The Royal Ballet’s A Diamond Celebration brought something old, something new and a touch of the urban street to the Royal Opera House stage, in a programme made up of nine pieces that showed off practically all of its principals, alongside soloists and ensemble.
There were three glorious highlights: Pam Tanowitz’s Dispatch Duet (pictured top), Christopher Wheeldon’s For Four, and Marianela Nuñez and Reece Clarke as the lead pair in Balanchine’s Diamonds.
Dispatch Duet, a world premiere, excited with New Yorker Tanowitz’s characteristic approach to the classical ballet vocabulary, whose steps she deconstructs to create something recognisable yet entirely new and vibrant.
To a brash, metallic score by Ted Hearne, Anna Rose O’Sullivan and William Bracewell danced with tremendous intelligence, conveying the piece’s questioning of itself, faces expressionless until the final moment when they allowed themselves a knowing smile.
Christopher Wheeldon’s 2006 work For Four had its Royal Ballet premiere at this performance.
Matthew Ball, James Hay, Marcelino Sambé and Vadim Muntagirov in For Four © ROH 2022. Photo: Andrej Uspenski
A flowing, fast-moving and cleverly constructed work set to a Schubert score, it highlights the specificity of each star dancer: Vadim Muntagirov’s classical elegance, the airiness of James Hay, Marcelino Sambé’s fiery speed and attack, and Matthew Ball’s earthy strength. Simply delightful.
Diamonds is the final piece of Balanchine’s triptych Jewels. Set to Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 3, it evokes the grandeur of imperial Russia.
Danced in front of a silver-grey velvet drape under two vast chandeliers, the ensemble was not as perfect as we might have hoped, but the lead pair of Marianela Nuñez and Reece Clarke appeared like two divine beings of immense beauty, their extended pas de deux in the second movement andante truly breathtaking.
Marianela Nuñez and Reece Clarke in Diamonds © ROH 2022. Photo: Andrej Uspenski
The programme opened with Anna Rose O’Sullivan and Alexander Campbell charming in a crowd-warming pas de deux from Ashton’s La Fille Mal Gardée; AkaneTakada and Calvin Richardson were underpowered in the bedroom pas de deux from MacMillan’s Manon; and Rambert director Benoit Swan Pouffer’s Concerto Pour Deux was a blink-and-you-missed-it affair where, to a very French, very 1960s, Saint-Preux piece, Natalia Osipova in turn succumbed to and resisted the ardour of lover Steven McRae.
Company dancer and choreographer Valentino Zuccheti premiered his Prima, a piece for four female principals and four startling dresses.
Left to right: Francesca Hayward, Yasmine Naghdi, Mayara Magri, Fumi Kaneko in Prima © ROH 2022. Photo: Andrej Uspenski
Danced to Saint-Saëns' Third Violin concerto (solo violin Vasko Vassiliev), with extravagant costumes by Roksanda Ilinčić, it was a pleasant enough homage to today’s ballerina nicely performed by Francesca Hayward, Yasmine Naghdi, Mayara Magri and Fumi Kaneko (pictured above), but it suffered a little from the inevitable comparison with Wheeldon’s masterful work.
A pas de deux from Quaglia was vintage Wayne McGregor, relying on super-flexibility and hyper-extensions. Melissa Hamilton is the Royal’s go-to dancer for this kind of thing, and she delivered, ably partnered by Lukas B Braendsrød.
Joseph Toonga is The Royal Ballet’s emerging choreographer. His background is hip-hop, his main interest to mine black urban culture. His piece See Us!! brought the street to the ROH stage.
Francisco Serrano and artists of The Royal Ballet in See Us! © ROH 2022. Photo: Andrej Uspenski
Whether the language of hip-hop sits comfortably on classically trained, if versatile, young dancers is perhaps for another time. For now it’s fair to say that the energy, anger and rebellion Toonga portrays slotted neatly into the current drive for a progressive approach to ballet and dance.
|The Royal Ballet: A Diamond Celebration review
|Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP
|Covent Garden (underground)
16 Nov 22 – 19 Nov 22, 19:30 Dur.: 2 hours 50 mins inc two intervals
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