Sunday, 24 July 2016

Ratmansky's Razzmatazz

Standard YouTube Licence

Australian Ballet, Cinderella, Coliseum, 23 July 2016, 14:00

I had heard a lot about Alexei Ratmansky but had not actually seen much of his work. I doubted that I had seen any of it at all until Janet McNulty reminded me that Lana Jones and Adam Bull had danced the final pas de deux from Ratmansky's Cinderella at the 45th anniversary gala at The Grand last year (see Sapphire 15 March 2015). In his review of the National Ballet of Canada's Romeo and Juliet at Sadler's Wells (Carrying a Torch for Pure Academic Ballet 22 April 2013 New Your Times) the well kniwn US critic Alistair Macaulay described him as "the most gifted choreographer specializing in classical ballet today."

Ratmansky has created works for the Mariinsky, the Royal Danish Ballet, the Royal Swedish Ballet, the Dutch National Ballet New York City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, The Australian Ballet, the Kiev Ballet and the State Ballet of Georgia but, so far as I can recall, not for any company in this country.  Perhaps we just can't afford him - particularly not in these horizon narrowing and increasingly austere and nasty post-Brexit days. In Working with the Master, one of the notes in the programme, Deborah Jones, mentions his arrival at the Australian Ballet's studios in a Ferrari (or was it a Lamborghini?). Certainly a fabulously expensive motor car obviously chosen to make an impression on the dancers and their management.

This show had everything: ocean liners, express trains, a Citroën Traction Avant prowling the poplar trees of Picardy, bushes that morph into metronomes and the most fabulous costumes with men in what appeared to be tutus representing the planets and the fairy godmother in a bowler hat. There were some breathtaking lifts as well as comic clowning by Cinderella's stepmother and sisters, the narcissistic dancing master (reminding me incongruously of Christopher Marney's dalmatian from Dogs Don't Do Ballet), her wino father and his cronies.  Our emotions were tossed everywhere from outrage as the stepmother and her daughters trashed the portrait of Cinderella's mother to elation as the godmother flashed her image everywhere in the kitchen and hoots after said stepmother and stepsisters made one faux pas after another.

Altogether this was a jolly good show. Perhaps not the best Cinderella.  I've yet to see anything that beats Darius James's for Ballet Cymru (see Ballet Cymru's Cinderella  15 June 2015) though Christopher Hampson (see Scottish Ballet's Cinderella 20 Dec 2015) and Christopher Wheeldon (see Wheeldon's Cindereella  13 July 2015) came close largely, I think, thanks to their leading ladies. Bethany Kingsley-Garner was beautiful in her role and Anna Tsygankova amazing in hers.

In praising those dancers, however, I take nothing away from yesterday's cast. Amber Scott sparkled in her dancing as much as her ballgown under the lights. Ty King-Wall was every inch a prince. Amy Harris was a beguiling stepmother. Last week we saw her as Odile (see The Australian Ballet's Swan Lake - Murphy won me over 17 July 2016). Why was that beautiful young woman cast in the villain's role two weeks running? Last week's Siegfried and Odette, Rudy Hawkes and Robyn Hendricks were planets this week. Ingrid Gow and Eloise Fryer, entertained us as the ridiculous dumpy and skinny sisters. I particularly liked their boxing poses. No messing about with those Sheilas. Jasmin Durham delighted us as the fairy godmother. Great character performances also from Steven Heathcote as Cinders's hapless father and Franco Leo as the prince's doddery retainer.

Everyone involved in this production deserves congratulations. Ratmansky, of course. I can quite see why Macaulay wrote what he did. Jerome Kaplan for his fabulous designs. Rachel Burke for her lighting. Wendell Harrington for the ingenious projections. Perhaps most of all Nicolette Fraillon for the gorgeous music that she delivered so well.  I learned a little bit of ballet etiquette yesterday. When the conductor is a lady it is the premier danseur noble and not the principal ballerina who leads her onto the stage to take her bow.

The Australians have now finished their short season in England. They brought their country's sunshine with them just when our poor, dear country needed it most. I shall miss them. Bon Voyage and come back soon.

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