Inspired by Diaghilev, Linbury Studio Theatre London

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

It takes some nerve to claim inspiration from Diaghilev. The great Russian impresario is the linking theme for five new pieces danced by the Royal Ballet. There's live music, some newly commissioned. All well-intentioned, but good choreographers are rare: there's only one piece I want to see again.

It takes some nerve to claim inspiration from Diaghilev. The great Russian impresario is the linking theme for five new pieces danced by the Royal Ballet. There's live music, some newly commissioned. All well-intentioned, but good choreographers are rare: there's only one piece I want to see again.

Alastair Marriott's Being and Having Been is set to L'Envoi d'Icare by Igor Markevitch. It's a rattling percussive score, and Marriott moves his dancers well. Three stand bent over, knees and elbows squared. They stay linked, bobbing and bending, palms held flat. Those motifs come back throughout the ballet, danced by corps and principals. They have Diaghilev roots: flat palms from Nijinksy's Faune, jumps with flexed feet from his Rite of Spring.

Marriott uses his Diaghilev with force and detail. There's a juiciness to his references: when Bethany Keating bourrées in alone, you notice the long silhouette of a woman on pointe. As she turns, stretching a foot out, there's powerful contrast in that swinging leg. Adam Wiltshire's designs suggest Jean Cocteau and Coco Chanel, both Diaghilev collaborators: bathing-suits with Cocteau-ish squiggles, swimming caps and driving gloves in bright colours.

The rest of the evening ranges from inept to blandly pert. Robert Garland's Spring Rites is, well, another Rite of Spring ballet. Philip Cornfield and Henry Roche play the piano version's first movement, while the dancers hitch themselves into jazz poses. Garland goes in for leggy, strutting steps, and uses them again here. It looks confident, but it wears thin. He has little sense of Stravinsky's musical architecture and keeps recycling kicks and turns.

After Vanessa Fenton's On Public Display, I remembered Garland with some fondness. Mara Galeazzi presides over a futuristic puppet show. The corps shuffle around and do her bidding. Natasha Oughtred and Martin Harvey dance droopy pierrot numbers, carefully covering their mouths to remind us they cannot speak.

Music and designs are strikingly awful. Bruce French dresses the corps in black leotards with red piping and silly little hats, giving Harvey a fright-wig and white-face make-up. Vince Clarke, who once made cheerful synth-pop, has made a soundtrack of fairground noise, with a chunk of Shostakovich thrown in.

Cathy Marston's Venetian Requiem is a duet for Edward Watson and Lauren Cuthbertson, all blank gesture and grappled partnering. Judith Bingham's score, a setting of the Lacrimosa for saxophone and countertenor, meanders on.

A World of Art, by the Canadian choreographer Matjash Mrozewski, is a fuzzy portrait of Diaghilev at work. The dancers circle round a table, jumping on and off it, as ballets are inspired and created. The musicians play bits of Stravinsky. The dance numbers are weak, the narrative half-hearted. It's a wobbly end to a mixed evening.

Comments