Posts Tagged ‘Johan Kobborg’

Review – La Fille Mal Gardee – Royal Ballet

March 28, 2010

While I love modern ballets, there is definitely a soft spot in my heart for the classics, especially the big standards like Giselle and Swan Lake. Who couldn’t love their great stories and wonderful dancing? It was with them in my mind that I approached La Fille Mal Gardee, which, as it turns out, is a classic, one that even precedes Petipa, going all the way back to 1789 and substantially reworked by Frederic Ashton (though many others had their hands on it in the intervening years). I was a little terrified by some reviews I’d read, that made it all just to be a bit too cute, and I was cringing just a bit as I sat down at the Royal Opera House on Friday night. Was it going to celebrate the more revolting aspects of ballet, the tutu-loving tweeness that makes me think of little girls dancing in their bedroom at the expense of producing good dance? Was I going to run screaming into the night?

It turns out I need not have worried. While there may have been a bit too much wuv in the just slightly-starcrossed lovers Colas (Johnathan Kobborg) and Lise (Alina Cojocaru), Ashton managed to stay just this side of treacle and delivered a really good evening’s entertainment. The story is clear-cut and required almost no mime-reading skills to interpret; Colas wants to marry Lise, but her mother has engaged her to Alain, the son of the local rich man and a clear candidate for village idiot. We of course get to laugh at gangly Maman (Will Tuckett) and her hopeless attempts to keep Colas and Lise apart (which at one point leads to a clog dance, TOO funny), and the affianced’s ridiculous attempts to make a good impression on Lise are also the source of humor. But there’s only one question to be asked in all this: will Colas and Lise get together? Well, as this is a comedy (and I can’t remember seeing any other comic story ballet besides Coppeliaa so let me tell you it was welcomed), there was only one way it could end; happily ever after.

There are probably three things that come to mind when discussing Fille: there is the live pony (pulling a cart, cue little girls squeeing); there are chickens dancing on stage (several times, hysterical and much less nauseating than in the Beatrix Potter ballet); and ribbon dances. When I read in the notes that XX was going to leave a love-knot tied for Colas on the stage, I had no idea that it was leading into a major dance theme for this show, and there were ribbons everywhere, really, almost all due to Ashton. I adored the way Alina and Kobborg played with the ribbons; they tied each other up, tangled them behind each other’s heads to force kisses, used it to spin Alina like a top, harnessed Kobborg like a pony – it really just went on and on. But I found the trope inventive and fun. Maybe it’s been done elsewhere, but it was so elaborate and perfectly executed that I really enjoyed it. In fact, it felt genre-setting, like the flower garden sequence in Le Corsaire, and yet unburdened by stiffness. Then the theme carried on in the second act, in which the village girls made pretty designs in the background while Colas and Lise danced away – it was all just really yummy and top-of-form choreography that could have really fallen limp if designed less confidently or danced with less skill.

In the end, I’d describe La Fille as a raspberry meringue – pink and fluffy and not really much of substance but still a treat. Like Proust says, pink does always taste better than other flavors, and it suited La Fille to a T – lighthearted, fun, and full of joyous dancing – the perfect antidote for a blustery spring day. Catch it while you can!

(This review is for a performance that took place on Friday, March 26th, 2010. It continues through April 28th. For more reviews, please see the Ballet.co.uk Royal Ballet listings. I bow to the superiority of Clement Crisp’s review, though. The man is god.)

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Review – New Works in the Linbury (spring 2009) – Linbury Studio

May 14, 2009

Tonight J and I went to the first evening of this spring’s “New Work in the Linbury.” I’ve been before and found this a great way to see fresh work performed by excellent dancers. It’s an intimate environment and a good opportunity to see who might be (and who might deserve to be) getting their choreography done on a larger scale. It’s also a real chance to see the dancers shine, including some whom might not have had much in the way of star turns in the big house. Tonight’s show had seven pieces on the program, and while I realized there was little chance of them all being excellent, I expected at least one or two would be – and I was not disappointed.

As most of these pieces won’t likely be performed again, I’m going to do a little bit of the “historical record” thing and try to say something about every piece. The first, “Dear Norman,” was a tribute by Christopher Hampson to the late choreographer Norman Morrice. It was a lovely piece showing two men dancing, apparently in front of a studio mirror. One of them, Johan Kobborg, acted the role of a choreographer, aiding and assisting “the dancer” (Sergei Pollunin, graceful and gorgeous) as he attempted to learn a part, both of them watching themselves and the other at all times in the mirror along the fourth wall. Kobborg nudged him this way, mimed the moves he wanted the dancer to perform in full, and danced along with him (less extravagantly) as they caught the full flavor of the dance. What I enjoyed about this piece was how well it showed men performing, not as competitors or lovers, but as equals and as friends. They were incredibly supportive of each other. Kobborg seemed impish, while Polunin was firey as he spun in the air at an angle that seemed impossible without computer assistance.

Next up was “Recordato,” a strangely violent set of dances done to music of Michael England. The center couple was, I believe Mara Galeazzi and … er, not sure about the guy (and no pictures in the program to help). He seemed to be lifting her up like she was a little doll and setting her where he would. She would prettily point her feet and land nicely, but it seemed very much like she’d like to escape him, but then he’d grab her and put here where he wanted her to be. The pas de six at the end was quite nice but J’s comment that he felt the whole thing had heavy overtones of domestic abuse, what with (as he saw it) mimed hitting and kicking, kind of overwrote my own memories of it, so now I see it as being about controlling relationships rather than anything else.

The first half’s highlight was next, the brilliant and highly remountable “Les Lutins,” featuring live and luscious virtuoso violin music of Wieniawski (“Caprice”) and Bazzini’s “La Ronde des Lutins” (The Goblins’ Dance). It started with the violinist and pianist in front of and to the side but level with the stage, launching into the Caprice while Steven McRae just set the stage on fire with the most incredible light and fast footwork and leaps, perfectly catching the zest of the music. He aimed himself toward and very much addressed the violinist, and the steps he danced were some of the most pure interpretations of music I’ve seen in ages – not about telling any story to the audience but rather about how the music felt, him responding as a dancer to just what the violinist was doing. I loved it.

And then it got better as Sergei Polunin returned to the stage! Suddenly it was competition – steps danced faster, leaps higher, an occasional mimed kick, a final “neenur” as Polinin did a flip in the air (all to the music). No longer were McRae’s eyes on the violinist (Charlie Siem) – he had someone else to deal with.

And then, sliding in back to the audience, a curvy pair of hips in another pair of high pants held up by suspenders – and clearly, it was a girl! Alina Cojocaru was so perfectly gamine, flirting first with one man than the other, as they fought over her and danced with her and then … lost her to the violinist, who was going completely over the top with a bunch of at-the-very-top-of-the-range notes played with some skittering bow work – of course he was the man with the most going for him! I just loved it all and I hope sometime I can see this again – watching dancers duel like that is a real treat, and the music was amazing, too.

The first act ended with “Yes, We Did,” which per the program was “inspirted by an event which saw the collective power of today’s American citizens change the course of history.” Bit intimidating, really! And it had every possibility of being really bad – a lot of time dance I see that’s inspired by politics tends to flounder. It stared with what I think was a John McCain type performing some kind of stiff dance, joined by a Sarah Palin-esque woman in a French twist and glasses, who seemed to be trying to steal the stage from him. Fanfare for the common man played while a bunch of people moved around … er, going to rallies? One of them was dressed in an American flag, which kind of gave me the creeps – I haven’t seen it used in a positive context in the last three years or so. Then one guy came forward while the other eight or so dancers turned their backs to the audience and changed clothes, and then suddenly they were all wearing Obama shirts and kind of dancing along to the words of his post-election speech. And, um, I’m embarrassed to say I found it all a bit moving, even though they ended with their hearts over their hands as if they were doing the pledge of allegiance. The Obama election was to me the end of an eight year nightmare, and while I realize he will doubtlessly let me down yet, still, to hear the beautiful voice of a person I can call my president without cringing is still a pleasure to me, and I am still so proud of my country for electing a non-white guy to the highest office in the country. I’d best not go on about it much more but it meant a lot to me to see that other people thought it was a great moment in history, too. Thanks for the props, Kristen McNally, this American really enjoyed the tip of your hat.

After the intermission, the next up was “Now.” The music was a string quartet playing Alexander Bălănescu, which was very good, but what I liked the most about it was watching Yuhui Choe utterly take charge of her solos. After watching a ballerina struggle to stay balanced while partnered the night before in Giselle, Choe’s rock-solid sense of balance – and grace – was a treat. It was also great to see Steven McRae back on stage – where did he find the energy! – so shortly after “Les Lutins” and still setting the place on fire.

“Non-linear Interactions” didn’t have a lot of promise based on the description in the program. A work about randomness and the way strangers sort of “pass in the night,” sometimes affecting each other and sometimes not? It sounded like it wasn’t likely to be too coherent, and it wasn’t. There were some really interesting moments in which the dancers utterly froze on stage. Twice this was Mara Galeazzi, standing in the middle of it all and taking a huge, audible gasp, stopping the action, the third time when a man was show “mid leap” (or fall), suspended from the side of the stage by an invisible hand. This led to a moment in which the dancer in question seemed to be surprised by how everything had come to a halt around them, and perhaps was reflecting on their essential aloneness in the world, but unfortunately the rest of the piece wasn’t really able to support that thought. The very end was a big group scene with a bunch of movement that, I swear to God, made it look like they were flickering – the dancers’ arms and legs turning and arcing so quickly that they were catching the light in a bizarre way that almost felt like an ultra-high strobe was on (I checked with my husband, who’s a lighting designer, and he said he could see this effect, too). For me, combined with the occasional moments when the dancers moved very slowly, it seemed like the finale was showing how at times it seems like you’re rushing through life, while at other times things nearly grind to a halt. But … well, overall I wasn’t particularly caught up in the movement at all.

These feelings were swept away with the final piece, Liam Scarlett’s “Consolations and Liebestraum.” I’d seen his choreography before at last year’s New Work and saw all the hallmarks of a promising career buding on the tree. Tonight, I saw it bloom. I have to give him props for the choice of music – Liszt makes for lovely dancing – and his choice of how to set up the performance, as a series of pas de deux. These allow for really emotionally powerful performances, and, by golly, at the end of the second couple’s set, when the man (Bennet Gartside?) reached out from where he stood hidden (from the audience) by his partner and very carefully and, to my eyes, lovingly wrapped his arm around her waist, I got sniffly. The choreography generally was showing off the women in a variety of lifts and such, not really allowing the men to show off their stuff per se (like “Les Lutins” did), but what it did show was the men working as fantastic partners, though in the third bit (I think – must recheck notes tonight) there was a bit of a fumble that made me about go, “Eek! Dancer down!” – fortunately caught and recovered and the dancers carried on without loss of nerve or verve. Whew!

The piece opened with a woman on stage, kneeling, possibly praying. It was followed by a duet with a woman with braided hair and a very conservative, long (Amish looking) dress on, with a high collar, long sleeves and a full skirt. The second couple was a woman in a sleeveless top and a shorter, stiffer skirt – my thought is that the first couple was representing young love, and the second couple more of a mature love. The final couple was a bit of an enigma to me. The first woman had returned and seemed to be angry at the man she was dancing at, pushing him away, looking at the ground. Maybe she was hurt? He showed nothing but care for her, and my final interpretation, as he walked away and she finally turned and looked back at him, was that she was being visited by the ghost of someone she loved, possibly her son or her husband, someone who had had to leave her but didn’t want to do so and still loved her to bits. It was really just a great ending to the evening.

Overall, this is a night of dance well worth the effort to see, and if you have the chance to go, my advice is snap a ticket up right away and get down to the opera house. With so much good work and great dancing on show, it’s probably going to stand out as one of the highlights of the dance year for me.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Thursday, May 14th. New Works in the Linbury continues through Saturday, May 16th. An alternative review is available on BalletBag’s blog, while Clement Crisp shows me how it’s done in the Financial Times, teaching me the phrase “en garcon” and making me think that I must learn to identify the thing called a “triple tour.” Sometimes it’s horrible trying to write critiques when I have never had anyone else to talk to about ballet and can only explain it in my horrible, fannish amateur way; on the other hand, I hope I make my enthusiasm and reasons for such enthusiasm clear enough that whoever reads my reviews can see than anyone can go to a ballet and appreciate it without having to have been trained to do so.)

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 of “Dances at a Gathering” (Jerome Robbins) – Royal Ballet – Royal Opera House

    June 10, 2008

    Last night while J was in his French class, W and I headed to the Royal Opera House to see Jerome Robbin’s “Dances at a Gathering.” Both of us were pretty worn out from a long day at work, but with 6 quid day seats, we thought we’d give it a go and just see the first part of the show (the second half, a Midsummer Night’s Dream-based ballet by Frederick Ashton, just didn’t interest me much). We met first for dinner at Inn Noodle, then walked over to Covent Garden in the lovely summer evening.

    The ballet was lovely, full of the humor that I expect from Robbins, and the music, by Chopin, was a treat to listen to. While I expected Marianela Nunez (as “Pink”) was going to be the be the star of the evening, it was in fact Tamara Rojo (as “Mauve”) whose performance I enjoyed the most. In one scene, late in the ballet, three men, backs to the audience, are holding three women, facing forward, on their shoulders and Ms. Rojo’s leg arched up just so, an absolutely perfect curving line the other women seemed a bit too tired to emulate. But, really, each of the dancers was a pleasure: “Brown” (Johan Kobborg) and “Brick” (I think – Sergei Polunin if it was) had a great duel (and Brown’s solo near the end of the evening was spectacular), and “Green” (Lauren Cuthbertson) had a wonderful bit as an ignored dance partner, fluttering and flailing and just hamming it up like you think ballerinas could never do.

    Part of what I enjoy so much about Robbins is the way each dancer seems to have a personality and character – the dancers aren’t bodies on stage, they are performers with relationships to each other. They flirt, they are shy, they show off, they challenge each other, they are irritated. Watching this show was so fun that I couldn’t help compare it to some of the shows I’d seen earlier in the Linbury this year. It’s probably not fair to compare the dancers of the Royal Ballet, performing choreography by Robbins, to about anything else, but, well, they were great and at the top of the pack, surely a standard by which to judge others. It was a good evening, though I was grateful to have decided to leave early as I was just plain worn out and wanted to get to bed before 11:30.

    A special callout to Paul Stobart, who filled in as the piano soloist at the last minute. How he was ever able to figure out the proper timing of the pieces on such short notice is beyond me, but he very much deserved the applause he got at the end of the evening!

    (This review is for a performance that took place on June 10th, 2008.)