Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Royal Ballet presents Frederick Ashton's MONOTONES I + II / THE TWO PIGEONS....

Constant Reader, as you are probably fed up of hearing, this is the year of new cultural doings; namely ballet and opera!  Last Thursday we had an extra night out at Covent Garden as a few days before I had an email offering reduced price seats only 5 rows back in the amphitheatre centre-block.  As it was a double-bill of Sir Frederick Ashton's work showcasing contemporary in the first half and more traditional in the second act, I leaped at the chance.  A grand jeté even...

Like our last visit to Covent Garden when we saw MacMillan's ROMEO AND JULIET, here were revivals of productions that have had huge success in the past - indeed the programme listed that MONOTONES are currently on the 69th production since it's 1966 debut of both pieces, while THE TWO PIGEONS outstrips that with it's 102nd production since 1961.  A nice touch is to have the original artists of THE TWO PIGEONS, Christopher Gable and Lynn Seymour, on this revival's poster.

The evening shows to dazzling effect the range of Ashton's choreography: the long, sinuous lines of the abstract MONOTONES, the stripped-down choreography matching the spareness of Erik Satie's 1888 compositions "The Gymnopédies" through to the more traditional 'girl gets boy, girl loses boy, girl gets boy again' of THE TWO PIGEONS.  However the choreography for MONOTONES is not distancing, it's vibrant and hypnotic while THE TWO PIGEONS' story-telling includes moments of characterful humour and vibrant ensemble work.

The initial green-clad trio of MONOTONES I (conversely enough, the second of the two to be premiered) were fine but the brilliantly-white trio of MONOTONES II - Christina Arestis, Ryoichi Hirano, Nehemiah Kish - were wonderfully fluid and seamless.  Ashton's production is here staged by Lyn Wallis and John B. Read's lighting was also noteworthy.

THE TWO PIGEONS revival was staged by Christopher Carr and he did Sir Fredrick proud.  A nice surprise was that our ROMEO AND JULIET, Steven McRae and Iana Salenko, were reunited as the PIGEONS hero and heroine - a temperamental artist and his irreverent, lovelorn model.  They were delightful together and as in ROMEO made a great onstage partnership.

There was also fine work from Fumi Kaneko as the seductive Gypsy Girl while her male counterparts Fernando Montano and Luca Acri were fiery and tempestuous - as they do.  A special shout-out to the corps de ballet in the gypsy encampment who whirled around the stage with thrilling vivacity.  But the real stars of the show were the titular characters - two real live pigeons who flew around the stage and hit their marks (and behaved) like the pros they invariably are.  I presume an argument over who should take the final bow robbed them of their curtain call.

A wonderful double-bill which was all the more delightful for having been a bit of an unexpected visit.  I must admit that our year of new cultural events is being won by the dance productions.

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