Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Jewels - The Royal Ballet at its best

Standard YouTube Licence

The Royal Ballet, Jewels, transmitted live to cinemas, 11 April 2017, 19:39

I once asked a distinguished panel of dance critics, dancers and the artistic director of Scottish Ballet whether a narrative ballet needed a plot (see My Thoughts on Saturday Afternoon's Panel Discussion at Northern Ballet 21 June 2015). All said no except Tobias Batley who was then a premier dancer at Northern Batley and seemed to have an interesting point to make but did not get the chance to develop it. When I asked that question I had Balanchine's Jewels in mind which actually tells a lot of stories from the history of ballet to the choreographer's life history without actually having a libretto.

Jewels is like a denial of service attack on the senses. Each of the three ballets is a feast in itself. You feel you can only take so much colour, and movement, and music in one evening - but after each act, there is more.  The only experience with which I can compare this ballet is, in fact, my first sight of real jewels. The Crown Jewels on my first trip to London. The impression that the dazzling display of light and colour made on a little five-year-old from the North in post-war Britain was very much the same as the concatenation of dancers in green, red and white create whenever I see Balanchine's masterpiece.

On Sunday I remarked that I had seen the Bolshoi at its best (see A Hero of our Time 10 April 2017). Yesterday, audiences around the world saw the Royal Ballet at its best. The company fielded Beatriz Stix-BrunellValeri HristovLaura MoreraRyoichi HiranoEmma MaguireHelen Crawford and James Hay in Emeralds.  As readers know, I am one humongous fan of Morera whose hand I once had the good fortune to shake (see Laura Morera  25 Aug 2015). She always delights me but yesterday she raised my admiration to a new level.

More favourites in Rubies Sarah LambSteven McRae and Melissa Hamilton. If Emeralds was lyrical, Rubies was spectacular. One gorgeous explosion of movement after another culminating in McRae's exit in chaînés. A dynamo harnessed to McRae at that moment could have powered a fair size town. Rubies is the shortest work in the three ballets but it is the one I like best, possibly because of Stravinsky's Capriccio possibly just the New World razmataz. The energy. The fun.

Diamonds, the white act, is sublime. An homage to Petipa. Marianela Nuñez and Thiago Soares were majestic. Stix-Brunnell and Hay returned to join them together with Claire CalvertTierney HeapYasmine NaghdiNicol EdmondsFernando Montaño and Valentino Zucchetti. Not all Petipa's ballets end well but some of them do. Think of The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker and all your other favourites rolled into one and combine it with Tchaikowsky's Polish symphony and you understand why I compared the overpowering of the senses to the overwhelming of a website by millions of messages.

I should also say something about the presentation. I was very impressed with Kristen McNally. I warmed to her the moment she opened her mouth. Proud, elegant, knowledgeable, amusing and above all, Northern. I do hope the Royal Opera House enlists her services again. It was also good to see Darcey Bussell as it always is but this time she was there in her capacity as a great ballerina escorting a member of the original cast to the jeweller's shop that inspired Balanchine. A beautiful dancer surrounded by beautiful things. That is how I like to think of her. It would be good to see more of her in scenes like that.

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