Friday, December 22, 2006


The Sleeping Beauty [photo by DaveM]
Without a doubt, it was one of the best Sleeping Beauty evenings I have ever had. With the mixture of the misty fog and cold windy air of London on the other side of the Opera House gate, the Opera House is filled with comfort, warmth and opulence of the Christmas magic.
It was the final evening for Royal Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty with Marianela Nunez as Princess Aurora, Thiago Soares as Prince Florimund, Isabel McMeekan as Lilac Fairy and Genesia Rosato as Carabosse. And it was a treat to have Lauren Cuthbertson and Kenta Kura As Princess Florine and Bluebird.

Boris Gruzin, prepared the orchestra with much oomph and gusto; bringing that extra warmth within the auditorium. The curtains rose to reveal the court of King Florestan and His Queen. Alastair Marriott as Cattalabutte was elegant and gave such delicate hand gestures. The sweeping action of his wrist was refined and exquisitely delivered. Gary Avis’s King Florestan proved to be strong and domineering, while Queen (Elizabeth McGorian) was endearing and motherly.
Lauren Cuthbertson and Steven McRae stood out exceptionally with strong stage presence as Fairy of the Enchanted Garden and her Cavalier. Both Ricardo Cervera and McRae’s batteries were sharp, crisp and clearly executed, probably the best beaters amongst the other Cavaliers. Fairy of the Crystal Fountain’s solo was performed with grace and beauty by the talented Alexandra Ansanelli. She made the solo looked exquisite and easy, it was probably the best person I have seen to perform this solo. Cuthbertson’s Fairy of the Enchanted Garden was also performed with charm and ease. Once again, Laura Morera’s Fairy of the Golden Vine was delivered with attack, crisp and style. Curtain call: Isabel McMeekan as Lilac Fairy [photo by DaveM]
Isabel McMeekan’s Lilac Fairy was carefully executed, projecting a clean and safe solo. However, one feels, Lilac Fairy seemed to be icy cold. Genesia Rosato’s Carabosse seemed to lack viciousness and strength of all great evilness. However, her costume looked like a great Christmas-inspired outfit; have the right colours, and theatrical glitz. The Rats were also brilliant with their leaps and rolling around. It must be a nightmare dancing in those heavy headgears in such dim lightings.

Act 1
Christopher Wheeldon’s Garland Dance was joyously danced by the company, and Aurora Friends’ sequences were clean and neat.
Princess Aurora was flawlessly performed by Marianela Nunez. Her entrance was lit up with warmth and radiance. Portraying as a cheeky, coquettish 16 year old princess, Nunez flavours her performance with fun, and fearless renvéses and pirouettes. There may be a couple of wobbles (if one is being picky and critical), in her balances, but she made it up with her double renvéses, and an exciting solo. Nunez’s solo was peerless. A lyrical dancer, who danced as if she was conducting the orchestra with her body, fully utilizing every notes on the score. What would Tchaikovsky say if he was here?

Act 2
Commendable work from the corp de ballet, simply spot on. Thiago’s Adagio solo was performed with ease, and grace. Flawless and totally in control of the stage and music. He sustained his jumps and landed without a sound; he managed his pirouettes carefully to finish neatly in arabesques. His characterisation was also commendable. His solo was thoroughly self-indulgent, sorrowful and longing. Nunez in Act 2 was divine. Very sincere pleadings and divine dancing. Nunez tackled her solo with strong and sustained envelopes, ensuring on each envelope, she lets her gesturing leg lingers and creeps down her supporting leg, while staying on pointe. As her legs are demonstrating the technical proficiency, her upper body delivered an endearing and fluid performance.

Act 3
The stage once again lit up with lavish and opulence. The flamboyant feathers, elaborated gold and salmon colour palette embraced a rich rococo atmosphere. The shimmering gold dusted trees for Red Riding Hood mimicked fragments of the Christmas trees.

Florestan and his Sisters were performed by Bennet Gartside, Laura Morera and Hikaru Kobayashi. Gartside managed to deliver his solo easily and neatly, but without the sparkles. One was surprised that after seeing his many Florestan that he has not manage any decent grand jetés. Morera led the first Sister’s solo with a chirpy personality to the dancing, once again, she handled the solo with ease and charm. Kobayashi, too, was immaculate in her solo, definitely a delight to watch. Curtain call from left: Laura Morera, Bennet Gartside and Hikaru Kobayashi as Prince Florestan and Sisters [photo by DaveM]

Jonathan Howells and Iohna Loots as Puss-in-Boots and the petit White Cat. Both dancers seemed to be enjoying the work as much as the audience are. Caroline Duprot and David Pickering as the candid Red Riding Hood and the Wolf. Pickering gave good elevation despite his puffy Wolf suit and heavy head-dress. Curtain Call: Caroline Dupront as Red Riding Hood, and Iohna Loots as Puss in Boots [photo by DaveM]

Kenta Kura’s Bluebird was airy, giving sustained jumps and soft landings. Intensely bird-liked arms and a warmth stage presence with clean and clear beats but a lack of suppleness in the upper back for those temps du poisson. Cuthbertson’s Princess Florine was elegant and full of radiance. A bright and confidant performance that was executed with great ease and grace. Curtain Call: Kenta Kura and Lauren Cuthbertson as Bluebird and Princess Florine [photo by DaveM]

Marianela Nunez and Thiago Soares as Sleeping Beauty and Prince Florimund[photo by DaveM]In the Grand Pas de deux, Nunez and Soares once again illuminated the stage with their warmth presence. The adagio was sophisticatedly performed. Soares provided excellent support and complementing the ballerina’s lines. Amazing use of the body throughout the work from Nunez. An adrenaline-packed performance from Soares’ solo, with stunning turns, hovering jumps and luscious landings. At some point, one would think this lyrical danseur hovered in the air a little longer to enjoy the trailing beauty of the music. In the coda, Soares gave an explosive entrance and Nunez followed suit, and both finished with much exuberance. Curtain Call: Marianela Nunez and Thiago Soares as Sleeping Beauty and Prince Florimund[photo by DaveM]

The audience enjoyed the performance very much, and would be sad to see Sleeping Beauty put to rest for a while. As for me, this magical performance will always remain in my memory, for the experience I had, was unforgettable. All I can say was from the beginning of the performance, the orchestra warms up the theatre with their beautiful music, while Nunez and Thiago’s dancing warms our hearts.


Just some of my personal afterthoughts about the first 2 shows, and a rehearsal, now, i felt thoroughly charged for a new season!
I thought Talbot did a fab job with the score. there was one point in Chroma, he had the majority of the orchestra putting their instruments away, and snapping their fingers away, producing this unique sound to accompany part of the performance. Brilliant idea, I thought.
With these 3 works, it has given me this impression that these 3 works clearly signified the past, present and future of dance in the 20th and 21st Century.

Balanchine's Four Temperaments demonstrate clean classical vocabulary, with nice defined arabesques. Most of the movement vocabulary can be found in the classical terminology dictionary, ranging from poses temp leve, temp de fleche. And of course, a little 'against-the-rules' with the wrist, and some 'turned-in' positions to add some flavour. but i thought, ultimately, its core is still darn classical, i mean, to begin with, the costumes are practice clothes, and dancers were doing grand battements coming on stage, and the male soloists were doing sissonnes, etc. Using Paul Hindemith score, terribly suited for dance of that period.

DGV (Danse à Grande Vitesse) - WHEELDON
With Wheeldon's DGV, it gave me an impression of present. The corp were mainly artists, and they managed all the multiple lifts very very well. It was a delight to finally see most of these artists dancing. It accentuates their strength and also the principals' excellence. Wheeldon is such a wonderful creator with partnering work, with such imaginative forms and shapes; always enjoyable to watch. The dancers seemed to dance with ease and conviction. Michael Nyman's music, which was composed in 1993, was entrancing and captivating..To me, it portrays the 'now' of the company....
Curtain Call from left: Zenaida Yanowsky, Eric Underwood, Edward Watson, Leanne Benjamin, Christopher Wheeldon, Gary Avis, Marianela Nunez. Federico Bonelli [photo by DaveM]
Chroma, brought me to a new dimension. It showed me the future. Something attainable in the near future. With White Stripes' music translated in an orchestral version, the minimalistic sets, lighting and costumes, executed and portrayed respectively in an ornamented auditorium, showed the past and what lies ahead was truly a fusion and a 21st Century approach. Not to forget, the choreography for the individuals, and the partnering were tremenduously innovative. Choice of dancers for this piece was almost like striking the lottery (well, almost). Being someone, who do not get the opportunity to watch so many royal ballet productons, to be able to watch Tamara Rojo and Alina Cojocaru sharing the same stage was an excitement. Both dancers usually share roles and rarely seen dancing alongside each other. Chroma also showed off the dancers' hidden talents, to be able to move in such a way, so unique and so individual. Even when they were in unison, doing the same steps, no two dancers moved in exact same way, or the exact same quality. Also, I thought, for once, it was interesting to see Tamara Rojo and Sarah Lamb, letting their fringe out, framing their beautiful face. I realised classical ballet seemed to be the usual 'hair-off-the-face" discipline...
What a tremenduous interesting experience for an audience to see the evolution of ballet/dance in 2 hours 30 mins.
More pretty please Ms Mason.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


A star-studded cast, a minimalistic set and an innovative orchestral version of White Stripes, composed this highly successful World Premiere of McGregor’s Chroma. Joby Talbot, genius-ly arranged White Stripes’ works on an orchestral scale. There are also moments where he had the majority of the orchestra putting down their instruments, to snap their fingers, to create a unique effect to the music. A mixture of top hits, such as ‘Blue Orchid’, ‘Button to Button’ to name a few. Hearing these hits on a different level, brings out a whole new feel to the White Stripes, and also to the classical auditorium in the House.
John Pawson’s first attempt at stage design, created an immaculate Zen effect to an overly ornamated choreography by McGregor. The wings left with a tall and vertical obolong shaped entrance/exit for dancers. A curved floorboard connects the ground to the ‘walls’, where dancers carefully descend on to the stage when they enter. The floor and walls are white, leaving a long black rectangular opening for dancers to enter and exit on stage. Lighting by Lucy Carter was interestingly done. She lit the side exit/entrance (obolong shaped opening), illuminating the stage creating a surreal effect to some of the slow numbers. Moritz Junge, costume designer, approached the work as what the title depicts. A hue purer than white… And since, the set is minimalistic, the costumes was no fuss skin coloured camisole and briefs, carefully coloured matched to the dancer’s skin colour. Just a special mention that, the female dancers had their fringes down, which was perhaps something new, as most classical works, dancers had their hair up and off their faces. McGregor’s electrifying choreography speaks for itself. The movement of each dancer are uniquely interpreted by each of them, and also showing off their hidden qualities. The company’s wide range of classical repertoire and some modern works do not fully exploit the dancer’s hidden qualities, such as distortion of movements, hyperextension of their limbs, and so forth.

Most of the sequences in the dance were fast paced and intense creating almost an almost increased heart rate. Halfway through the piece, Sarah Lamb and Federico lead a most lyrical and sensual duet.
The ballet begin with most of the dancers on stage, with centring main couple, Alina Cojocaru and Edward Watson. Both hyper-flexible dancers put up an incautious duet to kick off the show, and slowly the rest of the dancers joined in with them. Steven McRae partnered Tamara Rojo in a short duet soon after, which was dimly lit.
Then after, the stage/space was lit up once again to introduce another couple, Lauren Cuthbertson and Eric Underwood. Both dancers enter the stage, from the back (the Black opening), and Cuthbertson began, moving like an object that has limited control of her limbs, while Underwood enters to nsync with her movements and yet attempting to control her at some times.

The complete their duet almost at downstage right, when Cuthbertson broke off from Underwood and went into a short solo and walked over to the other side of the stage, looking back at him; whilst he began a lyrical solo, swaying his hips (quite Salsa-inspired) and lyrical use of arms.
Both dancers exited soon after when the next trio of Steven McRae, Jonathan Watkins and Ludovic Ondiviela enters. McRae, standing in the middle commenced the sequence first, followed by the other two. McRae confidently jutting out his hipbones, and flying into huge sissonnes. They used the space linearly, travelling diagonally up and down the stage. Halfway into their sequence, they broke off to lift and drag each other across the stage, finishing on downstage right, in a triangular shape with McRae in the middle and front. The repeated the movements in unison, finishing with legs in 2nd position in demi plie on demi pointe. At the very instant, the lights went off casting an intimidating darkness around the auditorium. At this point, as an audience, the heartbeat and attention which has been working so hard, went into a standstill, when the unexpected darkness shout out back into our faces. For a moment, the audiences reacted awkwardly, and was (I suppose) in awe, applauded and cheered.

The show continues… Just like turning over a new page in a sketch book, something different unfolds. The long, vertical entrance were lit from within, illuminating the stage with somewhat a mystical and sensual effect. Sarah Lamb and Federico Bonelli broke into a lyrical and arousing duet. Lamb moved around Bonelli like a slithering snake, lusciously unfolds her body into beautiful positions. Bonelli provided a sturdy support and also showed off his gorgeous extensions.
The following duet was performed once again by Watson and Cojocaru. This time round, they broke into a more adventurous attempt at creating some of the finest positions and movements. Watson’s movement seemed to depict an angst, raging personality, and Cojocaru’s a petit but tempestuous vixen.

Just as the duet was coming to an end, the rest of the cast come back onto stage (entering from the Black opening at the back of the stage). The cast scattered randomly on stage, whilst Watson and McRae did a short sequence in unison; however both dancers may have moved in the same steps, but no in the exact same way, or the exact same quality. One could see a much more confident performance from a principal, Watson, and a striving performance from young and talented, McRae. Another short sequence, from Rojo and Cojocaru, which was exceptionally rare to see two prima-ballerinas of today sharing the stage and dancing side by side. A lot of death-defying throws of the females from one partner to another.

Between the two partners, the females have to hover in the air for a few seconds spreading a distance of about 2 to 3 meters perhaps. The cast moved hectically, but it had an invisible harmony cloud encircling their chaotic movement. And as sudden as it began, the entire cast stood still in parallel with their back facing the audience as the lights shut down in an instant. It was indeed an extraordinary display of hidden talents and intensity.
Curtain Call, From Left: Jonathan Watkins, Lauren Cuthbertson, Edward Watson, Ludovic Ondiviela, Sarah Lamb, Joby Talbot, Federico Bonelli, Lucy Carter, Alina Cojocaru, Steven McRae, John Pawson, Tamara Rojo, Wayne McGregor and Eric Underwood [Photos:DaveM]
To say it all, it left me breathless, and left the audience with sore hands from the clapping. It was ultimately a success, without a doubt, a piece that shouts out to not just ballet lovers, but to music lovers, the White Strips’ fans and anyone who dared for an unforgettable experience at the opera house.