The Royal Ballet, Royal Opera House, London
Monday 25 February 2013
24 Preludes, Alexei Ratmansky’s magnificent new work for The Royal Ballet, glows at the heart of an awkward triple bill. The new Ratmansky makes the evening a hit, though it’s flanked by a shaky revival of Balanchine’s Apollo and Christopher Wheeldon’s half-baked new Aeternum.
Ratmansky, a former director of the Bolshoi Ballet, now resident choreographer with American Ballet Theatre, is one of the world’s most in-demand choreographers. His first work for The Royal Ballet is danced to the 24 preludes of Chopin’s opus 28, in a quirky 1960s orchestration by Jean Françaix. Eight dancers, all established personalities, flit through this music in a ballet that is highly distinctive, romantic and unpredictable.
The fluent lines and bright footwork suggest shifting relationships, as changeable as the skyscapes Neil Austin’s lighting paints on the backdrop. Colleen Atwood’s elegant, silvery dresses and tunics shimmer in the shifting light.
Ratmansky has a vivid response to his dancers’ personalities, showing off Zenaida Yanowsky’s grandeur or finding unexpected anger in Rupert Pennefather. The ballet is both classical and personal. Its implied dramas are powerful without being spelled out.
Edward Watson partners both Alina Cojocaru and Leanne Benjamin, who dart through bouncy little jumps or spring into his arms one by one; at last he carries them both off. Pennefather and Yanowsky storm on stage, breaking up a dance for the other couples: it might be a row at a dinner party, with everyone taking sides. It leaves Benjamin alone onstage, apparently desolate, until she scampers into a gleefully quick and happy solo.
Ratmansky uses classical techniques or puts a twist on them. Men normally do the lifting in ballet, but when McRae, a smaller dancer, joins the tall Pennefather and Yanowsky, he’s the one who gets skimmed through the air.
There are many celebrated Chopin ballets; Ratmansky is taking on a tradition, and cheerfully finding his own place in it. The famous prelude from Les Sylphides becomes a grand trio, with Leanne Benjamin, Valeri Hristov and Steven McRae striking grand poses that face away from the audience, as if they were acknowledging some other public. 24 Preludes is a marvellous ballet, The Royal Ballet’s best new work in years.
Aeternum comes as a real letdown after it. Wheeldon marks the centenary of Benjamin Britten by moping over the composer’s Sinfonia da Requiem. Jean-Marc Puissant’s monumental set, a criss-cross of wooden ribs, is lifted and shifted throughout the work. Adam Silverman’s lighting blacks out at dramatic moments, allowing the dancers to shuffle into new tableaux.
Wheeldon tugs and pulls his dancers into extreme poses, leaving them strangely anonymous. Even Marianela Nuñez can’t make much impact. The evening opened with a sluggish Apollo, led by Carlos Acosta.
Until 14 March Box office 020 7304 4000
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Autistic adults could take pure MDMA to 'reduce social anxiety'
- 2 Natalie Portman tells Harvard graduates: 'Accept your lack of knowledge'
- 3 Before you complain about your GP, this is what you need to know about actually doing the job
- 4 Father of 12 accused of raping, beating, starving and abusing his own children in US 'cult'
- 5 Charlie Charlie Challenge explained: not a Mexican demon being summoned — it's gravity
Stolen Instagram photo sells for $90,000
Grace of Monaco film panned: Screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman as movie gets US debut
Britain's Got Talent 2015: Jamie Raven divides Twitter as fans expose mind-boggling magic trick
Suicide Squad: Leaked footage shows first look at Batmobile chasing Joker through city streets
ASAP Rocky sparks outrage with misogynistic lyrics about Rita Ora in new song 'Better Things'
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote