The triple bill begins on a joyous high with Sir Frederick Ashton’s Les Patineurs, an imaginative rendering of skaters taking to the ice on a frozen lake.
Ashton choreographed his nostalgic evocation of a simple wintry pleasure for The Royal Ballet in 1937, and the delightful divertissement dances remain timelessly enjoyable.
The virtuosity of ballet is used to great effect to depict the brilliance – and occasional tumbles – of assorted skaters including graceful experts, clumsy beginners, romantic couples and confident show-offs. Dancers spin, glide, bounce, jump and leap while dressed in cosy fur-trimmed jackets and ballet shoes decorated to look like boots.
The Royal Ballet, Les Patineurs (c) ROH Bill Cooper 2010
A more serious mood prevails in Kenneth MacMillan’s Winter Dreams, an evocative ballet inspired by Anton Chekhov’s melancholic play, Three Sisters, and danced to music from Tchaikovsky.
MacMillan’s creation, premiered by The Royal Ballet in 1991, is not a narrative portrayal of Chekhov’s whole play. Instead, MacMillan explores the inner lives of the three sisters – Olga, Masha and Irina – who feel suffocated by their stultifying existence in the Russian countryside.
For Winter Dreams MacMillan created one of his most memorable, heart-rending pas de deux for Masha, the unhappily married middle sister and the army colonel for whom she develops a doomed love.
The finale for this wintry mixed programme turns to subtle comedy with Jerome Robbins’ The Concert, a gleeful look into the secret thoughts of the patrons at a concert, created for New York City Ballet in 1956 and first performed by the Royal Ballet in 1975.
While an onstage pianist solemnly plays nine pieces by Chopin, his audience allow their minds to wander and flights of fancy unfold. One highlight in Robbins’ clever choreography is an under-rehearsed group of ballerinas whose waltz is riddled with mistakes.
Whimsical, melancholic and witty, the Les Patineurs / Winter Dreams / The Concert triple bill most definitely has variety and seasonal celebration in mind.
|What||The Royal Ballet: Les Patineurs Triple Bill, ROH|
|Where||Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
18 Dec 18 – 04 Jan 19, 19:30 mat Thur 20 Dec 14:30 Dur.: TBC
|Website||Click to book via the ROH|