Royal Ballet Live: Within the Golden Hour review – a tonic for the soul

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Even on a laptop, the Royal Ballet’s latest mixed bill is a joy to behold

When our everyday lives are so confined, there are few more exhilarating pleasures than watching a top-class dancer move through space. The Royal Ballet’s mixed bill Within the Golden Hour is like a tonic for the soul.

Even if you don’t like ballet, I defy you not to utter a little “oomph” of happiness when you see Vadim Muntagirov fly through the air, or Marianela Nuñez smile and spin for ever, in their dazzling Le Corsaire pas de deux. My husband, no dance lover, arrived, stayed and marvelled, watching with me on the laptop.

Marianela Nuñez and Vadim Muntagirov in Le Corsaire from the Royal Ballet’s Within the Golden Hour.
Marianela Nuñez and Vadim Muntagirov in Le Corsaire from the Royal Ballet’s Within the Golden Hour. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Observer

A version of the mixed bill, with a different cast, was performed for an audience at the Royal Opera House as lockdown fell. This particular programme, livestreamed from an empty ROH a week later, is available online until 13 December – incredible value at £10, because it shows a company in refined form and fighting fettle. Other duet highlights include a breezy Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux from Marcelino Sambé and Anna Rose O’Sullivan that oozes joy and technical bravura; an emotional Swan Lake from Francesca Hayward and César Corrales; and an interpretation of Cathy Marston’s In Our Wishes from Romany Pajdak and Calvin Richardson that revealed the emotional turmoil beneath the steps.

The two longer ballets were also triumphs. Valentino Zucchetti’s first main-stage work, Scherzo, in its world premiere performance, was full of smart, contrapuntal movement, supremely responsive to the Rachmaninov score, played beautifully (like the rest of the night’s music) by the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House under Jonathan Lo. Christopher Wheeldon’s Within the Golden Hour is a glowing masterpiece of surprise, its mood shifting with the pulse of Ezio Bosso’s version of Vivaldi as the central couples (flirty Anna Rose O’Sullivan and James Hay; pensive Fumi Kaneko and Reece Clarke; luxuriant Sarah Lamb and Ryoichi Hirano) entwine with the expansive movement of the dancers around them.

Scottish Ballet has also released a new digital offering, The Swan, a short film based around David Dawson’s popular Swan Lake that was due to tour this year. It’s elegant and attractive, all blue light and frantic arms, but oddly constrained. Just now, I want my dance to flow.

Star ratings (out of five)
Within the Golden Hour ★★★★★
The Swan ★★★

  • The Swan is available online until 26 November. Tickets are free and must be booked in advance


Sarah Crompton

The GuardianTramp

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