In between we had the premiere of a vignette by the African-American choreographer Kyle Abraham, Optional Family: A Divertissement, and another Crystal Pite work, The Statement, this one a unique and totally hypnotic piece of dance drama.
Within the Golden Hour is known to regular ROH audiences. A prodigy of harmonious, deliquescent movement, costumed by Jasper Conran in diaphanous, shimmering gold, it celebrates the hour before nightfall. Subtly lit by Peter Mumford, three principal couples – on first night newly promoted Anna Rose O’Sulivan and Vadim Muntagirov, Francesca Hayward and Valentino Zuchetti, Yasmine Naghdi and Ryoichi Hirano – supported by four secondary couples, glided through a succession of constantly shifting intricate patterns and moods.
Set to a score by Ezio Bosso and Vivaldi, Within the Golden Hour is by turns vibrant and dreamy, playful and infinitely yearning, its plentiful lifts always soft, arms and legs drawing their own lines while held aloft.
Kyle Abraham is a choreographer of note, and while we await his full Royal Ballet commission scheduled for the autumn season, we were given a 10-minute taster with Optional Family: A Divertissement.
Natalia Osipova, Marcelino Sambé and Stanisław Węgrzyn in Kyle Abraham's Optional Family: A Divertissement © ROH 2021. Photo: Bill Cooper
Before curtain up we hear an exchange of letters between a long-term couple who have come to hate each other. As the curtain rises, the mutual blame, aggression and bitterness of the words finds expression in a frenzied duet between Natalia Osipova as the brittle wife, and Marcelino Sambé, the disdainful husband.
In a whirlwind of movement to a propulsive, jarring, disquieting score they can’t let go of their fight. He moves away, she rushes after him; his hold on her waist for multiple pirouettes is aggression rather than support. Both Osipova, at her best when unleashed, and Sambé, an explosive dancer, throw themselves at the roles with relish.
And when you wonder where this is going, Abraham brings in a new element: corps de ballet dancer Stanisław Węgrzyn slides in on a shaft of light, proving an instant attraction to the warring couple, the stranger who disrupts precarious balances.
Crystal Pite’s The Statement, created in collaboration with playwright Jonathon Young, is an impactful work of political dance theatre performed entirely to spoken text and set around a table in a boardroom, where the aftermath of what’s turned out to be a disastrous decision is being discussed. Who’ll be blamed? How will it be spun?
Ashley Dean and Joseph Sissens in The Statement © ROH 2021. Photo: Bill Cooper
Joseph Sissens, newly promoted to soloist, and Ashley Dean are the middle managers, who will inevitably take the blame, Calvin Richardson is the spin doctor sent by ‘upstairs’ to deal with the crisis escorted by Kirsten McNally.
The dancers’ body language is expressionistic, jagged. Hands clutch heads, bodies flop over the table in despair, each pair reaching out to the other only to recoil as they realise they’ll all take the blame. It’s a tour de force and the Royal dancers do it full justice.
The second Crystal Pite in the programme, Solo Echo, proved a huge disappointment to this reporter. Danced in near-darkness on a stage where incessant snowfall is depict by a wall of flickering points of light, it is set to music by Brahms and inspired by Mark Strand’s poem Lines for Winter’
It appears the black-clad dancers are going through some catastrophe, or heading towards one. It’s unclear and for all the superb dancing I, for one, couldn’t force myself to care.
The programme will be live-streamed on Friday 28 May. Tickets £16.
|What||Review: The Royal Ballet, 21st Century Choreographers|
|Where||Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
18 May 21 – 30 May 21, 19:30. Sun, 30 May at 15:00 Dur.: 2 hours 25 mins inc one interval
|Website||Click here to book|