Ismene Brown

Dying of the light

It’s a comfort that the creation of a new ballet inspired by French court entertainment can still happen in the amnesiac ballet country that Britain has become. The idea of making a modern-day meditation on the first ballet — Louis XIV’s 12-hour epic Le Ballet de la nuit (1653) — is as intellectual as Wayne

Walking with cadence

I often regret that I’m writing in the past tense here, but never more than about milonga. It is such a smash show in every way that by rights it would be having a six-month run where everyone can see it, rather than five measly days at the elite Sadler’s Wells dance theatre where people

The long goodbye

There’s been a clutch of middle-aged danseuses taking leave of life in one way or another recently. We’ve seen the abject (Mariinsky star Diana Vishneva’s solo show at the Coliseum) and the magnetic (Alessandra Ferri mournfully channelling Virginia Woolf at the Royal Ballet). A fortnight ago, the Paris Opéra’s aristocratic Aurélie Dupont retired from the

Can you ballet-dance to words?

Can you ballet-dance to words? How can choreography make any seriously worthwhile addition to a piece of music like Mahler’s vocal symphony Das Lied von der Erde? Kenneth MacMillan’s 1965 ballet Song of the Earth, currently on at Covent Garden, is frequently hailed as a masterpiece, but just as often you read comments by people

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

Why dance needs a Simon Cowell

I have more and more time for Simon Cowell. On Britain’s Got Talent on Saturday night he was dishing out his hard-faced reality check to the parade of wannabes who as usual range from silly asses through competent-karaoke to on-the-money in Sycospeak. I also admire the wily care for words with which he crafts his

Boys on the march

In dance, it’s usually the moment the boys start fighting that challenges your suspension of disbelief. Synchronised fencing (MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet), unison goosestepping (Grigorovich’s Spartacus), even the Sharks and Jets in Robbins’s West Side Story, are formation set-pieces designed to arouse us. Last year there was a bunch of ballets made by British choreographers

Lethal weapon

The current talking-point at the Royal Ballet is the Russians milling around. One can sound unfortunately as if one’s starting a Ukip conversation here, but the Royal Ballet never used to be short of half a dozen home principals, any one of whom could be looked on as sufficiently glittery to attract the opening-night audience.

Crossing cultures

For an Indian woman to make a dancework about La Bayadère is a promising prospect. This classical ballet of 1877 by Russia’s French-born genius Marius Petipa tells the simple story of an Indian temple dancer — essentially a religious sex slave — whose potential salvation by an amorous young soldier is dashed when he expediently

Birmingham Royal Ballet review: A Father Ted Carmina Burana

We ballet-goers may be the most self-deceiving audiences in theatre. Put a ‘new work’ in front of us and half of us go into conniptions because the classical palace is being brought down and the other half into raptures at not having to sit through some old-hat ballet-ballet. Twenty years ago, David Bintley was appointed

Will the real Swan Lake please stand up

It is the end of an era — the Royal Ballet’s extravagant Fabergé-egg Swan Lake production by Anthony Dowell is on its last legs. When this 28-year-old production finishes the current run on 9 April, that will be it for one of the most controversial classical productions of the past half-century. It’s the one set