I’ve made it clear that I think Stravinsky was the greatest composer for the ballet and I have really enjoyed some of his classic ballets this year: the Royal Ballet performing Firebird and Rite of Spring, and English National Ballet’s interpretation of Fokine’s Petrushka. Surprisingly, my favourite interpretation of his music this year was Boston Ballet’s flawless performance of Balanchine’s Symphony in Three Movements. However, I was just astonishingly lucky to see Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg’s final performance with the Royal Ballet: two of today’s greatest dancers giving what might have been their greatest performance to date. The event was amazingly emotionally charged, a couple in real-life as well as on stage, saying goodbye to the company in one of the most romantic ballets.
This ballet is a collection of three short works by Balanchine, Emeralds, Rubies and Diamonds. I expect jewels to sparkle, but Emeralds, danced to music by Fauré, didn’t – more like jade than emeralds. Rubies really did sparkle, the costumes and choreography echoing an American parade – all it needed was a few batons to twirl. The music it was set to by Stravinsky was also much more to my taste. The final ballet, Diamonds, fell between the two, more exciting than the first, lacking the pizzazz of Rubies but replacing it with glorious sumptuosity with music by Tchaikovsky. I left having enjoyed it all but not quite sure what was lacking until I remembered Boston Ballet’s interpretations of Balanchine’s choreography earlier in the year (which included another Stravinsky piece). Boston Ballet understand how to swing; Royal Ballet do not. Indeed, I wonder if there is any British ballet company that could have really done justice to this work. All the same, a very enjoyable afternoon, particularly for Rubies.
With Darcy Bussell and Carlos Acosta in the audience, the company had to be good – and they were. Serenade, an early Balanchine work, was very American and reminded me Jerome Robbins’s work for West Side Story over 20 years later. It must have been quite ground breaking in its time but it was not a patch on the brilliant Symphony in Three Movements, also choreographed by Balanchine to music by Stravinsky – it was well worth attending for this alone. Between these was a new work, Plan to B, by Jorma Elo to music by von Biber. The other works were excellently accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra but this was performed to a recording, presumably due to the early instruments required. It was a virtuoso pieced with six amazing young dancers. This was followed by yet another performance of Nijinsky’s Apres Midi d’un Faun. I first saw this about 50 years ago and it still bewilders me. At its best, it has a strange power; sadly the faun in this performance lacked the sexual power the role demands. On the plus side, they used the complete Bakst backdrop and this and the beautiful music made it well worthwhile. I’d love to see programme 2 but unfortunately will not be free.