Swan Lake remains at the heart of the classical ballet repertoire. Its choreography by Marius Petipa and music by Tchaikovsky have ensured its place in any dance company worth its claim to pre-eminence. And the music’s 19th century blend of the classical with the romantic has ensured audiences with a love of great music if only a passing interest in dance. Nevertheless, it has to be said that the growth of contemporary choreography and the increased number of smaller dance companies have rather reduced the appetites of both dancers and audiences for this extremely demanding, long, old, and often tired ballet. I include myself among those who have felt they had seen enough Swan Lakes to happily miss the next one. It is with this in mind that I say how suddenly I have been swept off my feet and made to believe again in the evergreen nature of the work, its music, its potential for surprise. (more…)

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Woolf Works opens with a recording of Virginia Woolf herself reading from her lecture On Craftsmanship, “Words, English words, are full of echoes, memories, associations …”. If the purpose of ballet is ultimately communication, Wayne McGregor has set himself a problem: how is it possible to add to what Virginia Woolf has already said with words in the three books that inspire the ballet? The depth and density of Woolf’s writing as she moves in and out of the minds of her characters cannot be directly replicated in dance, but by taking themes in the novels as a jumping-off ground, McGregor and his dancers are able to use movement to delve into the human psyche. (more…)

It was a great treat to see four Frederick Ashton ballets (Scènes de ballet / Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan / Symphonic Variations / A Month in the Country) in one programme earlier this week at Covent Garden, and despite some imperfections of performance the sheer quality of choreography carried the evening.

The opening piece, Scènes de ballet, was a disappointment not so much because there were mistakes and some of the cast were clearly not on form, but because evidence of the company’s understanding of Ashton’s style appeared only intermittently. The choreography of this ballet is so subtle, so original and so exquisitely balanced that it cannot fail to delight, but it should have been better danced. (more…)