ROHMacMillan 3

Kenneth MacMillan – A National Celebration
Royal Opera House
Friday, 27th October 2017

 

Gloria – The Judas Tree – Elite Syncopations – 10/27/2017

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Yasmine Naghdi and Ryoichi Hirano in Elite Syncopations
GLORIA: Northern Ballet
THE JUDAS TREE: Royal Ballet
ELITE SYNCOPATIONS: Royal Ballet

 

My last MacMillan bound before flying back to Italy for some (not so well deserved) holidays (after just a month of college, I know, but I cannot wait any longer) saw the Northern Ballet and the Royal Ballet joining forces honoring the choreographer’s legacy in Gloria (performed entirely by NB), the Judas Tree (again by Royal’s Lauren Cuthbertson, Thiago Soares and Edward Watson) and Elite Syncopations (with Yasmine Naghdi and Ryoichi Hirano in the leading roles, along with dancers from BRB, Northern Ballet and Scottish Ballet).
My day off started with a good ballet class at the Pineapples Studios, the coolest lunch at 26Grains in a sunny Neal’s Yard (go try them out if you haven’t already, because they have the most amazing treats ever in their menu and their location is pretty awesome as well), I stopped at ROH ticket office to book a performance of Giselle for next March (cannot wait to see Natalia Osipova and David Hallberg dancing together) and eventually I discovered that finally Dr Nathan Riggs was cut off from Grey’s Anatomy (thank you Shonda Rhimes, thank you so very much!). No seriously, now give me back Derek Shepherd.
Anyway, ROH was the perfect way to end the day with the latest mixed program – I’m almost crying thinking I won’t be back there till mid November.

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Javier Torres, Antoinette Brooks-Daw and Riku Ito in Gloria.

MacMillan’s Gloria (1980, on Gloria in G major by Francis Poulenc) started with a haunting, continuous lament recalling the generation lost in World War I and futility of war. Inspired by Brittain’s Testament of Youth, it evokes wartime experiences and griefs, themes still strong nowadays and stressed by Andy Klunder’s no-man’s-land set. The whole choreography itself shows the anguish and violence of conflict (the dancers are actually face-covered in grief and a lot of the figures depict bomb blasts and tortures), but shows some lighter moments as well (see the pas de quatre, much less heavy than the rest of the ballet).
Northern Ballet’s performance of it was terrific, especially Riku Ito, excellently committed in the role, and the pas de trois and pas de quatre were really good.

Moving to an even more appalling and shattering work, my second time watching the Judas Tree this week got me shaken as the first one: Lauren was amazing as per usual, providing powerful climax and huge tensions along with Thiago, just so great in the role of the Foreman, and Ed, wondrous as the Friend. Good performance by Reece Clarke as well, but this MacMillan’s work is definitely not in my chords (please Kevin, bring back Romeo and Juliet).

 

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Edward Watson in the Judas Tree

Described by MacMillan himself as ‘Something short and light and funny’, witty Elite Syncopations saw a dozen dancers through 12 jazzy rags and an onstage band, truly the perfect way to wrap the show after two of his darkest works – it was good to lift the spirits to end the evening, as on Tuesday, on the contrary, I felt a bit too shattered after psychological sump of the Judas Tree-Song of the Earth combo, both very dark and gripping. It must have been though for the male corps as well to shift from the Judas Tree to Elite in barely 30 minutes.
The public was amazed by a sparkling and high-spirited Yasmine, taking the stage dulling out her natural sparkle and sassy sophistication in such a show-stopping performance! She really dazzled, possibly even more than during last week’s debut, and it was quite clear she was having fun on stage as well (one of the main thing I noticed during these MacMillan’s bills is that guest companies’ artists were not completely at ease on ROH magnificent stage, perhaps intimidated by all the grandeur and glory this Opera House shines of, and by the size of the stage).

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Yasmine Naghdi in Elite Syncopations

 

I know I am supposed to write about the show, but then at the stage door I nearly died: Dame Maggie Smith (yeah, THAT Maggie Smith herself) came out along with Edward Watson and smiled at us poor peasants while he was signing our programmes. I mean… Maggie Smith! I was in awe, as every Potterhead would have been! By the way, I’m glad we’re just a bunch of people waiting at the stage door this year: we used to be a proper crowd in the past, and sometimes the staff asked us to wait outside (not so good in winter nights you know). This gives us balletomanes the possibility to chat way longer, between us and with dancers as well (they’re all so lovely). Just hoping next time it will be the same!

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Programme signed by: Lauren Cuthbertson, Edward Watson, Yasmine Naghdi, Ryoichi Hirano, Laura Morera and Yuhui Choe

 

Annunci

ROHMacMillan 2

Kenneth MacMillan – A National Celebration
Royal Opera House
Tuesday, 24th October 2017

The Judas Tree – Song of the Earth – 10/24/2017 

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Lauren Cuthbertson, Edward Watson and Thiago Soares in the Judas Tree
THE JUDAS TREE: Royal Ballet
SONG OF THE EARTH: English National Ballet

And after a dreamy cinema relay, the House is brought from Wheeldon’s Wonderland into MacMillan’s darkest production for the second programme of Kenneth MacMillan: a National Celebration. The Royal Ballet and English National Ballet jointed forces bringing two of the choreographer’s most complex works – Royals took on the Judas Tree, whilst ENB dancers performed in Song of the Earth.

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Edward Watson as the Friend
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Thiago Soares as the Foreman

I had never seen the Judas Tree before, and I was left shaken by this deeply troubling piece: MacMillan’s latest and most controversial ballet on guilt and betrayal in a compromised time saw the most powerful performances ever by Lauren (God, barely 24 hours later dancing Alice, is she really human?), Thiago Soares, Edward Watson and Reece Clarke, showing off their undisputed artistry through appalling violence on a building site in London’s East End.

Even MacMillan, talking about his final work, admitted the final result to be ‘frightening’, and Jock McFayden’s 1990s Canary Wharf building site’s stage set is sinister as well as Brian Elias’ score (1992). The themes of sexual violence, collective guilt, violence of the mob and rule of fear are strongly emphasized throughout the gripping choreography, starting with workmen carrying Lauren covered with a white sheet. She was amazingly partnered by a possessive and violent Foreman (Thiago, the “Judas” figure) and a much gentler Friend (Ed, seen as a sort of “Jesus”) in such a febrile atmosphere, and they really gave us a superb yet emotionally eviscerating performance: Lauren amazed the public in this hell of a role with her dramatic interpretation and with Thiago, Edward and Reece perfectly portrayed MacMillan’s psychological drama as well as humanity’s darkest side.

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Lauren and Ed as the Woman and the Friend

 

The second work, Song of the Earth (1965), is set in six movements on Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, and MacMillan himself summarized his ballet of love, loss and renewal saying: ’A man and a woman; death takes the man; they both return to her and at the end of the ballet, we find that in death there is the promise of renewal.’

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Jeffrey Cirio in Song of the Earth

It was superbly performed by English National Ballet, with earthbound, non-classical movements stressing beauty and power in sculptural poses and melancholic combinations.

Erina Takahashi danced beautifully, and Isaac Hernandez was impressing with his powerful moves as well as Jeffrey Cirio. Great Senri Kou, Aitor Arrieta and Tiffany Hedman as supporting dancers too.

It was amazing to see these two works (MacMillan’s final one opposite to one of his earliest ones), created almost 30 years apart and performed together in a combination of ambition and complexity – this celebration is really showing off his wide range of choreographic skills.

Now waiting for the last bill of Friday!

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Programme signed by Lauren Cuthbertson

 

ROHAlice 3

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Royal Opera House
Monday, 23rd October 2017

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – 10/23/2017 

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Down the rabbit hole we go!
Alice: Lauren Cuthbertson
Jack / Knave of Hearts: Federico Bonelli
White Rabbit: James Hay
Mad Hatter: Steven McRae
Mother / Queen of Hearts: Laura Morera
Father / King of Hearts: Christopher Saunders
Alice’s sisters: Beatriz Stix-Brunell, Meaghan Grace Hinkis
Caterpillar: Fernando Montano
The Duchess: Gary Avis

 

First of all, Italy, I hope you were watching, ‘cause that was Federico being amazing, completely erasing Bolle from your narrow minded brains.

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Federico Bonelli as Jack

It’s beyond sad most italians don’t know who their brightest talents are: I mean guys, stop citing Carla Fracci, she’s about 80 or more and yeah, perhaps she was good for her times, but come on! Look at Valentino Zucchetti, Alessandra Ferri, Mara Galeazzi and Federico Bonelli: just because they don’t make sold out shows about “xxx and Friends” (any resemblance to persons here present is entirely accidental) it doesn’t mean it’s ok to get blank looks every time I say their names! After all, that’s exactly the mirror of our society: who’s only promoting himself gets fame, whilst who’s focusing on real art is under-appreciated and completely forgotten.

But coming to this amazing round of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, this trip down the rabbit hole streamed live all over the world felt even more magical than the previous ones: the excitement of a cinema relay is real, and it’s so amazing that performances like this one are made so accessible by streaming it to cinemas! It’s been so whimsical and wondrous I’m actually feeling sorry for those who did not get to see it.

I even made a cinema cameo (with my mum and friends in Italy we were all like “go to your right, stand still, pic please!”).

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Wonderland looking wonderfully real

I love seeing productions more than once: in this way you really have the chance to get everything from the ballet, starting with the choreography itself and going on with the smallest details of costumes, interactions between the corps, score’s scales and other features (such as the funny nod to Apollo’s pas de quatre in the Mad Hatter scene).

The whole show was amazing, from Lauren’s sassy tantrums (seriously those were life!), to Steven’s merry unbirthday vibes and the whole cast performing at its best: Royal was out in full force and I guess Kevin must have been bursting with pride seeing the company shining so brightly.

Admit it, didn’t you uncontrollably smile when the flower petals started dropping from the ceiling? Those costumes swooned as per usual, and all I was thinking after the Caterpillar piece, was that all I need for Christmas is sparkly pointe shoes, but then no, that’s not true, I want tons tons and tons of things for Christmas.

 

Can we take a moment for Steven and his tea party? It’s been nothing but tremendous, and a proper joy to watch! Yeah, I’ll never stop being amazed by Steven, he’s some sort of dancing god among humans to give us all masterclass of whatever he’s doing, being it tap or ballet.

And Lauren! Aww, she’s such an ethereal being, dancing so fluidly and elegantly in her created role!

Talking about Federico, he’s been able to give Jack’s role a further layer the character doesn’t actually have -it’s about time he gets his super deserved standing ovation all over the globe!
Special mention to James Hay’s White Rabbit as well: he was so in the character, providing such a stunning acting!

 

That cast! That choreography! Those costumes! That score!! It was all kinds of fabulous, showing the world a Royal gem by an utterly incredible company with an astounding night of wonderful wonderlands through ethereal elegance and acting. Definitely a 100% worth going to see (such a shame they are closing the production later this week). Through Wheeldon’s Alice, Lewis Carroll lives on: that’s without doubt a captivating translation of his novel, perfectly recalling Wonderland’s whimsical vibes with melodies, sets and such magically imaginative combinations.

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Programme signed by: Lauren Cuthbertson, Federico Bonelli, Steven McRae and Gary Avis

ROHMacMillan 1

Kenneth MacMillan – A National Celebration
Royal Opera House
Wednesday, 18th October 2017

Concerto – Le Baiser de la Fée – Elite Syncopations – 10/18/2017 

 

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Yasmine Naghdi and Ryoichi Hirano in Elite Syncopations
CONCERTO: Birmingham Royal Ballet
LE BAISER DE LA FÉE: Scottish Ballet
ELITE SYNCOPATIONS: Royal Ballet

Being the Royal Ballet Kenneth MacMillan’s home company for the main part of his career, the company’s choice to host the national celebrations for the 25th anniversary of the choreographer’s death (actually right at the Royal Opera House) was no surprise.

MacMillan has had a huge impact on Royal’s greatest productions, such as his unforgettable Romeo and Juliet, his heart aching Mayerling and others like Manon, Anastasia and shorter ballets. Personally, MacMillan is a favourite of mines, and I’m happy to see all the programs honoring his genius this season at ROH.

The opening night scheduled three of his one act works such as Concerto (performed by Birmingham Royal Ballet), Le Baiser de la Fée (Scottish Ballet) and Elite Syncopations (Royal Ballet and other company’s artists), and even though I thoroughly enjoyed the program, I definitely not moving to Birmingham or Edinburgh either.

 

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Momoko Hirata and Tzu-Chao Chou in Concerto

Concerto (1966) is a great piece by MacMillan, combining his abstract choreography to Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto no 2: it’s a beautiful and rigorous work composed of different movements, and in the first one Momoko Hirata was lovely and finely partnered by Tzu-Chao Chou, whilst in the second one Jenna Roberts and Tyrone Singleton were outstanding with their slow linear pas de deux. In the third one the solo went to Delia Mathews: she showed a great technique and I liked the perfect combinations of the corps throughout the entire ballet. It’s been a really fine opening by BRB, but with me being the ultimate RB fan, I found like something was missing on stage.

 

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Scottish Ballet’s artists in Le Baiser de la Fée

 

Then, Le Baiser de la Fée, which I actually didn’t really like. Coming on stage as a revival of MacMillan’s 1960 production of Baiser, I did not find the choreography interesting nor the plot (based on Hans Christian Andersen’s libretto): a fairy imprints her magic kiss on an infant boy. Twenty years later, when the boy is about to be married, she reclaims him with another kiss and his bride is left abandoned.

Andrew Peasgood, as the young man, danced good alongside Bethany Kingsley-Garner as his fiancee, Mia Thompson as the gipsy girl and Constance Devernay as the Fairy. Actually, I did not like Devernay’s fairy very much, as I suddenly thought she lacked charm and personality.

 

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Mia Thompson as the Gipsy Girl in Le Baiser de la Fée

And finally, here comes the Royals! I have to say that Sarah Lamb’s injury is giving young   dancers tons of possibilities to debut in new and demanding roles, such as Akane Takada replacing her as Mary Vetsera last spring in Mayerling and as Titania in the Dream, Anna Rose O’Sullivan dancing as a beautifully enchanting Alice at the beginning of this season, and now Yasmine Naghdi wowing in Elite Syncopations.

With the funny cartoonish and bright-colored unitards and witty choreography, Elite (1974) comes as a great feast on ROH stage, so uniquely performed in high style by the Royal, with guest cameos from other companies.

 

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Yasmine Naghdi and Ryoichi Hirano in Elite Syncopations

Yasmine shone with a great technique and brilliant musicality in Stop Time Rag, showing off an amazing and charming charisma that, I’m sure, will lead her to be one of the greatest pillars of Royal Ballet in the next years: she really deserves to be the next greatest ballet star and I’m very happy with her promotion to Principal. With Ryoichi Hirano’s mischievous partnering, they made a great central couple. I enjoyed the three girls’ The Cascades as well, with Yuhui Choe delightfully stealing the show, and the four boys’ Hot-House Rag with a great debut by Valentino Zucchetti.

 

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Precious Adams in Elite Syncopations

Impressive Northern Ballet’s Riku Ito in Friday Night, but the best surprise was English National Ballet’s Precious Adams dancing the jazzy Calliope Rag with an entertaining smile and great musicality skills.

I have to admit I was not sure the collaboration between all UK’s major ballet companies would have work but so far it’s genial and the first triple bill of the celebration was electric and thoroughly enjoyable, filled with great atmosphere and a great tribute to MacMillan.

Can’t wait for the Judas Tree and Song of the Earth next Tuesday and Gloria, Elite and the Judas Tree again on Friday!

 

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Programme signed by Yasmine Naghdi, Itziar Mendizabal and Precious Adams

 

ROHAlice 2

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Royal Opera House
Saturday, 14th October 2017

 

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – 10/14/2017

 

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Anna Rose O’Sullivan and Steven McRae rehearsing Alice and the Knave of Hearts pas de deux

 

Alice: Anna Rose O’Sullivan
Jack / Knave of Hearts: Steven McRae
White Rabbit: Alexander Campbell
Mad Hatter: Joseph Sissens
Mother / Queen of Hearts: Laura Morera
Father / King of Hearts: Christopher Saunders
Alice’s sisters: Elizabeth Harrod, Romany Pajdak
Caterpillar: Nicol Edmonds
The Duchess: Gary Avis

 

When I saw ROH’s post on Facebook announcing that Anna Rose O’Sullivan would have replaced Sarah Lamb as Alice, I almost jumped for joy (even if I had already scheduled drawings of Sarah and Steven to be posted, but I was happy to work on new ones).
I infinitely love matinées, and the weekend couldn’t start better than with a Wonderland bound with Anna Rose as Alice and Steven McRae as Jack/Knave of Hearts in Christopher Wheeldon’s magical production.
It was my second time seeing it, and I was eagerly waiting to see a new cast in it, especially Anna Rose, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing a different cast in this wonderful ballet.
Anna Rose was absolutely delightful, perfect in all her sassiness and brilliant interpretative skills scampering neatly around the weirdness around her: Alice’s role may have been created for Lauren Cuthbertson, but Anna Rose owned it with such a funny charisma, strong technique and shining smiles she left the whole ROH spellbound.

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Anna Rose O’Sullivan and Steven McRae as Alice and the Knave of Hearts

Alongside her, Steven McRae was great (he’s actually amazing everything he does). Even though Jack’s role has no such depth of character, he was perfect in all his impressive technique and lyrical skills.
The whole production was impressive as always (special mention to the ever hilarious Duchess by Gary Avis), and I enjoyed Joseph Sissens’ Mad Hatter! It’s really good to see how Kevin is giving young artists such great opportunities to be center stage in such important roles.

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Anna Rose O’Sullivan rehearsing Alice

I really liked Alexander Campbell’s White Rabbit, maybe even more than Hay’s, and Edmond’s Caterpillar.
I’m not spending further words about the Queen of Hearts: as I said in my previous review, I don’t like Morera’s dancing.
Finally, it was wonderful to meet Anna Rose, Steven and Elizabeth at the stage door, the’ve been so nice and their kind words really mean a lot to me. Glad they enjoyed the drawings as well!

 

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Anna Rose O’Sullivan and Steven McRae’s curtain call

 

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Programme signed by: Anna Rose O’Sullivan, Steven and Elizabeth McRae and Alexander Campbell

ROHAlice 1

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Royal Opera House
Monday, 9th October 2017

 

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – 10/09/2017

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Lauren Cuthbertson off to Wonderland
Alice: Lauren Cuthbertson
Jack / Knave of Hearts: Federico Bonelli
White Rabbit: James Hay
Mad Hatter: Steven McRae
Mother / Queen of Hearts: Laura Morera
Father / King of Hearts: Christopher Saunders
Alice’s sisters: Beatriz Stix-Brunell, Meaghan Grace Hinkis
Caterpillar: Fernando Montano
The Duchess: Gary Avis

 

I was so looking forward to being back at ROH after summer break and a hard first week at university, and I have to say nothing will ever reach the same level of the wonderful thrilling buzz you get whilst entering the House for the first program of the season!
It’s been my first Monday off of my entire school-career: it started with a good ballet class at the Pineapple Studios in Covent Garden and it ended with a fantastic night at the theatre, as I absolutely loved the performance: I had seen Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland several times thanks to the DVD, but seeing it live is a completely different experience.
It was a test filming performance (in order to set everything for October 23rd’s cinema relay, for which I cannot wait already) and I so hoped to see Zenaida performing the Queen of Hearts that I was quite disappointed seeing Laura Morera’s name on the programme, as she’s suffering of a knee injury.

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Lauren Cuthvbertson nailing those Alice vibes

Anyway, the cast was great: Lauren Cuthbertson, who actually created the title role, danced so elegantly and she really gave a great interpretation of Alice, with her lyrical talent and fluid moves. I loved how much she was into the character as she went down the rabbit hole entering Wonderland and encountering countless strange creatures (a big well done to the artists playing Wonderland’s characters as well), mixing curiosity and confusion as she continued to bump into the charming Jack/Knave of Hearts (Federico Bonelli), on the run for stealing tarts from the Queen of Hearts (actually Alice’s mother played by Morera).

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Federico Bonelli as the Knave of Hearts

Set up as a vivid journey through Wonderland, this production is a sophisticated explosion of magic, with all its colours, stage effects and gorgeous choreography – a true Royal gem. The score as well (by Talbot) is a masterpiece in its own right, combining modern and classic lines, perfectly matching with Wheeldon witty ballet.
All the characters are so well portrayed that Wonderful seems actually real: the hilarious Duchess by Gary Avis has been such a treat, and what a great performance given by the amazing Steven McRae – he was so good tap dancing like a boss!! Good White Rabbit by James Hay and Caterpillar by Fernando Montano as well, even though I preferred Eric Underwood’s version in the former production.
Steven McRae as the Mad Hatter

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Steven McRae as the Mad Hatter

Coming to the Queen of Hearts, as I previously said I am not a fan of Morera’s, I’m really not into her, even if she gave a good performance with her fun send-up of The Sleeping Beauty’s famous Rose Adage. I feel like it’s been too grotesque even for such a strung evil role like the Red Queen’s.
I really liked the playing card corps de ballet, and the three gardeners as well – the whole Royal Ballet was at its best, bringing a deliciously enchanting production to the stage. I would say it’s such an amazing show I’d go seeing it several times, but I actually am so… don’t miss the cinema relay on the 23rd!

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Programme signed by: Steven McRae, Gary Avis and Laura Morera

 

WORLD BALLET DAY 2017

World Ballet Day 2017
Tuesday, 5th October 2017

Why every day should be World Ballet Day

Is World Ballet Day still a thing if you’re celebrating it every single day of your life?
Well, yeah of course, why losing the opportunity to sound like a (almost) normal person and not a ballet nerd!
With pretty much everyone on Instagram celebrating National Boyfriend Day, this might be a minor impact holiday for Pedestrians.
Pedestrians are, in my humble opinion, the plague of this world. I mean, we don’t really have to be balletomanes, but come on, after years and years I’ve gone mad answering to these ‘so you can stand on your toes’, ‘dance is a sport’, ‘doesn’t the bun hurt?’ and similar  ones.

Today is the day we celebrate a something which, if everyone on this planet had taken on as a child, the world would be a better place to live in. I’m not talking about nicer lines or postures (by the way someone should actually consider that), but by being introduced to ballet, you’re approaching art. Art of beauty most of all: everything about ballet is marvelous.

It takes sweat and blood, but I don’t think you’ll ever get to know a dancer saying this is not worth the pain. When you watch at ballet, you see amazing lines, as the artists are giving their best to convey the public that beauty, and by doing that, they are pushing boundaries: everyone is able to stay in their comfort zone, but ballet does not know one, even though the dancers make look everything easy (have you ever seen Marianela smiling whilst dancing the Sugar Plum Fairy? That’s crazy!). Then, it’s a truth universally acknowledged ballet children grow up smarter than other ones, as they have to think about a lot of things at once: choreography, technique, emotions. But the main reason why everyone should take ballet is that a ballet education (whether it’s professional or at amateur level) gives you discipline.

 

Ballet does not wait for you – you must achieve something: a combination of steps, a pirouette, a particularly hell-like adagio. Ballet dancers cry, but they don’t quit. Ballet dancers grow up with a different way of thinking than Pedestrians, maybe more strict and auto-critical, but not in a negative way: they’re keen on responsibilities, something this world really needs by now. Let’s keep in mind that discipline is not a dirty word, and ballet provide us both discipline and dedication.

 

 

When I was eight I did not want to go to ballet, I wanted to play soccer. Luckily I didn’t, but at the beginning I looked up to dance just because of my friends, then it started being a sort inner necessity: you know that ‘wait does number 9 really exist?’ kind of feeling (during a math class I actually went back from 8 to 1)… well, I’ve never took it at a professional level, but I would not be where I am now without ballet. I wouldn’t have such determination to achieve my dreams, and I wouldn’t be so passionate about what I do.

So tune into the livestream people (I unfortunately have classes at uni all day long): for this holy dance day the world’s top companies (even if I only care about Royal and perhaps San Francisco) are treating us with all with a free live access to rehearsals and classes! And yeah, I’ll probably be hiding myself in the back of the classroom with my iPad and headphones on.

 

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Ashton mixed bill
Royal Opera House
Saturday, 3rd June 2017

The Dream, Symphonic Variations, Marguerite and Armand 2 – 06/03/2017

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Alessandra Ferri and Federico Bonelli as Marguerite and Armand
THE DREAM:
Titania: Francesca Hayward
Oberon: Marcelino Sambé
Puck: David Yudes
Cobweb: Emma Maguire
Peaseblossom: Gemma Pitchley Gale
Mustardseed: Romany Pajdak
Moth: Elizabeth Harrod
Bottom: Bennet Gartside
Hermia: Claire Calvert
Lysander: Matthew Ball
Helena: Itziar Mendizabal
Demetrius: Tomas Mock
SYMPHONIC VARIATIONS: Lauren Cuthbertson, Leticia Stock, Yasmine Naghdi, Reece Clarke, Benjamin Ella, Joseph Sissens
MARGUERITE AND ARMAND:
Marguerite: Alessandra Ferri
Armand: Federico Bonelli
His father: Gary Avis

 

Crying thinking this was my last Royal ’til October.
Headed to Covent Garden for a matinée bound in a wonderful summery morning, after being amazed by yesterday’s opening night.

Once again, The Dream was a literal one, and I loved the partnership between Marcelino Sambé and Francesca Hayward as Oberon and Titania: there’s an amazing chemistry between the two of them, and they both did brilliant in their principal roles.

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Francesca Hayward and Marcelino Sambé as Titania and Oberon

I enjoyed Frankie’s Titania more than Takada’s: she’s such a sparkly gem and truly perfect for Ashton. Marcelino wowed in a majestic performance as well – he was so in the part, I’m glad I bought a last minute ticket. Perhaps Marcelino still does not have McRae’s technique, but he was really expressive, and I think I felt this Dream more than yesterdays, maybe because of Marcelino and Frankie, truly emotional together

The corp de ballet was stunning as per usual, and I really liked David Yudes’ Puck, he’s grown so much as an artist since the first time I saw him at Prix de Lausanne in 2015.

 

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Reece Clarke in Symphonic Variations

Lauren Cuthbertson dazzled in her Symphonic Variation, and hands up for Reece Clarkle for managing so well that wardrobe-malfunction (I was so nervous waiting to see how he would have handled it)!

Great debut for Joseph Sissens as well: at his first year in the company, he shows a stage confidence many others way older would find difficult to achieve.

 

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Alessandra Ferri and Federico Bonelli as Marguerite and Armand

And then, a Ferri and Bonelli masterpiece! They are a great italian artwork together, and she was amazing as Marguerite. I wouldn’t be able to decide if I preferred hers or Zenaida’s, they were both marvelous: Ferri gave the public a heartbreaking Marguerite and Bonelli was a fantastic Armand, really different from Bolle’s lack of emotion (yeah, there I can say who was the best one between him and Bolle!). They dance so good alongside each other!

Today as yesterday, the stage door was so crowded they asked us to wait outside (thankfully it was a sunny and hot day, I don’t wanna think about how I’d freeze this winter if they’ll ask us to stand outside the doors in London’s cold nights). I love listening to comments after the show, but this time I really had to keep my hands an italian couple was talking poorly about some dancers I love, and without a point!
However, I got my usual signed programme – new project with the most signed ones among my RB programmes coming soon!

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Programme signed by Francesca Hayward, Marcelino Sambé, Lauren Cuthbertson, Joseph Sissens, Federico Bonelli and Alessandra Ferri

Teatro alla Scala Onegin

Onegin
Teatro Alla Scala
Tuesday, 26th September 2017

Onegin – 09/26/2017 

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Marianela Nunez and Roberto Bolle as Tatiana Larina and Eugene Onegin in the mirror pas de deux from act 1
Eugene Onegin: Roberto Bolle
Tatiana Larina: Marianela Nunez
Vladimir Lensky: Timofej Andrijashenko
Olga Larina: Alessandra Vassallo

When I first saw Royal Ballet’s Onegin at the Royal Opera House in January 2015, I suddenly fell in love with it: three acts of pure passion, wonderfully danced by Marianela Nunez and Thiago Soares and Tchaikovsky’s stunning score, literally a dream. So, when I saw Onegin in Teatro alla Scala’s program, and with Marianela starring as Tatiana, I obviously had to see it.

The production opening September 23rd and running until October 18th in Milan, saw Roberto Bolle in the title role alongside Marianela, and Alessandra Vassallo and Timofej Andrijashenko as Olga and Lensky.

I have to say, being at ROH once or twice a week, I am perhaps too much a Royal Ballet kind of person: when I see something non-Royal, I always strive not to think “Royal would have done it this way”. This time was no difference: compared to ROH Onegin, Scala’s one disappears in terms of corp de ballet, costumes, scenography and, most of all, interpretation.

I am not saying it was not a good show, I thoroughly enjoyed it: Timofej Andrijashenko was a really good Lensky, and so was Alessandra Vassallo as Olga. I really liked their pas de deux and Andrijashenko’s final Lensky. Roberto Bolle… well, everyone in Italy loves him, but in my opinion he’s a bit overrated: I saw him in many different ballets, and his performance seemed to be always the same from an interpretative point of view, whether he’s playing Onegin, Albrecht or Romeo.

The thing is, in Italy he’s the only well known dancer, far to publicised as apparently he’s thought to be the only italian dancer on the planet.
I’ve always considered Onegin as one of the Everests of male ballet roles, but I found Bolle’s Eugene way too… flat charactered, even though technically good. I did not see any glimpse of the psychological torment of act three, when Eugene, years later rejecting Tatiana and Lensky’s death, eventually returns to Russia and finds Tatiana married to Prince Gremin. Even when, overcome, he begs Tatiana to return his love, Bolle looked like a cold prince, whilst Marianela’s struggled refuse to break her vow to her husband broke everyone’s heart within the public.

Indeed, talking about the stunning star of the evening, Marianela was nothing but amazing: her Tatiana was so passional, poignant and powerful, wonderfully portraying a sensitive young girl in the first act and a blooming and strong woman in the third one. She gave the public a massive masterclass of impeccable technique, intense passion and dramatic sensibility (I almost cried at the end). She is so perfect for this role, and in particular in the mirror scene, when the youthful Tatiana dances a dream pas de deux with her longed-for lover, her dancing was so stunning and supplied Bolle’s lack of emotion.

Overall, I love how John Cranko choreographed the dances for Tchaikovsky’s opera, from Alexander Pushkin’s verse-novel Eugene Onegin as well: the narrative path is remarkable and it’s astonishing how he managed to create such a poignant choreography, full of so many different feelings, built together into a stunning framework for the ballet’s main characters in his own distinctive version of Pushkin’s work; and in my opinion, there’ll never be someone capable to portray it all as Marianela. Literally bowing down to her amazing artistry!

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Ashton mixed bill
Royal Opera House
Friday, 2nd June 2017

The Dream, Symphonic Variations, Marguerite and Armand 1 – 06/02/2017

 

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Marianela and Vadim flying high in Symphonic Variations

THE DREAM:

Titania: Akane Takada

Oberon: Steven McRae

Puck: Valentino Zucchetti

Cobweb: Emma Maguire

Peaseblossom: Gemma Pitchley Gale

Mustardseed: Romany Pajdak

Moth: Elizabeth Harrod

Bottom: Bennet Gartside

Hermia: Claire Calvert

Lysander: Matthew Ball

Helena: Itziar Mendizabal

Demetrius: Tomas Mock

SYMPHONIC VARIATIONS: Marianela Nunez, Yuhui Choe, Yasmine Naghdi, Vadim Muntagirov, James Hay, Tristan Dyer

MARGUERITE AND ARMAND:

Marguerite: Zenaida Yanowsky

Armand: Roberto Bolle

His father: Christopher Saunders

New month, new program: after Symphonic Mixed closing night on May 31st, it’s time to head to Ashtonland! And who doesn’t love Ashton?

For the last production of the season (sob) Royal brought together three works by its founder choreographer, the brilliant Frederick Ashton. The three ballets were a perfect representation of his wide genius, with the romantic and atmospherical The Dream (after Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream), the elegant perfection of Symphonic Variations and the tragic Marguerite and Armand (after Dumas’s The Lady of Camellias). I’ve always loved the first two, but the third one never got my heart, I’ve never felt it really close, even if I really liked some years’ ago performance by Tamara Rojo and Sergei Polunin (yeah, could someone please give him a clap across his fool face?!).

The Dream. Steven McRae as Oberon and Akane Takada as Titania. ©ROH, 2017. Photo by Tristram Kenton
Steven McRae as Oberon and Akane Takada as Titania in The Dream

Akane Takada once again replaced Sarah Lamb as Titania after her last minute debut in Mayerling due to her injury. Opposite the ever amazing Steven McRae, she made a pretty   debut as the queen of fairies. She’s technically brilliant, and I liked her performance even though I would have loved to see her a little more… engaged in the role. Indeed, the real star  of the one-act ballet was Steven: he did splendid as Oberon, as the great dancer and dramatic interpreter he is. His turns were so so so on point and his regality was perfect for the role.

The Dream is one of the most enchanting and dazzlingly delightful short ballets ever, and the whole atmosphere was stunning: the corps, the costumes, the score, the choir! What a great combination of Royal and the London Oratory Junior Choir, pulling out all the sparkle in such a faery and charming piece.

I particularly loved the four leading fairies: it was so good to see Elizabeth Harrod back on stage just six months after giving birth – she really is a force of nature! And what a hell of a performance by Valentino Zucchetti as Puck! His jumps were a literal dream! Pretty good Claire Calvert and Matthew Ball as the two lovers as well: she was a lovely Hermia and he was impeccable as always (Ball is, in my opinion, one of the most promising young dancers among Royal ranks).

Symphonic Variations. Artists of The Royal Ballet. ©ROH, 2017. Photographed by Tristram Kenton.
Yuhui Choe, Vadim Muntagirov, Yasmine Naghdi and Marianela Nunez in Symphonic Variations

Symphonic Variation, then, is just an evergreen neoclassical artwork: light and marvelous, and beautifully danced by six titans. Marianela and Vadim (with his hilarious sunburnt, let’s say it, stressed by the white costume) led the team in a combination of the hardest steps ever, that seemed however so serene and fluent. Marianela in particular turned heads with her outstanding elegance: how is it even possible that she glows everything she does, really?!

 

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Zenaida Yanowsky and Roberto Bolle as Marguerite and Armand

And finally, the last ballet of the program, starring Zenaida Yanowsky and Roberto Bolle in  the melodramatic title roles.
I am not a fan of Bolle: I think he likes himself too much, and that’s all I get when I see him dancing, he’s too fond of himself (yeah, I’m probably the only italian thinking that). And all his enchanting smiles… I mean, man, the woman you love is dying in your arms!

However, he normally shows off really good technique, but not tonight: he was unstable during pirouettes and stiff overall, even though he partnered Zenaida really good.

Indeed, she mastered the role with such painful passion: the public was heartbroken as she died slowly, recalling her great love for the young Armand. No doubt Zenaida will be greatly missed as she leaves Royal Ballet.

At the end of the show, I felt like I’ve been into an Ashton Paradise and (sadly) back, as when at the stage door, Italy seemed to be migrating there for Bolle (I still have to forgive him for signing my programme with a blue marker anyway).

 

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Programme signed by Zenaida Yanowsky, Roberto Bolle and Gary Avis