It’s easy to forget, amidst all the Swan Lakes and Nutcrackers, just how varied the Royal Ballet’s repertoire is and the current Mixed Bill offers a peep into the company’s diversity as they perform three contemporary ballets created by Britain’s foremost choreographers.
Last week, Liam Scarlett was appointed as the Royal Ballet’s first Artist in Residence, which allowed him to focus on creating new works, rather than dancing in them. His work, “Viscera” was originally commissioned by the Miami City Ballet and received its world premiere earlier this year in America and has brought it back to the UK for his home company to perform. Danced to Lowell Libermann’s melodic composition, the dancers were ethereal in their interpretation, albeit the athletic nature of the piece. Bouts of frantic movements juxtaposed the evocative piano that accompanied the dancers, which blended into a hypnotic darkness with a new vocabulary that Scarlett is quickly building. His dancers responded with much confidence, trusting that their choreographer, who has stripped ballet back from its theatrical costumes and show-stopping bravadoes, would challenge and engage them. And he did, with a simplicity that highlighted his love for the purity of movement.
Wayne McGregor’s “Infra” was something of a mystery. Max Richter’s haunting score was a great backdrop for the dancers to explore their relationships with each other, either in pas de deux or as a soloist in relation to the group. McGregor’s work is always so enchanting, challenging both dancers and viewers with a new lexicon of movement. But Julian Opie’s video banner of people walking across the screen was a bit confusing. It looked like a bunch of slow-walking tourists in LED lights and was actually distracting away from the long, lean lines of the dancers and McGergor’s unique aesthetic, which is always beautiful to witness.
The last piece is from the company’s Artistic Associate, Christopher Wheeldon, whose works have been much performed, much applauded, and much loved around the world. He originally created “Fool’s Paradise” for a company that he has since left, but has brought it back for the Royal Ballet this season. Joby Talbot’s music is a great platform for the dancers to execute the ideas, dictated by Wheeldon, whose ideas are always so fluid yet precise. Unlike some of the larger ballets, “Fool’s Paradise” isn’t about a narrative as it is about sculpting interesting shapes with the bodies and allowing dancers to morph into abstracts that don’t conform to anything we’ve ever seen. The result is a striking ballet that captivates and defies convention in an evocative manner that is both exciting and exhilarating.
While ballet is very much about the dancers, this Mixed Bill is all about those who create, and it was such a treat to see three different choreographers in different stages in their creative careers.
“Infra”, “Fools Paradise”, and “Viscera”, until November 14, at the Royal Opera House, tickets from £5 – £37.50