Magazine article The Spectator

Soggy in the Corps

Magazine article The Spectator

Soggy in the Corps

Article excerpt

Triple Bill Royal Ballet

There are many different ways to start a ballet season, but an artistically disjointed triple bill is not the ideal one. Even on paper the Royal Ballet's opening programme for 2006/7 looks awkward, and the rationale behind joining Balanchine's Violin Concerto (1972), Jirí Kyliàn's Sinfonietta (1978) and Glen Tetley's Voluntaries (1973) remains unclear. Little matters if each work boasts an important, non-dance-specific score -- something that prompted the most welcome presence of Antonio Pappano in the pit. And little matters when each of the three works represents a significant moment in late 20thcentury ballet history. But to come across as successfully woven, a mixed programme requires much stronger artistic, cultural and stylistic links.

Indeed, things would have probably looked better had the dancing not been weak on the night I went. Balanchine's Violin Concerto is, arguably, the epitome of translating music into choreography -- for which Balanchine remains unsurpassed. As such, the ballet requires clockwork perfection, for any discrepancy between danced action and musical execution seriously vitiates its sheer beauty. Alas, last Saturday, discrepancies abounded. Entrances were not always calibrated, lines were not pure, and the overall impression was of a tiresome, uninspired and overcautious approach to the choreographic demands.

Although Zenaida Yanowsky, one of the few Royal ballerinas who seems to have a deep understanding of Balanchine's work, and American-born and trained Alexandra Ansanelli, who is more than familiar with the Balanchine tradition, provided some moments of splendid dancing, they, too, did not look fully attuned to the modernist vibrancy of the dance. Problems were most evident in the corps, for it was their rather soggy and stylistically inconsistent dancing that toned down the whole performance.

Balanchine's choreography, and that of Violin Concerto in particular, only comes fully to life when, and if, the dancers tackle it with a fast-paced, sparkling, caution-tothe-wind response. Which was not the case at the performance I saw, despite Pappano's incandescent rendition of Stravinsky's score, splendidly led by Vasko Vassiliev's violin.

Lack of interpretative generosity was also evident in the last item on the programme, Kyliàn's Sinfonietta. …

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