Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Royal Ballet in London

We're in London on a little holiday, and yesterday we took in a matinee performance of the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden. Seemed the right thing to do on the Queen's official 90th birthday.

It was a mixed program, and featured the world premiere of resident choreographer Wayne McGregor's Obsidian Tear, which seemed to be a male version of The Rite of Spring, albeit with the goddess Nyx as the absent and all-powerful female figure overseeing the action. It was interesting to watch McGregor adapt his signature Random Dance off-axis choreography for a more traditional ballet audience, and while there were certainly classical patterns and steps (not to mention an explicit narrative) to follow as an anchor, I was pleased to see that McGregor didn't make things easy for spectators, especially in terms of where to focus our attention between the different kinetic groupings among the nine dancers.

Also on the program was a revival of Kenneth MacMillan's The Invitation, a psychological morality tale of sexual coming of age first staged in 1960 that features a rape scene that remains shockingly explicit, and that upon the ballet's premiere did much to solidify Lynn Seymour's reputation as the anti-Margot Fonteyn. (RB founder Ninette de Valois apparently tried to convince MacMillan to stage the assault offstage, but he refused.) The afternoon concluded with Christopher Wheeldon's Within the Golden Hour, a pretty if somewhat emotionally empty exercise in balletic partnering and canon choreography.

It was a treat to be in The Royal Opera House, and to discover how intimate a space it is. Even from our seats in the second row of the balcony, the view was excellent. And to actually have live music was amazing--particularly in McGregor's piece, which is set to a score by the Finnish composer Essa-Pekka Salonen, including a violin solo that accompanied the dance's crucial opening duet that was simply stunning. 

I'm going to keep these on the road posts brief, as it's much more fun to be out seeing stuff than writing about it from one's hotel room.


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