The Royal Ballet, Hull New Theatre reopening, review: Virtuoso dazzle with homecoming warmth

Stars of The Royal Ballet reopened Hull New Theatre with performances by Marianela Nuñez and Thiago Soares as well as local dancers including the Mariinsky Ballet’s Xander Parish

Zo Anderson
Tuesday 26 September 2017 12:22 BST
The Mariinsky Ballet’s Xander Parish gave a lively account of Eric Gauthier’s 'Ballet 101', a comic outline of ballet technique
The Mariinsky Ballet’s Xander Parish gave a lively account of Eric Gauthier’s 'Ballet 101', a comic outline of ballet technique

After a £16m refurbishment, Hull New Theatre reopened in style, with a delighted audience flocking to see a Royal Ballet gala that celebrated both the venue and the city’s own dance roots. This one-off event sold out so quickly that a live relay was arranged, with almost 5,000 people watching from the city’s Queens Gardens.

The New Theatre has more seats, but still feels human in scale, while there are improved circulation spaces and backstage facilities. On stage, a programme chosen by Kevin O’Hare, the Royal Ballet’s Hull-born artistic director, took pride in local dancers, including the Mariinsky Ballet’s Xander Parish and his sister Demelza, who dances with the Royal Ballet, English National Ballet’s Joseph Caley and more. The music was a mix of live chamber music and recorded orchestra.

The gala had a balance of traditional and recent choreography, of party pieces and more intimate works. Parish gave a lively account of Eric Gauthier’s Ballet 101, a comic outline of ballet technique. Caley showed dash in a solo from David Bintley’s The Shakespeare Suite and the pas de deux from Le Corsaire, with witty shaping from Akane Takada as his partner.

Andrew McNichol’s new Heart’s Furies was elegantly danced but short on individuality. There was a warm reception for young students from the Northern Academy of Performing arts and the Skelton Hooper School of Dance and Theatre.

William Forsythe’s The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude made a smart opening, a complete ballet with gala levels of fizz. Beatriz Stix-Brunell and Valentino Zucchetti were stylish in Forsythe’s high-speed reinventions of classical technique. Marianela Nuñez and Thiago Soares gave a tender performance of Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain duet. Steven McRae’s Czardas tap solo was a particular hit, bringing together virtuoso tap and ballet steps with onstage interaction with violinist Robert Gibbs.

Natalia Osipova was an ardent Juliet in Kenneth MacMillan’s balcony pas de deux, partnered by Matthew Ball. She moves with glorious scale and intensity, while living in the moment of the drama. Osipova takes the initiative in the final kiss, both bold and shy.

The gala also showed younger Royal Ballet dancers in leading roles. Yasmine Naghdi’s account of Frederick Ashton’s Sylvia pas de deux, strongly partnered by Parish, made me long to see her in the full ballet: she was wonderfully playful in the brilliant footwork. It was characteristic of a gala that balanced virtuoso dazzle with homecoming warmth.

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