One of the attractions of a triple bill vs. a full-length ballet is the opportunity to discover a mix of different choreographers and dance styles, so that by the end of the evening you should find at least one ballet that is right for you. There is also the chance to discover up-and-coming dancers alongside starrier performers, since the young ones often start tackling bigger roles in shorter pieces before moving up the ladder to the meatier classics.
Take for instance Royal Ballet artist Melissa Hamilton who was absolutely eye popping in last yearâ€™s Infra, a thrilling one act ballet by Wayne McGregor. Despite being a recent arrival in the Company, Melissa made a huge impact in a demanding work that displayed some of the Royal Balletâ€™s most amazing and experienced dancers (Edward Watson and Marianela NuÃ±ez to name but a few). She is now due to appear in her first full length leading role next season (dancing with Rupert Pennefather in Mayerling). Having seen her in Infra and in Christopher Wheeldon‘s DGV – another short work – means we will be buying a ticket with confidence.
But back on the subject of triple bills, earlier this week I caught the latest Royal Ballet mixed programme which commemorates the 100 year anniversary of the Ballets Russesâ€™ first season in Paris. On the bill are two indisputable classics: Les Sylphides and The Firebird (both by Mikhail Fokine), along with Sensorium, a new work by Alastair Marriott.
I was very much looking forward to Les Sylphides. I had never seen it before and Romantic ballets are just the thing for me. I simply adore the slow moving â€œtableauxâ€ feel of Balanchineâ€™s Emeralds, another â€œballet of moodâ€. But despite a great cast (which included Yuhui Choe, Lauren Cuthbertson, Laura Morera and Johan Kobborg) and the poetic Chopin score, I could not feel the “moodâ€. Maybe the moonlit setting failed to shine or maybe the dancers need time to adjust to a work that has not been performed for quite some time. I also wondered whether slow was giving way to plain static in places, although the pace of conducting seemed to pick up in the Mazurka and the Pas de Deux. Perhaps I was also too distracted by the ballerinasâ€™ headdresses which looked rather like helmets, but for me the magic that the Royal Ballet usually brings to the Romantic classics did not fully materialise here.
If Les Sylphides lacked mood, Sensorium had too much of it I thought. The choreography and indeed the dancers (Rupert Pennefather, Alexandra Ansanelli, Leanne Benjamin, Thomas Whitehead) are impeccable but the work was too neat and reverential. I longed for something faster, more innovative and colourful. ThisÂ thankfully is something that The Firebird provided. Despite being a 100 year old ballet it is one of the liveliest, most colourful pieces in the Royal Balletâ€™s repertory. Mara Galeazzi, not just a Firebird, but a â€œFieryâ€ bird, showed off her beautiful fluid arms, frantically expressing through them her fear and frustration whilst imprisoned by Thiago Soaresâ€™s Ivan. The scene at the Immortal KostcheÃ¯â€™s domains where dozens of enchanted creatures come out to scare Ivan manages to be at same time as scary as a childâ€™s nightmare and greatly amusing, thanks to the superb Gary Avis and his impeccable comic timing. The final tableau which depicts with more colour than dance the Tzarevichâ€™s coronation speaks volumes of the Russian roots of this wonderful classic. Stravinskyâ€™s music is thrilling. So 1 out of 3 for the evening overall, but sometimes that is all one needs.
I totally agree with your statement about triple/multiple bill ballets; as a ballet teacher I am an avid ballet-goer, but my boyfriend is not so experienced with the art form. So, when I took him to see his first ballet, it was a triple bill of Chroma, Tryst and Symphony in C. A few months later he saw Cinderella with a friend. He reported back to me that he lost concentration for the latter after the first act. Although ballets such as Cinderella are gems in the RB’s repertoire, I do feel that triple bills are far more accessible for “noobies” to the ballet, and therefore may reign in a more varied audience.
One small thing to add- Les Sylphides is not necessarily considered a Romantic ballet. La Sylphide on the other hand is, as it was choreographed in the Romantic period (1827-1861). As Les Sylphides was choreographed Ballet Russes era, it does not fall into this category. However, Fokine choreographed it as a “ballet blanc” or “Neo-Romantic” ballet- an homage to the Romantic era so to speak.
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