Afternoon of a Faun, Jerome Robbins 1953
The choreographer of such American classics as West Side Story and Fiddler on the Roof, Jerome Robbins felt little affinity with purely classical subjects. He asked, ‘Why can’t we dance about American subjects?’
In this piece he draws on a classical heritage - Nijinsky’s famous ballet, l’Après midi d’un Faun, to music by Debussy - but radically changes its narrative, the ephemeral encounter between a self-absorbed faun and several nymphs.
Robbins’ Afternoon of a Faun is an 11 minute encounter between two dancers set in a ballet studio. With hair loose and in practice clothes they move through slow, dreamy steps and float through elegant lifts.
But with every pose they look at the audience or study themselves in the studio mirror, artifice and some of the original Faun’s self-obsession seeping into their relationship.
In the Night, Jerome Robbins 1970
Chopin’s Nocturnes provide the score for this multifaceted ballet about the shades of love, danced against a simple starlit backdrop.
Three couples, three visions of love: one, sweet and young, embodies the dreamy simplicity of the early stages of romantic love; the second is formal and refined, representing stylised, and perhaps a little cold, courtly love.
But this ballet stands or falls by the intensity dancers are able to convey in the third pas-de-deux, representing love as a tumultuous battle of passions and yearnings, victories and defeats.
This is one of Robbins’s master-pieces showing a profound knowledge of universal human emotion and going well beyond his stated desire to dance “American subjects.”
Song of the Earth, Kenneth Macmillan 1965
The Royal Ballet refused Macmillan’s first request to choreograph a work on Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, thinking the music inappropriate for dance.
So McMillan accepted the commission from Stuttgart Ballet Director John Cranko, and his Song of the Earth started life in Germany.
Six months after the première in Stuttgart, and the rave reviews that followed, the Royal welcomed it into the repertory.
It’s hard to sum up the ballet better than did Macmillan himself: 'A man and a woman; death takes the man; they both return to her and at the end of the ballet we find that in death there is the promise of renewal.'
The corps dance sharp patterns, interwoven with clear curves and articulate steps from the three principals. Little oriental movements suggest flowing sleeves and picking flowers, referring to the Chinese poems on which Mahler’s music is based.
All is monochrome, the Woman a white, isolated figure amongst the youth danced by the corps, who move blithely unaware of mortality.
Having lost her love to Death, an implacable but gentle figure in a white mask, the Woman’s solos must reconcile her to an inevitable fate.
This is a mixed bill to show off the real breadth of Royal Ballet artistry, and we’re promised some of its best dramatic talent: Marianela Nuñez, Steven McRae, Thiago Soares and Lauren Cuthbertson, Carlos Acosta and Vadim Muntagirov will be among bringing these three exceptional ballets to life.
|What||Royal Ballet Triple Bill: Afternoon of a Faun / In the Night / Song of the Earth|
|Where||Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
29 May 15 – 04 Jun 15, At 12:30 on 30th May
|Website||click here to book via the ROH website|