Posts Tagged ‘Jean Cocteau’

Ecstasy and Death, English National Ballet, ENB, London Coliseum, April 2013

19 April, 2013

This intriguing triple bill is the first programme artistic director Tamara Rojo has put together for the Company, and she even dances in it herself.

Rojo and le Riche, all images ENB/ David Jensen

Rojo and le Riche, all images ENB/ David Jensen

The second item Le Jeune Homme et la Mort is worth the whole programme, and on the first night Rojo was the coolly callous young woman, with Nicolas le Riche, star of the Paris Opéra Ballet, as the young painter driven to madness by her strangely cold attraction. Roland Petit’s gloriously expressive choreography shows him to be in a state of nervous tension and exhaustion, and le Riche gave a riveting portrayal of his emotional despair. Two other performers will dance the role in the present run of performances, guest artist Ivan Putrov and Company member Fabian Reimair. As the girl, Tamara Rojo in her yellow dress, and later the mask of death, showed superb manipulation and indifference.

This extraordinary 1946 work, to a libretto by Jean Cocteau, formed an electrifyingly creative collaboration in post-Liberation Paris. For the music, he and Petit finally settled on Bach’s Passacaglia in C minor — at the dress rehearsal! The Bach was very strongly played under principal conductor Gavin Sutherland who gave fine musical direction to the evening, with Chris Swithinbank at the piano in Mozart’s Concertos K488 and K467 for the first item Petite Mort.

Petite Mort

Petite Mort

The French term la petite mort is an idiomatic euphemism for sexual orgasm, and the rapiers in Jiří Kylián’s choreography suggest a dichotomy between assertiveness and oblivion for the six couples. The men performed superbly with their rapiers, setting them in motion on the stage as if moving in unison of their own accord. Excellent rehearsal preparation must have led to this precision, and the unusual and very physical choreography was crisply and energetically performed by the twelve dancers.

Etudes

Etudes

The Company is at the top of its game, and the final Etudes was beautifully danced. Choreography is by Harald Lander, director of the Royal Danish Ballet, who created this work in 1948 to orchestral music by Knudåge Riisager, based on Czerny’s renowned piano exercises. It reveals a ballet class with a difference, as it starts with twelve girls in black tutus at the barre forming four sets of three, then three sets of four, each set in unison but different from the others. It then slowly opens out to other dancers, ending with nearly forty on stage. As the leading girl, Erina Takahashi showed lovely gentle movements, and her partners James Forbat, Esteban Berlanga and Vadim Muntagirov danced with fine precision. Muntagirov in particular showed a relaxed nobility of posture and line that was very attractive.

This  triple bill shows the Company to perfection, and performances continue until April 21 — for details click here.

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Review — Royal Ballet Triple Bill: Agon, Sphinx, and Limen, 13th November 2009

14 November, 2009

Marianela Nuñez as the Sphinx in Tetley's ballet Sphinx, Royal Ballet photo by Bill Cooper

This was a second visit, my first being on opening night. The dancers were the same, partly because of injury, although Sphinx should have had an entirely new cast. But this time I was close to the stage in the Stalls Circle, so things looked different. I’ll say nothing further about Agon, but make a few more notes about Sphinx and Limen.

In Egypt sphinxes represented power and vigilance, guarding temples. In Greece however there was but one mythological sphinx, represented with a female head and breasts, lion’s body, eagle’s wings and serpent-headed tail. In short a monster that was said to guard the city of Thebes, killing any traveller who could not solve the riddle it asked. In Cocteau’s 1934 play La machine infernale the Sphinx challenges her own destiny. Weary of immortality she desires love and freedom, and takes the guise of a young woman. She falls in love with Oedipus and tells him the answer to the riddle, enabling him to continue to Thebes and follow his destiny. Glen Tetley’s ballet Sphinx was inspired by Cocteau’s play, which he saw in New York in 1950, and he composed the choreography for just three dancers: Oedipus, The Sphinx, and her guardian Anubis, who warns her against falling for Oedipus. Once again Edward Watson was immensely powerful as Anubis, and Marianela Nuñez was a superb Sphinx, but from close up Rupert Pennefather was disappointing. He seemed to be going through the correct motions, but the dance didn’t come from within. In a part like this he needs a greater identification with the character —he needs to own the role.

Wayne McGregor’s new ballet Limen is in two parts, and I liked the first half with the bright costume tops. These disappear in the second half where the lighting is low and the on-again off-again blue lights distract from the action. In the dim light some of the dancers are stationary with their backs to the audience, while one or two dance around them. Apart from the fact that the screen came to the front with its lights mostly on, there was no resolution, but I would have preferred one, particularly since this was the last work of the evening.