Rarely have I been so transfixed, transported even, by the Royal Ballet’s triple bill at Covent Garden last night, all choreographed by the supreme Christopher Wheeldon who has built on the great tradition of Ashton and Macmillan and transformed it into something completely his own.
The first, piece “After the Rain” with music by Baltic minimalist Arvo Part ended with a pas de deux danced by Thiago Soares and David Donnelly which was utterly hypnotising, so sensuous and yet so spiritual it was. I’ve never heard the audience so quiet!
Here is another interpretation of this piece:
After the abstract, the narrative. In ‘Strapless’ the society beauty, Amelie Gautreau, danced by Natalia Osipova, looks back at the scandal her then risque-considered portrait in a strapless dress by John Singer Sargent caused at its original unveiling in 1884 (Madame X). Recognised, Amelie, became an outcast only to retain her perennial beauty in the now much admired portrait.
(The strapless lady at Tate Britain)
Shades of a Parisian-set Oscar Wildeian tale, thought I. Coming so soon after our Toulouse-Lautrec viewing at Pisa I found the settings and the costumes brilliant. Much of the choreography was too, with a can-can sequence that lifted the flouncy skirts up both front and rear. The pas de deux, so often the real heart of a ballet, was interpreted by Osipova and the painter, interpreted by Edward Watson, with luscious sensuality. Wheeldon loves playing bodies not merely with each but through each and langourous horizontal movements and graceful arm threading abound..
Yet the ‘main filling’ for all its panache was, for me, not as affecting as the concluding abstract ballet ‘Within the Golden Hour’ set again to minimalist music, this time to pieces, with such titles as ‘the sky seen from the moon’ and ‘dance of the trees’, by Italian Ezio Bosso, plus a Vivaldi violin concerto slow movement. These were weaved by Wheeldon’s virtuoso touch into tableaux, every one of which for the first time in the evening was concluded by unusually enthusiastic applause. I’m sure I also discerned some allusions to apsara dancing such as we had encountered it in Cambodia last December…
If only this, the true side of Ezio Bosso had been shown at the Sanremo festival! After all, a full symphony orchestra was there at the Ariston and ballet did start in Italy. Some things I shall never understand. (See my post a couple of days ago on that incident.) All I know is that Bosso writes divine ballet music and must have truly been over the moon with such dancers as Brunell, and Muntagirov giving their all last night.
We left our Royal box exhilarated. (True! Behind us was the chair Queen Victoria used while enjoying the theatre with her dear Albert and an attendant explained to Sandra that the big mirror on one wall was asked to be placed there by the Queen’s attendants, squashed at the back of the box so that they too might see something of the spectacle reflected in it.
So, for us it was a majestic evening of British ballet in more ways than one!
(all photos of the actual performance by courtesy of ROH web site as, obviously, absolutely no personal photography is allowed during a performance)