These two performances of Sylvia, Ashton’s flawed but lovely ballet, felt like Christmas presents in beautifully presented parcels, each containing completely different interpretations of the leading roles. I saw Lauren Cuthbertson and Reece Clarke as Sylvia and Aminta on 2 December, followed by Natalia Osipova and Vadim Muntagirov on December 16. (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…)

Natalia Osipova’s specially commissioned programme of contemporary dance at Sadler’s Wells was an opportunity to see one of the greatest dancers of her generation in new works by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Russell Maliphant and Arthur Pita.

In Cherkaoui’s Qutb (meaning ‘axis’ or ‘pivot’), Osipova, Jason Kittelberger and James O’Hara experimented with ways of moving together, testing the limits of gravity and their contrasting techniques as they used their own weight to support, balance and counterpoise each other. Changes in the music, which included Sufi vocals, gave an episodic structure to a work so packed with possible interpretations that its meaning was ambiguous: suggestions in the programme included, among other ideas, the aftermath of a natural disaster, the interaction of celestial bodies, or a rite of passage. It was sometimes hard to see clearly the complex entwining movement of the dancers on the darkened stage; the work would benefit by being performed in a smaller and more intimate space. (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…)

Natalia Osipova’s Giselle flings us into the maelstrom of emotion that she resolves with an aura of serene compassion and unearthly forgiveness in the second act.  Her Giselle is an utterly engaging and very human young woman;  shy but passionate, fun-loving but vulnerable, and she sweeps us along with a conviction that sometimes even makes us forget that she is dancing. (more…)

A chance to see The Royal Ballet in one of the most popular Romantic ballets of all time.  The story of Giselle brings together an engaging mix of human passions, supernatural forces and the transcendent power of self-sacrificing love.  The production by Sir Peter Wright catches the atmosphere of this great Romantic ballet, especially in the perfection of its second Act, with ghostly maidens drifting through the forest in spectacular patterns – one of the most famous of any scenes for the corps de ballet. Giselle dances with lightness and fragility, giving the impression of floating through the mist.  This is one of the Royal Ballet’s most loved and admired productions, faithful to the spirit of the 1841 original, yet always fresh at each revival.  This live transmission from the Royal Opera House at the Phoenix Picturehouse on Monday 27th January features the company’s new star dancer Natalia Osipova in the title role, partnered by Carlos Acosta. (more…)