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"Originally posted 31/11/08 @ 08.59in Royal Ballet Season 2008/09 in Royal Ballet Season 2008/09 in error

On October 28th the Royal ballet presented a triple bill of “Serenade”, “L’invitation au voyage” and “Theme and Variations.”

The Royal like the Kirov, dance Balanchine in a manner that is their own and some distance from the performing style of New York City Ballet.

On this occasion, “Serenade was led by Maninella Nunez, Lauren Cuthbertson, Mara Galeazzi, Rupert Pennyfather and Valeri Hristov. Whilst I felt Nunez gave a performance worthy of a Prinicpal Dancer, for me, it was not quite ballerina quality. I was surprised as of late, friends have waxed lyrical of her “ballerina” performance in “Swan Lake”. The Royal now dance this ballet much closer to the original style and more “a tempo” than when they first danced it in the 1960’s. It did not however lift my spirit in the manner that the best performances of “Serenade” can. I was to often aware that the corps were not unanimous in their angling of their hands and shoulders or in the placing of their legs in poses. There was also an occasional raggedness in ensembles. In other companies where the discipline of precision exists, the dancers appear to ride Tchaikovsky’s music exultantly as the music swells and we the audience ride with them. When the dancers achieve stillness in movement in quieter passages, you are taken on an inward journey to a private place that resonates with the sense of the spiritual. Sadly the conducting was a let down in the first twenty bars or so but fortunately the orchestra took control and the accompaniment improved. With “Serenade”, atmosphere is all and on this occasion it had been diluted.

“Theme and Variations” showed that the Royal can do justice to Balanchine and do it very well. Tamara Rojo recently returned to the front rank after injury showed she is among the leading ballerinas of the world. Technically on top form she looked glamorous and sparkled through the treacherous choreography in a way that no previous performer in the Royal Ballet has. Rojo was partnered by Frederico Bonelli. He performed on this occasion, with an insouciance as if from the cradle, he was always meant to dance brilliantly, look handsome, even when executing difficult steps and then, finish them perfectly, double tour after double tour into a perfect 5th. We often see male dancers perform with physical exuberance; Bonelli however, flew around the stage with élan. With no relaxation of tempi, the company as a whole showed how good they can be in a ballet when inspired by the leading performers.

Michael Corder is one of two current established British choreographers (Bintley the other) who choreograph in a true classical style. The revival of his “L’Invitation au voyage” was welcome as it has been absent from the repertory for too long. Set to the orchestral version of Henri Duparc songs we hear the words of French Symbolist poets sung from within the mise en scene as the mezzo Harriet Williams is integrated into the visual and moves amongst and with the dancers in a choreographic picture painting. Corder as usual has immersed himself in the music capturing the ambience of late 19th century French artistic life and creates a poetic other world in a striking setting by Yolanda Sonnanbend. With short solos, pas de deux and tight small ensembles he focuses his choreography on the music and the allusions found in the poetry. Corder connects each song seamlessly and in doing so creates a dreamlike procession of relationships and life events that are sophisticated and telling without any sense of the obvious as you might find in a Macmillan ballet. The cast was for “Phydyle”, Marianela Nunez and Sergei Polunin. For “La Vie anterieure”, Federico Bonelli, Leanne Benjamin, Bethany Keating, Johannes Stepanek, Ernst Meisner. For “Le Manoir de Rosamonde”, Federico Bonelli, Erns Meisner, Sergei Polunin, Johannes Stepanek, Cindy Jourdain and Nathalie Harrison. For “au Pays ou se fait la guerre”, Leanne Benjamin, Federico Bonelli, Cindy Jourdain, Nathalie Harrison. For “L’Invitation au Voyage”, Melissa Hamilton, Edward Watson, Leanne Benjamin, Federico Bonelli. This was a stellar performance in an important “art work” and revealed a potential talent in Melissa Hamilton who shone that bright light that is always visible in dancers that have an exciting potential for the future.

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