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 Post subject: RB: Serenade, Rushes and Homage to the Queen
PostPosted: Mon Apr 28, 2008 3:03 am 

Joined: Wed Jun 06, 2001 11:01 pm
Posts: 1742
Location: London UK
Last week I saw the second cast of the new Kim Brandstrup ballet, Rushes: Fragments of a Lost Story, and came away impressed. Utilizing a fragmentary unused score by Prokofiev that was originally intended for a film of Pushkin’s Queen of Spades, Brandstrup continues with a Russian theme by using the earlier drafts of Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot. Apparently the great writer’s prototype Prince Myshkin was not the saintly fool of the famous novel but a dual personality both unworldly and brutal (Presumably this duality developed into the separate characters of Myshkin and Rogozhin) and the two main women in his life were the stereotypical bitch and ‘good woman’; very different to the two contrasting women in the novel, Nastasya and Aglaya. Brandstrup seems quite a Russophile as I believe at least two earlier works of his were inspired by Dostoyevsky as well.

The three main dancers I saw were Thomas Whitehead, Tamara Rojo and Leanne Benjamin backed up by a small corps de ballet whose purpose, I think, was to remind us how our actions are viewed by society. Rojo the assertive girl in a strumpet’s red dress, with her hair in a 1920’s bob, threw herself at times quite literally at Whitehead’s central character whist Benjamin in plain mousey grey was his timid alternative love interest. For a supposed dual personality type, Whitehead came across as an average guy who was just rather cross but he was very impressive handling the two ladies in duets requiring keen partnering skills. As the forceful Lady in Red, Rojo was unrelenting in pursuit of her man, a steely contrast to Benjamin’s hesitant Grey Lady. The three dancers made a well balanced trio but the exquisite Benjamin made me feel privileged to actually be in the audience watching her.

Brandstrup’s choreography in this work is as inventive as ever and some unusually convoluted movements were performed with ease by his dancers with each pas de deux in particular telling us about the state of mind of the protagonists. Much of the work is performed behind a drop curtain creating an air of mystery at times which is perhaps a device to remind us that we are watching events of a far off time and place, but Brandstrup creates a tangible atmosphere throughout this ballet and I think he manages to draw us into the world of his character’s rather well. I’m already looking forward to seeing this ballet again.

On either side of Rushes was Balanchine’s Serenade and the hybrid Homage to the Queen. Serenade was danced well enough, though it looked a bit insipid after the glorious performance I saw given by New York City Ballet last month, but there was one rather amusing moment when the ladies let their hair down and one was instantly transformed into Morticia Addams. I found it very difficult not to laugh.

I like Homage to the Queen very much, but this performance wasn’t one to cherish. There is a worrying trend in the Royal Ballet that it can’t field decent second casts in a number of works and that was certainly the case in this instance. The four ‘Queens’ were just about adequate (except for Miyako Yoshida who was rather good) but their consorts were all very poor. There was some good male dancing from Ricardo Cervera in the Water pas de Trois and Kenta Kura in Fire, but that was it and the rest were simply unfit for purpose: not a good state of affairs.

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PostPosted: Thu May 15, 2008 6:23 am 

Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 12:01 am
Posts: 140
Location: London
The Royal Ballet
Triple Bill: Serenade, Rushes, Homage to the Queen
Royal Opera House, London
Wednesday 14 May 2008

The Royal Ballet’s programme opened with George Balanchine’s masterpiece “Serenade”. The company, especially in the opening section, looked really good and the soloists were really impressive. Marianela Nuñez, Lauren Cuthbertson and Mara Galeazzi danced with assurance and freedom that is at times rare to see in Royal Ballet dancers when performing Balanchine. Though the corps at times lost synchronization, especially in the third section of the ballet, overall the piece was made justice and it was wonderful to be able to just enjoy the beauty of the score through Balanchine’s vision and understanding. It was in the last section, the most puzzling and beautiful of the piece, that I missed a bit more passion and sympathy. Granted, there is no story as such, but there is a quality, a mood in that piece that is difficult not to grasp, and adding a bit of mystery to it can’t do much harm. Still, the closing moments with Nuñez leading the way into that glimpse of eternity was breathtaking. Excellent rendering of the ballet by the company, so credit to the staging by Patricia Neary from the Balanchine Trust.

The second ballet of the evening was a new work by choreographer Kim Brandstrup, “Rushes, Fragments of a Lost Story”, apparently based on Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot”, though personally, I would have never guessed… There was nothing new in the choreography and I felt that, as a narrative ballet, it failed to tell the story in any coherent way. The snapshots of narrative allowed presented nothing but the usual stereotypes of simple man-bitchy woman against simple man-suffering woman. There is nothing wrong with this, if only the choreographer had added some dimension or layers to this eternal and a bit unrealistic triangle. Unfortunately, Brandstrup fails to do so and the result is a ballet that, though beautifully crafted in its use of film and scenery, does not present any new ideas in terms of characterisation or choreography. Not even the use of the corps de ballet adds any new dimensions to the stories. Alina Cojocaru, Laura Morera and Carlos Acosta played the leading roles and, though they tried to make something of them, unfortunately the resources left at their disposal were scarce. There is more mystery, sadness and magic in the closing section of “Serenade” than in Brandstrup’s whole work. It is about depth, it is about layering a story with the music... The interesting point is that there is no story in “Serenade” and yet there seemed to be one in “Rushes”. That Balanchine, in spite of the romantic tutus, can appear more novel in his use of resources when staging a dramatic idea than a choreographer working 70 years later is food for thought about the state of the art.

The evening finished with “Homage to the Queen”, a good experiment in providing a platform to established choreographers to nourish creativity and leave an imprint on an old and almost lost work. Though the results were at the time of the premiere uneven, but far from disappointing, the present revival suffered from very poor interpretations, especially from the corps de ballet in almost all the sections. The soloists were better, though at times they seemed to be dancing a bit uninspired. Sarah Lamb, Eric Underwood and Kenta Kura made the most of their choreography (Fire, by Christopher Wheeldon) and danced with sensuality and aplomb. Tamara Rojo as the Queen of Air started off well, then seemed to lose her interest, but luckily regained it in her performance of the main pas de deux, which is beautiful to this day and shows what a wonderful choreographer Ashton was and how much we are going to miss next season when only one of his works is going to be in the repertoire!!

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