The Royal Ballet

By Willis, Margaret | Dance Magazine, June 2001 | Go to article overview

The Royal Ballet


Willis, Margaret, Dance Magazine


LAUGHTER LIFTS GRAVITY IN LONDON THE ROYAL BALLET ROYAL OPERA HOUSE, COVENT GARDEN LONDON, ENGLAND MARCH 10, 2001

It looked to be a somber evening when the Royal Opera House's regally embossed curtains were drawn to reveal the lone figure of Sir Anthony Dowell center stage. With wavering voice, he announced the death of Dame Ninette de Valois, the Royal Ballet's 102-year-old founder, and invited the audience to join in a minute of silent remembrance. Then the very sparse house--the British don't like triple bills, especially if there is something new--witnessed the evening's first and equally doleful work, about the anguished breakdown of an intense sibling relationship. Then came the new work, which fanned the flames on a series of ready-to-ignite convoluted couplings. It was only at the end of the evening, in the last piece, that the audience was allowed to cheer up and have a good laugh. Madame would have approved.

Kenneth MacMillan created Triad in 1972; its complex choreography and searing emotions were first danced by Dowell, Wayne Eagling, and Antoinette Sibley. (American Ballet Theatre presented it at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1984 with Robert La Fosse, Johan Renvall, and Amanda McKerrow.) The Royal hasn't seen this work for twenty-seven years; the revival has new costumes, designed by MacMillan's widow, Lady Deborah, who changed the veined unitards (which suggested the brothers' blood-ties) to a more contemporary look--cut-off shorts for the Brother and calf-hugging tights for the Boy. Triad delves into the hidden psychological depths of two close brothers, who are wrenched apart emotionally and physically by the arrival of a young girl. Despite the dark scenario, which explores childhood remembrances and games with an undercurrent of burgeoning sexuality, MacMillan's choreography fluidly links each episode in a ribbon of imaginative movement, unraveling the brothers' tight bonding with unusual and complicated twists and turns.

Swedish dancer Johan Persson, whom the Royal Ballet recently recruited from the National Ballet of Canada, filled the Dowell role. A strong, muscular dancer and good partner, he handled the formidable high lifts and controlled technique well. But the role needs more than technique, and Persson, debuting in the role, has yet to plumb its emotional depths--he was not helped by his omnipresent Colgate smile, which rivals those of Bush and Blair. Hubert Essakow as the younger sibling was the better actor, clearly demonstrating in his crisp, light footwork and firecracker dancing the realization of potential loss. …

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