Royal Ballet’s Triple Bill
Royal Opera House, London
Wednesday 14 March 2007
The Royal Ballet continued its season with performances of a Triple Bill that included Balanchine’s “Apollo” and “Theme and Variations” and a new piece commissioned to Alastair Marriott called “Children of Adam”.
The programme opened with “Apollo” and the cast I saw included Federico Bonelli in the main role and Zenaida Yanowsky as Terpsichore, Isabel McMeekan as Calliope and Deirdre Chapman as Polyhymnia. The Royal Ballet has always danced the longer, original version of this work and it has to be said that the narrative of the piece has always come across strongly in the company's interpretation. However, on this performance, the acting took over the dancing in a rather alarming way, and very especially in the roles of the Muses. There is no need for overacting in “Apollo”, as it just does not make musical sense. The score is serene and flowing and Balanchine’s choreographic response is all in the steps and not in the facial expressions.
Though Bonelli as Apollo was better than in other roles he has performed with the company, the three muses solos were performed with just adequate technical standards. Yanowsky as Terpsichore overacted so much that a lot of the choreographic detail was lost on her continuous search for narrative elements.
The next ballet of the evening was a new work with choreography by Marriott and, apparently, based on Walt Whitman’s poems. The music was by Christopher Rouse. “Children of Adam” had three main characters, the Girl, the Younger Brother and the Older Brother played by Sarah Lamb, Martin Harvey and Ludovic Ondiviela respectively. The dancing was good and the scenery and costumes were also beautiful to watch. However, the choreography was simply déjà vu. Though taking inspiration from other choreographers in terms of vocabulary and ideas seems like a good catalyst for new choreography, the fact that the piece by Marriott resembled MacMillan’s “Triad” in these two aspects made you wonder why the Royal Ballet did not revive this ballet in the first place. The story of two brothers competing for the attentions of a girl was already there (and in more complexity) and the movement vocabulary that Marriott refers to is so obviously inspired by MacMillan that it made you wonder why he was not advised to rework some of the material at some stage during the rehearsals. There was no novelty, no rearrangement of material and some of the choreographic passages were simply bad.
So, finally, the company moved to “Theme and Variations” and managed to save the evening. Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg took the lead roles and danced them beautifully. Cojocaru was simply riveting to watch. Her command of the technique required only made her soar through the ballet with a joy I had not seen her display for a long time. Her accuracy in her variations and her changes of mood within the choreographic structure made her performance outstanding. Kobborg started his variations hesitantly, but soon commanded the stage with authority and virtuosity. A word of compliment to the whole company that was incredibly well coached and that shone throughout the piece. Straight lines were straight and jumps were executed in unison… It was a wonderful end to a not very memorable evening. Still, the opportunity to see this piece so well danced made the waiting worthy.