Saturday, 27 February 2016

'After The Rain' and more at the Royal Opera House

Last week I went to see a triple bill of ballets by Christopher Wheeldon, namely 'After The Rain', 'Strapless' and 'Within The Golden Hour'. All were danced by the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. And all were marvellous!

'After The Rain' is an abstract piece with little staging, just the music and the dancers and really subtle lighting. The rain appears with the first dancers and becomes a storm, with the ladies dancing tippy-toe in the puddles, delicate steps, many steps as the rain falls down and wind blows and the leaves swirl in the puddles and then the sun comes out and it's all so languorous and lazy. The final scenes are voluptuous in their laziness, lying in the sun to dry and refresh, gentle, as opposed to the business of the rain storm. And then it's over. The astonishing thing is that I did see a rainstorm, I did see puddles, I did see leaves in puddles, all from the skill of the choreography and the dancing. That is what art is all about.

'Strapless' is a far more narrative piece and a new work from Mr Wheeldon premiering this season. It's about John Singer Sargent and 'Madame X', his great portrait of Amelie Gautreau that saw them both ostracised from fashionable Parisian society in the late 1800s because the strap of her gown had fallen over her shoulder. The narrative takes us from the morning when Amelie wakes up and can't decide what dress to wear, to Sargent's studio where he is busy painting the handsome Dr Pozzi in his long scarlet dressing gown and, seemingly, flirting as lovers, to Amelie seducing (or being seduced by) Dr Pozzi on stage when Sargent leaves them alone. Then the painting is displayed to universal dismay and disdain and the end of her stint as a socialite. She travels forward 100 years and we see her in her underwear in a gallery with crowds of modern day people admiring the elegance and beauty of her portrait but no-one can see her, just the image remains.

I loved this and I loved the extended seduction scene when Amelie and Dr Pozzi danced and gyrated and made love and consummated their union as lovers do. It was very powerful but it left poor Mr Sargent out in the cold somewhat.

The final ballet was 'Within The Golden Hour', another abstract ballet with repetitive movements going  on and on and building and building never ending as the pairs of dancers moved together. It was constant and rhythmic and ever so mesmerising as the movement never stopped or significantly slowed, it just kept moving forward, even as the curtain fell there was no lessening of the movement. And it was nice to see Steven McRae again who I saw a couple of times last year and who was Romeo in the ballet that made me fall in love with the classics.

There is a magic about ballet - good ballet - that speaks a tongue I can't translate but it is marvellous. And the Royal Ballet speak it excellently! Go and see them if you can.

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