Magazine article The Spectator

Mesmerising Exoticism

Magazine article The Spectator

Mesmerising Exoticism

Article excerpt

Dance Mesmerising exoticism La Bayadere Royal Ballet / Royal Opera House Rosas Sadler's Wells Stephen Petronio Company Queen Elizabeth Hall

There is no better way to start a new ballet season than by kicking off with a spectacular, glitzy crowd-pleaser. Natalia Makarova's production of Marius Petipa's 1877 ballet La Bayadere might not have the dashing splendour of Rudolf Nureyev's staging for the Paris-Opera or the philological richness of the recently 're-discovered' Kirov version, but it still retains all the 'known' virtuoso bits that drive most balletomanes crazy, as well as an utterly enjoyable passe atmosphere. To propose it for the opening of the 2003/04 Royal Ballet season was thus a clever move, as demonstrated by the delirious ovations that punctuated the first night. And, on the whole, it was an enjoyable evening, even though not everything was exactly hunky-dory.

Carlos Acosta as the love-tormented hero was simply sensational, tackling the virtuosity the part calls for and mesmerising the audience with all the possible tricks of the trade, including some breathtakingly long-held poses at the end of tornado-like pirouettes. As the evil princess Gamzatti, Marianela Nunes, too, gave a superb performance, combining diamond-sharp technique with a dramatic rendition that made totally credible, and even irresistibly seductive, her stereotypical ballet-villainess role. Nunes is a dancer who has a profound understanding of the 19th-century style, and it will be interesting to see her as the female protagonist of the same ballet in one of the forthcoming performances.

Tamara Rojo, as the ballet's unhappy heroine, is another dancer capable of mastering the demands of the Petipa style. I only wish she could be a more convincing actress. On the opening night, her technique was not at its usual best, and suffered from a jerky approach to the legato passages. Worst of all was her inconsistent control of the classical lines demanded by the choreography, mostly evident in the wonky arabesques she displayed throughout the celebrated 'Kingdom of the Shades' act. The awkward line of Rojo's backwardly extended leg was little or nothing compared to the shameless disregard of Petipa's classical canons which inform the solo dancing of each of the three main 'Shades' in the same act. Luckily, the rest of the corps danced fairly competently, even though one could spot here and there some wobbly balances, some badly developed developpees, and some not-always-straight lines. …

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