Magazine article The Spectator

Royal Ballet: Mixed Bill

Magazine article The Spectator

Royal Ballet: Mixed Bill

Article excerpt

Dance Fizzy cocktail Royal Ballet: Mixed Bill Royal Opera House

In a world dominated by predictably safe artistic policies, daring choices are as welcome as fresh springs in the desert. And the new fizzy, thought-provoking Royal Ballet quadruple bill is a daring choice indeed. At the beginning of the 21st century, the number of non-ballet dance-makers who get a kick out of tackling the classical vocabulary is on the increase. Whether their radical contributions will ever spark the long-sought renewal of an art form that has become more and more stale is yet to be seen. What is certain, though, is that their mix of classical and modernist/postmodernist principles prompts at least some healthy interest in that art form, thus blowing away few cobwebs.

The bill kicks off with Gong, a multi-coloured, eye-teasing, now wacky, now refined work by Mark Morris, the man who has effectively abolished any conventional cultural, stylistic and artistic boundaries between different choreographic genres. Set to a captivating gamelan-inspired score by Colin McPhce, the work is an engaging incursion into non-narrative choreography, originating from a highly individual approach to what is traditionally regarded as 'neoclassical' ballet.

Typical ideas include the symmetrical alternation of choral scenes, solos and duets, or geometrically devised contrasting and complementing patterns for the soloists and the corps de ballet, which are treated with a good cocktail of postmodern humour and wit. Although some of the ensemble sections lack Morris's distinctive ingeniousness -the duets arc far better in terms of construction, content and ideas - the whole work is a more than ideal opening piece, as well as an excellent vehicle for the company.

The excellent cast, headed by a superb quintet of male dancers - Ricardo Cervera, Martin Harvey, Jose Martin, Thiago Scares and, most of all, Edward Watson - looked much more at case with the demands of the choreography than they did when they first performed the ballet last season. One of the work's highlights is the intense duet performed with no music: a rarely seen combination of choreographic craft and theatre magic.

Alas, the duet that followed, William Tuckett's Proverb, was no match for what had gone before. The first of three world premieres presented within the same programme, Proverb indulges too much in a rather uneven combination of seen-it-all-before, raunchy physicality and depthless narrative. …

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