Mary Cargill reviews the Ashton Celebration's Divertissements, etc. program for Danceview Times:Hearty Meal
The series of divertissements made for a somewhat disjointed centerpiece, but it did allow the audience to see a number of the current Royal Ballet dancers. The men, most of whom are not Royal Ballet trained, it must be admitted, weren’t up to much, though the choreography certainly favored the women. The “Sleeping Beauty” awakening pas de deux was choreographed by Ashton for the Pre-Raphaelite 1968 production; the pas de deux has lasted much longer than that concept, though it was danced in those slightly medieval costumes. It was made for Sibley and Dowell and no one who saw Dowell’s plush and magnificently scaled arabesque can forget him in that choreography. The choreography, to the music Balanchine interpolated into his “Nutcracker” for the sleeping Marie, is a little gem. It begins formally, with Aurora and Désiré walking side-by-side and bowing in unison, and builds gradually, soaring into lifts, and then finally walking out, eyes glued to each other. Jaimie Tapper was a sweet-natured Aurora, and Federico Bonelli, though he does not have Dowell’s line, was a deferential partner.
The “Voices of Spring pas de deux” does not call for deference, since it was intended as a showstopper. (It was originally choreographed for a production of “Die Fledermaus”.) But there are echoes of Pavlova in the costume and many of the poses, so it should be an elegant showstopper, not, for all its lifts and spins, a Sovietized warhorse. Leanne Benjamin and Iñaki Urlezaga were great fun, and the audience was captivated from the first, when he ran in, carrying her in the inelegantly but descriptively named butt-lift, as she dropped rose petals from her hands.