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Dance review: Royal Ballet Triple Bill

Testosterone, kitsch and a ragtime romp

Royal Opera House

    Joseph Sissens in Obsidian Tear
    Joseph Sissens in Obsidian Tear (Photo: Tristam Kenton)

    The latest offering from the Royal Ballet showcases the work of three of the company’s resident choreographers: Wayne McGregor, Sir Frederick Ashton and Sir Kenneth MacMillan.

    Ashton and MacMillan are no longer with us, but McGregor is a leading force in the dance world today, and his Obsidian Tear kicks off the evening.

    Exploring themes of tribalism and conflict, this testosterone-fuelled piece it’s an all-male cast displays McGregor’s signature energy and power.

    The stage is bare, save for a bright orange strip of lighting, allowing the audience to focus totally on the movements of the dancers.

    Marguerite and Armand was created back in 1963 for Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev. Based on La Dame aux Camelias, Ashton’s ballet is a dramatic series of pas de deux. There are lush designs by Cecil Beaton (Marguerite’s dresses as particularly gorgeous) and there’s a lot of rushing on and off the stage, with Armand and Marguerite looking pained. It teeters on the kitsch the huge backcloth images at the outset illustrating Marguerite’s delirium are unnecessary but what rescues it from becoming sentimental drivel are the glorious pas de deux for the doomed lovers.

    Alessandra Ferri, still ravishing in her mid-50s (must be all that Boots No 7 lotion she advertises) danced with abandon at the performance I saw, with Federico Bonelli as her lover. Unlike Manon another courtesan currently meeting a sticky end on the Covent Garden stage her death is quieter, to a fading piano sonata by Liszt.

    I wonder why Elite Syncopations was chosen to represent MacMillan’s ballets.

    It was given plenty of performances last year as part of the celebrations of his work, and he created so many other one-act ballets that would have been worthy alternatives in this triple bill.

    It smacks of lazy programming and, yes, this colourful ragtime romp is always a crowd-pleaser, but it would be good to see lesser-known works by this master choreographer.

    It was danced with verve by the entire company; praise to the lovely Sarah Lamb for her Stoptime Rag, and Tierney Heap with David Yudes garnered cheers for their comedic timing as a mis-matched dancing couple.

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