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Royal Ballet

'Rhapsody', 'Pavane Pour Une Infant Defunte', 'Duo Concertante', 'Symphony in C'


by Lyndsey Winship

March 14, 2005 -- Royal Opera House, London, England

Jessica Curtis’s new designs for Ashton's "Rhapsody" paint this as a pretty, pastel ballet. But she dreamily washes over the fact that its choreographic palette reflects a much bolder range of colour, decorated with fiendishly difficult tricks, brisk petit allegros and some quirky eccentricities.

The ballet was one of Ashton's last, created in 1980 for the virtuosic talents of Mikhail Baryshnikov. In this performance however, it is the female lead, Miyako Yoshida, who steals the show. Beaming up at the gallery, it looks like a breeze to her as she sprints through her steps, springing into each position with a delighted snap.

Yoshida, who turns 40 this year, is one of the oldest and most experienced principals in the company, but here she is paired with one of the youngest, Ivan Putrov. And while the age gap might have worked for Fonteyn and Nureyev, it doesn't have the same success here. The couple’s climactic pas de deux is clearly the highlight, but Yoshida carries it. While she is confident, animated and rhapsodic in love, Putrov seems blank and boyish in comparison, and a little nervous. He excels on bravura barrel turns and cheeky flourishes, but is uneasy on some simpler landings and can’t always fill the music when he’s not leaping about. Still, there's plenty of time for him.

The real disappointment of the evening is the lack of the planned new Christopher Wheeldon ballet, due to illness. Instead we get two pas de deux: "Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte", one of Wheeldon's early pieces, and Balanchine's "Duo Concertante". "Pavane" is a flight of fancy, with a dainty Darcey Bussell emerging from an enormous lily into the manly arms of Jonathan Cope. It’s a slight slice of whimsy, but Bussell dances with wonderful weight and presence and Cope looks so at ease and enraptured by his partner that it's really a pleasure to watch.

"Duo Concertante" is another oddity. The set up is like peeking in on a rehearsal, as dancers Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg stand by the onstage piano, listening attentively to the opening of Stravinsky’s eponymous piece for piano and violin. Then, seemingly inspired, they decide to join in, dancing playful, folky, improvisatory episodes. It is utterly contrived – they stop to listen for a while, before being swept up for another jaunt – but it’s an infectious and endearing turn from Cojocaru and Kobborg. Any supposed dialogue between the dancers and musicians however, must have been playing on mute.

Finally, Balanchine's "Symphony in C". I'm sure it's sacrilege to say so, but personally I find this 'masterwork' just a little bit boring. Granted, the finale's great – after all, with 52 dancers on stage it's impossible not to stir up some excitement. And I also enjoyed Jose Martin's huge leaps and precision pirouettes; but ultimately, it's an exhibition piece in blinding, brilliant white, where the dancers' dangling sparkly earrings matching their sparkly smiles. It's the all-American beauty pageant of the ballet repertoire. From my vantage point there was nothing inspiring in this performance, and this time not even Darcey Bussell could come to the rescue.


Edited by Staff.

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