Royal Ballet: Beauty Mixed Programme review – rose petals and a lust for water

Royal Opera House, London
A wild variety of pas de deux fuel this mixed bill, from kitschy Strauss to a duet with a table, plus part of Sleeping Beauty

Much as happens with real-life weddings, thanks to Covid, the guest list at Princess Aurora’s nuptials has shrunk. A bubble of dancers went into self isolation in the run-up to the Royal Ballet’s latest opening, meaning a hasty reorganisation for some of this mixed bill.

Act three of Sleeping Beauty (performed as a standalone finale, making this a long evening), had a reduced cast but it didn’t dent the star billing, ever-perfect Marianela Nuñez and Vadim Muntagirov, nor Meaghan Grace Hinkis’s noteworthy Princess Florine: animated, technical, musical. Meanwhile, the opener, Anemoi, was reworked at the last minute by Valentino Zucchetti. Expanded from his lockdown piece Scherzo, made for the company’s corps de ballet, the new title refers to the wind gods of Greek myth, and there is an almost visible breeze brushing through the deftly written choreography. Zucchetti favours modest, elegant geometry over the hyper-extended shapes of contemporary ballet and there are some lovely moments where your eyes alight on a particular tableau before everything moves off again.

Breezy geometry ... Anemoi by Valentino Zucchetti.
Breezy geometry ... Anemoi by Valentino Zucchetti. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

At the centre of the show is a series of pas de deux, wildly varying in style. On the heritage side, Laura Morera and Ryoichi Hirano don’t put a foot (or hand, or head) wrong in the Winter Dreams pas de deux by Kenneth MacMillan, based on Chekhov’s Three Sisters. It’s such a mature, sensitive performance, grand passion held in great restraint. Then there’s Frederick Ashton’s Voices of Spring, from 1977. From Anna Rose O’Sullivan’s wig of piled-up curls, to the rose petals she scatters as Marcelino Sambé lifts her through the air, to the oom-pah sound of a Strauss waltz, it is a kitsch eight minutes, which Sambé and O’Sullivan sell with all their might.

Of more recent works, Francesca Hayward and Cesar Corrales perform Wayne McGregor’s Morgen, a short, slight piece (with soprano Sarah-Jane Lewis singing Richard Strauss on stage). What’s fascinating is the way the two dancers approach McGregor’s movement: Corrales pulls and pushes McGregor’s shapes into being, whereas Hayward almost just allows it all to happen to her.

A real highlight is Mayara Magri in Mats Ek’s Woman with Water – only created last year for Royal Swedish Ballet. It’s clever, funny, a single simple idea that contains multitudes. Magri duets with a green table, a tall Norwegian (Lukas Bjørneboe Brændsrød) and a glass of water, the last of which is the real object of all her desires, as if a woman had never had her thirst quenched before. Magri, in orange maxi dress, is transformed from classical dancer into a woman of bold, expansive exclamation using the full reach of her body; you want to drink her in.

Lukas Bjørneboe Brændsrød and Mayara Magri in Woman With Water by Mats Ek.
Lukas Bjørneboe Brændsrød and Mayara Magri in Woman With Water by Mats Ek. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

Ditto Beatriz Stix-Brunell, a much-loved American first soloist who is leaving the Royal Ballet next month. She started out dancing with Christopher Wheeldon’s company Morphoses aged 14 and ends with a Wheeldon duet, After the Rain. The daringly slow choreography takes its lead from Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel and it feels as if everything is suspended, the violin’s vibrations, Stix-Brunell’s body in the sky by Reece Clarke, time itself. It’s a great choice of piece to bow out on. Despite the languid speed, the mood is never indulgent but totally present. Stix-Brunell has time to enjoy the way her body moves each molecule of air around her – and so do we.

Contributor

Lyndsey Winship

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Royal Ballet mixed bill review – a winning world premiere from Wayne McGregor
McGregor’s all-male Obsidian Tear, one of his strongest works to date, contrasts with brutal Kenneth MacMillan, plus superbly performed Christopher Wheeldon

Judith Mackrell

29, May, 2016 @1:24 PM

Article image
The Winter's Tale review – 'a ballet to keep'

For Christopher Wheeldon and for British ballet, everything was hanging on his new full-length work. Happily, for the most part it's a ravishing success, writes Luke Jennings.

Luke Jennings

12, Apr, 2014 @11:05 PM

Article image
Les Patineurs / Winter Dreams / The Concert review – festive cheer and tears at the Royal Ballet
A fine take on Chekhov’s melancholy Three Sisters brings bite to this seasonal triple bill, before ice skaters and lovers restore the yuletide glow

Lyndsey Winship

19, Dec, 2018 @2:44 PM

Article image
The Royal Ballet: Back on Stage review – freedom to soar again
After seven months away from the spotlight, the entire company release their pent-up energy in a jubilant and moving three-hour gala of greatest hits

Lyndsey Winship

11, Oct, 2020 @10:59 AM

Article image
Manon review – touching greatness, three times over
the Royal Ballet’s Francesca Hayward, Natalia Osipova and Marianela Nuñez all touch greatness in the coveted role of Kenneth MacMillan’s tragic heroine

Luke Jennings

15, Apr, 2018 @6:59 AM

Article image
Royal Ballet Live: Within the Golden Hour review – sheer, ravishing class from top to pointed toe
Francesca Hayward, Natalia Osipova and Marianela Nuñez are among the many stars in this exquisite mixed bill of classics and more recent work

Lyndsey Winship

15, Nov, 2020 @11:34 AM

Article image
Rhapsody; Tetractys: The Art of Fugue; Gloria – review

Francesca Hayward and James Hay turn in a performance that crosses the years, writes Luke Jennings

Luke Jennings

16, Feb, 2014 @12:05 AM

Article image
Royal Ballet gambles on new talent and competitive spirit to invigorate classics
For its 2017-18 season, the Royal Ballet pays tribute to Kenneth MacMillan and Leonard Bernstein – and brings in Liam Scarlett, Edmund de Waal and a take on a deranged silent movie

Judith Mackrell

05, Apr, 2017 @9:30 AM

Article image
Royal Ballet mixed bill – review

Wayne McGregor's new meditation on classical music's master of mathematics is Bach by numbers , writes Judith Mackrell

Judith Mackrell

10, Feb, 2014 @2:52 PM

Article image
Royal Ballet mixed bill review – a trio of 60s flashbacks
Lauren Cuthbertson and Reece Clarke’s masterclass in clarity is the highlight in a night of Macmillan, Ashton and Petipa

Lyndsey Winship

23, Oct, 2019 @10:38 AM