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Jewels Royal Ballet 2016-2017 Season

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As was said in the section about streamed performances Jewels may not be the greatest of Balanchine's works but it is a piece which enables a company to display the range of talent within its ranks and I would add that even if it is Balanchine not on absolutely top form it is considerably better then most other choreographers manage at their best. As I have already said the Royal Ballet used to dance Balanchine with a distinct foreign accent,they no longer do so, but they are no longer a company which can be guaranteed to dance Ashton as stylishly as they once did.


It may not be clear from what I have told you about the Royal Ballet this season but the company is going through a period of transition which is more obvious than that occasioned by the departure of Rojo, Cojocaru, Galeazzi and Benjamin.Then it was clear who the dancers leading the company would be as they were, for the main part, already in post as principal dancers. At this point it feels that a generational change is taking place as all the remaining experienced female principals are in their thirties Cuthbertson the youngest is about thirty two and Morera the oldest is in her very late thirties while the two recent appointees are in their twenties and it is likely that any dancers newly appointed to the rank of principal will be no older than their mid twenties. With Yanowsky's imminent retirement, Soares, who has never been that stylish, obviously struggling in exposed roles and questions about how long Watson will continue dancing some people are beginning to treat casting announcements like auguries indicating who the likely candidates for promotion and principal status are as they not only tell us who we are going too see in performance but indicate who among the junior ranks have caught the eye of management and stagers.


With the late Gailene Stock at the school and the company's repertory given considerable coherence by Mason some of which has survived O'Hare's somewhat uncritical pursuit of new repertory we seem to be entering one of the Royal Ballet's better periods.


We had  a good mixture of experience and promising talent on show during the performances of Jewels with the company fielding three casts for Emeralds, Rubies and Diamonds with only two dancers in the main roles appearing in more than one cast. In both cases the doubling up probably reflects management's need to give a dancer like Hristov  some leading roles and to feed McRae's ambitions rather than a lack of talent or the youth and comparative inexperience of much of the of the company. Everywhere you look there is real talent and potential.


It seems unfair to describe the casts as first, second and third cast as it suggests that there were marked qualitative differences between the performance of each when in fact it was one of those occasions on which the placing of a particular cast in sequence had little or nothing to do with the dancers' abilities or the quality of their performances. If anyone who saw all three casts had a favourite their selection was almost certainly based on the fact that one of the casts included dancers in whom they are particularly interested rather than any great difference between their performances.


The casts were as follows;-

1) Emeralds with Nagdhi Ball,Mendizabal and Edmonds with Acri,Gasparini and Hinkis in the pas de trois;Rubies with Heap, Takada and Campbell; Diamonds with Cuthbertson and Muntagirov.


2) Emeralds with Stix-Brunell, Hristov,Morera and Hirano  with Hay, Maguire and Crawford in the pas de trois; Rubies with Hamilton, Lamb and MCrae; Diamonds with Nunez and Soares which was the streamed cast.


3) Emeralds with Choe,Hristov, Hayward and Zuchetti  with Richardson,O'Sullivan and Stock in the pas de trois;Rubies with Storm-Jensen, Magri and Sambe; Diamonds with Ccuthbertsom and Muntagirov.


 Salenko and McRae. also danced Diamonds during the run.


All the casts in Emeralds brought something special to their performances and each managed to capture the elusive mood of the piece as well as to make it their own. It is a ballet which with the wrong cast I have found you watch out of a sense of duty and ask yourself whether in reality it is one of those pieces which died with the departure of the original cast as it can seem so dull. In these performances it became a fascinating work to be watched with real pleasure because of the theatrical life which the casts breathed into it. Much as I admired the cast of Emeralds which was streamed because it included Morera, Stix-Brunell and Hay who is one of the most interesting and elegant of the company's make dancers I found the cast which included Naghdi and Ball was the most interesting as it showed so much promise. Naghdi has shown extraordinary assurance and maturity in every performance she has given this season and these performances were no exception.This run gave Matthew Ball the opportunity to reveal his increasing elegance as a dancer and partner while Mendizabal gave one of her best performances so far with the company. Gasparini and Stock seemed completely at home in the pas de trois while  Acri who was slightly less assured improved markedly during the run. The cast which included Choe and Hayward was also well worth seeing as its pas de trois was danced by Richardson who shows great promise and O'Sullivan who has made her mark in each classically based role in which she has appeared this season.


At the first performance of the run Rubies was danced by Heap,Takada and Campbell. They were all good  Heap brings real vigour and  dynamism to the her role while Takada surprised me by the stylish individuality and character which she brought to her performance. 


Hamilton's performance in the evening suggested that she was treating the role as the Balanchine equivalent of Ashton's "Popular Song" which should be performed as if those involved in it are terminally bored by their routine and each other and are merely going through the motions of giving a performance The evening cast was the one who were seen in the cinema and while Hamilton seemed very assured in her performance, presumably the result of the time she has spent in Dresden, she seemed rather under-powered when compared with Yanowsky who used to dance the role, and Heap and Storm-Jensen who danced it during this revival.The youngest cast of Storm-Jensen, Sambe and Magri certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves at the performances they gave and they were the cast who consistently brought out the choreography's close relationship  to show numbers.


Depending on the performance you attended Diamonds was danced by Cuthbertson and Muntagirov,  alternating with Nunez and Soares during the early part of the run and in the latter part of it by Salenco and McRae. Cuthbertson does not have the crystalline quality which Nunez brings to the Farrell role. Her approach is softer and slightly more lyrical she had the best of the three partners on offer in the supremely elegant Muntagirov who makes every gesture however simple look as if it his natural expression rather than something he has worked on in the rehearsal room.


At the moment if you get Nunez in a ballet which is concerned with technical display then the chances are you will be stuck with Soares as her partner. I can understand why Nunez favours him as a partner as he is thoroughly dependable but I can only say that if you thought the performance which you saw him give in the cinema was laboured it was much better than any of those he gave earlier on in the run. Then he hardly seemed to be in control of what he was  required to dance.. When he was promoted to principal dancer he said that he had been told that he had to polish up his technique but I don't think that he ever really did so. It seems to me that for some years he has been  delivering edited highlights of roles like Lescaut and to some extent Rudolf while making up for his technical deficiencies by emoting. I think that he is about thirty six but his dancing is nowhere near as good as Bonelli's who is a few years older than him.


The final cast of Diamonds was led by Salenko and McRae whose account of the choreography was very clean and accurate but for me lacked the effortless elegance which Muntagirov brings to his dancing and partnering. Somehow I can never stop being aware of the effort which McRae puts into his performances particularly the effort involved in transforming himself and his body from that of a demi- character dancer into a danseur. His dancing and his partnering are admirable but they are not effortlessly elegant in the way that Muntagirov's and Hay's are. Salenko clearly had good training but, and perhaps this is because she is a guest, she never seems to display much individuality in her performances which tend to be accurate but not compelling.With the number of smaller dancers in the company's ranks her regular presence as a guest becomes increasingly inexplicable.  



Edited by Ashton Fan
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