Life & Culture

Dance review: Balanchine and Robbins

Joy Sable enjoys the Royal Ballet's celebration of two great American choreographers


Dances at a Gathering by Jerome Robbins, The Royal Ballet, ROH Covent Pink; Marianela Nunez, Mauve; Francesca Hayward, Apricot; Yasmine Naghdi, Blue; Fumi Kaneko, Green; Laura Morera* Brown; Alexander Campbell, Green; William Bracewell, Purple; Federico Bonelli, Blue; Valentino Zucchetti, Brick; Luca Acri, Music;Fryderyk Chopin, Costume designer;Joe Eula,


The Royal Ballet is celebrating the work of two great American choreographers, George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, in a new programme of short works at the Royal Opera House.

The performance begins with Apollo. Created by Balanchine in 1928 to Stravinsky’s powerful score, it shows the birth of the god Apollo and the relationship with his three muses. At the performance I saw, Vadim Muntagirov was on top form, dominating the stage, while Yasmine Naghdi, Anna Rose O’Sullivan and Mayara Magri were a strong trio accompanying him. The ballet looks like a series of beautiful sculptures come to life, and it remains an important piece – a bridge between pure classicism and more contemporary works.

Balanchine also created the second work of the night, the effervescent Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux. It is a total contrast to the cool elegance of the earlier Apollo and is often performed at galas, as it is short, spectacular and a crowd-pleaser. Set to music originally written for Swan Lake (but never used for the ballet now), it showcases the talents of the male dancer and his ballerina – Reece Clarke and Natalia Osipova. Clarke is one of the tallest dancers in the company and has a winning presence, which is just as well, because otherwise Osipova would dominate the piece entirely.  She fizzes through her variation at an impossible speed, and dances the final coda with a real sense of danger. You wonder if she is going to pull off all the balances and jumps….but of course she does.

The programme concludes with Dances at a Gathering, Robbins’ plotless ballet set to music by Chopin. It is an hour of pure joy with a touch of melancholy; couples come together, separate, perform little solos, group and re-group in beautiful passages of dance.

Praise must go to the ten dancers who perform the piece with a true sense of camaraderie. Hard to single out any particular dancer, but Alexander Campbell always commands respect – in him we find masculinity, grace and power in one delicious bundle.

Balanchine and Robbins is at the Royal Opera House until 13 June. Available to stream on demand from 11 June-10 July 

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