First came the slow movement from Christopher Wheeldon’s Within the Golden Hour – and what a misguided choice that was! Last seen at Covent Garden just over a year ago, Wheeldon’s one act work combines choreography, lighting and costumes to absolute perfection.
Its theme is gold: in normal performance Jasper Conran’s diaphanous, gold-speckled costumes shimmer with every movement; and the whole thing is bathed in Peter Mumford’s magisterial lighting, which relies on vibrant colours – blue, orange – as well as light and shade, to bring alive an otherwise naked stage.
So why would you choose to present an extract from a work that celebrates light on a stage plunged in Stygian gloom, a darkness so intense it was a times difficult to discern the dancers’ features?
And with the dancers dressed in greyish practice costumes?
Having said all that, the dancers – real life partners Mayara Magri, a first soloist, and principal Mathew Ball – gave a committed and engaging performance of Wheeldon’s creamy choreography with its slow unfolding of limbs, and lifts like suspended breaths.
Magri is Brazilian and so far we’ve mostly seen her extrovert side, for example, as a sassy and exuberant Coppélia; but she blended well with Matthew Ball’s more Romantic style in a slow pas de deux of shifting balances, where the partners never let go of each other, to the plangent strains of Ezzio Boso’s music.
The highlight of this programme, though, came close to the end, when Royal Ballet first soloists Fumi Kaneko and Reece Clarke slowly walked onto the stage to dance Concerto, the andante movement from Shostakovich’s ‘Piano Concerto No 2 in F major, Op 102’, choreographed by Sir Kenneth MacMillan.
Reece Clarke and Fumi Kaneko in Sit Kenneth MacMillan's Concerto. Photo: Ruairi Watson, ROH 2020
Suddenly time stood still.
MacMillan drew his inspiration for the Concerto’s slow movement from watching his muse, Lynn Seymour, working at the barre. The extended pas de deux is thus based on class work, with the ballerina relying on the male dancer for support much as she would the barre.
It is impossible to overstate the sheer beauty Clarke and Kaneko brought to the stage and how harmoniously they complemented each other: Clarke tall, elegant and a safe, attentive partner; Kaneko petite, self-assured, the precision of her every movement – a slow bend forward of her torso, a silky développé – a wonder to behold.
There was no overt emoting; rather, a concentrated intensity that transcended distance and medium to nestle in our souls.
Clarke and Kaneko’s was a very special performance, that will stay in mind and heart for a long time to come. For all the quality and engagement on display in the opera section of the programme, I’d be tempted to say this was THE highlight of the evening… but maybe, as a dance reporter, I am biased.
You can rent this programme here
|What||ROH Live #3 Dance Review|
|Where||Online | MAP|
27 Jun 20 – 11 Jul 20, Available to rent until 11 July Dur.: 1hour 45 mins approx