18 June 2014, Wednesday
Danse Г Bonne Vitesse
In the UK-Russia year of culture, when the best productions of the best British theatres are transmitted on TV and performed at Russian theatres, the Bolshoi Theatre absolutely had to receive its long-time partner - the Royal Ballet Company. Over the last ten years the Bolshoi Ballet performed at the Royal Opera House four times; however, the Royal Ballet Company has not performed at the Bolshoi ever since it presented its guest performances there in 2003.
The program of one-act ballets (June 17th and 18th) and a full-length ballet "Manon" (June 20th and 21st, 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.; June 22nd ) will be presented at the Bolshoi Theatre Historic Stage.
According to the Royal Ballet Director Kevin O'Hare, the choice of productions for the program of this tour was influenced by our desire to demonstrate the wide range of the company's repertoire and varied casts: "The program includes three one-act ballets - "Tetractys", the most recent production by Wayne McGregor, "Rhapsody", a wonderful romantic ballet by Frederick Ashton (which was originally created for Mikhail Baryshnikov and Lesley Collier) and "DGV (Danse Г Grande Vitesse)", an amazing and powerful ballet, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon. We will also present "Manon" by Kenneth MacMillan - a ballet that provides a great opportunity to demonstrate the dramatic skills of the whole company; besides, this ballet has never been performed at the Bolshoi Theatre before".
The program of one-act ballets opens with "RHAPSODY" (1980). This ballet was created by Sir Frederick Ashton, the choreographer that was one of the founders of the English ballet, contributed to the development of its signature style and determined its further evolution for many years to come.
"Ashton composes choreography like Haydn composed music: he takes a motive, enriches it, plays with it, changes its dynamics, works it up against some contrast, turns it inside out, enlarges it and transforms it".
Alastair Macaulay, The New York Times, 2004
"Rhapsody" is one of the choreographer's last works. Ashton choreographed this ballet at a great age, ten years after he had deserted his post of the Royal Ballet Director. However, audiences are still amazed with the freshness of this piece.
The ballet was staged for a Soviet Union legendary "escapee" Mikhail Baryshnikov. The dancer wanted to get a chance to work with the British style of choreography (by that time he had already had a chance to perform with the Royal Ballet); Ashton wanted to use his phenomenal abilities to the maximum. "The choreography is famously full of fireworks, with multiple spins piled on spring-back jumps, and turns so speedy it looks as if the dancers are moving in two directions at once." (Sarah Frater, London Evening Standard, 2011).
This famous ballet has a truly royal history. Sir Ashton participated in various entertaining events, organized by the Royal Household; as the years went by, he became friends with Her Majesty the Queen Mother Elizabeth II. At some point Her Majesty decided that a new ballet, choreographed by Ashton, would have been a great contribution to celebratory events marking her 80th birthday. Her younger daughter, Princess Margaret, got this message across to the choreographer. This was the starting point for "Rhapsody" that premiered at the Royal Opera House on April 4th 1980. It was the Queen Mother's birthday and she herself was present at the premiere.
This story itself became a plot for a new piece - the same-name play by Christopher William Hill. It was first transmitted on Radio 4 BBC last July. The cast includes the Queen Mother, Sir Frederick Ashton, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Lesley Collier, who was the first to perform the main female part (this ballerina was famous for her immaculate style and accuracy).
Over the almost 35 years of its existence the ballet has been revived several times; the set and the costumes have been changed twice. It was last revived in 2014; the set and costumes that are currently used were designed in 2005.
"In Rhapsody, the wit and relaxed know-how of Ashton enabled him, quite simply, to make a story out of style. The male lead was created for Mikhail Baryshnikov, whose blistering Russianness blasted through the lines of charming, seemly English dancers dressed in the colours of a Turner seascape. Steven McRae, not Russian but a fabulous technician (as he surely needs to be here), radiates confidence and charisma in the role. So too does his partner Laura Morera, with her very Ashtonian air of ironic amusement at her own audacious footwork. Rhapsody should be seen more often, but it would be impossible to better this casting".
Laura Thompson, The Daily Telegraph, 2014
The second one-act ballet is "TETRACTYS". The Moscow audience is one of the first to see this piece: the world premiere took place in London only four months ago.
The Royal Ballet Resident Choreographer Wayne McGregor (the generation of 40-year olds) is one of the most popular modern choreographers; his awards list is long enough for him to be recognized as a real classic. In his new ballet "Tetractys - The Art of Fugue" (premiered on February 7th 2014) the choreographer continues his research of the dancing body "technique" as he tests the "reliability" of its coordination, stretch, ability to intertwine and untwine, etc.
As usual, the set is ultra modern (it was designed by the young but prominent Tauba Auerbach, who paints non-figurative pictures, creates math symbols, researches phonetics and does tons of other things). His other "co-author" is J.S. Bach; "Tetractys" was choreographed to his "Art of Fugue". The title of the ballet already has the sacred Pythagorean number "four", which plays an important role in Bach's music as well.
Auerbach matched Bach's harmony with the geometry of her neon installations that she called counterpoints and canons. McGregor matched the fractures of her multicolored lines and constructions with the broken lines of the twelve dancers' bodies. The production stars the company's leading soloists including Natalia Osipova, a ballerina that originally comes from the Bolshoi; her extraordinary technique in "Tetractys" is particularly spectacular.
The program of one-act ballets closes with "DANSE A GRANDE VITESSE" (2006). It was choreographed by the Royal Ballet Artistic Associate Christopher Wheeldon, who is as popular and as loaded with honors as his colleague W. McGregor, who is also almost the same age as Wheeldon. "DGV: Danse Г grande vitesse" was received by critics very well and was nominated for a prestigious British theatre award - the Laurence Olivier Award.
"He takes Michael Nyman's score, written to celebrate the inauguration of the French high-speed train, the TGV, as the basis for his meditation on travel and movement.
Performed in front of Jean-Marc Puissant's metallic shapes, which look at different times like mountains, the fences at Sangatte, and a crashed aircraft, this is a triumphantly ambitious work for four leading couples and a corps de ballet who provide a kind of commentary, becoming at various moments whirring cogs and wheels, waving passengers, semaphoring pilots.
Despite the repetitive music, Wheeldon shapes duets that are
1 Teatralnaya ploschad (1 Theatre Square), Moscow, Russia
Bol'shaya Dmitrovka Street, 4/2, Moscow, Russia