Ballo della Regina/ La Sylphide, Royal Ballet | Dance reviews, news & interviews
Ballo della Regina/ La Sylphide, Royal Ballet
Sylph meets Scot. And magic happens
Ballo della Regina is a strange piece, for many reasons. A piece of minor Balanchine, it was created late in life for a dancer he clearly admired but who was not core to his vision. Strangest of all, he used music by Verdi, a composer whose music he had only choreographed to in his very early days as a journeyman opera-house ballet-master, when he did not get to choose.
So what does the piece tell us? Very little, really. Staged by Merrill Ashley, its original lead, it is efficient, neat, well-rehearsed. And I can see no real purpose to it. The curtain rises on a heart-liftingly familiar Balanchine opening, turquoise scrim, a corps of 12 women strung out like beads across the stage (pictured overleaf). They are joined by four soloists (Yuhui Choe and Beatriz Stix-Brunell dancing particularly beautifully), and then by the lead couple, Marianela Nuñez and Nehemiah Kish (pictured right, photo: Bill Cooper).
Nuñez performs technical feats of bravura skill in her fiendishly difficult steps (there seems to be barely a second when she is off point, and she is usually required to jump from and to point as well). Kish is not particularly well suited as her partner, or to this role: he is far too tall, and his extremely long torso makes him look awkward even when his steps are neat and clean; in his jumps his arms wave distractingly, and he seems uncentred even when he is not.
But it is the piece itself where the trouble lies. It has no real impetus, no forward motion driven by the music. A ballet number from the opera Don Carlos, it stops and starts in for a drama that no longer takes place; it rises to a climax, hails a procession that does not materialise; the brass bombast must sound wonderful accompanied by opera staging, but when wisps of dancers skim the stage, it seems foolishly overblown. All credit, therefore, to everyone on stage for making the action seem more purposeful than it is.
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