Review of the Royal Ballet matinee of ‘Ballo Della Regina’ and ‘La Sylphide’ with Tamara Rojo and Dawid Trzensimiech:[matinee May 26, 2012]

Ballo Della Regina

One always anticipates the first rise of the curtain in the opening moments of the performance. As the curtain parted on ‘Ballo Della Regina’, choreographed by George Balanchine to music by Verdi,  the first thing which struck me was how plump some of the corps de ballet looked onstage, which was a complete distraction. Because I do not wish any dancer to be anorexic (from which one can die from heart failure) I have refrained from commenting before. But yesterday, my patience ran out. Some of the dancers had heavy legs, as well, which can be a product of wrong training or weight training. For me, the dancers in blue were finished before they started, although there were several exceptions.

The dancers in lilac, Melissa Hamilton, Hikaru Kobayashi, Helen Cawford and Itziar Mendizabal , by contrast, were musical, airy and lovely to watch. Here is a Balanchine clip of some of the lilac sequence:

Laura Morera performed the leadling role, as Lauren Cuthbertson was injured. I felt that her performance lacked finish and musicality. Federico Bonelli who partnered her, gave an excellent performance. Here is Morera in an accomplished ‘Giselle':

Federico Bonelli in ‘Sleeping Beauty':

I have to say that although I love Verdi’s music normally, this music, written for the 1867 Paris Opera premier of ‘Don Carlos’, I found workman- like but not inspired.

The choreography of Balanchine is made interesting by his variations on known steps, and the way he sometimes diverts expectation. He  also uses staging in ways that set up  visually the structure of the music, for example, as if  one were dancing’ rounds’.

I did not like his ‘Jewels’ and, dare I say it, I think he may become rather dated, especially in the presence of some of the young choreographers I have spoken of on this blog. Balanchine’s complex footwork has not diminished any of the beauty of Bournonville’s (1805-1879). Balanchine’s work is derivative of some of the Diaghilev choreographers. The idea of dancing to music without a story line is a product of the old Ballets Russes.

The orchestra at times made me wince. It sounded scrapy. I am afraid that money creeps into everything, as it is very expensive to rehearse orchestras. A rehearsal used to last three hours, and if it went on for three hours and five minutes, you were required to pay everyone for a second three hours. So orchestras have time callers.

‘La Sylphide’ , not to be confused with ‘Les Sylphides’, followed.’Les Sylphides’ is a short, narrative ‘ballet blanc’. It was choreographed by Michel Fokine with music by Chopin orchestrated by Glazunov. The original  premiered in 1907 at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg as ‘Reverie Romantique: Ballet sur la musique de Chopin’. As ‘Les Sylphides’ , it was premiered by Diaghilev on 2 June 1909 at Theatre de Chatelet, Paris. His cast included Tamara Karsavina, Nijinsky, Anna Pavlova and Alexandra Baldina. Pavlova danced in a long white tutu inspired by Marie Taglioni:

Here is a 1953 version of ‘Les Sylphide’ with Alicia Markova, Svetlana Beriosova, Violetta Elvin and John Field:

On the 23 May 1834 August Bournonville saw Adolphe Nourrit’s and Filippo Taglioni’s ‘La Sylphide’ at the Paris Opera, with Marie Taglioni in the starring role, with whom Bounrnonville had danced in the 1820’s. He bought a copy of the libretto and returned to Denmark, where two years later he produced ‘La Sylphide’ with his pupil, Lucile Grahn in the title role and with him as James. The choreography  in this production is by Bournonville, the music by Herman Lovenskiold. The ballet brings to mind Giselle (first presented in 1841, later than ‘La Sylphide’ ) and Shakespeare. There is a terrifying witch called Madge, who seems to have escaped from Macbeth, and the hero, James, is a  conflicted Hamlet.The ballet is set in Scotland which provides a wonderful choreographic opportunity.

This  ballet  must be appreciated as the revival of a beautiful antique:

I was thrilled from an historical point of view to be able to see it .Tamara Rojo does appear on the stage as a latter day Taglioni. She is charm itself, and her foot work is beautiful. In the more difficult Bournonville technique, her feet seem to flitter.  The role has the contained technique of its period; the virtuoso dancing is left to Dawid Trzensimech. At a certain point in Act I, he suddenly bursts into dance. After the somewhat dreariness of ‘Ballo’, this was the first moment that the audience spontaneously erupted into applause: In searching for some examples of  Dawid, I came across this, which reveals the talents of Melissa Hamilton, who danced as a lilac colour in ‘Ballo':

In Swan Lake:

His feet are elegant and fast:

Dawid danced brilliantly. I only wish I could bring it to you. He was technically superb in the Bournonville technique, with its multiple beats and changes of direction.

Tamara Rojo dancing:

Tamara Rojo remains one of my favorite ballerinas in terms of delicate beauty, musicality, gorgeous line- her feet talk- and she is a fine actress.

Some dancing from other productions of ‘ La Sylphide’ to give a taste, as there is not one from the Royal Ballet production.

with Johan Kobborg at the Bolshoi:

with Carla Fracci and Rudolph Nureyev:

Gary Avis masterfully portryed the cunning witch. The Little Girl (who was a little girl) danced by Sarah Keaveney deserves special mention for her musicality and graceful technique. The company performed with verve.

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