The Kings of the Dance

posted 18 May 2014, 10:35 by Juliana Araújo   [ updated 21 Jun 2014, 12:59 ]

The Kings of the Dance which was produced by Sergei Danilian in 2006, was originally performed by Angel Corella, Johan Kobborg, Ethan Stiefel and Nikolay Tsiskaridze. When the project began to unfold, the people involved had in mind to gather the crème de la crème of the ballet world to explore the skills and attributes of the male dancing, which sometimes are overlooked, because quite often the male figure is overshadowed by the ballerina’s splendor. Except from solos and codas, usually the role of the enchanting princes is to partner and support their princesses on stage.

The London debut at the Coliseum last March featured dancers at the peak of their careers coming from four different companies. This time, the team was casted by Marcelo Gomes (American Ballet Theatre), Ivan Vasiliev (American Ballet Theatre), Denis Matvienko (The Bolshoi), Leonid Sarafanov (Mikhailovsky Ballet) and Roberto Bolle (American Ballet Theatre and Teatro Alla Scala). The only female presence on the show was the virtuous Svetlana Lunkina, from the Bolshoi and who currently performs at the National Ballet of Canada as guest artist.

On the same note, the choreographers treated their dancers with creative works which were showcased in a tasteful contemporary dance programme. That said, all mixed bills have their ups and downs; and in this case, the comparison between the pieces and dancers were inevitable. In fact, Marcelo Gomes has said several times that the dancers come from different schools and were trained in different different methodologies; which make them unique in their own style.

Also, it was interesting to notice the way this ballet was perceived by the media and critics. Despite the fact that the show had the purpose of showcasing the art and beauty of the male dancing, I feel that the interest for this topic was extrapolated. There was much talk about the celebration of male dancing, ego and testosterone. It seems that these concerns often arise when ballet danced by men such as the Men in Motion by Ivan Putrov and Men y Men produced by the English National Ballet are staged in the UK. What is so extraordinary about this? I could not tell for sure, but it does not matter. Since its premiere, the Kings of the Dance has always been acclaimed by international critic; and theatres are always flocked by people who go there to see their idols. Due to the high quality of the dancers and their choreographers, the project could never fail, but even so, it deserves a careful analysis of what was seen.


Remanso which was choreographed by Nacho Duato opened the evening. The piece was danced by Marcelo Gomes, Denis Matvienko Leonid Sarafanov to the music of Enrique Granados. The performance was dynamic, lively and fun; and it was possible to recognise the Latin influence of its creator. The impeccable lighting enabled the public to recognise the dancers by their mannerisms and technique. Sarafanov with his precise and light moves, Matvienko also showing his refined technique and Gomes was all charisma and virility.

As part of setting a screen was installed in the middle of the stage. Its colours changed by a projector that threw different beams of light on it. This was the only prop with which the dancers interacted. The way they climbed and hid themselves behind it, was to some extent reminiscent of Boris Eifman’s Rodin. In addition to the solos, the dancers showed moments of complicity and sensitivity represented by a red rose that was being passed from hand to hand at the final part of the performance.  

In my opinion Remanso was an excellent choice for opening the show. With vibrant music and a flawless performance, the dancers were able to engage the public treating them with with moments of beauty, colour and pleasure.

Le Jeune Homme et La Mort

The dancer casted for March 22 was glorious Roberto Bolle who played the young man drowned in deep existential crisis whose actions instincts were driven by his dominatrix lover-- the death --  who leads him to the tragic end.

The piece begins with Bolle lying on a bed, staring at the ceiling. Well, for a start, the bed was facing the back of the stage and not the audience, which restricted view of the dancer's facial expression, which as a real shame.

Dressed in a bright yellow dress, the girlfriend controls the young man’s actions with a mixture of sadism and seduction. With sophistication and class, black gloves and bob hair style gave the ballerina a fresh and chic Parisian look. In the second part of the show, the macabre lover appears wearing a skull mask and continues to manipulate the boy until he finally jumps from a ramp. The modern Paris skyline setting gave the audience a sense of freedom and spaciousness which contrasted with the claustrophobic and gloomy bedroom shown in the first part of the ballet.

Putting up all that aside, the interpretation of Jeune Homme et La Mort is undoubtedly challenging. Performing an attitude derrière on the edge of a table is not for everyone and executing cabrioles on a stage full of props requires skill and control. Endowed with impeccable and polished technique, Bolle and Lunkina performed their respective roles with confidence and elegance. However, I missed Nureyev’s visceral expressiveness and Zizi Jeanmaire’s femme fatale attitude.

As a thriller, this ballet grabs your attention wherever you are. I particularly consider Jean Cocteau’s libretto a masterpiece that could only have been so brilliantly choreographed by genial Roland Petit. Although it was created in 1946, the ballet remains timeless, intriguing and deserves a revival.


Prototype was created specifically for Roberto Bolle by Massimiliano Volpini. The piece begins with the dancer performing typical center ballet class exercises, followed by several images of himself on a screen which was mounted at the back of the stage. Despite the beautiful pictures displayed in magnified scale, and the pleasant image of his torso, the video became an element of distraction which overshadowed his physical presence on stage. Moreover, the lighting did not help either. There were moments when Bolle interacted with his own images, but the special effects used in Prototype were somewhat disruptive and again he was left in the shade. The problem here was not about the use of technology in a ballet performance, but when the devices became more important than the artist himself. To me these extra resources were out of the the context of the choreography and did not do Bolle any justice, whose talent and skills were fortunately noted in the previous performance.


Leonid Sarafanov who was casted to play Leonid Jacobson’s Vestris, did a flawless show in terms of precision and technique. His leaps and jumps were soft and soundless; and his fast response to the music was impressive. However, to some extent his performance was not convincing and lacked chemistry and engagement with the audience. Further, the inclusion of Vestris in the programme was not appropriate because a piece based on classical technique like this, ended up breaking the sequence of contemporary pieces which was the predominant style of the evening. Having said that, the choreography is interesting,  intricate, and requires from the dancer a considerable level of skill to perform movements not always familiar by the public. I think Vestris would have been more suitable for a mixed bill with similar themes or a gala evening where different dance styles are performed.    

Morel et Saint-Loup from Ballet Proust

Morel et Saint-Loup is a well constructed piece conceived by the amazing Roland Petit. This time for sure, the ballet well fitted the programme. As expected, the theme was again timeless. The nude-coloured unitards was a perfect choice for this performance, as they were almost imperceptible revealing the the dancers’ muscles and physical shape, which were not unnoticed by the public.

With intricate moves, the choreography requires athleticism and strength; and dancers were left with the task of performing challenging lifts, considering that in most cases male dancers are required to partner light-weight ballerinas. The pas de deux executed by Matvienko and Gomes formed beautiful shapes on stage and the pair performed movements not often seen in recent works. While their steps were controlled and  precise, some sequences seemed awkward, lacking fluidity and expressiveness. Although this performance was not all perfect, once again, the dancers showed what they are capable of doing on stage; and the quality of their work made the piece worthy of being part of this ensemble.

Labyrinth of Solitude

Strength, power and stamina. What more can I say about Ivan Vasiliev that has not yet been said? Vasiliev was simply perfect. Dressed only in black trousers, the dancer defied the limits of gravity. I was particularly impressed with the level maturity that such a young dancer delivered this performance. His turns en menage and leaps were monumental; the flexibility of his body was instrumental to echoe Patrick de Bana’s ideas, who knew what he was capable of. Having been applauded on various occasion during the show, Vasiliev managed to charm the audience with his artistry who were hypnotised by his powerful and precise moves. His talent, skills and passion for dancing were clearly noticed on this particular solo  and he truly deserved to be crowned the king of the evening.


With a refined and elegant choreography Marcelo Gomes showed his promising future as a choreographer. I did not particularly find the piece innovative, but it gave the dancers the opportunity to show their synchronized moves in unison. The sonata composed by Guillaume Coté is so beautiful, and the  delicate sound of the piano gave enough freshness to this contemporary piece of work.   

Regardless of the less fortunate moments during the show, the Kings of the Dance managed to achieve the purpose for which it was conceived. Due to the high quality of the dancers’ and  choreographers’ work, I thought that reviewing this performance was not an easy task to do. Thus, the analysis goes beyond the quality of the performers’ dancing, as discussions remain in the realm of charisma, artistic interpretation, that make these dancers unique kings of their own artistry.

Performance  Credits

Act One


Music: Enrique Granados

Choreographer: Nacho Duato

Lighting Design: Brad Fields

Staging: Tony Fabre

Performed by Leonid Sarafanov, Denis Matvienko and Marcelo Gomes

Act Two

Le Jeune Homme et La Mort

Music: Johann Sebastian Bach, Passacaglia in C Minor, BWV 582

Libretto: Jean Cocteau

Choreographer: Roland Petit

Staging: Luigy Bonino

Lighting: Jean Michel Desire

Set: Georges Wakhevitch

Costumes: Karinska

Set: Courtesy of the English National Ballet

First Performance: 1946, Les Ballets des Champs-Élysées.

Performed by Ivan Vasiliev (March 19, 21)

Roberto Bolle (March 20, 22)

Svetlana Lunkina (March 19-22).

Act Three


Music: Jean Salvatori

Producer: Fausto Dase

Concept and Choreography: Massimiliano Volpini

Costumes: Roberto Guidi di Bagno mad by Sartoria Farani

Co-Directed: Avantgarde Numerique and XCHanges Vfx Design

Visual Effects: XChanges VFx

Performed by Roberto Bolle

Morel Saint-Loup from Ballet Proust

Music: Gabriel Faure

Choreographer: Roland Petit

Staging: Luigi Bonino

First performance: 1974, National Ballet of Marseille

Performed by Denis Matvienko and Marcelo Gomes.


Music: Gennady Bansshikov

Choreography: Leonid Jacobson

Staging: Andrey Ivanov

Performed by Leonid Sarafanov

Labyrinth of Solitude

Music Tomaso Antonio Vitali (Ciaconne in G Minor for Violin and Piano)

Choreography: Patrick de Bana

Performed by Ivan Vasiliev


Music: Guillaume Coté (Piano Sonata no 4 in F# minor)

Choreography: Marcelo Gomes

Performed by Marcelo Gomes, Roberto Bolle, Denis Matvienko, Ivan Vasiliev, Leonid Sarafanov

Producer: Sergei Danilian

Search Terms: The King’s of the Dance, Coliseum, English National Opera, American Ballet Theatre, Marcelo Gomes, Ivan Vasiliev, Denis Matvienko, The Bolshoi, Leonid Sarafanov, Mikhailovsky Ballet, Roberto Bolle, Teatro Alla Scala Ballet, Svetlana Lunkina, National Ballet of Canada, Remanso, Nacho Duato, Le Jeune Homme et La Mort, Roland Petit, Prototype, Vestris, Morel et Saint-Loup, Ballet Proust, 

Labyrinth of Solitude, Patrick De Bana, “KO’D”, Guillaume Coté, Johann Sebastian Bach Jean Cocteau

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Ballo della Regina

posted 12 May 2014, 16:33 by Juliana Araújo   [ updated 21 Jun 2014, 12:55 ]

First Posted on June 30, 2012

“Ballo” is a very classical ballet at high speed.

Virtuosic steps at full throttle; it’s a very joyful happy,

uplifting ballet. The music is so full of energy, it gives you oxygen.

It’s a wonderful example of Balanchine being more neoclassical

and expanding his dance vocabulary.” - Merrill Ashley

As part of the May/June`s double bill, Ballo della Regina was performed this season, along with La Sylphide by the Royal Ballet of London.

On 12 June last, the dancers did a flawless show. This ballet is a masterpiece, and showed us Balanchine`s technique translated into fast steps, focus on the upper body and arabesques performed with dancers facing the public. With breathtaking extensions, the dancers did their steps with an impressive speed, as if their feet were blades striking the floor.

Rather than sylphs and willies, Balanchine`s dancers are athletic and have lots of personality. As his movements are marked by dynamism and precision, his method entails a great deal of flexibility and muscular strength. So the work is particularly difficult for dancers, whatever their technical level.

Verdi‘s music was a novelty for those who were expecting Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky. However, the music turned the show into a dynamic and dancing experience. Without Petipa`s scenic structure and the ballet d’action`s traditional mime scenes, Balanchine’s work is to be appreciated at a distance, because the creation of asymmetrical lines on the stage made the ensemble look harmonious. As an educated musician, he thought that dance steps should reflect the music itself. Therefore, all  elements that could take the focus away from the human movement and the musical context should be removed.

With Ballo della Regina it could not have been different. According to Merrill Ashley, for whom the ballet was created in 1978, the music is there to be danced to and the challenge for the dancers is that they have to perform their steps with greater speed than in other traditional ballets.

As usual,Yuhui Choé and  Marianela Núñez were brilliant in their moves; and their stage presence highlighted the effervescent nature of this ballet. They danced so freely and confidently that there is no doubt they can easily carry the show. Stage popping stars, I would say. Marianela`s and Nehemiah Kish`s adagios were really impeccable. However, despite Kish`s bravura and technique, I think a dancer with a leaner and a lighter build would have been more appropriate for the role.

While watching Ballo, I had a feeling of being in front of a massive bubbling fish tank. At the same time, the pastel shaded costumes in contrast with the blue stage reminding us of Don Carlos`s sea gave me a lasting fresh and joyful sensation.

By putting together  the neo-classical style of the 70s, with a nineteenth-century Romantic ballet, it seemed that the Royal Ballet wanted to give the public an opportunity to appreciate works of different styles. However, by joining  these pieces together in one single show, it was difficult for newbies to understand and assimilate the nuances of these works in the context in which they were created.

While excellent, Balanchine`s piece was overshadowed by  La Sylphide, as the former has greater visual and scenic resources capable of engaging the public more intensively. Therefore, it did not do any justice to the Russian ballet master`s work, whose ballets are there to show the classical technique through the body movement itself.

Please see below Merrill Ashley`s take on Ballo della Regina, and also her impressions on working with Balanchine:

Search Terms: Ballo della Regina, George Balanchine, Marianela Nuñez, Nehemiah Kish, The Royal Ballet, Merrill Ashley

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Johan Kobborg’s La Sylphide

posted 12 May 2014, 15:52 by Juliana Araújo   [ updated 21 Jun 2014, 12:56 ]

First Posted on June 16, 2012

The  Royal Ballet  of London has included one more gem in its repertory this season: La Sylphide. As part of  May/June’s double bill, this ballet was performed along with George Balanchine‘s Ballo della Regina, with Alina Cojocaru and Steven McRae  at the opening night.

The ballet which was originally choreographed by  Filippo Taglioni, the father of Marie Taglioni, had its debut at Paris Opera in 1832. However, in 1836, August Bournonville recreated the ballet for the Royal Danish Ballet, with additional changes including emphasis on the footwork and uninterrupted allegro sequences — arms in bras bas letting the legs do all  the work – which have become the Danish ballet’s signature.

As importing the scores of the original music was too expensive, Bournonville commissioned new music from the Danish-born musician Herman Løvenskiold, who included original Celtic melodies, and elements of the reel dance. 

Set in an imaginary village of the Highlands of Scotland, the ballet tells the love story between James, Effie and the mysterious sylph. The costumes designed for the Danish production also reflected typical elements of the Scottish culture. Made of different colours of original tartan,  the dancers’ kilts were just like the Scots’ original outfits, which had the essential accessories such as sporran, kilt pin, tam o'shanter and the buttons sewn diagonally on the corps of ballet’s fitted jackets. In this ballet, pointe work is limited to the sylphs, whose jumps and bourrées give a supernatural touch to their characters.

La Sylphide is one of the remaining XIX century romantic era masterpieces, which portrayed heroic princes, in contrast to frail and delicate ballerinas. While La Sylphide is a short-length ballet, it contains all the elements of the romantic era, such as romantic tutus, soft port de bras, including impossible love stories between earthly and spiritual beings as in Giselle.

Since 1836, ballet companies have kept Bournonville’s tradition. However, in 2005 the production was reviewed by Danish-born Johan Kobborg, a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet who was trained by the Bournonville method in Denmark. Having reviewed the ballet, Kobborg did his best to maintain the piece’s original characteristics. However, he added some parts of the musical score that had been removed from the Danish production. Other changes included the addition of the mime sequence where James tells his friend Gurn about his encounter with the sylph, and a brief pas de deux between James and the sylph in the second act. According to the dancer, the inclusion of these parts in this Royal Ballet’s production was important to provide more fluidity and coherence between the scenes.

This season, Kobborg also played the role of James alongside his fiancée Alina Cojocaru as the sylph. Delicate, but with an impressive stage presence, Alina did justice to the ethereal Taglioni’s role immortalised in the XIX century paintings and lithographies. The chemistry between Kobborg and Cojocaru is clearly visible, and the emotional connection between them is quite noticeable in James’s moments of torment every time the sylph appears.

Central to the plot is Madge, an old lady who appears at James’s and Effie’s wedding party, to warm herself up next to the chimney of the house. Thrown out of the house by James, she swears revenge. Not only she convinces Effie marry Gurn, but also she poisons the shawl used by James to attract the Sylph who dies when he kisses and touches her. Madge had already been interpreted by male dancers before. But this time, Kobborg has decided to choose a woman do perform this role. Technically impeccable, Kristen McNally has shown her acting skills. However, her delicate and youthful manner overshadowed the character’s machiavellian personality.

José Martin, under the skin of Gurn, provided us with delicious and fun moments in the pursuit of James who fled with the sylph during his wedding party. In trying to describe the figure of sylph to the party guests, the dancer made the audience burst out laughing.

Although many writers state that women were the central figure of the XIX century ballets, in la Sylphide, James plays a key role in the story. In this production, Kobborg demonstrates clarity in the mime scenes and shows  so much lightness and precision his his allegro steps.

The integration of corps of ballet with the scenery was impressive. On various occasion, the dancers’ static poses mingled with the bucolic scenery of the XIX century ballet, that is reminiscent of paintings in oil on canvas of the romantic period.

Search Terms: La Sylphide, Alina Cojocaru, Johan Kobborg, Marie Taglioni, August Bournonville,  Filippo Taglioni, The Royal Ballet

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Anna Pavlova Gala

posted 12 May 2014, 14:24 by Juliana Araújo   [ updated 23 Apr 2016, 20:29 ]

First Posted on April 9, 2012

Whenever  I watch a ballet of the classical repertoire, I remain totally amazed. The scenery, the music, the costumes, the pantomime, corps of ballet synchronicity, and the incarnation of the character … Well, I simply love it all. However, I do get equally amazed when I watch a ballet gala. The beauty of the galas is the taste of surprise, the novelty, the dichotomy between the classical and modern styles. The surprise about the costume, music and especially the opportunity to see new works without the scenic composition. Only the essentials. In the galas, there are so many other things to be  noticed. This is when we can see the qualities of the dancer, her training and technique. Apart from her and her partner in the spotlights nothing else exists.

Iana-Salenko and Marian Walter by Gene Schiavone
Photograph: Iana Salenko and Marian Walter by Gene Schiavone

The Ensemble Productions Group has become famous here in London for organising first class events. In the ” Russian Ballet Icons ” series, several top-range dancers are chosen to honour a personality every year. Last year’s gala in honour of Galina Ulanova, directed by the great Vladimir Vasiliev, was simply spectacular. I remember the joy I felt to see the Diana and Acteon variation executed with perfection by Thiago Soares  and Dorothée Gilbert. Equally enchanting was Vladimir Malakhov and Nadia Saidakova`s the Parc performance; and to top it off, Svetlana Zakharova and Ulyana Lopatkina  danced the Dying Swan and Eurydice variations respectively. This year’s gala was held in honour of Anna Pavlova. The event, directed by Wayne Eagling, was organised to celebrate the 100th anniversary of her establishment at Ivy House, her former home in Golders Green, north London. I awaited the whole year to be there and I could not choose my favourite variation, because everything was amazingly beautiful.

Photograph: Tamara Rojo et Sergei Polunin by Marc Haegeman

The evening began with extracts of old films of Pavlova on stage as well as in her home in London. As expected, there were not set to illustrate the variations. However, instead of a blue stage, there were coloured panels with vintage pictures of the ballerina that gave that made each performance unique.

Photograph: ’Alina Cojocaru and Alexandre Riabko by Marc Haegeman

The first presentation of the evening was the Le Corsaire, executed by Anastasia Stashkevich  and  Viacheslav Lopatin. The colourful costumes gave a special touch to the piece. Following, we had the Giselle adage danced by Alina Somova. Instead of dark scenery of the second act of the ballet, we had a bright stage where we could see each performance detail. As usual, the Romeo and Juliet and Manon pas de deux by John  Cankro and MacMillan were breathtaking, which were brilliantly danced by Iana Salenko  and  Marian Walter  and Daria Klimentová  and  Vadim Muntagirov  respectively. However, the big surprise to me, were the contemporary variations Compassione and Life is a Dream performed by Giuseppe Picone  and  Tamara Rojo, respectively. Fairly simple, and there was nothing else on stage other than the dancers and the music filling the environment. However, in my opinion, the Rojo`s choreography would have been more appreciated by smaller audiences, because the dancer danced in front of a fish tank, which was difficult to be seen from the last row.

Photograph: Svetlana Zakharova and Andrey Merkuriev by Marc Haegeman

Rarely presented in the West, another interesting surprise was Russkaya, which was performed by Ulyana Lopatkina. This piece is different from the classic repertory we know and does not require great leg extensions. However, it was an opportunity to show a bit of Russian folklore to the British public.

Photograph: Tamara Rojo by Marc Haegeman

One of the highlights of the evening was the Alina Cojocaru  and Alexandre Riabko`s performance, the Lady of the Camellias. Alina has proved that she is capable of transforming any role that is offered to her in a unique experience, because her tenderness has not overshadowed the maturity that Marguerite  requires.

Photograph: Sergei Polunin by Marc Haegeman

As per last year, Svetlana Zakharova  has proven she can do anything. This time she performed the Spanish piece Cor Perdut with Andrey Merkuriev. The earthy colours of the costumes mingled  with the stage lighting that revealed even more the performers` dynamism and expressiveness.

Myriam Ould-Braham and  Alessio Carbone by Gene Schiavone
Photograph: Myriam Ould-Braham and Allessio Carbone by Gene Schiavone

After the interval, Tamara Rojo returned to the stage to perform Raymonda alongside Sergei Polunin. With plenty of will and energy, they gave the public an impeccable, joyful and strong show. This performance was unbeatable, indeed. The Nikiya variation with Evgenia Obraztsova  was also very impressive – in fact, one of my favourites. This was also a sweet surprise, because usually the Ganzatti variation appears to be more popular in ballet galas. Therefore, this was a good choice made by the production of the event.

Evgenia Obraztsova by Marc Haegeman
Photograph: Evgenia Obraztsova by Marc Haegeman

The evening went on with  the Swan Lake “White Act” with  Myriam Ould-Braham  and  Allessio Carbone. Despite beautiful e perfect, in my opinion, this performance was very discrete in comparison with the electrifying programme presented throughout the evening.

Lucia  Lacarra and  Marlon Dino  were also quite surprising and brought so much joy to the show. Lacarra was charming and beautiful with her amazing leg extensions; and  Irina Dvorovenko`s sophisticated moves in Splendid Isolation 3 revealed that only someone like she could it. However, it was the tenderness of Lopatkina  in Pavlova and Cecchetti that really touched my heart. This relatively short piece, with approximately 7 minutes duration, symbolises Pavlova`s learning from Cecchetti. Often known as The Lesson, the variation begins with a traditional ballet class at the barre; and later on in the centre, she allows herself to be led by master. Also not very common in gala, it was a nice gift to us.

lina Somova and David Makhateli by Marc Haegeman

Photograph: Alina Somova and David Makhateli by Marc Haegeman

At the end of show, the orchestra played Le Cygne (The Dying Swan). But instead of a dancer performing the solo, there was only a moving beam of light on the stage, which meant that that place belonged to no one other than Anna Pavlova.

  • Ten things you should know about Anna Pavlova:

1. Anna Pavlova was the first ballerina to travel around the world with her dancing.

2. Her interest in ballet began when her mother took her to see the Sleeping Beauty by Marius Petipa.

3. Her first stage appearance was with the Fairy Tale by Marius Petipa.

4. Anna Pavlova was one of Enrico Cecchetti`s pupils.

5. She made her official debut at the Mariinsky Theatre with the Alleged Dryads.

6. Petipa taught her the role of Paquita among many others.

7. Michel Fokine created the Dying Swan solo on Pavlova.

8. In mid-twentieth century, Pavlova founded her own company, and travelled around the world with a repertoire primarily created by Petipa.

9 Pavlova moved to London in 1912, into Ivy House located in Golders Green, north London, where he lived until the end of her life.

10. The night she died, in St. Petersburg, the violins of the orchestra played the music of  The Dying Swan  in front of an empty stage, illuminated only by a spotlight.

Search Terms: Le Corsaire, Anastasia Stashkevich, Viacheslav Lopatin, Compassione, Giuseppe Picone, Giselle, Alina Somova, David Makhateli, Russkaya, Ulyana Lopatkina, Romeo and Juliet, Iana Salenko, Marian Walter, Life is a Dream, La Dame aux Camélias, Alina Cojocaru, Alexandre Riabko, Cor Perdut, Svetlana Zakharova  Andrey Merkuriev, Raymonda, Tamara Rojo, Sergei Polunin, Manon, Daria Klimentová, Vadim Muntagirov, Splendid Isolation 3, Irina, Dvorovenko, Maxim Beloserkovsky, La Bayadère, Evgenia Obraztsova, Swan Lake, Myriam Ould-Braham, Allessio Carbon, La Prisionère, Lucia Lacarra, Marlon Dino, Pavlova and Cecchetti, Ulyana Lopatkina, Marat Shemiunov, Anna Pavlova

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Something Essentially English

posted 11 May 2014, 14:56 by Juliana Araújo   [ updated 21 Jun 2014, 16:11 ]

First Posted on May 20, 2012

“There exists in my imagination a life in the country of eternally late spring, 
a leafy pastorale of perpetual sunshine and the humming of bees,
the suspended stillness of a Constable's landscape of my beloved Suffolk, 
luminous and calm.” - Sir Frederick Ashton

This spring, the Royal Opera House has included in its program the unforgettable La Fille Mal Gardée. At the same time, Opus Arte has exhibited in London’s screens on May 16 a live recording of Roberta Marquez and Steven MacRae‘s, performance.

Although Dauberval has produced his first version in 1791, Sir Frederick Ashton recreated this ballet in 1960. Despite the French title, this piece is an homage to the English culture. Among chickens and wheat harvest, Lise and Colas’ love story takes place in rural and bucolic Suffolk; and the hand-painted scenery reminds us  of children’s tale books illustrations.

The added charm to this ballet is due to the unsuccessful attempts of strict Simone (Lise’s mother) to separate the couple and clumsy Alain who is literally swept off the ground during the storm that falls over the maypole dancers at the end of the first act.

Light-hearted and fun, this ballet is a declaration of love from Ashton to England. Through the constant use of satin ribbons, Ashton had the opportunity to show his romantic side to the audience. And those who know England very well can clearly identify the essential elements of its folklore. 

Quite popular in Lancashire, the clog dance was originated during the industrial revolution. While operating the machinery, labourers would beat the soles of their shoes on the floor to the rhythm of the machines. And during breaks they would hold competitions where judges would assess dancers’ rhythm and technique.

Maypole dance is part of European folk tradition since the eighteenth century. Dancers form a circle around a pole decorated with flowers, flags and ribbons. In England, the performances usually take place in spring during the  May Day Festival. While the dance evolves, a web is created by the ribbons around the pole.

Morris dance influences are also clear in the second act, when the harvesters arrive at Simone’s and perform a choreography using handkerchiefs and sticks.In 1600,  William Kempe performed morris dance from London to Norwich for the Nine Days Wonder event.

Other elements of popular culture appear in the bottle dance and the pas de deux with a pink satin ribbon, which ends with a beautiful cat cradle that always tear applause from the audience.

For those who do not know this ballet, this piece is simply delightful to watch. The love story sealed by satin ribbons, has a happy ending and make you leave the theatre with a feeling of lightness and joy wanting to come back.

Search Terms La Fille Mal Gardée, Royal Ballet, Royal Opera House, Roberta Marquez, Stephen MacRae, Review, Frederick Ashton.

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