The Royal Ballet – Chroma, The Human Seasons, The Rite of Spring

Chroma – ballet in one act to choreograpy by Wayne McGregor
The Human Seasons – ballet in one act to choreography by David Dawson [world premiere]
The Rite of Spring – ballet in two parts

Dancers – Federico Bonelli, Yuhui Choe, Lauren Cuthbertson, Tristan Dyer, Melissa Hamilton, Sarah Lamb, Steven McRae, Dawid Trzensimiech, Eric Underwood, Edward Watson

Wayne McGregor – Choreography
Joby Talbot, Jack White III – Music [arr. Talbot]
Christopher Austin – Orchestration
John Pawson – Set designs
Moritz Junge – Costume designs
Lucy Carter – Lighting designs
Antoine Vereecken – Assistant to the Choreographer
Gary Avis – Ballet Master

The Human Seasons
Dancers – Lauren Cuthbertson & Edward Watson; Melissa Hamilton & Eric Underwood; Sarah Lamb & Steven McRae; Marianela Nuñez & Federico Bonelli; Olivia Cowley, Itziar Mendizabal, Beatriz Stix-Brunell, Johannes Stepanek, Dawid Trzensimiech

David Dawson – Choreography
Greg Haines – Music
Eno Henze – Set & Costume designs
Yumiko Takeshima – Costume designs
Bert Dalhuysen – Lighting design
Tim Couchman – Assistant to the Choreographer

The Rite of Spring
The Chosen One – Zenaida Yanowsky

The Men – Reece Clarke, David Donnelly, Nicol Edmonds, Kenta Kura, Thomas Mock, Fernando Montaño, Erico Montes, Donald Thom, Dawid Trzensimiech, Thomas Whitehead

The Women – Christina Arestis, Mica Bradbury, Annette Buvoli, Jacqueline Clarke, Olivia Cowley, Hayley Forskitt, Tierney Heap, Laura McCulloch, Kristen McNally, Demelza Parish, Beatriz Stix-Brunell, Gina Storm-Jensen

The Adolescents – Camille Bracher, Elsa Godard, Elizabeth Harrod, Francesca Hayward, Meaghan Grace Hinkis, Yasmine Nagdhi, Anne Rose ‘Sullivan, Romany Pajdak, Gemma Pitchley-Gale, Leticia Stock, Akane Takada, Sabina Westbombe, Luca Acri, Tristan Dyer, Benjamin Ella, Solomon Golding, Marcelino Sambé, Michael Stojko, James Wilkie, Valentino Zucchetti

The Elders – Edivaldo da Silva, Barnaby Rook Bishop, Masaya Yamamoto

Kenneth MacMillan – Choreography
Igor Stravinsky – Music
Sidney Nolan – Designs
John B. Read – Lighting design
Christopher Saunders – Staging & Ballet Master
Samantha Raine – Ballet Mistress
Monica Mason – Principal coaching

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Tom Seligman [Chroma]
Barry Wordsworth

Reviewed by: G. J. Dowler

Reviewed: 9 November, 2013
Venue: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London

The Rite of Spring (The Royal Ballet, 2013). Photograph: Bill CooperThe Royal Ballet season seems finally to have got into its stride with this, its first Mixed Bill. It makes for a strange evening, however: Kenneth MacMillan’s towering, monumental, ever-modern 1961 version of The Rite of Spring preceded by Wayne McGregor’s most successful work for the company to date, 2006’s Chroma; both book-end a new creation by Englishman David Dawson, who has found fame in continental Europe and now works for the first time here. Strange because the balance does not quite work, the first and second pieces are too similar and both are swept utterly off the board by the third. MacMillan’s Rite stands with the finest (and there are very many to choose from) as an arresting and potent visualisation of Stravinsky’s still-startling creation. If truth be told, the company, as is often the case on first-nights, was not the perfection of ensemble, but it takes a steely and perverse determination to divert this choreographic juggernaut from its destination, and Zenaida Yanowsky gave a Chosen One of bleak acceptance and utter physical commitment.

Barry Wordsworth’s conducting of The Rite – and the ROH Orchestra’s playing of it – was light on visceral force, a somewhat polite approach which, alas, was echoed by the action, some of the huge corpus of dancers not entirely ‘letting go’ and trusting both composer and choreographer. Additionally, tempos seemed sluggish, which again did little to ensure the feeling of being battered by unrelenting waves of sound that the finest performances engender.

Chroma, The Royal Ballet. Photograph: Johan PerssonThe same softening happened to McGregor’s Chroma, which was given a decidedly lumpy performance, despite the presence of several role creators in the cast. It was good to see Lauren Cuthbertson back on the ROH stage after so long absent through illness and injury, and Edward Watson remains a marvel of loose-jointed physicality. I welcome, too, Tristan Dyer, a young dancer whose affinity with McGregor’s movement style was apparent when he was still at The Royal Ballet School, and who stood out here. Chroma caused a sensation when first performed and led directly to McGregor being appointed Resident Choreographer, but the spark of the new has not been rekindled at subsequent revivals. It still looks superb in John Pawson’s architectural white box, and the dancers similarly in Moritz Junge’s pastel greys, green and pinks, but the last ounce of vim is now lacking from Joby Talbot and Jack White III’s look-at-what-I-can-do score, while the same is to be said for the dancing.

The Human Season (The Royal Ballet, 2013). Photograph: Bill CooperI note that the inspiration for David Dawson’s new ballet The Human Seasons is John Keats’s poem of the same name. I am glad that I read it in the programme, because there is nothing performed to indicate the passing seasons of life. I looked very hard indeed, but with dancers in the same costumes throughout (men in white tights and bare chests – apparently their costumes were jettisoned shortly before first night – and women in a blue leotard number), a frankly unappealing box setting from Eno Henze, and decidedly poor lighting, I could discern nothing to indicate the passing of time, except that the ballet ended as it began (four women held aloft front stage), which presumably meant it was all about to start again; I am glad that it didn’t, as the 34 minutes felt long enough. This was in part due to Greg Haines’s pleasant-enough commissioned score, which chattered along nicely much in the manner of background film music, but mainly to Dawson, who comes across as a fluent choreographer in the mainstream neo-classical vein with a penchant for extravagant arm movements and complicated lifts. There are elements that are weak: I was not taken with repeated draggings of women across the floor of the stage, nor the repeated messy entrances and exits with dancers running on and going nowhere, or blocking the action, or looking as if they about to do something spectacular and then not. The dancers looked unsure in this idiom even though Edward Watson again brought his great artistry to bear, Steven McRae his quicksilver movement quality, and Marianela Nuñez found tranquillity in the final pas de deux. It will take much more, however, to convince that this work will be a permanent addition to the repertoire.

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