Everyone really only wants to hear Variation 18 from Rachmaninov’s famous piece, and anything additional is probably a bonus. A big bonus is to see Steven McRae leap and bound with some ridiculous over-the-top, laugh-out-loud moments of dancerly pyrotechnics. Scything scissorring jumps, his trademark chaine-tornado, McRae revelled in Ashton’s writing. There’s flash, flair and brio which is McRae’s metier, and he showed glorious definition in tours especially.
Yes, there were a few ribbon mishaps. Yes, Peregrine nearly brought down the backcloth and nearly killed two members of the cast in doing so, and yes Lesley Collier is right about Natalia Osipova’s port de bras, still a little Bolshoi and not yet 100% Ashton, but by goodness, I don’t quite care really, when the rest is as charming and lovely as this was.
This was another delightful Fille, courtesy of principals Natalia Osipova and Steven McRae. Naturally the setting – a pure ray of sunshine fit to warm the heart – contributed, and so did strong corps work too.
This was a “Lake” I was looking forward to seeing, not least for the prodigious (ever growing) talents of Vadim Muntagirov, but also for the fact that it would be my last viewing of the Royal Ballet’s venerable production.
This was again a white swan which in some ways failed to take full, tragic flight. Natalia Osipova’s Odette did not fully convince me that she was in distress of despair at finding herself imprisoned, doomed by curse. Instead, there was as with last time, some kind of detachment in the performance. This was dancing (not acting, mind) which lost the emotional thread, even though the performer herself may have been lost (or rather, fully invested) in the role.
This was my first visit to see Dowell’s Swan Lake, and I was not wholly impressed by the spectacle, nor by some of the choreographic choices, but the dancing was wonderful.
For the designs: I was struck by the curious idea of setting the piece in Tchaikovsky’s sort of time period (the 1880s, I am hesitantly guessing at) as for me, part of the ballet’s appeal is precisely because it is a fairy story, quite usually set in (loosely) medieval of at least fairytale storybook times. That’s not to say that fairy tales can’t happen in a modern era, see for example, Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life etc., but only to suggest that certain things within that setting might not sit happily with the text of the piece. For example, if the gates of Siegfried’s palace had truly been guarded by blokes with crossbows, one imagines Revolution would have been tried long before 1905 or 1918. To have them with guns would also feel menacingly modern and anachronistic, an admission of brutality and an aesthetic of “police state” almost. To have them with crossbows removes the terror, but nullifies the believability of the setting. A small thing, really, but indicative of what to my mind, is a problem with the production overall.