World premieres are a little like buses – wait for ages for one then two come along at once. It’s not strictly true, I admit, but the analogy is nice and the Royal Ballet’s current mixed bill certainly feels a tiny bit that way with not one, but two, brand spanking new pieces in there for your edification.
However, before I get swept up and carried away with the excitement of new works the bill does in fact open with a revival of Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia. It’s fairly simple in its construct: four couples with a variety from solos to all eight on stage. What is utterly brilliant about Polyphonia is its flow – there’s no ‘dramatic gaspy ooooooooooooh’ moments (if you get my drift) per se, but it just flows seamlessly from one step to the next, one movement to the next. It’s transparent – I think is the word I’m looking for – in that you can always tell how the dancers get from A to B to upside down. Perhaps the best bits of the piece come when the dancers are doing things kind of like singing in the round – one will start, the next will start a few steps later and so on. It’s kind of… ballet never stops. It’s certainly a piece that is begging for repeat viewing.
”]The middle piece on the bill was a new commission from Liam Scarlett which I was unashamedly looking forward to after Asphodel Meadows. That said, Sweet Violets is an entirely different kettle of fish altogether but definitely enough to know that Scarlett is going to be a choreographic force to be reckoned with. Sweet Violetsis a narrative piece, a flickering narrative back and forth between reality, imagination, memory and a few other stops in between. It’s a dark, dramatic piece with moments where you find yourself edging closer to the edge of your seat, breath held, wanting to close your eyes but not wanting to miss the ballet. Loosely, it’s based on painter Walter Sickert and his Jack the Ripper obsession – I recommend reading the programme notes for a better explanation. The first cast (which I saw) for this is stellar but particular stand outs for me were Laura Morera’s Annie – particularly her ‘mad scene’, chills! – and Steven McRae’s super creepy Jack stalking the back of the scene, always there in the shadows, waiting. Oooooh, also Thiago Soares and Leanne Cope’s super dramatic, incredibly intense opening pas de deux – uh-may-zing.
”]”]The night came to a close with Wayne McGregor’s new piece Carbon Life. I was wary, I admit – not helped by the costume pictures I’d seen in advance which just looked creepy – mostly because I’ve found myself growing more disillusioned with McGregor’s work as time’s gone on: I loved Chroma and Infra, was nonplussed by Limen and hated Live Fire Exercise. On the plus side, Carbon Lifeseems to be McGregor back on some kind of track and I wound up enjoying it far more than I’d anticipated. Set to rock music and accompanied by such artists as Boy George and Alison Mosshart, this isn’t your average ballet. So some of the costumes are a little weird, that’s okay – I was relieved to discover that they weren’t as creepy as I’d first thought! It’s maybe not a piece that’s going to set the world alight but it’s good fun and takes things outside of the box. Particular favourite? The Sarah Lamb/Steven McRae duet, seriously swear those two are made of ribbon or elastic…
[All images via the google machine, click to link back to original source.]