La Fille Mal Gardée Roundup

Yesterday The Independent published an interesting feature on the Royal Ballet’s Liam Scarlett, a young choreographer who wants to challenge the perception of ballet as an art that is “all about tutus and glitter”. We posted this feature on Twitter and Facebook and got interesting reactions. On both channels people hastened to add that ballet has not been about tutus & princesses for years. We agree. It puzzles us that ballet should so often be tagged in this manner when even back in early days there were works that attempted to shift focus from fairy stories to everyday life. Not to mention the modern direction ballet took post the explosion of Ballets Russes on the arts scene. Is this a notion that conventional media is intent on propagating, just like the one that ballet tickets are expensive?

One of the first ballets to portray common folk was La Fille Mal Gardée, originally conceived as Le Ballet de la Paille (Ballet of the Straw) in 1789. The ballet centers around the forbidden romance of Lise and young farmer Colas. Lise’s mother, the widow Simone, makes fruitless attempts to keep them apart and tries to marry her daughter off to the nice-but-dim son of a prosperous vineyard owner. Nowadays the most established version of La Fille Mal Gardée is Sir Frederick Ashton’s, the Royal Ballet’s founder choreographer.

Ricardo Cervera as Colas and Roberta Marquez as Lise in The Royal Ballet's Production of Ashton's La Fille Mal Gardée. Photo: Bill Cooper / ROH ©

While I do think Fille is an overly-sweet ballet with a forgettable musical score, I acknowledge its historical importance and groundbreaking story line. The ballet made a welcome return to Covent Garden this season and, once more, Linda and I had the opportunity to see different casts. We love doing themed performance roundups and for Ashton’s sugar-coated Fille, with its mountain of pink ribbons and pastel colours, we decided candy would be the most fitting common denominator. In order of performance, here’s one for those who know their Chokitos from their Kit Kats.

Marianela Nuñez and Carlos Acosta – Bomba Chamoy

Bomba Chamoy is one of our favorite Mexican chili flavoured candies. Chamoy is a  blend of apricot, chili and sugar. It is combined with a powdered chili centre to give this “bomb” lolly a yummy sweet and sour kick. Just like the first cast of Fille: Marianela’s sunny Lise is a playful, feisty and free-spirited girl who is besotted with her Colas. Acosta’s charming flower-vested farmer is well-loved and admired by everyone. Their chemistry is sweet as sugar but also spicy and full of Latin American charm. Their dancing is like a Bomba Chamoy’s core: hot and explosive, with jumps and turns that are as big as their personalities.

Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg – Kit Kat

Alina and Johan were a very different couple of young lovers, Alina’s Lise is a sweet creature that cannot be cross with her mom for too long. She even takes pity on the poor helpless Alain (she never really believes she’s going to marry anyone else but Colas so Alain is no threat to her). Johan’s Colas is a down-to-earth guy. Their dancing is delicious but never too showy, except for one incredibly generous backbend that Alina pulled during the Act 2 Pas de Deux that oozed “Ashton style”. Their duets were as satisfyingly effortless as Kit Kats. An enduring classic.

Yuhui Choe and Brian Maloney – Hershey’s Kisses

This was a solid double debut. Yuhui was a shy-yet-mischievous Lise. Underneath those girly tantrums there’s a heart that melts like chocolate-kiss drops. As Colas Brian had a boy next door charm. Dancing-wise he was never too conspicuous or fancy schmancy and we could see in his demeanour that he was plainly devoted to his Lise. Soft and supple as a Hershey’s creamy chocolate Kiss.

Roberta Marquez and Steven McRae – Chokito

For those who don’t know, Chokito is a chocolate bar filled with caramel fudge and coated with crisped rice manufactured by Nestlé in Australia and Brazil. It is absolutely delicious and moreish. Just like Aussie Steven and Brazilian Roberta’s partnership in La Fille Mal Gardée. A naughty, sure-footed Lise and a cheeky, technically perfect Colas that were made for each other. Their stage personas had just the right amount of savoury rice crispies around the edges to prevent this candy from becoming overly-sweet.

Marianela Nuñez as Lise and Carlos Acosta as Colas in The Royal Ballet's La Fille Mal Gardée. Photo: Bill Cooper / ROH ©

Added on May 4:

The lovely Anna Merrick was lucky to see the one performance of Fille Laura Morera did with Steven McRae (standing in for the injured Ricardo Cervera) and has contributed this yummy entry:

Laura Morera and Steven McRae – Cadbury’s Creme Egg

Like the Creme Egg itself, this luscious partnership of unparalleled sweetness is available only for a fleeting period of time. Laura is a joyful, musical, voluptuous Lise and Steven her ardent lover with the silkiest, smoothest footwork. As with these fondant eggs coated in velvety chocolate which appear in the UK during the Easter period, this unscheduled partnership simply leaves us all wanting more.


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  • [...] inaugural evening performance of La Fille Mal Gardée. Having attended and talked about several performances of Fille earlier this year in London I thought I’d focus here on how the Japanese audience, [...]