If ballets came in bottles of pink champagne, they would undoubtedly come in the form of Balanchine’s Ballo de la Regina. It’s the perfect curtain raiser: light, bouncy, bubbly, fizzy and jaw droppingly awesome. Marianela Nuñez sizzles in her role, carrying the entire piece with a dazzling smile, equally dazzling footwork and enviable ease, begging the question ‘is there anything she can’t do’. Nehemiah Kish was ably supportive partner: solid and reliable. Maybe he’s never going to set the world alight, but you know he’d never drop you on your head and there’s a lot to be said for that*. Ballo, like a glass of pink champagne, is over before you know it but you leave with the same satisfied after glow and silly grin on your face. On that note, I’d love a champagne cocktail right now… hmmmmmm!!!
Ballo prefaced La Sylphide, a ballet I’d been yearning to see since starting to go and watch regularly. It’s a neatly compact story ballet, condensed down into two acts which probably I’d liked to John Le Carré’s shorter novels but with sylphs rather than Cold War spies. There is a train of thought there but the sunshine outside is distracting my coherency! The plot is faintly absurd in the way that a lot of ballet plots often are – man falls in love with sylph, abandons his about-to-happen wedding in pursuit of said sylph and winds up losing everything. Put like that, it does sound absurd but it actually isn’t. There’s a lot in La Sylphide to be said about the human condition without even really having to try too hard to read into it (but I shall attempt not to stray into discursive essay, the weather is too nice).
Steven McRae’s James is, perhaps not a man of the world, but you know he’d never have been happy if he’d settled down and married Sabina Westcombe’s almost jolly hockey sticks Girls Own-esque Effie. He’s restless, not quite trapped, but certainly always in pursuit of something around the edges that he’s not quite sure of. McRae is, as ever, incredible, almost flying through the choreography with his feet never quite seeming to touch the floor. His James is not meant for the reality of the world he was born into. It’s kind of just as well Roberta Marquez’s sylph turns up, although obviously not in the end but that’s by the by for the moment. Her sylph is a curious creature – inquisitive, playful, teasing, almost enigmatic as she entices McRae away from his normal life. I always forget that theirs is a partnership I love until I see them dance together – which isn’t often enough, frankly. If they can generate that kind of chemistry in a role where they never touch, it’s easy to imagine what they’re like in other roles.
I struggled a little with Elizabeth McGorian’s Madge in the first act, not quite sure what to make of her but that all changed in the second when she really came into her own. There’s an almost human element to her Madge; yes, she’s spurned and scorned and bordering on full on evil but there’s something that you can’t quite put your finger on holding her back from the all out malice that you’re sure she could be capable of if she tried. At the end as she tells James he’s lost everything in his pursuit of unachievable perfection, there’s something flickering around the edges, possibly regret, possibly something else. Alexander Campbell’s Gurn is solid and earthy – not quite Mr Cellophane à la Amos in Chicago – you know he’ll be good for Effie, despite his failings, and he’s too grounded to go running off with woodland sylphs and causing chaos.
I could go on for hours about La Sylphide but I won’t. I just urge you to see it if you get the opportunity. It’s beautiful and it just… well, let’s put it this way, I have ALL OF THE ~FEELS about it. Literally all of them.
*In many ways, he is my Trevor Chaplin of the ballet world. There’s a beautiful quote in the Beiderbecke Connection from Jill Swinburne when she says that he knows the moment before she does when she’s going to cry. This is a bit how I feel about Kish as a partner and Trevor is right up there with my literary heroes.
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