News about next season at the Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal and English National Ballets

by John Percival
copyright © 2007 by John Percival

Our three major English ballet companies have announced their plans for the 1977-78 season. At Covent Garden, the Royal Ballet's biggest new production will be Balanchine's “Jewels”. The company has previously given the Stravinsky section, “Rubies”, but “Emeralds” (to Fauré music) and “Diamonds” (Tchaikovsky) are new to this repertoire. There are to be creations by recently appointed resident choreographer Wayne McGregor (a short piece for a gala), Christopher Wheeldon and, heaven help us, Kim Brandstrup, the Danish-born choreographer whose ballets I have always found monumentally boring. None of these has yet announced what music he will use. Whether it is a good idea to revive, after several years, MacMillan's “Different Drummer”, remains to be seen; based on Georg Buechner's play “Woyzeck”, the ballet is rightly described in its advance publicity as “this bleak tale”. Another disputable choice for revival is “Tales of Beatrix Potter” — not really a ballet by Ashton but Anthony Dowell's production based on Ashton's dances for a film. Artistic director Monica Mason explained however that “I like it; that's why we are doing it”. Jerome Robbins's “Dances at a Gathering” and “Afternoon of a Faun” return to the RB's programmes to mark the tenth anniversary of their choreographer's death.

It is confirmed that Sylvie Guillem will not be appearing; she was offered but declined a farewell performance. And Darcey Bussell, billed as a principal guest artist this season, is also withdrawing altogether.

Birmingham Royal Ballet has two world premieres. Director David Bintley will create “Take Five” to Dave Brubeck's music on a jazz programme with his Duke Ellington tributes “Orpheus Suite” and “Shakespeare Suite”. He is also reviving his full-evening dramatic ballet “Edward II”. The company will acquire Ashton's “Daphnis and Chloe”, with its original John Craxton designs; this work was hitherto exclusive to the Covent Garden company. And for its annual Stravinsky festival Michael Corder is to make a new staging of “Baiser de la fée” on a bill with Fokine's “Petrushka” and Cranko's “Card Game”.

Corder is also the choreographer for English National Ballet's big new production: “The Snow Queen”, freely adapted from Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tale, and set to a score arranged by Julian Philips from music by Prokofiev — mainly his three-act ballet “The Stone Flower” which has been strangely neglected both in the theatre and the concert hall.

Sylvie Guillem, incidentally, when asked on a radio programme whether she had given up ballet entirely for modern dance, replied that this was not so but that she did not wish to work with the Royal Ballet while it continued its present direction. Meanwhile, under her recent appointment as an associate artist at Sadler's Wells, she is continuing to sell out the house as often as she appears. Her current programme with Russell Maliphant has played three separate weeks there, and now her collaboration with Akram Khan has returned for its second week. Unfortunately, although she and Maliphant make a wonderfully diverse coupling, I have never been able to share the high regard in which many critics and spectators hold Khan; they cannot have seen the far more intricately subtle dancing we used to see from the best Kathak dancers. Set beside Guillem, her long slender line makes him look short and dumpy, and the solo created for her by Lin Hwai-Min, Taiwanese director of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre, outshone Khan's contributions. For me the evening's only example of Guillem's genius was the amusing way she grabbed her own head, or a hand or foot, and abruptly moved them into place for a new pose, while chattering away pointlessly with Khan.

Photo on front page from David Bintley's "Edward II." Photo courtesy of Birmingham Royal Ballet.

Volume 5, No. 16
April 23, 2007

copyright ©2007 by John Percival

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