Sunday, 16 April 2017

'The Human Seasons'/'After The Rain'/'Flight Pattern' at the Royal Opera House

I love going to triple bill performances at the Royal Opera House because you never really know what you're going to see, which styles might be performed and which stories might be told. Provided you haven't seen them before, of course, and, because I'm new to ballet, the chances are that I haven't. You can also get brand new ballets that haven't been performed before.

A few weeks ago we went to see a triple bill of 'The Human Seasons' by David Dawson, 'After The Rain' by Christopher Wheeldon and 'Flight Pattern' by Crystal Pite, a new ballet created for this bill. I'd seen 'After The Rain' before in another triple bill performance but the other two ballets were new to me.

First up was 'The Human Seasons', supposedly based on a poem by Keats about the ages of man and this was its 11th performance by the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House. It used very interesting projections on the stage that didn't distract from the dancing which was occasionally quite athletic and heroic but it didn't grab me. It was nice enough and it's always lovely to see that stage full of dancers for the ensemble moments but it ultimately left me a bit dry.

Far more engrossing was 'After The Rain' which is precisely that. This was the 13th performance by the Royal Ballet and I'd previously seen the 5th performance in February last year. This is a different kettle of fish altogether with those artists on stage dancing rain falling and puddles on stage and, I swear, I saw leaves swirling in those puddles last time. This time i didn't, I saw a light spring rain as leaves burst out new and fresh. How odd, I thought, a spring rain whereas last time it was an Autumnal rain? And then the sun comes out and the world turns bright and languorous as the sun dries up all the rain and we get the gorgeous pas de deux featuring Zinaida Yanowsky and Reece Clarke.

The final ballet was the new one by Crystal Pite, 'Flight Path' and this was only it's 6th performance by the Royal Ballet. It was also the glory of the evening.

'Flight Path' is a huge ensemble piece with 36 dancers huddled together on the stage with three groups moving in individual unison creating a great swaying movement of people all inexorably moving forward at a snails pace with, every now and then, someone ora group breaking free only to joined the huddled masses again. It was an incredible sight. Dark and gloomy with atmospheric lighting, the drudge kept on and on - how on earth do dancers learn to do something as complex as this?

It's the unrelenting story of our time with refugees heading west and some making it and others lost along the way. I also saw the signs of a Brexit movement towards disaster with some seeing sense and escaping only to be pulled back into the horde. Eventually we see a gap in the scenery and snow falling as the dancers reach their promised land and escape their torure of endless travel except for a lonely couple at the end, as one descends into madness. It's an astonishing piece and I would love to see it again.

How can dance do that to you? How can it tell an invisible story and make you part of it. Humans have been doing this for eons, telling our stories and making us think and that's what the greatest ballets do - they touch you and make you think or make you part of them, part of the story. If you ever get the opportunity to see 'Flight Path' then do it without hesitation. I will.

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