Archive for the ‘Ballet’ Category

Onegin, with Bonelli and Morera, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, January 2013

23 January, 2013

After John Cranko worked on the choreography for Tchaikovsky’s opera he wanted to turn the story into a ballet, which he later did in Stuttgart. Apparently he intended to use music from the opera, but the Stuttgart Ballet commissioned a score by Kurt-Heinz Stolze, using alternative music by Tchaikovsky. The resulting creation is rather different from the opera, which Covent Garden will perform in a couple of weeks’ time.

Morera and Bonelli/ Bill Cooper

Morera and Bonelli in Act I

Onegin here is a less nuanced character than the one based more firmly on Pushkin’s original in the opera. Here in the ballet he tears up Tatiana’s letter in Act II when she refuses to take it back, and his flirtation with Olga is cruel rather than showing her fiancé and his friend Lensky what a silly vacuous girl she is. But the choreography is glorious and the poetic justice of Tatiana tearing up Onegin’s letter at the end of Act III is very effective.

Within this context, Federico Bonelli gave a fine portrayal of Onegin, showing coolness rather than anger as he rips up the letter, and avoiding an excess of nastiness as he dances with Olga at the Act II party. The main character in the ballet however is Tatiana, and Laura Morera showed a lovely dreaminess in Act I particularly in her pas-de-deux with the imaginary Onegin who appears through the mirror, followed by emotional wildness in Act II after Onegin dances with Olga, and serenity in Act III as her pas-de-deux with her husband Prince Gremin flowed with life and joy. Gary Avis as Gremin was superb, his fine stage presence at the party turning to a beautiful expression of love for Tatiana in their duet together, and perplexed concern with what bothers her later in her boudoir. Bonelli, who has shown admirable angst at Gremin’s party when he realises who Gremin’s wife really is, then comes in to face Morera, and their pas-de-deux was quite rightly the high point of the evening. Finally she rejects him with a fine mixture of assertiveness and regret.

Morera and Bonelli in Act III, all images ROH/ Bill Cooper

Morera and Bonelli in Act III, all images ROH/ Bill Cooper

Avis, Morera, and Bonelli brought the performance to a glorious conclusion in Act III, while Yuhui Choe as Olga was sheer delight, and after an uncertain start in Act I, Nehemiah Kish as Lensky came into his own in Act II showing excellent anger and forcefulness in challenging Onegin to a duel.

Lovely work from the whole company, and Dominic Grier in the orchestra pit gave an excellent account of the score. The designs by Jürgen Rose, based on the Stuttgart Ballet originals from 1969 are wonderful, and I shall report again tomorrow after seeing a different cast this evening.

Performances with various casts continue until February 8 — for details click here.

Sleeping Beauty with Rojo and Muntagirov, English National Ballet, ENB, London Coliseum, January 2013

10 January, 2013

Kenneth MacMillan’s production of Sleeping Beauty, with its glorious costumes by Nicholas Geogiardis, is a joy to watch, the sets by Peter Farmer reflecting a mistiness in the world beyond the action like some famous Renaissance paintings. The expression of the action is crystal clear in its use of mime, and for anyone unfamiliar with the conventions a helpful article in the programme is worth reading before seeing the Prologue.

All images ENB/ Patrick Baldwin

All images ENB/ Patrick Baldwin

In this classical Russian take on the fairy tale, the nasty fairy Carabosse is inadvertently omitted from the guest list for the christening, and as the king checks the list and is reassured it is complete, this was beautifully mimed to say nothing of what follows. The orchestra in the meantime gave a fine rendering of Tchaikovsky’s wonderful score under the baton of Gavin Sutherland, who allowed the music to swell with emotion at appropriate moments.

Already in the Prologue some of the solos were terrific, and those fairy variations where they endow the baby with beauty, wit, physical grace, vocal grace, and musical perfection, were a delight. Adela Ramirez showed musicality and beautiful control in the second variation, Laurretta Summerscales was magically musical in the slow third, and Nancy Osbaldeston performed exquisite jumps in the fifth. I could quibble with slightly slow tempos in two of the variations, including the sixth one for the Lilac Fairy, but overall the musical rendering was wonderful and Daria Klimentova was an elegant and eloquent Lilac Fairy throughout the ballet.

Carabosse and attendants

Carabosse and attendants

In the nineteenth century when this ballet was first produced the tradition was to have characters like Carabosse played by men, and James Streeter gave a wonderful portrayal, showing huge emotion and anger rather than the one-dimensional nastiness one sometimes sees. And in this production she remains on stage in Act II to counter the magic of the Lilac Fairy, until finally the prince kisses the princess and Carabosse falls to the stage. Glorious theatre.

Good magic versus dark

Good magic versus dark

As the prince himself, Vadim Muntagirov also gave an intriguing portrayal, showing at his first appearance in Act II ennui, frustration and a need for something he doesn’t yet quite grasp. As the music changes, the backdrop of a dense wood comes down, the Lilac Fairy appears and the prince can start to feel his own emotions. By Act III Muntagirov showed himself so full of joy he looked two inches taller, and his main solo was thrilling. The pas-de-deux with Tamara Rojo as the princess was perfect, and her pirouettes beyond compare. For the artistic director of the company to take on this huge role is quite an achievement, and she was superb if somewhat joyless.

Muntagirov and Rojo

Muntagirov and Rojo

But whatever dancers you see in this production, the costumes, sets, orchestra and corps de ballet remain the same, and there was fine dancing from the corps with some excellent solo work. In Act III, Anjuli Hudson, Senri Kou and Laurretta Summerscales were a very strong trio in the silver variation, Anjuli Hudson and Nancy Osbaldeston were both delightful as The White Cat and Red Riding Hood, and Yonah Acosta was a very fine Bluebird with Shiori Kase as his princess. The woodwind was terrific, with Gareth Hulse making wonderful sounds on the oboe for the White Cat episode.

This production, first performed by the ENB seven years ago, is as good as you will see anywhere, and the Prologue, which can be a bit camp in some productions, is very well judged. Wonderful conducting by Gavin Sutherland kept the tension up throughout — a super performance.

Performances at the London Coliseum continue until January 19, followed by the New Theatre, Oxford from February 19 to 23, and the Southampton Mayflower from February 26 to March 2 — for details click here.

Firebird/ In the Night/ Raymonda Act III, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, December 2012

30 December, 2012

What a terrific triple bill this is, and on the evening of 29 December it was beautifully danced.

Among cast changes in Raymonda, Zenaida Yanowsky and Ryoichi Hirano replaced Nuñez and Pennefather in the main roles, and Ricardo Cervera replaced Whitehead in the Hungarian dance. Cervera showed a fine cutting edge and dramatic sense, and his partnership with Kristin McNally worked like a charm, the two of them looking like dolls together in perfect time to the music. The dancers in the female variations, the same as before, were even better if that is possible. Hikaru Kobayashi showed beautiful control and musicality, Yuhui Choe’s arabesques en pointe with a bending of the leg were extraordinary, Itziar Mendizabal was lovely in the slow variation, and Helen Crawford’s jumps in the fourth variation were a thrill to watch.

Raymonda Act III, all images ROH/ Tristram Kenton

Raymonda Act III, all images ROH/ Tristram Kenton

As a ballet Raymonda has a rather silly story, but the Act III wedding of its eponymous heroine with Jean de Brienne, recently returned from the crusades, is a feast of dancing, and Yanowsky and Hirano were outstanding in these roles. I can’t resist a quick mention of Fumi Kaneko, Emma Maguire and Yasmine Nagdhi who were brilliantly on the music in the pas-de-trois. Raymonda Act III makes a glorious finale, and as the curtain opened Barry Kay’s ravishing set once again elicited spontaneous applause.

Galeazzi and Watson as Firebird and Prince

Galeazzi and Watson as Firebird and Prince

Firebird, so often the finale itself, is the starter here, with Mara Galeazzi showing beautiful arm movements as the Firebird. Edward Watson gave a well-nuanced performance as Ivan Tsarevich, Alastair Marriott was suitably dramatic as the wicked Kostcheï, and Christina Arestis was a gorgeous princess. The story is the reverse of Swan Lake, the prince abandoning his passion for an exotic female to accept a royal and more appropriate partner, but Stravinsky’s music is, or should be, hugely dramatic, though Barry Wordsworth’s conducting with its elegantly rounded corners lacked energy and bite.

No problem on that score with the second item, In the Night, where Robert Clark gave an excellent performance of Chopin’s nocturnes to accompany some glorious choreography by Jerome Robbins.

In the Night, Campbell and Maguire

In the Night, Campbell and Maguire

Against a starlit background, Alexander Campbell and Emma Maguire made a wonderful first couple, he so full of energy, she showing a gentle gracefulness. And in the third variation, Carlos Acosta and Roberta Marquez made a dramatic entrance on their shaft of light, moving apart and together with great passion. It was a super partnership, but in the second movement Zenaida Yanowsky and Nehemiah Kish did not manage the same success as a week ago. She seemed far less comfortable than with Hirano in Raymonda, and a couple of the lifts went slightly awry. In the Night ends with a delightful waltz, and interactions between the six dancers — it is a superb vehicle for the individual brilliance that this Company has in spades, and they should dance it more often.

In the Night, Yanowsky and Kish

In the Night, Yanowsky and Kish

Unfortunately all three later performances are sold out, but click here for details and possible returns.

Royal Ballet Triple: Firebird, In The Night, Raymonda Act III, Covent Garden, December 2012

22 December, 2012

A triple bill ending with the third act of Raymonda is a fine complement to Nutcracker for the Christmas/ New Year period.

Raymonda Act III, all images ROH/ Tristram Kenton

Raymonda Act III, all images ROH/ Tristram Kenton

Raymonda has a wonderful finale with stunning costumes, and the sets drew audience applause when the curtain opened. With fifteen soloists including the principals, Zenaida Yanowsky and Nehemiah Kish on this occasion, it is jam-packed full of dancing. Among others, Hikaru Kobayashi and Yuhui Choe were excellent in their solos, Alexander Campbell was strikingly precise with his tours-en-l’air in the pas-de-quatre, and Ms Yanowsky, well partnered by Kish, showed star appeal. Glazunov’s music was well conducted by Barry Wordsworth, far better than Stravinsky’s Firebird, which opened the show.

Firebird

Firebird

Firebird is always worth seeing, and the corps de ballet danced beautifully both in this and Raymonda. The Firebird herself was danced with conviction by Itziar Mendizabal, weakening as the prince holds her wings and fulfilling her promise to help him after her release. Gary Avis gave a fine portrayal of Kostcheï the deathless, whom the prince vanquishes with her help by breaking the egg that contains his heart. The prince is triumphant, but Bennet Gartside didn’t show it. He represented Fokine’s choreography with great care, but lacked stage presence, assertiveness and outward tension. This was not helped by Barry Wordsworth’s conducting, which removes the tension and rounds the corners of Stravinsky’s score, hollowing out the soul of the music.

3.Federico Bonelli and Sarah Lamb in In the Night. Photo Tristram Kenton, courtesy ROH

In the Night, Bonelli and Lamb

No such problems with the delightful middle ballet In the Night by Jerome Robbins to music by Chopin, beautifully played by Robert Clark. The choreography is for three couples, starting in this performance with Sarah Lamb and Federico Bonelli floating dreamily together on stage and showing a lovely line. The purity of the music and dancing was a relief after the drama of Firebird, but drama made its way into this 1970 Robbins ballet as Yanowsky and Kish came on for the second pas-de-deux, generating tension and showing a sure-footed ability in executing the upside-down lift. Finally it was Johan Kobborg and Alina Cojocaru who sparkled in the third pas-de-deux, passionately athletic and full of energy. Wonderful fun.

The Company should do Jerome Robbins more often. While they have staged Firebird over 200 times, and the third act of Raymonda nearly 100, this was only their twentieth performance of In the Night.

Performances continue until January 11 — for details click here.

The Nutcracker with Klimentová and Muntagirov, English National Ballet, ENB, London Coliseum, December 2012

15 December, 2012

The clever concept behind English National Ballet’s Nutcracker is not that the toy comes to life, but that in Clara’s mind he takes on the form of Drosselmeyer’s handsome nephew, seen in a blue uniform at the party in Act I. After the death of the Mouse King, which occurs in Act II of this production, the nephew becomes the Nutcracker, and towards the end, in new costumes, he and Clara dance the Sugar Plum fairy pas-de-deux.

Mouse King, ENB image Patrick Baldwin

Mouse King, ENB image Patrick Baldwin

The way this concept is really brought to life by Toer van Schayk and Wayne Eagling is to have two Nutcrackers. The one with a painted mask on his face is the toy come to life, the one without a mask is Clara’s vision of him as the Nephew. They interchange for the first time after the snow scene in Act I, and the masked Nutcracker only finally disappears in early Act II after killing the Mouse King, who survived Act I and hung on to the balloon taking Clara, Drosselmeyer and the Nutcracker to the land of Sweets.

ENB image Annabel Moeller

ENB image Annabel Moeller

Having the final battle in Act II is unusual but Wayne Eagling’s production is otherwise entirely standard, starting and ending with Clara’s bedroom and skaters on the ice outside the house. The party scene in Act I is a spontaneous medley of dancing, action, and conjuring tricks from Fabian Reimair as a fine Drosselmeyer. He twice alters the hands of the clock, the second occasion being when the young Clara, beautifully played by Annabella Sanders, gets out of bed after the party to go downstairs. Drosselmeyer turns the time to midnight, and the magic starts.

Clara and Nutcracker, image Patrick Baldwin

Clara and Nutcracker, image Patrick Baldwin

Fine performances by James Forbat and James Streeter as Nutcracker and Mouse King, and the grown-up Clara was Daria Klimentová with Vadim Muntagirov as the Nephew. They were superb together, a real treat to watch.

Nephew as Nutcracker Prince, image Baldwin

Nephew as Nutcracker Prince, image Baldwin

In the Arabian dance Clara joins in to release the prisoner, none other than her own grown-up brother Freddie, who also appeared earlier to help battle the mice. In the Mirliton variation, which in this production is for one girl as a butterfly partnered by Drosslemeyer, Ksenia Ovsyanick was beautifully fluid in her movements. It was a star turn of the evening, but there was fine dancing all round and Esteban Berlanga as one of the Cavaliers in the Waltz of the Flowers was wonderfully precise and on the music.

Lovely designs by Peter Farmer, well lit by David Richardson, and good musical direction by Gavin Sutherland from the orchestra pit, always sensitive to the tempos for the dancers.

Nutcracker not to be missed, but performances finish on January 5 and tickets are now few and far between — for details click here.

The Nutcracker with Nuñez and Soares, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, December 2012.

11 December, 2012

At the start of this Peter Wright production, we see Drosselmeyer in his workshop comparing his toy Nutcracker with a portrait on the wall of his lost nephew. Then at the very end, where some productions show Clara being put to bed by her mother, the Nutcracker prince finds his Uncle Drosselmeyer and they embrace. It’s a nice touch, and in the meantime we are treated to a glorious stage spectacle that reflects E.T.A. Hoffmann’s mixture of the real and imaginary worlds by having Clara and her beloved Nutcracker join in some of the Act II dances.

All images ROH/ Johan Persson

ROH image/ Johan Persson

In the December 10 performance, Emma Maguire was a magical Clara, dancing with the girls at the party as an equal, and joining in the character dances of Act II to perfection. She inspired the whole performance, precise in her movements, wonderfully musical, and full of a sense of wonder.

In Act I at the Stahlbaum’s house there was an air of spontaneity underlying everything including the adult dances, and Gary Avis as the father exerted quiet authority while allowing Lovely performances with Christopher Saunders an admirable Drosselmeyer in his light blue cloak, Valentino Zucchetti sparkling as his assistant, and Kenta Kura and Akane Takada dancing an excellent vignette as the soldier and his lady. Ryoichi Hirano was a powerful Mouse King, bravely hit twice by Clara with her slipper, and when the Nutcracker recovers, Koen Kessels in the orchestra pit allowed the music to swell forth with emotion and then really let it rip, giving huge force to Alexander Campbell’s spectacular coupé-jetés round the stage.

Mouse King

ROH image Johan Persson

Campbell was a fine Nutcracker, miming the battle beautifully when they arrive in the Kingdom of Sweets, and as he and Clara join in some of the character dances they inspired them with joy. Maguire as Clara was a lovely addition to the Spanish dance, great fun with the four men in the Chinese dance, and a perfect mirliton with the four others. Campbell too was a strong addition to the Russian dance and the Waltz of the Flowers. As the Rose Fairy, Yuhui Choe was brilliantly on the music, but more rehearsal was needed for the four leading flowers and particularly their cavaliers, fine dancers though they be.

In the final pas-de-deux between the Sugar Plum Fairy and her cavalier, Marianela Nuñez showed a lovely line in her slow poses with Thiago Soares, and as things warmed up, the conductor moved the orchestra into top gear. Soares suddenly dropped out for some reason, but Dawid Trzensimiech, who was dancing one of the four cavaliers in the waltz of the flowers, seamlessly stepped in and completed the role.

Soares and Nuñez, ROH image/ Bill Cooper

Soares and Nuñez, ROH image/ Bill Cooper

Koen Kessels gave a top quality performance with the orchestra, and although performances continue until January 16 they are sold out, so call up for returns, and for details click here. Also see the live cinema relay on Thursday, December 13.

Royal Ballet Triple: Concerto/ Las Hermanas/ Requiem, Covent Garden, November 2012

18 November, 2012

The central feature of this triple bill is Kenneth Macmillan’s wonderfully intense ballet Las Hermanas (The Sisters) based on The House of Bernarda Alba by Spanish playwright Federico García Lorca.

Fiancé and eldest, ROH/ Bill Cooper

Las Hermanas tells of a tragedy about a domineering mother and five unmarried daughters. The fiancé of the eldest is seduced by the youngest, and one of the other sisters, being furiously jealous, betrays her. The mother banishes the fiancé, effectively condemning her eldest daughter to spinsterhood, and the youngest hangs herself. The oppressive atmosphere of the house is well captured by Frank Martin’s orchestral music with its solo harpsichord, and the repressed emotions of the eldest sister and her jealous sibling shine through in MacMillan’s choreography, which portrays the claustrophobia and angst of the household better than any words could do.

Mother and jealous daughter

It all starts in complete silence except for the tap of the mother’s stick as she descends the stairs. Elizabeth McGorian performed well in this role, and the entire casting was superb. Melissa Hamilton as the youngest sister was gracefully coquettish right from the beginning, and her pas-de-deux with Thiago Soares was full of sexual energy. As the sister who betrays her, Laura Morera gave a brilliant performance of defiant jealousy and furious tension, while Zenaida Yanowsky as the eldest sister was a whirl of emotion, so repressed in her actions, and so terribly drained by the loss of her fiancé, her only means of escape from the cloistered prison she inhabits with her mother and younger sisters.

After the youngest one retreats upstairs and the jealous one feels her eldest sister’s pain, the mother and four sisters sit down. A telephone rang — was it intentional? The mother suddenly thinks to go to her youngest daughter upstairs … but it’s too late. This intense drama is classic MacMillan — not to be missed on any account.

Choe and McRae in Concerto

Concerto, which opens the evening, is a bright work to Shostakovich’s second Piano Concerto, written for his son Maxim as a piece to exercise his skills. The poster strokes of the percussive music are matched in the colours of the costumes, with the fast music of the first movement demanding great technical ability from the dancers. In the second movement Kate Shipway on the piano created wonderful colours matching the purple and orange lighting representing sunrise as Sarah Lamb and Ryoichi Hirano performed a lovely pas-de-deux, and in the third movement Yuhui Choe and Steven McRae sparkled brilliantly together, utterly in time and on the music.

Acosta in Requiem

After the brightness of Concerto, followed by the dark emotions of Las HermanasRequiem made a fine ending to an all-MacMillan evening. This tribute to John Cranko was beautifully performed, with Laura Wright singing a pure voiced soprano, and the orchestra under Barry Wordsworth giving a lovely rendering of Fauré’s music. The dancers gave their best, and I felt particularly moved by the Agnus Dei performed by Marianela Nuñez and eight others. Towards the end, as Rupert Pennefather carried an upright Leanne Benjamin, with Carlos Acosta walking by their side, someone tried to clap. They were immediately shushed. This was a serious audience deeply appreciative of a triple bill for which good seats could have been bought for as little as £6. There is no better value in London.

Performances continue until December 5 — for details click here.

Royal Ballet Triple: Viscera/ Infra/ Fool’s Paradise, Covent Garden, November 2012

4 November, 2012

This wonderful evening of dance featured two interesting works receiving their first performances by the Royal Ballet.

First came Viscera by Liam Scarlett, commissioned by the Miami City Ballet and premiered in their home-town during January 2012. With costumes by Scarlett himself, beautifully pure lighting by John Hall, and music for piano and orchestra in three movements by American composer Lowell Liebermann, this was riveting.

Nuñez and Hirano in Viscera, all images ROH/ Andrej Uspenski

Music in the first movement was fast. A flurry of turns and lifts, swiftly accomplished by the sixteen dancers led by Laura Morera moving and interchanging with one another, produced a visceral impact. Then suddenly as the lighting turned from red to turquoise the tempo changed to a mood of great tranquillity, and the piano, ably played by Robert Clark, started the second movement with the orchestra directed by Barry Wordsworth joining in later. This section was a pas-de-deux, beautifully performed by Ryoichi Hirano and Marianela Nuñez as they cut interesting poses expressing a great spiritual attraction between them. As she leaves, he walks off, and the final section starts. Slower than the first, but as the lighting changed to pink, so the music changed to a bolder form. The choreography of arm movements was intriguing, and the colours changed again: a moment of turquoise changed to red, and firm chords from the orchestra led to a final denouement. It was all superbly danced, and this 20 minute ballet formed a terrific start to an evening that ended with Fool’s Paradise by Christopher Wheeldon.

Watson and Hamilton in Fool’s Paradise

This 30 minute ballet was first performed in 2007 by Wheeldon’s own company, to music by Joby Talbot, who later delivered the score for Wheeldon’s full-length ballet on Alice in Wonderland. Lovely flesh coloured costumes with subtle highlights by fashion designer Narcisco Rodriguez were complemented by distant lighting from high above by Penny Jacobus, with fluttering white leaves descending to the stage. It all starts with two men and a girl standing at stage rear. As she moves to join them in a pas-de-trois the action warms up, and couples come into play, moving and disappearing. Beautiful partnering here by Federico Bonelli with Sarah Lamb, Edward Watson with Melissa Hamilton, and Steven McRae with Yuhui Choe in the sensual choreography underpinned by Talbot’s mellifluous music, which at times sounded like early Schoenberg. After complex variations among nine dancers, they come together at the end to form an extraordinary tableau of bodies, arms and legs.

Fool’s Paradise final tableau

The second item of the triple, Wayne McGregor’s Infra with its interesting music by Max Richter, was surrounded by two half hour intervals, making a good dinner interlude for those who are already familiar with it. But this triple bill, superbly danced and with two works new to the Company, is worth every penny of the tickets at bargain basement prices. Terrific value and very well worth seeing.

Performances continue only until November 14 — for details click here.

Grand Tour/ Faster/ The Dream, Birmingham Royal Ballet, BRB, Sadler’s Wells, October 2012

27 October, 2012

The Grand Tour, a charming ballet by Joe Layton based on Noël Coward’s 1930s transatlantic trip on a liner, is to music by Coward himself, adapted and orchestrated by Hershy Kay.

The Grand Tour, all images BRB/ Roy Smiljanic

It’s a colourful ballet with lovely designs by John Conklin, well lit by Peter Teigen, and in this cast the most striking performer was Laura-Jane Gibson as one of the two stowaways — she was super fun. A fine start to this triple bill Autumn Celebration, but it was overshadowed by the next two ballets.

Faster/ Gittins and Singleton

Faster is David Bintley’s response to the 2012 Olympic Games, a bravura display of athleticism, whose title recalls the Olympic motto ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’. The music in three movements by Matthew Hindson was thrillingly conducted by Philip Ellis, and the dancers excelled themselves in the energetic choreography, making it look far easier than it is, and some of it was tough indeed. The wonderful costumes by Becs Andrews involved changes that gave the ballet huge scope, and in the final movement the colours were glorious.

Performances by the whole cast were so good it is hard to pick out individuals, but the contest with injury in the second movement was superbly performed by Céline Gittins and Tyrone Singleton. His pose at the end was a fitting moment of success, and then just before the curtain lowers he crouches down as if on starting blocks ready to do it all again. Unmissable. Pity the Olympic celebrations didn’t use Bintley’s work, or even just a part of it, as this was far better than anything in the closing ceremony.

Finally came The Dream, with Tzu-Chao Chou as a spectacular Puck, a will-o’-the-wisp who could do real magic, conjuring spinning turns out of thin air. He was fabulous, and the rest of the cast were excellent. William Bracewell as Oberon showed a lovely line, and Natasha Oughtred made a pretty Titania. The lovers were entirely convincing, the fairies delightful, the rustics super fun, and Feargus Campbell as Bottom made a glorious ass, his pointe work done to perfection.

Bracewell and Oughtred as Oberon and Titania

This Ashton ballet works like a charm when done well, and its performance here could hardly have been better. Philip Ellis conducted with a light touch and excellent feel for Mendelssohn’s music, drawing beautiful sounds from the girls’ voices of the Birmingham Cathedral Choir. Performances of one-act narrative ballets don’t get any better than this — it was a delight.

Performances of this triple bill continue until October 27 at Sadler’s Wells, and on October 30–31 at the Wales Millennium Centre — for details click here.

Grosse Fuge/ Lyric Pieces/ Take Five, Birmingham Royal Ballet, BRB, Sadler’s Wells, October 2012

24 October, 2012

This triple bill, titled Opposites Attract, concludes with Hans van Manen’s fine 1971 ballet Grosse Fuge to orchestral music by Beethoven, but in the meantime we are treated to two more recent works with music of a lighter texture.

All images BRB/ Roy Smiljanic

The programme starts with David Bintley’s Take Five to jazz music created by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. This is fun. Lighting by Peter Mumford shows clear colourful lines, and costumes by Jean-Marc Puissant exhibit a 1950s charm, particularly the dresses with their matching colours and white collars for the girls in the pas-de-trois. Bintley’s choreography in this second section is beautifully gentle, but things quickly change into a fast solo brilliantly danced by Joseph Caley. Then in the Two Step when Tyrone Singleton joins Elisha Willis he suddenly gives her a definition she lacked, and his solo work was terrific. The Four Square section for men that immediately follows was strongly danced by all, with Joseph Caley and William Bracewell particularly notable, and the cast then came together for an excellent finale.

Dancers and concertinas in Lyric Pieces

Following the first interval was Jessica Lang’s new work Lyric Pieces first shown in Birmingham in May 2012. Lang, once a dancer with Twyla Tharp’s company, created this to piano music by Grieg and complemented her choreography by pieces of black pleated scenery, concertinas that the dancers move into position and occasionally manipulate. Like the previous ballet this one divides into named sections, from solos — and there was a very fine one here danced by Yvette Knight — to sections for two and more performers. The penultimate one called Phantom was hugely lyrical, particularly in the way it was danced with beautiful fluid movements by Jenna Roberts and Iain MacKay. Grieg’s piano music was beautifully played by Jonathan Higgins, and this ballet exuded a refreshing feel, forming an ideal counterbalance to the final item.

Iain Mackay in Grosse Fuge

Grosse Fuge by Hans van Manen also uses four guys and four girls, and the black of the sets for the previous work becomes the black of the trouser-skirts for the men. These are removed in the second part, showing black trunks secured by a belt that the girls can grasp hold of, and van Manen created these costumes as well as the choreography. The music is late Beethoven, written originally for his B flat quartet (op.130), and the grosse Fuge that originally ended the quartet was used here for the first part, while its later replacement by a lighter allegro was used for the second part. As the ballet progresses the girls, who stood apart from the boys at the start, began to join in and the dancers work in couples giving meaning to the title of this triple bill: Opposites Attract.

From jazz to solo piano to orchestral music well conducted by Koen Kessels, the musical textures form a delightful triple.

Performances continue on October 24 (mat. and eve.) at Sadler’s Wells — details here — and on October 25, 26 and 27 the Company will dance a different triple — details here.