John Cranko’s Onegin draws on a Russian verse-novel, but in 1965 Cranko’s first cast was led by the Brazilian Marcia Haydée and the Spanish-American dancer Ray Barra. Yesterday, the Royal Ballet also cast two dancers of South American and Hispanic origin as Onegin and Tatiana: Thiago Soares and Itziar Mendizabal.

From the start, Mendizabal’s sincere and vulnerable Tatiana offers a touching foil to Soares’ dark, proud, and brooding Onegin; it is a clash between her naïveté, and his world-weary sophistication and sense of honour. Preferring to read her novel rather than look at new dresses, Mendizabal’s Tatiana is simply not very interested in the bourgeois society that Onegin scorns. Her mood as she writes to him is romantic and wistful, and when Soares appears in her dream, she seems a little cautious in the high lifts, as if not quite ready fully to abandon herself to passion. On the other hand, when Soares ripped up her letter, her stillness, embodying the mute pain of rejection, made me cry. (more…)

Dance Scholarship Oxford, DANSOX begins its 2020 programme with an exciting evening of music and dance: Making The Cellist.

In the lead up to the highly anticipated premiere of The Cellist in February, the Royal Ballet and choreographer Cathy Marston come to Oxford to discuss Cathy’s choreographic process for her new work for the Royal Ballet inspired by the momentous life and career of the renowned cellist, Jacqueline du Pré, in the building named after her; including live demonstration by dancers from the company.

Date:  Monday, 20th January, 8:00pm

Venue:  Jacqueline du Pré Music Building, St Hilda’s College, Cowley Place, Oxford OX4 1DY

Tickets: The event is free and open to all, but booking is essential. Book online here

Refreshments will be available.

 

This luxurious large scale coffee table book celebrates an icon of British ballet, but within a wider context than life as member of a major company. The young Darcey Bussell shot to stardom at the Royal Ballet when, still a teenager, she was selected by Kenneth MacMillan to create the central role of Princess Rose in his ballet of 1989 The Prince of the Pagodas; after its premiere becoming the company’s youngest principal dancer. Her elegantly long physique and sunny charm coupled with technical clarity, strength and assurance enabled her to shine not only in ballet’s classic 19th century repertoire but also in major works by MacMillan and Ashton, Balanchine and Christopher Wheeldon. She retired from the Royal Ballet at the age of 38 but has managed to make a seamless transition to a wider career as a much loved celebrity, exploring other dance genres in performance and on television, but also as a presenter of dance transmissions and documentaries, and perhaps most famously of late as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing. (more…)

Carlos Acosta’s recent production of Don Quixote for the Royal Ballet is full of energy, sparkle and exhilarating dancing. Even though it is from the classic Marius Petipa tradition, I didn’t know this ballet and wasn’t sure what to expect. How do you ‘balletise’ Cervantes’ 17th Century blockbuster? In some ways it is a bit like Le Corsaire with flamenco and gypsies instead of pirates: the thinnest of plots, but huge fun and an excuse for some great dancing. (more…)

The star turns of Alastair Marriott’s new work The Unknown Soldier are Es Devlin’s set and Bruno Poet’s lighting design, and if this had been an installation at Tate Modern, I would have been thrilled by the iridescent colours and the use of shadow. As a multi-media ballet at the Royal Opera House, it is less effective: at times the partially lowered curtain bathed in shimmering streams of rainbow light, or the large screen that descended from above, obscured the back of the stage; even from row C of the Amphitheatre sightlines seemed perilous. Marriott aspires to tell his story from a primarily female perspective, drawing on the recorded words of Florence Billington, who is shown in archive footage projected on the front curtain, and danced by Yasmine Naghdi. The other two named roles are for men; Matthew Ball as Ted Feltham (the soldier), and Leo Dixon as the Telegraph Boy, dressed in a kinky shiny uniform with see-through effect. (more…)

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…)

Dame Beryl Grey’s autobiography is both a personal memoir and the story of twentieth century English ballet told from the point of view of one of its leaders. It is fascinating to compare Peter Wright’s Wrights & Wrongs, which covers a similar ground, yet is utterly different; both writers have outlived most of their contemporaries, but Grey seems much the more discreet of the two.

Grey’s approach is chronological, starting with her birth into a happy and loving family, which instilled religious faith, a strong work ethic and respect for authority and British institutions (she is an unabashed royalist). Part One describes in detail her dancing life, as she quickly worked her way up through the ranks of the Sadler’s Wells company, becoming a principal of the Royal Ballet, before launching herself on an independent career, which included becoming the first Western ballerina to guest with the Bolshoi Ballet. Part Two covers her time as Director of Festival Ballet. (more…)