There is no better way to kick off a new ballet season than with a choreographic triple whammy. Which is what the Royal Ballet did last week, reopening with a sparkling performance of Jewels, Balanchine’s triptych.
The last time I saw the company engage with the same three-part work, I lamented its far too poised and somewhat lacking-in-drive approach to Balanchine’s choreography. Things seem to have improved, though, as last week the dancing stood out for its vibrant attack and attention to detail — paramount qualities for the rendition of a work made up of three choreographically and musically different compositions.
In Emeralds both Tamara Rojo’s seamlessly fluid dancing and Leanne Benjamin’s dramatically vibrant performance matched to perfection the now languorous, now dramatic, now decadent musical subtleties of Fauré’s score. In the more jazz-oriented Rubies, to Stravinsky’s ingenious music, Sarah Lamb, Steven McRae and Zenaida Yanowsky stunned audiences with their slightly tongue-in-cheek and care-to-the-wind evolutions, thus creating a more than ideal contrast with the final grandiose classicism of Diamonds, to Tchaikovsky’s music, led in a masterly way by Alina Cojocaru and Rupert Pennefather.
Another triple whammy, though of a completely different nature, brought the house down a few evenings later at Sadler’s Wells. First seen and applauded last July, 6000 Miles Away made a welcome comeback. Central to the programme, made up of three one-acters created by three eminent contemporary dance-makers, is the presence of Sylvie Guillem. At 46, a critical age for any dancer, the controversial ballet diva, who subverted long-held classical canons with her unsurpassed technique and equally extraordinary artistic temperament, still has loads to offer. It is thus no wonder that cutting-edge choreographers such as William Forsythe, Jirí Kylián and Mats Ek still find a muse in this extraordinary dancer.