The Royal Ballet
The Royal Ballet
Royal Opera House, London
November 18, 2006
Reviewed by Margaret Willis
Federico Bonelli and Marianela Nuñez in Christopher Wheeldon’s DGV
Photo by Johan Persson, courtesy The Royal Ballet
What an exhilarating evening! In new works by two of Britain’s acclaimed young choreographers, the Royal Ballet dancers were shot into a maelstrom of frenetic activity, their normally classical bodies turned inside out by velocity and wrenching moves.
In Wayne McGregor’s CHROMA, it was quickly obvious that the calming, minimalist set of cream-colored walls, with a large open space, was diametrically opposed to what was to come in both music and dance. In strode Sarah Lamb, usually demure and dignified. But as Jody Talbot’s rock orchestration of White Stripes music blared, Lamb stuck out her rear and began to “peck” like a chicken, her whole body rippling. Soon other dancers joined in, legs of both genders splicing the air like sabers, the boys’ as high and limber as the girls’, while tiny Alina Cojocaru was swooped up, turned over and under, then tossed like a salad—all at high speed. This work has no time for femininity or gentleness. It is loud and brash but stimulating with its awkward, asymmetrical, and frequent off-balance poses. Some of the dancers thrived on McGregor’s choreographic challenges; others were less at ease with his style. But all looked equally exhausted at the curtain call.
Christopher Wheeldon also propels his dancers with alacrity, sending them on an atmospheric train journey in DGV—Danse à Grande Vitesse. Michael Nyman’s score, composed for the inauguration of France’s high-speed TGV trains, has atonal, mesmeric repetitive rhythms that evoke a hurtling train. A long, metallic-silver, futuristic locomotive wraps itself across the back of the stage as four couples express varying abstract sensations of the journey. A graceful classical pose was suddenly shattered by angular movement; flying arched-back lifts metamorphosed into froglike swimming actions; and port de bras took on an Indian flavor with broken wrists and elbows.
Darcey Bussell defied gravity, leaning far forward while seemingly unsupported. (Partner Gary Avis held one foot and blocked her supporting leg from slipping.) Federico Bonelli and Marianela Nuñez were bound seductively together; with her gripping him under his arms, they seemed locked in a world of their own. Leanne Benjamin draped her slight body around Edward Watson, who effortlessly tossed her onto his shoulder. A new recruit from American Ballet Theatre, Eric Underwood, nimbly handled the regal Zenaida Yanowsky, whose limbs cut the air with the whoosh of an express train entering a tunnel. Finally the passengers reached their destination and the frantic pace declined. Only the dancers’ heaving chests gave any indication of the exertions the journey demanded. See http://info.royaloperahouse.org/ballet.