, then do a Balanchine program the 15th and the 16th.)

    Wayne McGregor’s Random Dance company – “Entity” – Sadler’s Wells

    April 11, 2008

    I admit it: I’m stumped. I did not get this performance at all. Worse, the people I brought with me apparently DID. Quote: “It’s a show best appreciated by bisexual math geeks.” I will attempt to explain what this means, but for non-math geeks I recommend buying the program – which I did not do – in hopes of clarification. The Sadler’s Wells website unfortunately doesn’t help. After my take on the show, I’ll include their take (in my inadequate words), to hopefully present both sides.

    I have been convinced Wayne McGregor is a genius since I saw “Chroma” – and if he’s managed to get a friend of mine to like modern dance, via a piece I did not get at all – then there’s really got to be something to the man – and to the show. I went specifically because I wanted to see what he was up to as a choreographer, and this was the first offering I was aware of since “Chroma.” (more…)

    Valentine’s day is … for getting yourself something and telling your partner it’s a gift from them to you

    February 15, 2008

    So I was at the fancy whiskey shop on the Golden Mile Wednesday afternoon, shopping. My options were a 20 quid bottle of five year old hootch and, er, a more expensive bottle of the same thing, but from 1985. I just couldn’t stomach being so cheap as to get the bottle of new stuff – “Happy Valentines day! Hope this isn’t nearly as disappointing as I expect it’s going to be” – so I bought the other one. The man behind the counter was, well, I have to admit, seemingly SHOCKED that I’d gone for the other bottle, but he and his companion were just wreathed in smiles when I told them it was a Valentine’s gift from my husband. “Don’t worry, ” I said, “I’ll be buying some ballet tickets next and telling him they’re his gift to me.”

    Anyway, as it works out, fifty pound tickets to Chroma weren’t quite in the range I was looking for, but Thursday did end with hot little tickets to The Homecoming at the Almeida and Dealer’s Choice (highly recommended by the the West End Whingers) in my hands – ostensibly as Valentine’s gifts, bought by me. (No luck with the tickets to Hairspray – which I must see before Michael Ball quits the cast.) I’m not sure what’s up with The Homecoming, but for the entire run a single pair of seats was NOT to be found. However, I have the magic touch and called just after someone had surrendered a pair, so we’re off to see it next week. Dealer’s Choice, well, that’s much easier to get into. What’s killing me is the tickets for Chroma. I saw four seats together show up at one point on the Royal Opera House website yesterday, but – 55 quid each! It really was the best thing I saw all of last year, but I’m just going to have to keep hoping that something shows up in the amphitheather – something with an unobstructed view, thank you very much, as I will see you in hell before I sit in the side slips again.

    Apologies for a lack of posting

    January 17, 2008

    Well, after the frenzy of the holidays, it’s almost no surprise that I’d start the year exhausted – only it’s been a cold that’s taken me out. I managed to drag myself to the extremely charming Les Patineurs at the Royal Ballet on January 8th (I also saw the, er, cutesy but rather too long Tales of Beatrix Potter, what can you say about it but, “Yeah, those are world class ballerinas wearing squirrel costumes”), but haven’t been able to hold my head up long enough to write about it.

    I have, however, cast my eyes toward the future. Coming up next is Othello at the Donmar, then hopefully Human Steps at Sadler’s Wells. In the next few months, I’m looking forward to seeing Chroma at the Royal Ballet (and hopefully Sylvia), Speed the Plow at the Old Vic, The Good Soul of Szechuan at the Young Vic (Brecht!), Dealer’s Choice at Trafalgar Studios (thanks to the ten quid tickets on Last Minute), Shen Yun at the Southbank Center, and the Pinter double feature at the Comedy Theatre. I’ve also got my eyes on The Mikado at ENO and the yum yum City Ballet at the same venue (two of the shows, the new choreographers and Jerome Robbins pieces). I want to buy tickets for them all NOW (oh, and the Chinese Opera at Sadler’s Wells this June) but post-Christmas finances are forcing austerity on me for now. Soon, my pet, soon!


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