Review: Ashton mixed bill, Royal Ballet

Ravel’s “la Valse” which opened the programme is a rich, intoxicating piece of music, matched by equally intoxicating ensemble dancing:

La Valse by AshtonPhoto Johan Persson, courtesy ROH

After this cocktail, Massenet’s “Meditation” from Thais was a teaspoon (just six minutes) of sweet, soothing cough medicine, a beautiful pas de deux from Sarah Lamb and Rupert Pennefather. We then had the equally short, fizzing Alka Seltzer of Voices of Spring with Alexander Campbell and a very mischievous Yuhui Choe who seems to have become my favourite principal dancer. I had not expected to enjoy a dance to the music of Johann Strauss this much; his music may be slight but it’s perfect for dancing to. After the interval came the first of the longer works, Monotones I & II set to the wonderful music of Erik Satie. The orchestration did elaborate unnecessarily on Satie’s very simple music but, particularly in Monotone II based on the well-known Gymnopédie 1, the abstract simplicity of the dancing almost had me in tears. Then came Marguerite and Armand by Liszt:

Marguerite and Armand-Triple Bill-Royal Ballet-7-10-11-533 Photo by Tristram Kenton, courtesy ROH

I don’t think I am a true balletomane (ugly word for the love of something so beautiful) as I cannot enjoy a ballet if I do not like the music and, as I said on my blog yesterday, I cannot appreciate Liszt. Ideally, I want music that I could enjoy in concert. This very much applied to the Ravel and I would have been quite happy to listen to the Massenet and Strauss as short pieces in a mixed programme. The Satie would also be worth listening to in concert, although I think I prefer the original solo piano version. I admit I am in a small minority on this; thinking back to concerts I have loved, this one by Nissennenmondai leapt to my mind as one of my all time favourites. Imagine a ballet to that!


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