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Royal Ballet's New Wheeldon Ballet 'Tryst' and Mixed Bill

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#1 sylvia


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Posted 19 May 2002 - 01:48 AM

The RB commissioned a new ballet from Christopher Wheeldon and I had an opportunity to go to an Insight evening a few weeks ago where he talked extensively about the creative process and watch him take a rehearsal. I thought Tryst was quite interesting in the full rehearsal yesterday, and uprgraded my opinion to really good in the performance that night. Its starts with the stage sealed off from the audience by a black drop, revealing only a tiny white triangle on the floor. A dimly lit dancer steps into this triangle as the drop is lifted to reveal the dancers. It's divided into 3 parts, the first and third are for the corps and 4 soloist couples, the music for which Wheeldon said brought to mind images of urban chaos. The middle is at a slower pace, an elegiac pdd, the music reminscent of Scottish Highlands (again his words). The set is very spare, off kilter from what I remember of the models and it's occasional moving parts, a screen at the back and black rectangles on the sides, are interwoven with the imaginative lighting effects.

I'm expecting lots of complaints about the screechy music but I thought it was great, especially the way the music from the pdd interweaved with the third part of the ballet and how the trumpets built towards the climax at the end. Very nice touch that the RB managed to get the composer James MacMillan to conduct first night.

As for the choreography I wasn't overly impressed when all the dancers were on stage and were moved about - not as inspired as I expected from Wheeldon. If I had let it all wash over me I probably could have got very bored. But I thought the little details were fascinating. I liked what each dancer was doing, individually or with their partner. In spite of the jagged shapes the dancers made, the flexed feet and hands, they were part of long flowing movements. The 4 couples in the first and third parts were so impressive and seemed really well rehearsed. And there was a very dream-like atmosphere in Bussell and Cope's central pdd. They start by walking on opposite sides of the stage, before Darcey starts dancing - I don't think anyone can dance these kind of abstract ballets quite the way she can. I think it helped a great deal to have been to the Insight evening and have seen the dancers rehearse this - it makes you appreciate the dancing so much more. The pdd is beautiful, fluid with some acrobatic lifts but they are so smooth you're barely aware of this. At one point Jonathan is on his back, balancing Darcey on his feet with only her arm on the ground for support. The lifts, the balances, the holds Jonathan has on darcey barely seem possible. The 25 minutes passed by very fast (very unusual when you're standing!) and I left pretty happy. I think it's a ballet I wouldn't specifically book for but I'd be happy to watch again.

The Leaves are Fading
I couldn't say the same about The Leaves are Fading, a surprise since it's a ballet I really enjoyed back in February. I guess that's the problem - too many times (for me 6 in total) and much too soon! It was all very beautifully danced but it's too long, especially when you have no seat! And of course there's nothing new - it's exactly the same as it was danced last time. Cojocaru and Kobborg were great of course - Alina dances with a freedom that I rarely see in others and I just love the way she uses her arms in this. It's so nice how Stretton is letting their partnership flourish - I've only just noticed that she's dancing pretty much everything with him this summer - Swan Lake, Giselle, Onegin and Don Q...

A Month in the Country
A Month in the Country was a welcome antidote. I will never, ever tire of this ballet, it's beautiful intricate choreography, the lush set and costumes, the little touches like the use of the bridge and Koliya with his kite, and above all the music, the music, the music! I liked Mariel Valtat from the rehearsal better as Natalia Petrovna - she's a much more natural actress and her face conveys a wider variety of emotions. But Guillem and Cope were more than fine. I thought Jonathan danced his solos with so much sincerity. His complete lack of guile makes him seem far younger than his 39ish years of age. I got over the initial disappointment of not seeing Cojocaru cast as Vera - Natasha Oughtred was very lively, hopeful and touching in her pdd with Jonathan and her own solo at the start was delicious and is one of my absolute favourites! (Bethany Keating is 2nd cast.) David Drew was wonderful, wonderful as Natalia's husband (I'm sorry, I don't remember his name) - so much character and I couldn't help but pay attention to a role that I wouldn't think twice about otherwise. Nice to see newest RB members Adam Linder and Jamie Bond cast as the footman too!

So a nice evening, good contrasts between ballets. If I wasn't so fed up with Leaves I'd probably say it was the most interesting mixed bill this season.

#2 Helena


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Posted 19 May 2002 - 04:24 AM

Sylvia, just a quick comment and thanks for your report. I'm so delighted that Bethany Keating is second cast - I noticed her at the RBS performance a couple of years ago, and always like to know that my talent-spotting is reasonably accurate!

#3 sylvia


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Posted 19 May 2002 - 04:36 AM

Helena, I like her a great deal too, especially from Tic(k) in Cohabitants in the Clore. I should have rephrased though - she danced in the rehearsal so I assumed she's 2nd cast but you never know...Cervera was listed in the Leaves rehearsal cast sheet and he was sitting in the audience! :(

#4 sylvia


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Posted 26 May 2002 - 01:51 AM

Just some highlights from the matinee and evening performances yesterday...

Tryst It's like a different ballet when you get a little perspective. Are the critics sitting in the stalls for this one, because if they are they don't have the best seats. When I was in the stalls circle last week the 22 dancers did look a bit structureless, but from the amphi I thought Tryst was just exceptional. The set with it's off centre floor is much more striking. It's no longer "just a light show" as I heard one audience member complain - the lighting and moving parts feel seamlessly integrated with the music and choreography. The complex patterns the dancers made, the way these and their movements intertwined with MacMillan's music (which I love) produced such an strong reaction in me. The transition into Darcey and Jonathan's languid pdd is surprisingly smooth. They didn't remind me of birds as Dougill from the Sunday Times suggested but swimming in a deep blue sea. They were wonderful, fluid, appearing almost boneless in the curves they made with their bodies. I was so disappointed to have missed Harvey and Hatley in the matinee - could someone tell me how they compared? The insight day a few weeks I thought at first was useful in explaining some of the motivation behind the ballet. I usually like to understand the whys of what I'm seeing. But I've had a change of heart - there doesn't have to be any meaning to it. It's just wonderful to sit back and watch and time absolutely flies.

The Leaves are Fading Another ballet that looks better from above. Leaves has felt so one-note I thought I couldn't be surprised anymore, but I was wrong. In the matinee I was completely wowed by Nunez and Gartside in the 3rd "married love" pdd. I think Marianela gave new meaning to the word "melting", she was so captivating in Gartside's arms. Kobborg and Cojocaru were lovely and joyous in the evening performance in the central pdd. Also want to mention Ricardo Cervera who's lively dancing seems to stand out in everything.

A Month in the Country I think Jonathan Cope is the new superman of the RB in replacing an injured Ivan Putrov in the matinee, after Tryst/Month the night before, and Tryst/Month in the evening to come. Very disappointed not to see Ivan because Muriel Valtat was so good. But I do love Jonathan's Beliaev and especially the open way he uses his arms in his first solo. And there's nothing like Guillem and Cope together on stage. Oughtred had a bit more spark to her Vera than Keating who danced the matinee but it really is good to see the younger dancers having a go.

Another great day, but sad because most of the RB jet off to Australia tonight. No more ballet for me until the summer season. Whatever will I do for the next 6 weeks?! :)

#5 Alexandra


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Posted 26 May 2002 - 07:43 AM

Thank you again for taking the time to post such nice, long detailed reviews, Sylvia.

A note about how ballets look from where. I once saw a ballet by a relatively inexperienced choreographer that looked like an absolute mess when I was sitting slightly -- and only slightly -- to the side. Several nights later, I saw it dead center, and from dead center it looked almost too structured. Everything had been choreographed to be viewed, it seemed, from a center perspective.

So where you sit can make a difference! (I'm sure Wheeldon would choreograph with a wider audience view in mind; what I posted above was an example of choreographer's viewpoint at its most limited.)

#6 sylvia


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Posted 28 May 2002 - 08:34 AM

Just wanted to post that there are rehearsal photos of Tryst online on the ROH website. Very nice ones too! Good to see that Johan Persson has been busy throughout his injury! There are also a couple on the reviews page as well.

#7 Lolly


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Posted 04 June 2002 - 05:27 AM

Another belated report!

I liked Tryst. But my overriding thought was "Gosh, you can tell Christopher Wheeldon has been in NY" - it was Balanchine and Gershwin and Stravinsky on first look. I haven't seen much Balanchine but it seemed to have certain things distilled into it. It was very clean, very leotard if that makes sense! The corps were good, as Sylvia said, very well rehearsed. I absolutely LOVED the ending where they were all on diagonal lines doing small movements (port de bras and tendus etc changing alignments), it was so perfect and precise - I was incredibly jealous of all those fantastic 5th positions! (I was in the slips) Darcey and Jonathan's pdd was nice - Darcey walked on and stood near the wings, she looked so beautiful just standing there. I did think some of their steps were a bit too forced though - the lift Sylvia described was odd. And I didn't "get" the part where it seemed as if a plane flew overhead and they watched, then curled up and writhed around on the floor - it looked like a nuclear attack or something - I don't know. And their section did seem to me to be very separated from the rest - I thought they must have rehearsed it separately so it couldn't be integrated easily. I can't wait to see it again though - it definitely needs more than one viewing.

Leaves is very pretty but I didn't enjoy it as much this time around. It reinforced my opinion that Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg are perfect for each other though!

Month I enjoy more each time I see it - there is so much to see. I love the part with the misplaced keys, and the pas de quatre at the beginning is fantastic, and Kolya flying his kite around the room and over the chaise longue is just breathtaking, it is so poetic.

I was sorry Ivan didn't dance - I had wanted to see him again in this but couldn't make that date. I hope his not dancing was precautionary rather than necessary. He and Jonathan both dance the role so well.

Like Sylvia, I am lost now they are on tour - shall we form a support group?!!;)

#8 Shirley



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Posted 04 June 2002 - 05:49 AM

Originally posted by Lolly
And their section did seem to me to be very separated from the rest - I thought they must have rehearsed it separately so it couldn't be integrated easily.

From what I heard Chris wanted the central pdd completely separate so it was a decision made from the beginning and not really anything to do with rehearsal schedules.

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