Magazine article The Spectator

Three's Company

Magazine article The Spectator

Three's Company

Article excerpt

Although the secret of a thriving ballet company is a varied, challenging repertoire, some traditionalists regard such an artistic policy as a threat to the stylistic identity of the company itself. In addition, new, unusual choreographic formulae -- which, in turn, might require a training different from the one that the dancers are accustomed to - are often considered detrimental to the quality of the dancing.

The Royal Ballet's new triple bill, however, demonstrates that stylistic identity and new formulae can easily co-exist and complement each other, thus offering stimulating possibilities for the numerous talents of the company. In addition, the programme is beautifully structured, presenting three different notions of contemporary ballet.

Created in 1983, David Bintley's Consort Lessons belongs to that fortunate series of abstract works with which the choreographer demonstrated both his intent and his ability to develop a well-affirmed British tradition. The perfect symmetry of the choreographic layout, the geometric use of the body lines and the apparent discrepancy between the jazz-like quality of Stravinsky's score and the refined neo-classical purity of the dancing refer, more or less directly, to a not so distant past, when these were the distinctive features of the so-called English style. Yet the ballet is far from being a mere compendium of past ideas. Although sporadic references to dances created by some of Bintley's illustrious predecessors punctuate the work, the choreography stands out through its many inventive solutions that are typically Bintley's, such as the particular use of the music and the unpredictable technical combinations.

An unusual movement vocabulary is also the principal component of Kenneth MacMillan's The Judas Tree. I must admit that I have always had some reservations about this ballet, since I attended its premiere in 1992. Unlike other dance writers, however, I do not find the central theme disturbing or puzzling. Concepts such as fear, sexual abuse, rape, power struggle and psychological tension within a group of human beings have prompted some outstanding works in the 20th century. It could hc said that MacMillan's ballet is the British answer to Pina Bausch's powerful Rite of Spring, Jerome Robbins's The Cage or the second act of Mats Ek's Giselle. In each of these ballets the intensity of the dramatic situation is matched by an equally intense choreographic layout (a feature of The Burrow, an earlier MacMillan creation). …

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