Vadim muntagirov

Richly layered and intricate: Royal Ballet’s The Dante Project reviewed

Where does the artist end and their work begin? Like 2015’s Woolf Works, Wayne McGregor’s new ballet swirls creator and creation to meditate on a journey of self-realisation. The subject this time is Dante, the Italian poet who redirected the course of western art and literature with The Divine Comedy. Over three acts, each based on a realm of the afterlife, an Everyman navigates sin, penance and salvation. There’s a lot to unpack — as ever, McGregor crafts a rich, layered choreographic language, and Thomas Adès’s accompanying score is just as intricate — but density is The Dante Project’s forte, elevating it to cosmic heights. The stellar Edward Watson —

Swaggerific display of pumping chests and crotch-grabbing struts: NYDC’s Speak Volumes reviewed

Last week I attended a dance performance in person for the first time since March last year. If you’d asked me to choose the ideal show for the occasion, I’d have probably picked something with marquee names and lavish costumes — a classical ballet gala, or maybe one of Matthew Bourne’s glittering productions. As it happens, I watched teenagers in bomber jackets snarl at each other in between dance-offs — and actually, it was just the ticket. Mental health issues among teens have rocketed during the pandemic, and this crew, from National Youth Dance Company, drive the point home with a hard-nosed production that doesn’t ask so much as command

I miss the faint hiss of a spinning foot: Royal Ballet – Live reviewed

Ballet lovers driven square-eyed by a drip feed of livestreaming and archive footage have been pining for the patter of tiny satin feet. Last month the UK’s big ballet companies began to emerge from hibernation, playing small-scale work to thin, socially distanced houses. Some, such as Birmingham Royal and English National ballets, took the opportunity to broaden their audience’s conservative tastes with otherwise tricky-to-shift programmes of new work. Others, like the Royal and Northern ballets, offered choreographic comfort food. After testing the waters with last month’s Back on Stage gala, danced before an audience of 400 dance students and health workers, the Royal Ballet began its autumn season with two

Sensual and silky: the Royal Ballet returns to Covent Garden

Wayne McGregor’s Morgen! and Frederick Ashton’s Dance of the Blessed Spirits are the first pieces of live dance — streamed in real time from an empty auditorium — to come out of Covent Garden since March. Unaware that recordings would be available afterwards, I clung to these fleeting displays with the panic of grandparents on a Zoom call, furiously, helplessly slapping the screen whenever it buffered. Both are quick ballet interludes to longer opera programmes — not afterthoughts, exactly, but not centrepieces either, though with two shirtless danseurs and a beloved ballerina between them, they do just fine asserting their presence. Vadim ‘the Dream’ Muntagirov tackles the Ashton work, reaffirming

Manon can be magnificent, this one was merely meh

Manon: minx or martyr? There are two ways to play Kenneth MacMillan’s courtesan. Is Manon an ingénue, a guileless country girl, pimped by her own brother and corrupted by Monsieur G.M.? Or is she a pleasure hunter, a man-manipulator, a schemer out for all she can get? In the Royal Ballet’s revival of Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon, Sarah Lamb is somewhere in the unsatisfactory middle. Primrose innocence in the first act, half-hearted harlot in the second, shorn urchin in the third. Ryoichi Hirano, as Manon’s brother Lescaut, knows what he’s about. Hirano has a nice line in matadors and caped scoundrels. Every duplicitous turn, every dismissive flick of the wrist, speaks

Dancing up a La Mancha storm

The trouble with Don Quixote is Don Quixote. Whenever the doddering, delusional Don is onstage, tilting at windmills, riding his straw-and-sawdust nag on wheels, jousting with bedposts, our spirits and sympathies suffer. Quixote’s quest only really works as an excuse for Kitri, Basilio, Espada the Matador and Mercedes the street minx to dance up a La Mancha storm. This they do, with bells on. In toreador waistcoat, tight taleguilla and pink stockings to match his cape, Ryoichi Hirano is the Mata-phwoar. The corps de ballet swoon and flutter. He is sexy, even caddish. I was a Hirano doubter, but this was a magnificent performance: athletic power matched by classical control.

Wings of desire | 24 May 2018

The Royal Ballet’s 2016 Frankenstein was a masterclass in how not to make narrative dance and the news that Liam Scarlett had been chosen to spring-clean and ‘reimagine’ Swan Lake had many balletomanes reaching for the smelling salts (it doesn’t take much, to be honest). It was sighs of relief and trebles all round when the new production premièred at Covent Garden last week: proper tutus; gorgeous designs; first-rate dancing. The critical response has been largely positive but not everyone had a five-star evening. The Daily Telegraph gave it a niggardly three stars, finding the designs ‘variable’ and bewailing the absence ofa dramaturg (which has to be some sortof first).

Triple thrill | 8 June 2017

Thrilling debuts, starry guests and a tear-stained farewell at Covent Garden this week as the Royal Ballet closed the season with a triple bill of works by Sir Frederick Ashton. The company’s founder choreographer could often be spotted lurking at the back of the house during Marius Petipa’s Sleeping Beauty enjoying ‘a private lesson’. Today’s would-be narrative dancemakers could gain similar benefits from The Dream, which distils Shakespeare’s five acts into 55 minutes of witty, characterful dance. Steven McRae’s Oberon made short work of Mendelssohn’s Scherzo with icy pirouettes melting into deep penchées and turns chained so tight and fast he should wear asbestos slippers. Marcelino Sambé added a spicy

Dazzled by Balanchine

A trio of dazzling scores, the soft clack of gemstones on hips and collarbones, a glittering parure of solos, duets and ensembles: George Balanchine’s Jewels returns to the Covent Garden repertoire to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The ballet’s three plotless elements celebrate the various facets of classical dance. ‘Emeralds’, set to snatches of Gabriel Fauré, pays lyrical homage to ‘the France of elegance, comfort, dress, perfume’. The American-accented ‘Rubies’ riffs on Stravinsky’s 1929 Capriccio for piano and orchestra, and ‘Diamonds’ joins forces with Tchaikovsky in an exultant hymn of praise to the classical ballerina (a role shared on Saturday by Lauren Cuthbertson and a sublime Marianela Nuñez). The Royal Ballet,

Mirror, mirror | 16 March 2017

The exit signs were switched off and the stalls were in utter darkness. One by one, 15 invisible dancers, their joints attached to tiny spotlights, began to colonise the far end of the hall, forming fresh constellations with every pose. The audience smiled in wonder, like tots at a planetarium. Tree of Codes, which had its London première at Sadler’s Wells last week, was originally commissioned in 2015 for the Manchester International Festival. It combined the talents of Wayne McGregor, resident choreographer of the Royal Ballet, mixer and DJ Jamie xx and the Danish/Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. The trio took as their text Jonathan Safran Foer’s Tree of Codes, which

The Bourne identity

From a film about ballet to a ballet about film. In reworking the 1948 Powell and Pressburger classic The Red Shoes for his latest show, Matthew Bourne pays homage to far more than the unforgettable story of a budding ballerina and the bloody toll of her choice between love and career. With the glee of George Lucas recreating second world war dogfights in space, Bourne, a cinéphile since childhood, stuffs his Red Shoes with images from Hollywood’s Golden Age: a French Riviera coast here, a battered old piano there, fur coats and train whistles and sequin-and-feather tap-dancers. The problem with this love letter to cinema is that it blunts the

Black magic

Ballet’s romantic mantra could be summed up by John Keats’s ballad ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’, in which a young man remembers his terrible encounter with a supernatural ‘fairy’s child’. Beguiled to sleep with this ravishing fantasy creature, he dreams of a ghostly corps of other chaps similarly beguiled, who warn him that she was a witch who would leave him forever haunted, sick and bereft. You can remodel this fantasy this way and that, switch the genders, reconfigure death, sleep and hallucination, and come up with Giselle, La Sylphide, Swan Lake, La Bayadère in the 19th century, and then find Fokine, Balanchine and Ashton developing it into the 20th

West End wannabe

The love that asks no questions, the love that pays the price… The amount of unconditional love sloshing about at the Royal Ballet for choreographers and dancers is making this autumn in Bow Street a test of loyalty. At his season press conference Royal Ballet artistic director Kevin O’Hare smilingly promised us that the 2020 season might contain only works made in the past ten years. God preserve us. Two of the autumn’s three bills so far have been mixed programmes dominated by new or recent in-house contemporary ballets, and only Liam Scarlett’s Viscera, in the current bill, should be longlisted for 2020. The rest should be longlisted for other


There was blood on the walls and floor at the birth of Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet in 1965. The violence of the subject was matched by the goings-on in the wings, the scrap over the first-night casting, in which the original Juliet, the young Lynn Seymour, found herself relegated down the list having had an abortion to take the role. Due to Machiavellian box-office politics, the première was staged with Fonteyn and Nureyev as the young lovers, and rising star MacMillan, horrified at being steamrollered, quit the Royal Ballet. None of the smell of blood and fury survives in the Royal Ballet’s scrupulously scrubbed-down 50th anniversary staging. Though there