Daphnis and Chloë/ The Two Pigeons, Birmingham Royal Ballet, BRB, London Coliseum, March 2012

Essential for first rate ballet are music and choreography, and this double bill provides them in spades, along with some very fine dancing.

Daphnis and Chloë, all images Bill Cooper

Both ballets involve young lovers splitting apart, yet reunited at the end, and both are choreographed by one of the great masters of the twentieth century, Frederick Ashton. His creations were entirely new, the original choreography for Daphnis and Chloë being lost, and Messager’s score for Two Pigeons being re-orchestrated by John Lanchbery, who rounded it off at the end with a return to the scene at the start, the lovers together again in the studio. Musically and choreographically these are a must-see. Ravel’s music for Daphnis and Chloë is one of the world’s great ballet scores, and though the music for Two Pigeons may be less well known it is simply glorious. Conducting by Koen Kessels was hugely powerful, yet entirely sensitive to the dancers.

The dancing itself was excellent, the corps work very fine, and Elisha Willis gave a lovely performance as both the virginal Chloë and the hot-blooded gypsy girl in Two Pigeons, who causes the young painter to leave his lover and run after her. She filled both roles with conviction, and Robert Parker and Nao Sakuma as the lovers in Pigeons were a delight. Strong dancing all round, with superb sets, costumes and lighting.

The designs for Daphnis and Chloë are John Craxton’s originals for Ashton’s ballet, the gathered skirts for the women and belted trousers and shirtsleeves for the men bringing the classical remoteness of this story into the Mediterranean world so well evoked by Ravel’s score. And the stylised sets, though highly evocative of the period in which they were created, give a timeless background to the story.

The Two Pigeons: Robert Parker and Nao Sakuma

In Two Pigeons, Jacques Dupont’s lovely set, with its window to the city and sky, was beautifully lit by Mark Jonathan, the colours of the sky evincing a magical appeal for the anchored freedom of rooftops, and life in the upper floor of a city building. And those pigeons, seeming to fly free outside the window yet with one flying in to join the other at the end, evoke the beauty of this charming story.

These two ballets form a superb double bill, but it will be over in the blink of an eye, so fly down to see it without delay. There is a matinée and evening performance at the London Coliseum on March 14 — for details click here.

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3 Responses to “Daphnis and Chloë/ The Two Pigeons, Birmingham Royal Ballet, BRB, London Coliseum, March 2012”

  1. S Hiromi Says:

    I was there last night too. I hugely enjoyed Two Pigeons (I first saw this ballet with K-Ballet in JPN). Every single scene was a delight. But I totally didn’t get D&C. To me, it looked like a spoof of a Ballet Russes piece. What did I fail to see? I also disliked the colour schems of the girls’ costumes.

  2. Chris Says:

    I was there on Wednesday and also preferred two pigeons to my surprise as I love Ravel’s music more. I know ‘men in tights’ is a cliché but it does allow you to see the movement of the muscles in the legs which form part of the beauty of dance, likewise tutus or shorter ballet skirts. Too much of the dancing in both ballets was in ‘normal’ clothes which looked boring (especially the men’s) and masked the dance. The gypsy scene was the most honourable exception – the hightlight of the night!

  3. mary Says:

    We loved the Two pigeons, and the music was new to us but exciting.
    We attended the matinee and throughly enjoyed the afternoon.
    But the highlight without a doubt was the gypsy girl danced by Celine Gittens.+

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