Goldberg, The Brandstrup-Rojo project, Royal Opera House, Linbury Studio, September 2009


This was a new work by Danish choreographer Kim Brandstrup to Bach’s Goldberg Variations, played on the piano by Philip Gammon, with some parts pre-recorded by Henry Roche. There were seven dancers: Tamara Rojo, Steven McRae and Thomas Whitehead from the Royal Ballet, along with Clara Barbera, Laura Caldow, Tommy Franzen and Riccardo Meneghini. Things started slowly with Tamara Rojo in a black dress and pointe shoes, McRae sitting next to Philip Gammon on the piano, and then getting up to climb a very tall ladder. Gradually the dance warmed up, with a mixture of ballet and ‘street dancing’. Among the four cast members not in the Royal Ballet, Tommy Franzen was brilliantly musical and wonderfully acrobatic, looking like a slightly undersized teenager in his baggy pants, but what a dancer! His occasional partnering of Rojo was very well done, and his musicality shone through, both in his solos and his dancing with the others. Clara Barbera was also excellent, part of the time on pointe and part in bare feet. McRae was musical as usual, and his solos were expertly danced. Rojo too inhabited the music brilliantly, her stage presence was excellent and she came over strongly as the star of the show. As the variations progressed, things seemed to drag a little and I waited for a climax that never came. The momentum slowed and everything wound down, but without seeming to go anywhere.

Costumes were black for Rojo, McRae and Whitehead, grey for the others, and the lighting by Paule Constable was subdued throughout. It showed occasional white lines against a dark background, giving a sense of geometric design, which was presumably the idea of designer Richard Hudson. The designs and lighting worked well, and Philip Gammon’s piano performance was excellent. This is definitely worth a visit to see the eclectic style of choreography, and the dancing of Rojo, McRae, and Franzen.

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