Mixed Bag

By Poesio, Giannandrea | The Spectator, May 10, 1997 | Go to article overview

Mixed Bag


Poesio, Giannandrea, The Spectator


Giannandrea Poesio

Although many 20th-century choreographers have successfully demonstrated that the ballet vocabulary can be dealt with in myriad innovative ways regardless of the 19th-century tradition, there are still some dance-goers who seem to think that there cannot be ballet without the conventional balletic apparatus, namely tutus and satin pointe shoes. Such a naive and blinkered view, to say the least, might have prompted the unexpected outburst of applause that saluted the opening of George Balanchine's Symphony in C at the premiere of the Royal Ballet's new triple bill.

Yet, I cannot help wondering if there was more to that applause than mere overenthusiasm for a bunch of white tutus (set against a plain backcloth) designed by the company's director, Anthony Dowell. Unlike their continental counterparts, British ballet audiences have never been known for being riotous or abusive. On the contrary, they have always preferred to manifest their discontent through more subtle means of expression. It is possible, therefore, that the applause was an indirect, negative criticism of the two works that preceded Balanchine's piece - as if to say `some ballet, at last!' - or was intended as a statement of relief from an audience who up until then had been overwhelmed by what I would refer to as a rather `heavy programme.

To say again that the art of programming is something that few can master nowadays, however, is unnecessary and, in this particular instance, inappropriate. According to a recent press release, last minute difficulties with the Balanchine Trust led to the cancellation of the scheduled performance of Apollo, and it was replaced by Kenneth MacMillan's The Judas Tree. The problem is that The Judas Tree, about which I have always had reservations, hardly makes an ideal opening item. Its tough, bold content casts an oppressive aura that needs to be counterbalanced by something lighter or, at least, brighter.

Unfortunately, despite a title that hints at Arcadian themes, Amores, the new ballet by Glen Tetley, does not possess these qualities. Set to three compositions by Michael Torke, the 30-minute-long dance focuses mainly on the technical evolutions of three couples. Whether the various sections of the ballet should convey different moods or aspects of love, thus corresponding to the musical nuances, is not clear. …

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