tue 03/05/2016

Ballo della Regina/ La Sylphide, Royal Ballet | Dance reviews, news & interviews

Ballo della Regina/ La Sylphide, Royal Ballet

Sylph meets Scot. And magic happens

Alina Cojocaru as La Sylphide: 'her acting skills make the mysterious sylph live'Images © Johan Persson/Royal Opera House

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.


Cojocaru never fails to

Cojocaru never fails to impress me with her amazing ability to display quality technique while giving believable interpretations of the role she is dancing. She has such charm and magic on the stage.

The great Arlene Croce has

The great Arlene Croce has written eloquently about the miraculous and complex "Ballo Della Regina", one of Balanchine's most striking and most original and most wondrous late creations. The ballet is a marvel, and is danced virtually everywhere now, despite the impossible demands it places on the ballerina. Its presentation, of course, presupposes a sophisticated dance audience . . .

Oh Judith, wake up. For a

Oh Judith, wake up. For a more perceptive review of the double bill, see Clifford Bishop in the online Evening Standard

Add comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters