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Royal Ballet

'La Valse', 'Tanglewood', 'My Brother, My Sisters', 'Gloria'

by Ana Abad-Carles

November 30, 2005 -- Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London

The Royal Ballet presented its new programme of short ballets at the Royal Opera House following its run of “Manon”. The programme consisted of “La Valse,”,“Tanglewood,” “My Brother, My Sisters” and “Gloria.”

“La Valse,” as choreographed by Ashton, is usually a good evening opener, but unfortunately on this occasion it looked so underrehearsed that it did not come across as much more than, an opener. The corps looked unsynchronised and did not manage to get the phrasing of the choreography right, nor did the soloists fare much better. There were too many technical mistakes in a work that does not present major technical difficulties.

“Tanglewood” was a new work commissioned from Alastair Marriott. Though it is good to see the Royal Ballet presenting new choreography, this ballet failed to challenge the dancers and seemed to rely too much on the past instead of opening new doors to the future. Leanne Benjamin, Martin Harvey and Marianela Núñez were the soloists in charge of bringing the ballet alive. Only Núñez managed to make something out of her role. She has developed into a mature and beautiful dancer and she showed a command of the stage that is rare among her peers. The choreography, however, was uneven. The opening seemed to echo “Song of the Earth” movement explorations, especially in MacMillan’s wonderful choreography for the leading woman. But unlike MacMillan’s work, Marriott’s does not seem to find a focus. It seems as if the choreographer could not make up his mind on whether there was going to be some sort of subtext or just plain plotless choreography. There was not much adventurousness in the choreographic text and ideas seemed to follow rather than flow.

“My Brother, My Sisters” was a welcome revival of a work that showcased the strength of the Royal Ballet's choreographic past. Though it does not present a narrative as such, there is enough in the work that is narrative through its mood and characterisation. The ballet was inspired by the Brontë family, whose dysfunctional, yet outstanding characters, gave MacMillan enough material on which to create a most fascinating work. The dancers managed to make their choreographic material utterly believable and created the right dark mood for the ballet to develop. Edward Watson as the Brother gave the best performance I have seen with him. He was totally immersed in his role as a petulant, selfish, heroic sort of character and Mara Galeazzi as the eldest Sister was equally brilliant in her manipulative excesses. Tamara Rojo as the younger Sister was also totally believable. Personally, I thought this ballet was the best part of the evening, as I had high expectations that were more than justified after the performance. It is not very often that one sees a ballet after fifteen years and can feel relieved that it was just as one remembered it. It may not be MacMillan’s masterpiece, but it is an important work worth considering and watching in order to have a broader understanding of the choreographer’s breadth of creative output.

The last ballet of the evening was “Gloria,” another MacMillan piece. Unlike “My Brother, My Sisters,” “Gloria” has been presented more often in the repertoire in recent years, so consistency of interpretation has been somehow ensured. The leading roles were danced by Carlos Acosta, Thiago Soares, Alina Cojocaru and Laura Morera. Both Thiago Soares and Alina Cojocaru were wonderful in their interpretation and dancing; however, the more dramatic roles of Carlos Acosta and Laura Morera lacked understanding. I missed Wayne Eagling’s interpretation of Acosta’s role-- he was the creator after all! But, more than that, I missed the anger, the frustration that he brought to the role, especially in the last moments, when the final “Miserere Nobis” is sung and he points to Heaven with the “your country needs you” gesture that MacMillan gave his dancers as a leitmotif. I also missed Wendy Ellis’ sense of wonder and happiness in her role. Morera was too one dimensional and did not manage to create the contrast between the suffering main character and her lost childhood. In spite of this, the ballet remains a powerful and inspiring work of art and it still manages to keep the audience enthralled with its depth of feeling.

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