Royal Ballet Triple: The Human Seasons/ After the Rain/ Flight Pattern, ROH, March 2017

This wonderful triple bill of modern ballets sees revivals of two very successful works and a new ballet by Crystal Pite, all superbly conducted by Koen Kessels.

First came David Dawson’s Human Seasons, inspired by Keats’s poem that refers to human life in terms of its spring, summer, autumn and winter. Dawson refers to a ‘kaleidoscope of human emotions’, which fit well with Greg Haines’ music, combining the energy of springtime with the languid feel of summer days and percussive pulsations that increase in tempo. The rural feel of the woodland animals in Janaček’s Cunning Little Vixen is not far away, but eventually it all dies down again and we are left with the four principal couples we started with.

Marcellino Sambé in Seasons. ROH/ Tristram Kenton

The thirteen dancers showed marvellous teamwork exceeding that of the opening run in 2013. The solo by Marcellino Sambé was outstanding, and among the principal couples Marianela Nuñez and Federico Bonelli were wonderful in their late pas-de-deux danced to glorious pillars of sound from the orchestra.

Nuñez and Soares in Rain, ROH/ Bill Cooper

The second item, Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain, is a beautiful creation premiered by the New York City Ballet in 2005 and first shown here in February 2016. Its two sections are both to music by Arvo Pärt, the first part to his Tabula rasa involves three couples (Nuñez and Soares, Calvert and Edmonds, Mendizabal and Hirano). Lovely dancing to the gently refreshing music, but the real magic is reserved for the second section to Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel (mirror in the mirror), occasionally performed as a separate pas-de-deux. In this part the costumes and lighting change, Marianela Nuñez now in a pink leotard/ swimsuit with her hair down and Thiago Soares with naked torso. The limpid elegance of the music, beautifully expressed by both dancers, seemed to allow Ms Nuñez to float like a bird, speaking of a future with hope and poetic inspiration. A huge contrast to the final work of the evening, by Crystal Pite.

Sambé and McNally, ROH/ Tristram Kenton

Her new ballet Flight Pattern uses the first movement of Polish composer Górecki’s Symphony 3, also known as the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, to express the plight of refugees with nowhere to go. This dark work draws on the deep strength of the Royal Ballet, starting with very slowly swaying of figures on stage, and no light from the orchestra except for the conductor and four basses. Slowly the music and movement takes shape, further basses are illuminated and although other instruments join in, the orchestral lighting occasionally reduces to only those that are playing. It is a clever idea, and the movement on stage, with lines of waiting and anxious people converging and dispersing, is enhanced by individual performances expressing pent up anxiety and deep sorrow. As the stage opens at the rear we see snow falling on lines of human beings, and Kristin McNally and Marcellino Sambé fill the final moments of traumatisation.

A dark ballet indeed, thought provoking and powerful.

Performances of all three ballets continue with cast changes, on various dates until March 24 — for details click here.

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