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
Final Top Gear reviewTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
- 2 Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
- 3 Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
- 4 The map showing the most dangerous tourist destinations in Europe, according to the Foreign Office
- 5 Swedish minister gives strongest case yet on why EU should stop turning away asylum seekers
Church of Scientology allegedly sent threatening letters to film distributors and festivals showing damning documentary
This is surely the best way to watch Jaws
James Blunt was special guest on the highest-rating Top Gear episode ever
Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl performs with broken leg seated on massive throne made of guitars
Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget