Royal Ballet Triple: The Dream/ Connectome/ The Concert, May 2014Posted on 1 June 2014
The clever mockery in the first and third items in this excellent triple bill contrasted well with the brilliant new ballet by Alastair Marriott that lay between them.
Connectome is named after a scientific term referring to the neural connections of a brain — in other words its ‘wiring diagram’ — and though only that of a simple worm has so far been constructed, the ultimate aim is the human brain. A recent book by a computational neurologist argues that our identity lies not in our genes, but our connectome, so this is serious stuff, and using it as the context for his work has given Marriott the grounding for a new creation of stunning originality.
There are four parts, each to a separate composition by Arvo Pärt, the last with the glorious title Wenn Bach Bienen gezüchtet hätte (If Bach had kept bees). With costume designs and choreographic assistance from Jonathan Howells, main designs by Es Devlin, whom Marriott worked with on the Olympic Closing Ceremony, and lighting by Bruno Poet this was a creative team of distinction, and the choreography was enhanced by Luke Halls’ remarkable video effects behind the translucent, vertical rods. These video designs were intriguing: ever-changing networks of vertices and edges in Part I changed to threads emanating from a common source in Part II, with the threads acquiring bright colours in the final part.
Part I started slowly and built up to a fine solo for Natalia Osipova followed by warm lighting for Steven McRae and four young men from the corps de ballet (Luca Acri, Matthew Ball, Tomas Mock, Marcelino Sambé) dancing to a wonderful treble solo accompanied by organ music. Estonian composer Pärt found consolation in early church music when the Soviet authorities found some of his work exhibiting too much Western influence, and this first part ended with a remarkable vanishing trick by McRae surrounded by the other four. Part II featured a pas-de-deux for Osipova with Edward Watson, Part III involved ever more frenetic activity, and as Part IV came to a close the colours on the backdrop fragmented and vanished, leaving Osipova alone on stage.
Does the connectome represent her? It matters not, but what comes across is a glorious abstraction inspired by serious scientific ideas and our desire for knowledge and understanding. Very fine performances from the three principals, and the four young dancers from the corps amply repaid Marriott’s trust in their abilities.
To start the evening, Frederick Ashton’s The Dream marked its 50th anniversary with Antoinette Sibley and Anthony Dowell, who originally created the roles of Titania and Oberon, appearing for the curtain calls at the end. Here the leading duo was Steven McRae and Roberta Marquez, and when the lovers lay sleeping, McRae produced his usual brilliance before engaging in a beautiful pas-de-deux with his wonderfully graceful queen of the fairies. The lovers, charmingly represented by Laura McCulloch with Johannes Stepanek, and Christina Arestis with Valeri Hristov, were well confused by Paul Kay’s Puck, whose delightful mischief was exemplified by an ability to cut poses while magically suspended in mid air. This was a dream cast, and can Bottom ever have been better performed than by Bennet Gartside? His pas-de-deux with Titania exhibited a gentleness that made this ass the sort of character a princess might kiss and turn into a handsome prince. Wonderful.
The Concert was the perfect ending to this evening of dance inspired by Shakespeare, followed by cutting edge science. Jerome Robbins’ funniest ballet is a brilliant spoof on pomposity, preciousness and passion, where human stereotypes turn into butterflies at the end. Lauren Cuthbertson was a delight as the pretty girl pursued by the attentive yet doomed Bennet Gartside attempting to abandon his shrewish wife, Laura Morera. Marvellous fun, and the laughter started from the first moment as Robert Clark made his elaborate entrance as the pianist. He was a hoot, as the whole cast, particularly the six girls in the ‘Mistake Waltz’. This 1956 ballet, created just as Robbins was moving into Broadway musicals, appeared as fresh as it must have seemed at its premiere.
Triple bills don’t get any better than this.
Performances continue until June 13 — for details click here.