Saturday, October 21, 2006



Curtain Call, Marianela Nunez and Thiago Soares
Coppelia was created in the period when Romanticism in ballet crossed over to Imperialism. Tutus became shorter, showing more legs, and more technique.
Hence the arm lines maintained the Romantic feel, while the leg lines followed the Classical trademark. Centuries after the introduction of Romantic ballet, this tradition is still strongly maintained by many professional companies around the world, despite the huge evolution of the classical technique.

The second performance by the Nunez’s and Soares’ Coppelia partnership at the Royal Opera House, was a divine showcase of how the rustic tradition of Romantic meets Classical. Benjamin Pope once again led the orchestra to full heights with Delibes’ score. William Tuckett provided the X-factor to the ballet with his Dr Coppelius. His use of subtle actions and gestures, replacing explicit miming, results in enormous dramatic effects and intentions. In the final act, when he insisted more money from the Duke, instead of physically pointing his finger at that extra bag of money, he just did a tilt of his chin to acknowledge, “and that?” Act 1, when he realized his house has been broken into, he instantly brought up his walking stick as a form of self defence, which is atypical sight on stage. Tuckett’s Dr Coppelius was just right for me, not too much over the top.

Curtain call: Marianela Nunez as Swanhilda
Nunez demonstrated her thorough understanding of the repertoire requirement. She maintained a forward tilt in her upper body framed with soft and rounded arm lines, demonstrating the Romantic movement style. An alluring and expressive Swanhilda with sincere smiles that charmed the audience. Soares, tailored as Franz, portrayed the role almost as true to what the character should be. A clueless, simple-minded lad looking for a fling but still truly in love with Swanhilda. Soares’ made Franz’s fling with a ‘real’ girl, Leading peasant girl (danced by Sian Murphy), as a mission to provoke jealousy in Swanhilda. This may be Franz’s way of testing Swanhilda’s true love for him, just the same as she questioned his sincerity with an ear of corn. It is all good intention, I would say. Their peasant-ly love chemistry was maintained strongly throughout the ballet. During the Mazurka, Franz made several attempts to 'make up' to Swanhilda by relentlessly showing kisses and affection, trying to win her back. Unfortunately, she rejected and walks away from him. There was a point when Franz flouted at Swanhilda, she sneered back at him, as she haughtily did her relevé passés at the end of her Act 1 solo. Also, during the Czardas, Swanhilda was still fuming with anger and overwhelming with jealousy, her friends surround her to calm her down by fanning their skirts in her face. Victoria Hewitt as one of Swanhilda’s friends, was excellent and mimed very well with the music. Jubilant performance from the peasant girls, boys and Swanhilda’s friends. Special mention of Romany Pajdak and Steven McRae’s charismatic performance with splendid use of the upper body and wonderful execution in their Mazurka and Czardas.

Watching from a different view in the auditorium, one saw the majestic sets for Act 2. Thoroughly impressive stage design, the use of the high beams in Dr Coppelius’ workshop/house was cleverly made to create a realistic perspective, displaying depth and form. Nunez exaggerated bossy stride across the stage was comical, but appropriate for her character.

In the final Act, the Hours corps were beautiful to watch with soft fluid use of the arms, and neat footwork. A control and confidant Aurora from Alexandra Ansanelli. Gemma Sykes tackled her demanding and challenging solo with care and grace. The choreography in this Prayer solo may looked easy, but doing all the slow adagio and balancing with a small wooden platform of her pointe shoe, on a spacious stage with a spotlight shining on her throughout the solo and the pressure from the orchestra (because of the duration of her balance in sync with the music), and the audience, is definitely no easy peasy. My heart goes out to all Prayers.

Curtain call: Gemma Sykes as Prayer (left) and Alexandra Ansanelli as Aurora (right)
The grand pas de deux, by lead couple Nunez and Soares, was ever so beautiful to watch (over and over again). Nunez grasped Delibes’ music in her body, and made her body express what the music is trying to express. At the end of her Adagio with Soares, and the slow music towards the end, she lyrically unfolds her body as her leg unfolds into an arabesque. Their affectionate adagio was united with control, and it was a lovely sight.
Soares’s solo was wonderfully executed. He maintained the characterization of Franz’s charming demi-character style and performed his solo with flair, and gusto. He was probably born to dance Franz.
Nunez’s solo is impeccable with an extra touch of vivacity and charm. By this time, both dancers have probably just warmed the audience up in preparation for their exhilarating coda. A fearless coda from both dancers; Soares soaring into the air with his jumps while Nunez attacked with a leap into each of her posés pirouettes en dedan en manège.

It was a superb performance that was tremendously enjoyed. Details are strongly acknowledged and not being taken lightly by Christopher Carr, Grant Coyle, the notators, the coaches and, of course, the dancers. I greatly appreciate Royal Ballet for keeping this tradition of Dame Ninette de Valois, Lev Ivanov and Enrico Cecchetti alive. This is one way how ballet is passed on to our children and the generations that follow. Kudos to all.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Curtain Call: Federico Bonelli and Miyako Yoshida
Revisiting the classical ballet repertoire and music of the 19th Century, it reminded us how ballet used to be made. Geniuses of the different art forms collaborated to create a magic that lives on two centuries later, and possibly more to come.

This is a light-hearted, sunny ballet that warms the hearts of all ages. An innocent and fun-loving storyline, the joyous music, the glorious dancing, and a vibrant set. These seemed to be the ingredient to an enjoyable and heart-warming experience at the Opera House.

When the music started playing in the vast auditorium, one was taken into a joyous and lively mood. Benjamin Pope conducted his orchestra wonderfully; making Delibes’ music came alive. The music was colourful, matching the vivacious set. Surrounded by the vibrant and sparkling music and set, Yoshida, and Marriott gave their characters life.

The curtains rose and revealed a child’s storybook centrespread. The bright blue sky with puffy white clouds spread around the vast backdrop; in the foreground, the town square was designed with a bubbly personality. The female dancers were dressed in huge puffed up sleeves, bright coloured aprons on whites or coloured dresses, whilst the male dancers complemented with bright coloured vest, tights and boots. Francesca Filpi, Hikaru Kobayashi, Steven McRae and Bennet Gartside led the Mazurka with flair and charisma. Leading Peasant Girl, Gillian Revie, was stunning, captivating and stylistic in the Czardas.

The second act revealed a darker, sinister world of Dr Coppelius. His home, workshop was dark and had clockwork dolls hanging and sitting around. Yoshida added colour in his workshop, brightening the place with her dancing and her expressive face.

Curtain Call: Laura Morera as Aurora (left) and Francesca Filpi as Prayer (right)
The final act returns to the town square, with more dancing and merrymaking. The Dance of the Hours was well rehearsed and thought out and was beautifully performed by all the dancers, Laura Morera as Aurora in Act 3 was flawless. Her solo was crisp and sharp, bringing out the essence of the choreography. Francesca Filpi’s Prayer was tackled with too much care and apprehension, resulting to being off the music at times.

The grand pas de deux was flawlessly executed by two of the best technicians of the company. Both demonstrated good understanding of the clean 19th Century ballet style. Bonelli’s expansive and bravura jumps were wonderfully executed with ease. Yoshida, likewise, took on her solo with ease and excellence.

The ballet’s fun and laughter would not have been possible without Dr Coppelius. Marriott made this role special and different from his peers. He was agile and animated, making Dr Coppelius a much more welcoming and less grouchy character.
Curtain Call:Miyako Yoshida as Swanhilda
On the whole, Yoshida’s Swanhilda was charming, lovable and mischievous. Her expressive dancing scored tops. Demonstrating well-defined technique and colourful expression, she added magic to the role. For him, neat technique and expressive face made his Franz seemed to be more princely than peasantly. I thought he was Albrecht in the wrong costume with the same girl.

After the performance, I exited with mixed feelings. I thoroughly enjoyed the performance. After watching couple of different versions on different mediums, this production warms my heart and make me chuckle. However it also made one ponders; a pair of good and established leading dancers, a strong corps and supporting cast, does it make this performance perfect? Based on the libretto, they were meant to be a couplet, but there was no love and affection. They done the job of making their own character came to life, but where is the love? Everything was right, the dancing, the sets, and music, but the leading couple seemed to be dancing to each other, and not with each other.

Nevertheless, Coppelia is a timeless ballet, that works its magic at every production.


5th October 2006, was the opening night of the opening season of the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House, and Stravinsky Violin Concerto was the opening act.
Three plotless ballets boldly put together to welcome back the old patrons, loyal fans and appeal to the new audience.
5th October Cast: Darcey Bussell, Edward Watson, Leanne Benjamin, Johan Kobborg
7th October Cast: Zenaida Yanowsky, David Makhateli, Alexandra Ansanelli, Viacheslav Samodurov
10th October Cast: Darcey Bussell, Edward Watson, Leanne Benjamin, Ricardo Cervera
The opening night was almost a sell-out. The cast for Stravinsky Violin Concerto were on full force. To begin with the corps were strong, on the ball and in terribly good shape. It was most impressive. The piece commenced with Leanne Benjamin did a small number with 4 male dancers, followed by Darcey Bussell and 4 other male dancers. This pattern repeats in opposition, when Edward Watson enters on stage with 4 female dancers, followed by Johan Kobborg and 4 other female dancers. Leanne Benjamin then takes the stage with 4 of the female dancers, and the same pattern repeats for the 3 other leading cast. When Kobborg danced his tiny solo with 4 other boys, he was the only one that made his animated movements with as much naturalisticism as he possibly could, whereas Samodurov and Cerava overdid theirs.
The first duet, performed by Darcey Bussell and Edward Watson, was performed with precision and flair. Bussell handled Balanchine’s style cleverly, whilst Watson’s pliable limbs were joint with a neo-classical style. Both long-limbed English principals dancers of the company, made use of their assets to the fullest. The same duet was also performed by Zenaida Yanowsky and David Makhateli. Yanowsky shone like a diamond in this duet, while Makhateli looked out of place throughout the ballet. The next duet, which was seen during the Insight Evening, was beautifully choreographed and performed by Leanne Benjamin with partner Johan Kobborg on the first night, and with Ricardo Cervera on the following evening. Balanchine was inspired by the relationship between Stravinksy and his wife, Vera, and he created this emotional duet. Leanne Benjamin and Johan Kobborg were splendid, but with Ricardo Cervera, it was emotionally painful and realistic. When this duet lies in the hands of New York City Ballet Balachine-trained Alexandra Ansanelli, the effects were different. She was on the music and delivered the steps with assurance and rapport. She used her back beautifully, however, her partner was oddly uncomfortable and not involved emotionally on his face in regards to this duet.
After the two duet, the dancers come together and prepared the mass Slavic-inspired ballet steps. Watson seemed to be the only one enjoying himself in the mass act.
Personally, I think, to make Stravinsky Violin Concerto work, one would wish that the partners were swap. Zen and Ed, Kobborg and Ansanelli, and the ballet would hopefully be more exciting to watch.

5th, 10th October Cast: Alina Cojocaru, Federico Bonelli, Sarah Lamb, Thiago Soares, Rupert Pennefather
7th October Cast:Marianela Nunez, Jason Reilly (Guest Principal Artist from Stuttgart Ballet), Mara Galeazzi, Valeri Kristov, Bennet Gartside
A huge huge challenge of the repertoire for the Royal Ballet. The almost-impossible lifts, and extensive use of the back were the essence of this piece. Danced, and created to Poulenc’s lyrical music, the dancers enjoyed the music as they tackled the steps. It was a good thing to see the company blossomed into what they are today, and take on new challenges to their portfolio. It must be a good boost of motivation for most. With Jason Reilly as a guest, the dancers seemed to love dancing with him, and the audience loved watching him. Both casts demonstrated different feel and approach to the work, but both did tremendously wonderful on all the performances.

Alina Cojocaru and Sarah Lamb approached the work with more feminity. It was almost like the male counterparts were worshipping the two sacred dancers. Whereas, Marianela Nunez, and Mara Galeazzi’s cast, both female and male dancers were almost on par with each other, making the relationship more complete, giving it a more wholesome feel to it. Both different approach, both wonderful dancing.
With the mesmerising music, and beautiful choreography, the costumes were extremely dated. White lycra on both female and male, with various coloured dots on the bodice and legs. The costumes for the men were not at all flattering.
All in all, the corps for this and the previous piece worked extremely hard, bless them…

Cast: Company
Sinfonietta by Kylian seemed to be one of those works that you either love it or hate it. Well, for me, it was not exactly a hate, but definitely not a love. To begin with, this free-moving piece was made in 2 weeks, but received extensive positive response and made its mark then calling it a masterpiece. Well, a masterpiece, made by a master (Kylian), as many would agree, but I thought the work for the Royal Ballet was unjustified. The choreography was clearly made without much creativity. The main movement that appeared in the 25 minutes piece was simply jetes; and they came in all shapes, sizes and ways of doing it. They were either done with a developpe, or without, and they can be taken with the arms in high V or in another position, alternatively, the jetes are supported in duets. The male dancers were just doing jetes 3/4 of the time. Personally I just thought that the entire piece is a prolonged grand allegro exercise. Perhaps I do not fully comprehend the style of Kylian’s; but I have seen his other works in which I adore very much, but Sinfonietta, despite its international success, it did not work the sparks for me.