Wayne mcgregor

Same old, same old: Wayne McGregor’s Untitled, 2023, at the Royal Opera House, reviewed

My witty friend whispered that Wayne McGregor’s new ballet Untitled, 2023 put her in mind of Google HQ – it’s certainly a mint-cool, squeaky-clean, future-perfect affair. The set by Carmen Herrera, subtly lit by Lucy Carter, suggests infinite space and distant horizons. The costumes by Burberry are streamlined and sexless. Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s vaporous score hovers over it all in a meditative trance. Ordinary human emotions struggle to express themselves in this brave new world: we have left planet Earth. McGregor’s strengths and weaknesses are highlighted: on the credit side, there’s his energy and intelligence, his sophisticated visual taste, his empowering of young talent, his open questioning of boundaries, and readiness

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

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

The Glums in tights

If you like the BBC’s Les Misérables, you’ll love English National Ballet’s Manon. Manon, in Kenneth MacMillan’s telling, is The Glums in tights. Alina Cojocaru dances Manon, an 18th-century courtesan in Paris, pimped by her brother Lescaut (Jeffrey Cirio). She falls for Des Grieux (Joseph Caley), young, handsome, penniless, love’s young dream, and is later ensnared by the older, richer, crueller Monsieur GM. Cojocaru is sublime. ‘That’s her!’ whispered my neighbour in the stalls as Manon fluttered through the crowd at the inn. With Des Grieux, Cojocaru is sweet and expressive, tender and teasing. As Monsieur’s mistress, in diamonds and furs, she dances with quiet power and cold command. In

Some day their prince will come

The Royal Ballet is a company in search of a prince. It has no lack of dancing princesses. You could search the kingdom and find no lovelier dancers than Marianela Nunez, Lauren Cuthbertson, Francesca Hayward, Natalia Osipova, Akane Takada, Sarah Lamb, Laura Morera and Yasmine Naghdi. But a true prince is as rare as a golden egg. Since Sergei Polunin went so energetically awol in 2012, the Royal Ballet has lacked a male principal with all four virtues of the leading man: classic handsome looks, height, faultless technique and some gift as an actor. Polunin had it all. He was dishy, dashing and dangerous. He had a fifth quality, too:

Wayne’s world

Ballet would have been an obvious revenue stream for Sadler’s Wells when it reopened back in 1998 but straight-up classics have been few and far between over the past two decades — the Rothbart of the Royal Ballet of Flanders’ Swan Lake wore a live owl on his head. And yet, while the theatre’s programming fights shy of tutus and toe shoes, its fiercely contemporary output can sometimes bridge the notorious gulf that has traditionally divided classical and contemporary audiences. Wayne McGregor has been resident choreographer at the Royal Ballet since 2006 but combines this role — and countless international projects — with his directorship of his own company, whose

Not vintage Mariinsky

Not really a vintage Mariinsky season — an odd choice of repertoire and some hit-and-miss male casting — but the Covent Garden run ended on a glorious high. Marius Petipa’s La Bayadère is a lightly curried love triangle about a handsome warrior torn between his betrothed (a Rajah’s daughter) and a beautiful temple dancer. Old-fashioned? You bet. But the scenery is chewed with such relish and the choreo-graphy delivered with such radiant commitment that the three hours roll by in a lime-lit haze — you half expect an audience in dress uniforms and tiaras. The scenery, a pick-and-mix from the 1877 premiere and the 1900 revival, adds to the sense

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

Let the good times roll

For a regular dancegoer in New York City, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater seasons arrive with the comforting predictability of a Christmas Nutcracker. Superb dancers, Ailey’s sublime Revelations, jubilant audiences, stirring evocations of African-American identity: it’s easy to begin to take these things for granted. When you haven’t seen the Ailey company for a while, a season packed with these riveting dancers is a newly wondrous thing, a fresh discovery of the particularity that makes the troupe both a cultural and historic phenomenon. The company’s Sadler’s Wells Theatre season, which opened on the 6 September and runs through to the 17th, is the start of a six-week UK tour.

Remembering Rosemary Butcher – the choreographer who changed the way I see dance

My ancient Liddell and Scott Greek dictionary of 1849 defines choreia as ‘a dancing, especially with joy’. The word choros has a more technical definition: a round dance, or a dance accompanied with song (hence the word chorus). From whichever word ‘choreographer’ is declared to derive, the British dancemaker Rosemary Butcher, who died last month at 69 after a career barely visible to the public, embodied the first idea in a way that I see with hindsight changed my eyes emphatically in realising the marvellous range of ways to enjoy dance-going. Choreia: ‘a dancing’ – an act of dancing, a piece of activity, rather than the choros, a dance creation.

Emotional intelligence

The difference between a poor ballet of the book (see the Royal Ballet’s Frankenstein) and a good one — indeed two — was cheeringly pointed up by Northern Ballet last week, when it unveiled an intensely imagined new Jane Eyre in Doncaster and gave the London première of the efficiently menacing 1984 that I reviewed last autumn. It wasn’t really a surprise that Cathy Marston had a triumph with the Brontë —Royal Ballet-raised but Europe-bred, the choreographer has gradually developed a knack for character empathy and, crucially, a gift for externalising inner feelings in a vividly legible way. So although Jane Eyre is such a literary story, with every emotional

The female gaze

Tamara Rojo programmed three female choreographers for her English National Ballet spring bill because, she said, she had never danced a ballet by a woman, and wanted to see what women would produce. Just the two begged questions here. First, that female choreographers are being stifled by institutionalised sexism in the ballet establishment. Second, that female choreographers, if allowed to see the light of day, would offer a differently thought, differently imagined argument from the general tenor of those pesky male choreographers who dominate the stage. The first assumption has been swallowed whole by the luminaries and enablers of the art world who flooded Twitter after the première with ecstatic

An American in Paris

Paris Opera Ballet plays hard to get. It doesn’t deign to travel all the way over here, thanks to a combination of exorbitant expense and a languid disdain for the little Britons with their Johnny-come-lately ballet tradition (not even one century old, let alone three and a half). So if the mountain won’t come to Mahomet, it behoves Mahomet to go to the mountain. And now is the time to do it, with the ructions brought on by the arrival last year and the departure this of Natalie Portman’s husband as ballet artistic director. Benjamin Millepied is French but spent his career as a leading dancer in New York City

Notes on a scandal

How could it possibly go wrong? The magnetic, seething Russian star Natalia Osipova playing the tragic woman in John Singer Sargent’s magnetic, enigmatic portrait of Madame X, all alabaster skin, black dress and arrogantly sexy profile. A Mark-Anthony Turnage-commissioned score, a top-prestige Bolshoi co-production, and enough scenery to rebuild Canary Wharf. If only Christopher Wheeldon’s new Covent Garden ballet Strapless were a scandal, like the portrait itself when originally unveiled in Paris in 1884, or like Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon at its première. If only it could be dubbed a tasteless exhibition of an undesirable type of female. Instead, it’s just a polite little flop, vastly over-decorated, overcomplicated, and with a

The Kremlin is dictating Russian culture once more – and it’s neo-Soviet and anti-Western

It’s suddenly gone icy-cold in Russia’s arts relations with us and the US. Last year’s Russia-UK Year of Culture just snicked under the wire before the political chill started building up ice in all sorts of unexpected places. The international acclaim for the epic Russian film Leviathan, up for a Best Foreign Film Oscar, was sneered at by the feverishly nationalistic culture minister Vladimir Medinsky. Recently he denounced the film as ‘perfectly calculated to pander’ to western views of a bleak modern Russia, and he has previously proposed that only movies properly celebrating today’s Russia should be allowed either public funding or a release. Director Andrei Zvyagintsev has been a victim

Off the page

Dance has its own archaeological periods, and 2016’s schedules are confirming what 2015 indicated — that the era of dances with scientists is over. If you’ve an aversion to digital fidgets and have felt left out in recent years, you will wallow in stories galore this year. There are big new ballets coming about The Odyssey, Frankenstein, Jane Eyre; of which Mark Bruce’s boldly miniaturised The Odyssey, launching into Britain’s county theatres next month before fetching up at Wilton’s Music Hall, is a most alluring prospect. Last year we saw from both Wayne McGregor and Christopher Wheeldon, the Royal Ballet’s master-stylists of crisp abstract ballet, an enthusiastic rush to reinvent

Woolf haul

People have been saying that Wayne McGregor’s new Woolf Works has reinvented the three-act ballet, but not so. William Forsythe reinvented the three-act ballet 20 years ago with Eidos: Telos, a mesmerising masterpiece that I found myself recalling as I watched the McGregor. There are many formal similarities: the search for sense through words, the woman facing darkness and death, the central act in period costume, spectacular light, video, ambitious structures on stage, and so on. You get the picture. McGregor’s work isn’t reinventing the wheel — it just reinflates it with a jet of new hot air. Since last week’s première, every possible view has been taken about Royal

In praise of #WorldBalletDay, Ivan Vasiliev and beautiful butts

The Twittersphere never fails to surprise but it’s still hard to believe that last week #WorldBalletDay actually beat #HongKong and #Windows10 in the Twitter popularity stakes, on a day of barricades in the Chinese territory and Microsoft’s announcement of a new operating system. Twitter is a solid barometer of a vast and assertively ‘engaged’ segment of society whose demand to be noticed can sometimes be quite serious (see #HongKong). At other times, it’s merely incredible, as it was last Wednesday when some 5,000,000 tweets were sent by viewers of an internet love-in by the Royal Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, Canadian, Australian and San Francisco ballet companies, who mustered with phenomenal geopolitical

Bach is made for dancing

It appears that J.S. Bach’s music is to theatre-dance what whipped cream is to chocolate. Masterworks such as Trisha Brown’s MO, George Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco and a plethora of less-known, though equally acclaimed compositions owe a great deal to the giant of baroque music. Wayne McGregor is the most recent addition to this illustrious roster of successful Bach-inspired dance-makers with Tetractys —The Art of Fugue, which world-premièred last Friday. Set, as the title implies, to Michael Berkeley’s orchestration of The Art of Fugue, played on the piano by Kate Shipway, the new work stands out for the intensity of the dialogue between music and dance. Linear beauty dominates a majestic

The Royal Ballet’s triple bill was danced to perfection

There was a time when the term ‘world première’ was not as fashionable as it is these days. Great works simply ‘premièred’, and their artistic status was not diminished by the fact that the opening had not been advertised as a globally significant event. Which is what ‘world première’ implies, even though it is seldom the case. The term has a sensationalistic ring to it, and should therefore be used carefully and sparingly. According to a recent press release, David Dawson’s The Human Seasons is the second of the five ‘world premières’ that the Royal Ballet will perform this season. Fortunately, this new creation deserves global recognition and admiration, for