Posted in Review, tagged Akane Takada, Aurora, Carabosse, David Makhateli, Florestan Pas de Trois, Kristen McNally, Laura McCulloch, Marianela Nuñez, Mariinsky, Prince Desiré, Prince Florimund, Review, Sleeping Beauty, Xander Parish, Yevgenia Obraztsova, Yuhui Choe on November 3, 2009|
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When the Mariinsky brought their Soviet Beauty to London this summer I left wishing I could have seen their lovely Aurora Evgenia Obraztsova in a more agreeable production. I think the Lilac Fairy must have heard my wishes, for they came true last Saturday: Evgenia was back in London guesting in The Royal Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty. Having originally planned to see only 2 performances of the ballet this time, both featuring these Bag Ladies’ favourite Aurora Alina Cojocaru, I suddenly had to make room for more. After all, when a Mariinsky ballerina (and another notable Princess Aurora) descends upon your local company you drop all prior engagements and spend your emergency ballet cash on whatever seats are left. And there weren’t many.
Emma Maguire as Red Riding Hood and David Pickering as The Wolf in The Sleeping Beauty Act 3. Photo: Johan Persson / ROH ©
Evgenia, who had just made an important debut a few days before as the Tsar Maiden in Ratmansky’s version of The Little Humpacked Horse, is an utterly charming Aurora and the Royal Ballet’s very delicate production of this classic fits her like a glove. She did not seem to have any issues with the differences in the choreography, nor with the slower conducting tempo which actually did her a great service during the Rose Adagio‘s trickier passages.
Obraztsova makes her Act 1 entrance reminding us that none of the qualities bestowed on the 16-year old Princess by the fairy godmothers are wasted on her. During Aurora’s variation she even nods to the often overlooked Fairy of the Song Bird with an exquisite flutter of her hands, showing how important it is to truly have the gift of musicality when you dance a role like this. In the Rose Adagio she responds to her suitors with equal doses of shyness and coquettishness and even though she dared not look at them during the first series of balances, she risked one or two flirty glances as soon as she had settled into the final promenades. This might be unconsciously done but it fits the character of a teenager still not used to all that male attention so well.
She also had a good rapport with her prince David Makhateli. David, a dancer who possesses a vintage aura of Romanticism, is perfect for the role of Prince Florimund. He is elegant and very fine in the adagio parts and in his display of classical line. While their first pas de deux in the vision scene conveyed mutual longing, in the wedding pas de deux we have a real sense of two souls united from the way they slowly mirror each other’s steps and then converge into one. A detail I admire about David’s Florimund is that he does the “no hands fish dive” finale looking lovingly at his Aurora whereas most Princes tend to gaze at the audience. But how could he not, with such an exquisite dancer as Evgenia in his hands?
Sergei Polunin as Florestan in The Royal Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty Act 3. Photo: Johan Persson / ROH ©
This being a matinée it was normal to expect certain roles cast at a more junior level. It was a pleasure to see the elegant Xander Parish as the Lilac cavalier and corps member Akane Takada so confident in soloist roles. She gave a good injection of fluidity to the tricky Fairy of the Enchanted Garden variation and continued to shine later alongside the always delightful Yuhui Choe in the Florestan Pas de Trois. Kristen McNally was a very wicked Carabosse. But one still laments the fact that, save for Marianela Nuñez, the company seems short of Principal dancers who can tackle the fiendish role of the Lilac Fairy. As lovely as Laura McCulloch is in manner and in mime, the Lilac’s prologue variation, with its Italian fouettés and turns that demand Swiss-watch precision, is too big a challenge to be cast at anything other than Principal level, even in a matinée performance.
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Posted in Review, tagged Alina Cojocaru, Johan Kobborg, Kristen McNally, Laura Morera, Liam Scarlett, Modern, Royal Ballet, Sergei Polunin, Steven McRae, Tamara Rojo, Thomas Whitehead, Wayne McGregor on May 15, 2009|
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Johan Kobborg. Source: The Royal Ballet ©. Copyright belongs to its respective owners.
Just over a year ago I was sitting at the Alina Cojocaru gala at the QEH with my jaw wide open: there were four Basilios (Johan Kobborg, Marian Walter, Daniel Ulbricht and Sergei Polunin) plus 2 Kitris (Alina Cojocaru and Roberta Marquez) taking turns in the Don Quixote variations. Whilst the four men spun simultaneous tours a la seconde (turns with one of the legs open and stretched on the side) I thought: how could this ever be topped as a gala party piece?
Cue “Les Lutins”, a new choreography by Johan Kobborg for the “Royal Ballet at the Linbury Studio” series. it matches virtuoso dancers to virtuosic violin pieces (including “La Ronde des Lutins”) and the result is a burst of dance that I haven’t seen since Ethan Stiefel danced off Sascha Radetsky in Center Stage. It starts with Steven McRae putting his tap dancing skills to good use and as the violin plays faster his Vaudevillian dance turns into a crescendo of dizzying pirouettes, leaps, grand battements, think every bravura step and then some. Brief pause. Now Polunin arrives also dressed in Vaudeville style suspenders and tie (minus cane) to raise the stakes, he shows Steven some of his own tricks, double tours en l’air (or were those triples?) but he is matched and more is thrown into the mix, both trying to impress cute girl Cojocaru who obviously chooses… the violinist! Delicious!
This piece is reason enough to book a ticket for the Linbury (you should hurry, there are only 2 more performances) but the whole evening is great fun. There are quirky pieces such as the one created by Kristen McNally (“Yes we did…”) about Obama fever pitch where the dancers move firmly and anxiously, as if fueled by coffee, “trying to change the course of history”. I loved Thomas Whitehead’s techie geek, typing away at an invisible computer (I can’t recall ever having seen “computer mime” in ballet before) and I think I might even have preferred this piece to brand new “Sensorium” over the main stage. It was daringly different, it was fun and as the programme notes “If you don’t try you’ll never know”.
Many of the other works seem influenced by resident choreographer Wayne McGregor and all the better for it because this hints at a validation of his own style within the company (I can’t be neutral on this topic, I love McGregor’s work). The evening closes with the most eloquent choreography, “Consolations and Liebestraum” by Liam Scarlett, set to Franz Liszt’s namesake piano pieces it shows strained relationships between men and women, some of which are fixable and some of which are doomed. The work is very stylish, the cast is fabulous (Laura Morera, Ricardo Cervera…), especially Tamara Rojo and Bennet Gartside who dance a passionate and moving Pas de Deux. We can’t wait to see Liam Scarlett’s piece for the main stage next season. Ah, and “Les Lutins” at the next Alina/Johan gala of course!
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