Royal Ballet Triple: Chroma, Tryst, Symphony in C, Covent Garden, May 2010Posted on 22 May 2010
This triple bill was beautifully danced, and the first and last items are very strong ballets. What a shame there were so many empty seats, but those who are eligible should be aware of the student standby tickets, where excellent seats on the main floor could have been purchased for £10.
Chroma is a modern dance work choreographed by Wayne McGregor for four women and six men. It’s strikingly asexual, in the sense that boys and girls frequently make the same movements and are clothed in identical grey costumes. The opening was very well danced by Mara Galeazzi and Edward Watson, I loved the pas-de-deux performed by Steven McRae and Yuhui Choe, and there are plenty more such male-female duos, but male-male ones too. For example in one scene there are five seemingly identical couples on stage, but only four female dancers. There is also a pas-de-trois for three boys, and later three simultaneous male-female-male pas-de-trois. The ballet lasts just under 25 minutes, and the leaps, twists and multiple partnering works well. The music was composed partly by Joby Talbot, partly by Jack White III, all arranged by Joby Talbot and orchestrated by Christopher Austin. The six male dancers were: Ricardo Cervera, Steven McRae, Ludovic Ondiviela, Eric Underwood, Jonathan Watkins and Edward Watson, with the four females being: Yuhui Choe, Mara Galeazzi, Sarah Lamb and Laura Morera. The dancing was first rate, and Daniel Capps conducted the music with lyrical energy. My only question is why it’s called Chroma, meaning ‘colour’ in ancient Greek, but as the lady next to me said, ‘achroma’ would be more suitable in view of the grey costumes and white background. I’m told the background gives a different effect from the main floor, but from the Amphi it’s just flat and white.
The title of the next work, Tryst, is easy to explain. The choreographer, Christopher Wheeldon was driving across Scotland while the radio played a composition of that name by James MacMillan. It’s rhythmic intensity, coupled with a lovely adagio passage, struck him as being well-suited to ballet, so in April and May 2002 he created this work. The designs by Jean-Marc Puissant are beautifully asymmetric with splashes of colour, and the lighting by Natasha Katz shows interesting variations. I very much liked the central slow section, which started with Melissa Hamilton dancing a solo on stage while a silhouetted male figure walked slowly across the front. As the light changed it turned out to be Eric Underwood, and they danced a lovely pas-de-deux. The ballet is a mixture of classical and modern dance, so its second place on the programme is entirely appropriate, but it seemed a slight let-down after Chroma. The music, conducted by the composer, I found interestingly atonal. Apparently it began life as a folk melody for a poem of four verses called The Tryst by Scottish poet William Soutar.
Finally Symphony in C was a delight, as usual. George Balanchine created it in 1947 for the Paris Opera Ballet, to Bizet’s music of the same name, and recreated it in New York the following year. The original had different colours for the four movements, but in the recreated version the girls are all in white tutus with the men in black. This is a magnificent ballet requiring eight principals, sixteen soloists and a substantial corps de ballet, so it can show off a classical company to great advantage, and the dancing here was superb. The four principal couples, one for each movement were: Sarah Lamb with Steven McRae, Marianela Nuñez with Rupert Pennefather, Yuhui Choe with Sergei Polunin, and Laura Morera with Edward Watson. It seems almost invidious to single out anyone, but Sergei Polunin’s leaps were extraordinarily strong and graceful, and Edward Watson danced with terrific attack. This is a beautifully constructed ballet by Mr. B, and after we have seen all four sets of dancers, they return one after another, and then combine in a finale. Bizet’s music was well conducted by Dominic Grier.
My final remark is that putting on this triple bill is quite a feat. Three different conductors, dozens of dancers, many with difficult roles — the Royal Ballet surpasses itself, and the auditorium should really be full to bursting.