The Royal Ballet

Concepts of Hell and Paradise

The Dante Project”
The Royal Ballet

Royal Opera House
London, Great Britain
December 20, 2021 (online broadcast)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. E.Watson (Dante), “The Dante Project” by W.McGregor, The Royal Ballet 2021 © A.Uspenski Over two years after the Royal Ballet danced the first act of Wayne McGregor’s “The Dante Project” at its premiere in Los Angeles, the piece was finally completed this season and presented in London at its full-evening length. The ballet is based on two works by Dante Alighieri: his epic “Divine Comedy” (1320) – whose three-part structure the ballet adopts – and “La Vita Nuova” (1294), an early work that deals with Dante’s lifelong platonic love for Beatrice di Folco Portinari. The score was commissioned by composer Thomas Adès, a longtime collaborator of McGregor’s.
How would Dante’s pilgrimage from hell to heaven be brought to the dance floor? What would color Edward Watson’s performance in the role of Dante after two years of waiting for this farewell performance? (more…)

Buoys

“Giselle”
The Royal Ballet
Royal Opera House
London, Great Britain
December 03, 2021 (online broadcast)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Ball (Count Albrecht) and Y.Naghdi (Giselle), “Giselle” by M.Petipa after J.Coralli and J.Perrot, additional choreography by P.Wright, The Royal Ballet 2018 © H.Maybanks Like many other countries, the politicians of my homeland (Germany) have resorted to totalitarianism in the name of coronavirus-control. The media have zealously supported this endeavor, fueling anxiety day in and day out, successfully brewing up a maelstrom of mass psychosis. It feels out of place to watch ballet – a worrying sign of how much life has changed. But for this very reason: watch! Whether it’s dance, opera, play, or concert, performances are like life preservers of normalcy in a deepening crisis. Take the Royal Ballet’s recent online stream of “Giselle”, for example. The production – available until January 2nd, 2022 – will reassure you that unwavering, solid ground still exists – in culture. (more…)

A Journey Through Time

“Beauty Mixed Programme”
The Royal Ballet
Royal Opera House
London, Great Britain
July 09, 2021 (live stream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. F.Hayward and C.Coralles, “Morgen” by W.McGregor, The Royal Ballet 2021 © A.Uspenski Ninety years ago, Ninette de Valois founded the Vic-Wells Ballet, which would later birth today’s Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet. The Royal Ballet celebrated the anniversary with a mixed bill that linked the past and the present, showcasing works by two pillars of the repertory – the late Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan – and works by resident choreographer Wayne McGregor, artistic associate Christopher Wheeldon, principal dancer-cum-choreographer Valentino Zucchetti, and Arthur Pita. The crown jewel of the program (more…)

Incongruent

“Lyssa”
The Royal Ballet & Nadine Shah
Royal Opera House
London, Great Britain
June 04, 2021 (dance film)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. N.Shah and artists of the the Royal Ballet in “Lyssa” by L.Page, The Royal Ballet 2021 © A.Verzhbinsky In late 2019, the British choreographer Lynne Page created “Death in Venice” for the Royal Opera. “Lyssa”, a twenty-or-so-minute film, features her first-ever choreography for the Royal Ballet. After a year of pandemic-induced artistic drought (and a severe lack of live music), she felt that the time was ripe for arts institutions to tackle new genres in order to reach new audiences. This project, a merger between song and dance, brings together the English singer / songwriter Nadine Shah and seventeen female dancers from the Royal Ballet. Shah sings “Trad” from her 2020 album “Kitchen Sink”, a less-than-four-minute song with very few lyrics, which has been extended to fifteen minutes in a new version featuring the orchestra of the Royal Opera House. (more…)

The Royal Ballet Re-Opens

“21st-Century Choreographers”
(“Within the Golden Hour” / Optional Family: A Divertissement” / “The Statement” / “Solo Echo”)

The Royal Ballet
Royal Opera House
London, Great Britain
May 28, 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. Artists of the Royal Ballet, “Within the Golden Hour” by C.Wheeldon, The Royal Ballet 2021 © B.Cooper Over half a year ago, pandemic-related restrictions forced the Royal Opera House to close its doors. On May 18th, a limited audience was finally welcomed back to see the company live on stage. The program – “21st-Century Choreographers” – consisted of four pieces: “Within the Golden Hour” by Christopher Wheeldon; “Optional Family: A Divertissement” – a new piece by Kyle Abraham; and two pieces by Crystal Pite: “The Statement” and “Solo Echo”. (more…)

The Royal Ballet’s Young Choreographers

“Spring Draft Works”
The Royal Ballet
Royal Opera House
London, Great Britain
May 14, April 2021 (online)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2021 by Ilona Landgraf

1. J.Junker, I.Lubach, F.Serrano, I.Gasparini, K.McNally, and T.Dubreuil, “The Morning Routine” by J.Junker, The Royal Ballet 2021 © A.UspenskiIt’s hard to imagine that the pandemic has had any positive impact on the performing arts – but, as Kevin O’Hare, the Royal Ballet’s ever-optimistic artistic director points out in his introductory comments on this season’s “Spring Draft Works” (an annual project that assembles choreographies created by the company’s dancers) – there’s a silver lining: more free time to unlock hidden choreographic potential and rehearse, and the chance to include live music. Even the renowned lighting designer Natasha Chivers had time to create clever lighting tailored to each piece. (more…)

The Past and the Present

Asphodel Meadows” / “The Two Pigeons”
The Royal Ballet

Royal Opera House
London, Great Britain
January 19, 2019 (12:00 am)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2019 by Ilona Landgraf

1. M.Magri and T.Dyer, “Asphodel Meadows” by L.Scarlett, The Royal Ballet 2019 © ROH / B.CooperKnowing that the Brexit mess might soon become a restrictive reality, I grabbed at the chance to fly to London for some ballet. The Royal Ballet lured me in with a double bill that can’t be seen in continental Europe: “Asphodel Meadows” by Liam Scarlett (the company’s artist-in-residence since 2012) and Frederick Ashton’s “The Two Pigeons”.

I am unfamiliar with Scarlett’s work, and “Asphodel Meadows” seemed an apt introduction. The piece was not only Scarlett’s debut choreography with the main company in 2010, but also his international breakthrough as a choreographer. The meadows named in the title are those of the ancient Greek underworld, covered in white asphodel (an herb). Ordinary souls dwell there in the afterlife – and although they’re not the luxurious Elysian Fields, they are described by the poets as a fertile and flowery paradise of sorts. (more…)