Posts Tagged ‘Tamara Rojo’

Review – Pavlova Gala – London Coliseum

March 7, 2012

Sunday night was yet another of those Russian gala evenings in which a fistful of different dancers who normally never share the stage are dumped together for one event and only allowed to dance for about 8 minutes each. At times, these have been recipes for disaster (under-rehearsing a perennial problem, lack of chemistry and bad programming another); sometimes, though, it’s a true showcase with a rare chance to see outstanding performers who rarely grace the London stage in works that showcase them at their best (and a bonus opportunity to see works I am not familiar with). I hadn’t been planning to go to Sunday’s Pavlova gala at the London Coliseum (the advertising passed me by), but fortunately (as it turns out) Graham Watts’ Twitter feed pointed me to it and gave me enough feel of who was performing that I rolled the dice on a Sunday night out … and won!

Pavlova, I think, does not need me to discuss her; however, this was a charity event and the hall was stuffed with shockingly overdressed folks not normally seen in my upper Amphitheater hideout at the Royal Opera House. But it was the dance that brought me and it was great.

Two dances for me provided the best performances of the evening. The first was Ulyana Lopatkina (“Big Red”) in “Russkaya” (new for me). With her Russian headdress on, Lopatkina utterly commanded the stage, dancing very slowly to traditional(ish, by Tchaikovsky) music on her toes, smiling quietly to herself, almost toying with us. Then … as if Mama Rose has shouted, “Sing out, June!” she went into overdrive, suddenly a whirlwind of white gauze and flickering feet.

Also top of the heap was the “Raymonda” duet performed by Tamara Rojo and Sergei Polunin. Polunin did moves I’d never seen before, with spins in the air with one leg half bent underneath him, and amazing landings with his legs arranged in ways that made my knees ache: only for the young! As I watched him power through the solo work, unaware of who was performing, I thought, “The incarnation of the danseur noble!” Afterward, reading the program to see whose performances I had enjoyed so much (Rojo was a charmer, too), I couldn’t but selfishly hope that Polunin stays in the dance world.

In the “strange curiosities” department were “Splendid Isolation” and “Life Is a Dream.” The first will probably be known forever as “the dance with the really big skirt.” A woman is on stage in the center of a ten foot diameter circle of fabric: her partner walks around her but seems to not be able to get close to her. The expression of their isolation is overly reliant on OTT arm gestures; the use of the skirt is primarily as stage dressing when flamenco shows us just how much more you can do if you try. I found it shallow. (See: “Marcia, next time do it without the chair.”) Meanwhile the world premiere performance of “Life Is a Dream” left me with the uncomfortable feeling that Rojo’s talents were being wasted: I had no desire to see her imitate a fish (even though having one onstage was a novelty).

Finally (though I could praise Alina Cojocaru and Alexandre Riabko’s joyous “Dame Aux Camelias” duet) we have the gala “bonus points” which I award if I get to see pieces that make me long for the whole. “La Prisonniere,” with choreography by Roland Petit, was a fabulous interpretation of Proust’s narrator’s relationship with Albertine that I guessed few people could enjoy as much as I did (see Sarah Crompton’s review for photos). The obsession, the voyeurism, the desire to control were all brought to life by Marlon Dino; the innocence, the arrogance, the love of life and the desire to hold on to her sense of self all expressed richly (and appropriately coolly) by Lucia Lacarra. The entire piece showed the arc of their relationship (yet to me somewhat shuffled together), from innocence to lust to manipulation (she tries to escape, he holds on to her ankles; later he rolls her along his legs) and finally to her death: the sheet falling down on her at the end nicely bookending it. I barely managed to take notes: if only I could see all of Proust ou Les Intermittences du Coeur!

The second (and probably more generally popular) “discovery” piece was the balcony duet from Cranko’s “Romeo and Juliet,” danced by Iana Salenko and Marian Walter. What utter joy this was! I adored the way Salenko’s knees bent as Romeo turned her; she was so excited she was weak at the knees! Walter was as wonderfully strong as the “older” partner should have been, exactly the kind of youth a teenaged girl would fall head over heels for – and yet both of them were passionate and somehow shimmering with new love. Again, it was a dance that captured my attention to a degree that my notebook sat ignored while I enjoyed myself. Overall, it was a great evening and I feel so lucky to have been able to see so much great talent and such a diverse set of choreography. Thanks to all!

(This review is for a performance that took place on Sunday, March 4th, 2012.)

Review – Draft Works in the Linbury – Royal Ballet and guests (downstairs at the Royal Opera House)

January 25, 2012

Seeing shows in the Linbury is a treat: it’s a nice, intimate space where you get much closer to the performers. And something like “Draft Works” is an even more special treat, a chance to see dance works – and new choreographers – as they develop.

There’s not much on the ROH website about the show, so here’s the list of choreographers and the names of their dances:

At the River Styx – Robert Binet
Feathers in your Head – Ludovic Ondivela
Gallardo – Fernando Montano
Overtone – Declan Whitaker
Lonesome Gun – Kristen McNally
Within the Hours – Erico Montes
i lean and bob – Thomas Whitehead
Grace – Simon Rice
Into the Woods – Tamara Rojo
Brandenburg Divertissement – Valentino Zucchetti

We started with a lovely, very classical piece by Robert Binet, who is woring as a choreographic apprentice at the Royal Ballet this season. The music was the Biber violin sonata that is based on (to my ears) the old round song “Rose” (“Rose, rose, rose rose/Will I ever see the wed” etc.), lending a melancholy air to the dance; but given that the theme was Orpheus’ ascent from the underworld with Eurydice, when he is unable to turn and look at her, I found it wholly appropriate. Yuhui Choe twined and arced and hovered around Ricardo Cervera, she showing her confusion and fear, he closing his eyes as she passed in front of him and yet somehow managing all sorts of lifts and other partnering that seemed not in keeping with the “don’t look at her or she’ll go back to the underworld” dictum. Cervera pulled of some amazingly fast turns, but the piece overall still felt a bit unsettled – if promising.

Next up was dancer Ludovic Ondivela’s “Feathers in your Head,” performed by Lauren Cuthbertson and Bennett Gartside. I thought Lauren was a great choice to play someone laid low by Alzheimers – she seemed fragile, constantly searching but always lost. I particularly liked the starting motion of typing fingers on her shoulder, a reminder of a more ordered past. Bennet was a good partner, mirroring her moves, protective, but somehow not reaching her.

This was followed by Fernando Montano’s self-danced “Gallardo,” done to Piazolla. Montano was swift footed with his tango moves, seemingly attempting to seduce the audience as he glided and strutted (although I think his hip waggle needed a bit more shimmy). I think the two women he was supposed to have in the piece missed out on a great chance to improve their style of dancing, but then again, perhaps they would have only sat in the chairs. Still, it was a lively and enjoyable piece, if weak in the standard ballet choreography.

Next up was Declan Whitaker’s as dancer/choreographer for “Overtone.” I missed the program note about it being glacier-themed, but I did find it slow and not very interesting. There was a loud buzzing noise over the speakers, some slow poses and twitching, all very serious. I found myself wondering what a dance piece based on “There’s Something About Kevin” would look like. And then it was over.

Soloist Kristen McNally wrapped up the first half with the lighthearted “Lonesome Gun,” six dancers in plastic cowboy hats performing to music as diverse as Nick Cave and Ennio Morricone (and we have been long overdue for “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” to be used as dance music!). I laughed as the blondest woman mouthed “What are you lookin’ at?” before hawking and (mime) spitting. She described it as a skeleton of a dance, and it seemed to be hitting a lot of the cowboy points – gambling, fighting, some male/female rescue drama. It seemed to need more flesh on it but as what it was, a sketch done for a one-off, it was a breath of fresh air. (I can’t imagine she’ll really finish it, nobody does comic one act any more.)

After the interval, we had the high point of the night: Erico Montes’ “Within the Hours,” performed to original (being debuted) music by Oliver Davies (Three Waltzes for Cello and Piano, Helen Leek on piano and Ivan McCready on cello). The whole piece seemed a meditation on the fragile nature of life and our essential loneliness, performed by (in my eyes) very young dancers. Montes seemed to really know how to handle ensemble movement, with a yearning in their togetherness, and elements of unexpected as they came apart. The music was echoed and emphasized in the dance while never seeming to dictate what happened next. I found myself thinking of “Serenade.” Thank you, Mr. Davies, for this lovely work, and pass a thank you on to your dancers and musicians for helping make it happen.

“i lean and bob” was a very short piece, another comic one that I think won’t be seen outside of this small room despite the fact it was so fun. It started in the stalls, with Ryoichi Hirano slapping his hands on the stage as “Kringle” by Analogik started to play. He was watched closely by Sian Murphy, who then dashed past the front row patrons trying to catch up to him as he ran onto the stage. They then danced together, he ignoring her at times, then lifting her up awkwardly (and to her surprise), both of them bouncing, Ryoichi grooving, Sian disappointed at being ignored. It all ended with a kiss, a little burst of excitement and passion to wrap up Thomas Whitehead’s engaging first attempt at choreography.

This was followed by “Grace,” a modern dance piece choreographed by Simon Rice and danced by his own troupe. The dancers moved so differently from the ballerinas that I had to regear my brain substantially, but in the end, the language of half turns, bending forward, rolling across each other’s bodies, et cetera, seemed so old to me, like being in Seattle in 2000 and watching Pat Grainey. Modern dance has moved forward a lot and what I was shown did not engage me at all.

Next to last was Tamara Rojo’s “Into the Woods,” danced by Camille Bracher and Jose Martin. The set up was a man on a chair to which a sylph-like woman is tied by the ankle. As the man conveyed his adoration (and occasionally lust) for the woman – lifting her up while she struggled to get away, running his hands over her body – I saw in it echoes of other myths, such as The Firebird (and even Diana and Actaeon, but without the happy ending). But as it became clearer she was his prisoner, I started having flashbacks to Silence of the Lambs and wondering if he was going to tell her to “rub the lotion on its skin” (“or else it gets the hose again”).

Then Bracher’s character had what seemed to me to be a sort of “Stockholm Syndrome” moment as she decides she is attracted to the man, and the dance ends with her laying the rope around him (as he sits) and then curling at his feet on the floor. I was hoping for some rope around the neck and a violent escape, but … well, this did give me rather a lot to think about with only a simple story, so I think it must be considered a success.

Finally we had Valentino Zucchetti’s “Brandenburg Divertissement,” which was described as being architectural and Baroque, with a little passion. With a cast of eight, there was a lot of room for artistic creation, but ultimately I think its success was as a showcase for the up and coming dancers of the company (Yasmine Naghdi, who looked to me like the perfect Balanchine ballerina, and Claudia Dean, whom I was happy to see again after her promotion into the company, and all of the young men but especially Kevin Emerton). The choreography was unfortunately quite mechanical, a real contrast with the depth of “Within the Hours.” Perhaps it is the fault of Bach, or perhaps Zucchetti was just too literal in his interpretation.

Overall this was an enjoyable evening, a good introduction to both many dancers I did not know well and to many choreographers of all shades of experience. And at £11 a ticket, it was a good deal, with a special bonus: Ed Watson smiled at me during the interval *swoon* from about two feet away.

(This work is for a performance that took place on January 24th, 2012. Draft Works in the Linbury continues through January 26th, so just for two more nights. For more information please see Judith Flanders’ writeup for The Arts Desk or Clement Crisp’s shorter yet as always God-like review. Apologies for the many misspellings as trying to do this in 10 minute snatches during the workday is not conducive to cross checking what I’ve written with a program.)

November Ballet Spectacular – Royal Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty & Mixed Bill (Agon, Sphinx, Limen)

November 18, 2009

Ballet five times in eight days? Why not, I say, why not? And with the highly touted presentation of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s newly choreographed “E=MC2″ (in their “Quantum Leaps” program) and the opportunity to see a fancy (and usually expensive) story ballet from the Opera House stalls for 60 quid (Sleeping Beauty), how could I say no? Then, well, new Macgregor at the Royal Ballet, and a new(ish) story ballet (Cyrano), and, er, a commitment to see the Royal Ballet’s mixed bill program twice, and hey! It could happen to anyone, really.

First, the Agon/Sphinx/Limen triple bill, which I saw twice (Friday November 13th, cast list here, and Tuesday, November 17th,
cast list here). “Agon” reminded me how very difficult Balanchine really is – but only the second time I saw it, when the male dancers failed to hit the right sense of unity, I twice saw people adjust themselves after failing to hit their mark, and the whole thing generally smelt like “work” instead of “dance.” The long duet toward the end was particularly different; whereas on Friday, Acosta seemed somewhat bored and workmanlike as he manipulated his partner through a series of movements (including a “drunk ballerina” sequence in which she keeps falling into the splits and being lifted up again), the same duet seemed forced and uncomfortable Tuesday, as if the dancers hadn’t done it enough to forget about what they were doing and just do it. I felt every technical detail of how to make a catch and how to do a turn was exposed to the naked eye, and I didn’t like it.

On Friday, I got caught up in the weirdness of the extremely late 1950s Stravinsky music and the great deep drums (and – was that xylophones?), though I wasn’t entirely able to get caught up in the experience of the dance due to the off-putting nature of my far right seats (cutting off a quarter of the stage). Still, in retrospect, I realize Friday’s cast was pretty well hitting the mark, though in general I think Pacific Northwest Ballet does this dance better.

“Sphinx” … well. Much as “Agon” was as purely late 1950s as Peggy Guggenheim’s house, “Sphinx” was totally late 70s. The costumes were Tron meets Stargate with some headbands thrown in for good measure, and … God, I saw it twice, and I just found it the most unspeakably pretentious thing I’ve seen since the horrid “Pierrot Lunaire“. There’s a bit where “Anubis” is dancing in circles around “The Sphinx” and “Oedipus,” and I just thought … why why why? Who cares about what they’re doing? Why are they acting like they’re performing in a silent movie? Why does he keep balancing her on his shoulder when it’s so clearly a wiggly place to sit? When is there going to be some dancing that actually matters? Why was this revived at all? The music wasn’t bad but … never again.

Finally, Wayne Macgregor’s new ballet, “Limen,” my last and best hope for great new ballet of the year and the reason why I was at this program twice.

Well. I’m sorry to say, but it looks like David Bintley, about whom I knew almost nothing before this week, has utterly stolen the hot ballet trophy away from Wayne this year. (Let’s be clear: much like the search for the world’s best gelato, the search for the hot ballet of the year is one in which the searcher will always win. Still, I was surprised.) Wayne gave us … er, boxes and lines on the floor, and a cool projection, and good music … but the dance was … kinda out of the same box of stuff he usually uses, the great extensions, the butts sticking out, but without the cool “breaking the boundaries” moves he’s thrown in to spice it up. In fact, with almost no partnering in this ballet, it just felt a wee bit sterile.

Except, of course, for the utterly gorgeous middle bit in which a man and a woman did the most amazing work. Both times I saw the same cast, he black and she white, looking like yin and yang together … the movement utterly enchanting, in some ways almost a response to the Balanchine that opened the evening, making the manipulations worked on the ballerina earlier seem so heavy and coarse … now delicate, lifting, bending, flowing, working together as one, his strength, her grace and flexibility … perfect.

And then it was time for the big black wall with the winking blue lightbulbs to show up and end the dance, and I found myself thinking, “E=MC2 was it, I’m so glad I went, I wish I’d seen it twice”, and bam, the end of the night, the end of the ballet year, let down but glad I’d hedged my bets and run off to see BRB earlier in the week.

The day before my second viewing of the mixed bill I went to see Sleeping Beauty, and I really am just not going to be able to say too much about it as, well, it was dry. I realize this production is some kind of touchstone for the British ballet public but for me I about choked on the dust rolling off of the sets and costumes, which reminded me of some little girl’s room in her grandmother’s house, circa 1950, pastel green on pastel pink on pastel purple BAH. The ballet itself has almost no plot and is just really a set piece for some tricksy dance moves, so if you want emotion and not canned Petipa “let’s show of the technique of the dancers,” then it’s going to be Cyrano for you. Admittedly, even the New York Times’ reviewer criticized Tamara Rojo for her rather stiff Aurora, and perhaps this was part of the problem; I could go “ooh, she stayed on that balance almost until infinity,” but I didn’t really care. It was just like watching … the circus or something. I wanted to be involved, like the way I am when my heart breaks for Giselle, but I wasn’t.

Anyway, in the dances of the various fairies in the prologue, I did get quite a kick out of the technical prowess and charm of Sian Murphy as the “Fairy of the Woodland Glade” (she stands en pointe with her supporting leg slightly bent and does two kicks in front, then pulls up into an arabesque – did I get the fairy right?) – as well as the lightfooted (and charismatic) Iohna Loots as “Fairy of the Song Bird,” and of course I liked the bit with Puss & Boots, and the Big Bad Wolf and Red Riding Hood, and of course (I must say!) the Bluebird pas de deux in the final act … but the damned “vision” scene in the second act was just SO LONG I was running out of energy to be there any more. AAARGH. And I didn’t enjoy the dancing in that scene, either. I mean, I saw this ballet done by Pacific Northwest Ballet the year they debuted it, I didn’t enjoy it then, and still I went back. It’s like I don’t learn. It’s still the same ballet. I might just need to see it with a different ballerina in the lead, though as expensive as story ballets are at Royal Ballet it’s unlikely I’ll go back to see this in less than five years. The fact remains that it needs to be massively freshened up and redone for the 21st century instead of being such a museum piece.

Ah well, but if you look at the net result, of five nights of ballet, I did get something to enjoy every night – but for this round, it was Birmingham Royal Ballet that I enjoyed more, and ultimately David Bintley’s choreography that cranked my chain. I can’t wait to see what 2010 will have to offer!

Review – Goldberg – The Brandstrup/Rojo project – Linbury Theater

September 22, 2009

Tonight J and I went to the Linbury to see the much-hyped Tamara Rojo/Brandstrup “Goldberg Project.” I was attracted by the idea of 1) world-class dancers on the 2) intimate (chamber-sized) Linbury stage, with the 3) complete Goldberg variations performed live. It seemed like an opportunity for a lot to go right and, on the whole, it did. There was a sort of through-line – 6 dancers coming into a studio, watching a little TV (I imagined them watching a video of a piece they were going to be performing, as they always played recorded Goldberg during these bits), then dancing, mostly as couples but sometime doing solos or performing as larger groups. The three “characters” were Rojo, who appeared to have fallen out of a relationship with character two, the muscular blond dancer, and was admired from afar by Steve McRae as Mr. Unrequited Page Turner. It could be said either that we were watching a series of rehearsals or the same one repeated over and over again – I voted for the first, my husband for the second interpretation.

While I loved the muscular energy of the male breakdancer (Tommy Franzen) and the kittenish fun of the Rojo/Clara Barbera duet, the dancing between Rojo and Thomas Whitehead told a tale of an almost painful desire to control combined with genuine disdain. Unfortunately, while the Rojo/Whitehead duets had plenty of story and emotion attached, I didn’t find myself so caught up in the choreography. By comparison, McRae’s spare set of solos absolutely blistered (he moves so fast my eyes can’t track him when he spins) and electrified the stage, creating rather an unfortunate contrast with Rojo’s nearly uninterrupted melancholic dancing, which showed technique without creating focus. Blame for this must be laid at the choreographer’s feet; this show needed more flavors and just the zippy backspins of Franzen didn’t do it.

Though I usually say little about sets and lighting (due to space), props to LD Paule Constable for providing the first non-offensive use of animation in a dance production. It started out defining the space of the set (mostly a ladder, a door, a window, and bench seating all on one giant wall), then later served as some extra shadows beside a still man on ladder, returning as rain sliding down a window while cars drove behind, and finally a diagram of what Sad Woman and Unrequited Man ought to do to give the story a happy ending, the two white lines of the moving arrows twining together at the very last. My husband and I gave a sigh; now that was a nice bit of work.

So I hoped for good music, an opportunity to watch some great dancers, and excellent choreography for this evening, and I got two out of three. Overall, I’d say this was a good evening and a fun warmup for the fall season. Next stop: Mayerling!

(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009. Goldberg – The Brandstrup/Rojo project continues through Saturday.)

Review – Tribute to Diaghilev – “International Stars” and Royal Ballet members at Royal Opera House

June 8, 2009

The Sunday “Tribute to Diaghilev” event at the Royal Opera House seemed a bit of a mystery to me, best summarized as “Flashy Russian Dancers” and “Flashy Russian Ballet!” rather than “Some Particular Company” doing “Any Ballet, Really.” I had no idea what was going to happen. Were there going to be speeches? Was it a way of promoting Russian culture? Was everything going to go Fa Lun Gung and leave me sneaking out the back between sets? I couldn’t tell, but since I love flashy Russian ballet and flashy Russian dancers (and really wanted to flesh out some more of my Diaghilev knowledge – so much that I’ve only ever seen photos of still!), I decided to go ahead and fork out for the rather expensive privilege of attending this show.

God knows why the tickets were so high – not a single set came with the dancers (leaving poor Petrushka fighting to escape from an invisible prison), the orchestra was provided by the Royal Ballet, and based on the pathetic handling of curtain calls (Bow on the stage! No, come in front of the curtain!) and props (I’ve never seen the “Apollo’s Lute” variation of Les Sylphides before) it was clear they hadn’t bothered with a dress rehearsal to work out the kinks beforehand. That left us with the Diaghilev tribute element – thankfully limited to one short burst of film that was maybe 5 minutes long and sloppily narrated – and the dancing, which consisted of gorgeous ones and twos of people doing “K-Tel’s Power Duets and Solos Snippets a la Ballet Russes,” fully costumed, no holds barred and no silly plot to tire them out or get in the way of the dancing. In short, there was lots of great dancing, which was what I came for, but the snippets were so short I found them a bit difficult to digest. On the other hand, wow, dancers just doing the memorable highlights while they’re all fresh, ZOWIE! It was a format I was comletely unused to (since for me a night of shorts usually means no more than 4 ballets, not 15), but once I’d mentally adjusted to it as a taster of ballets I didn’t know performed by people who were going to rock my socks off, I was good.

As for the program, mystery as it was, here it is reproduced to the best of my typing abilities (after the first, assume by Mikhail Fokine unless I say otherwise, * for dancers not in RB, bold for new shows for me):

Scheherazade (by Fokine, danced by Uliana Lopatkina*, Igor Zelensky*), Daphnis and Chloe (by Ashton, danced by Natasha Oughtred, Federico Bonelli), Petrushka (danced by Dmitri Gruzdyev), La Chatte (by Ashton, danced by Alexandra Ansanelli), Giselle (danced by Mathilde Froustey*, Mathias Heyman* – not originally in program), Tamar (by Smoriginas, danced by Irma Nioradze*, Ilya Kuznetsov – ditto), Le Spectre de la Rose (danced by Yevgenia Obraztsova*, Dmitri Gudanov*), interval, Apollo (by Balanchine, danced by Maria Kowroski*, Igor Zelenski*), Les Sylphides (danced by Tamara Rojo, David Makhateli), Le Tricorne (by Myassin, danced by Dmitri Gudanov*), The Firebird (danced by Irma Nioradze*, Ilya Kuznetsov*), Les Biches (by Nijinska, danced by Mara Galeazzi, Bennet Gartside), Swan Lake (by Petipa, danced by Marianela Nunez, Thiago Soares), Le Carnaval (danced by Yevgenia Obraztsova*, Andrei Batalov*) and The Dying Swan (danced by Uliana Lopatkina*) Oddly not included was “The Rite of Spring,” a damned shame as I’d like to see how it was originally done.

Of the various short performances, my very favorite was Andrea Ansanelli (retiring? No!) in “La Chatte,” a sweet little bonbon of a dance that was just perfect from start to finish. Wearing a cute (but not face obliterating) mask with white ears and a feathered dress, Ansanelli groomed, preened, stretched, flirted, did impossible things with her legs, clawed the furniture, and pirouetted off after a mouse. I thought it was just lovely – perhaps not the most technically challenging of the night but very memorable.

My second favorite (and winner of the “shows I’d like to see in full” award, though perhaps this is all there is to it) was “Le Spectre de la Rose,” a piece originally choreographed for Nijinski. The costume, a pink half-body leotard with flowers on the shoulders, head, and here and there was both androgynous and very male and just distractingly sexy. I could only imagine Edwardian matrons swooning in their chair at this piece. Who would have thought that this would be the spirit hiding within a rose? (Fortunately I’ll get to see it again when English National Ballet do their own Diaghilev performance at Sadler’s Wells – I can’t wait!)

The third best moment was … well, gosh, not the Russians, and not even Fokine! No, it was hometown company members Marianela Nunez and Thiago Soares rocking out with Odile’s duet with Prince Siegfried, in which she confirms her hold over him and her utter triumph over her rival (with a thrusting down of her arms at the very end – it just seems to say, “You’re cursed forever!” in my books). It is a very Russian moment, the bit of the ballet with the thirty-two fouettés en tournant (I didn’t count) that basically provides the unimaginative with a chance to evaluate ballerinas in the same way sopranos would be measured against the Queen of the Night’s high F – not a moment that really determines artistry but something measurable and, for many, memorable. I would imagine in the pure Russian style that this would be a dancer’s whole performance, making this tiny bit so memorable, with but Nunez we had the entire character of Odile there, the entire story accompanying her in a cloud. She was so sharp, so smooth, so seductive … so vicious, and Soares was just so the drugged-out-on-promises-of-sex aristocrat I always see Siegfried as in this scene (I always wind up hating him for being so ignorant and easily led astray) – BRRR there was clearly no need to import talent to this stage. Of course, I had the advantage of knowing this story just a little bit too well. AHEM.

Among the rest, I enjoyed Schehezade (once again, full of sex, perhaps this was how Diaghilev sold ballet to the masses?), with its costumes looking fresh out of a James Bond movie and athletic moves for Igor Zelensky (including a leap with a spin and a back kick – I wonder if it has a name?); Le Tricorne, a sort of Spanish flamenco/bullfighter thing that had Dmitri Gudanov practically leaping from a kneeling position into a high kick, very strong and impressive; and the pretty, pretty Le Carnaval, which had a Neapolitan couple (as I saw it) playing catch with each others hearts, Yevgenia Obraztsova and Andrei Batalov completely inhabiting their characters. My husband loved Ulyana Lopatkina’s Dying Swan, but she had so much elbow on display I couldn’t focus on her dancing (in short, she was so very thin I found it distracting); and Dmitri Gruzdyev was a strong Petrushka, giving me a chance to see the dance I may have ignored before but suffering from a lack of context.

None of the others were horrible, though I found Tamar boring and couldn’t help but laugh at Apollo (it’s the lute, it just looks ridiculous). It was a very good evening and my appetite is whetted for more. Too bad dance always looks so awful on the screen – I’d really like to see these works done in full!

(This show was a one time only performance that took place on Sunday, June 7th, 2009.)

* are people who aren’t in the Royal Ballet – I think. They are listed in the original cast list.

Great deal for tickets to the Royal Ballet’s “La Bayadere” (January 2009)

January 7, 2009

Today’s Metro had a great deal for the Royal Ballet’s La Bayadere – main floor (orchestra) tickets for only £42.50 on the performances taking place January 13, 21, 22, and 26th at 7:30 PM. I haven’t ever made it to the main floor (normal prices around £80 make this a ridiculous extravagance for me), but this is tempting – I saw the Bolshoi’s Bayadere and it’s really pretty cool, a classic (yet over the top and somewhat camp) 19th century story ballet, complete with a third act that takes place in the land of the dead that’s up there with Swan Lake and Giselle and basically a must-see.

Anyway, the details are thus: go to WWW.ROH.ORG/BAYADERE, type “metro” (or maybe METRO) into the “have a code” box and click go.

Good luck! I would assume it’s not the A cast performing on these nights, but given that it’s the Royal Ballet, you can’t really lose – it’s not exactly a company with only one or two great dancers, and seeing who’s “up and coming” is still a pleasure.

LATER: Holy cow, the cast on the 13th includes total hotties Tamara Rojo, Marianela Nuñez AND Carlos Acosta, SIGN ME UP!

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.)


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