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capybara

RB The Illustrated 'Farewell'/The Wind/Untouchable: November 2017

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I went to see this triple bill full of hope and expectation as far as the first two thirds of it were concerned. 

 

The Illustrated Farewell is a ballet in two sections one old, one new and they have not been that well glued together.The joins are there for all to see, There were a lot of talented dancers on stage but Twyla Tharp  did not rise to the challenge and use them effectively. I don't think that Tharp was particularly original in the choreography she created for McRae and Lamb. There was fast footwork for McRae and references to other forms of dance but none of it struck me as particularly interesting or theatrically effective.If the first section looked like a lot of rather aimless choreographic doodling perhaps the second half would have some substance to it.There are a significant number of talented young dancers on stage in the second section including Sissens among the men and Naghdi, O'Sullivan and Chisato among the women but while it has some sort of structure it only very intermittently gives this quality cast something to do which is worthy of their talents. Naghdi was lovely but had very little to do in a piece that struck me as pretty typical of the sort of classically styled choreography that so many choreographers churned out in the seventies and eighties.

 

I wonder how much money The Wind cost to stage? I ask because I don't think that the company has really got its money worth with Mr. Pita's new work and it certainly has not acquired a work worthy of Osipova's talents or those of the other fine performers who find themselves cast in it. Now I am pleased that Arthur Pita likes silent films and that he admired Lillian Gish's performance in The Wind  but that does not mean that its narrative was necessarily going to make an effective ballet. I do hope that no one falls so deeply in love with Gance's Napoleon that they decide to stage that masterpiece of the silent cinema as a ballet.

 

Pita handles the narrative reasonably well, but the story is pretty simple and he is assisted by colour coding the main characters of the drama in standard Western fashion. There is no room for ambiguity or surprise in this ballet.You know that Whitehead is playing the villain as soon as you see him arrive on stage and that he is going to be very, very villainous  because he is dressed in black. Soares who plays the husband has precious little to do while Osipova discovers that in this place in the middle of nowhere much is to be endured and little to be enjoyed. Osipova has a lot of suffering to do in this ballet driven to the brink of madness by the isolation and her treatment at the hands of Whitehead's villain. The problem is that the husband the villain and the wife are stock characters from the world of melodrama. They are little better than cardboard characters totally lacking in psychological substance. Their choreography tells the audience nothing about them as individual characters and when Osipova suffers she suffers by semaphore. Unfortunately I am not convinced that the second cast will fare any better.

 

I spent some time during the performances of both works thinking about what the company could have staged for the dancers cast in these works. Dances at a Gathering for the whole cast of the Tharp, 

 Four Schumann Pieces for Sissens, the quality of his movement reminds me of Dowell, with Muntagirov leading a second cast, and if you want an American dance work about Frontier life that works the company could try to acquire Graham's Appalachian Spring.

 

I have to confess that I did not stay for "Unwatchable". I sat through it when it was new and I don't feel the need to endure it again.All in all a disappointing evening at Covent Garden. I sincerely hope that no one is contemplating reviving Mr Worldly Wise believe me there are good reasons for its neglect. 

Edited by FLOSS

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My 'like' of your post, FLOSS, is because I largely agree with you about both 'Farewell' and 'Wind'.

 

It is regrettable that both choreographers, having expressed so much admiration for the RB's dancers, then failed to exploit the wonderful array of talent at their disposal. It felt as if Twyla Tharp ran out of time to deploy her supporting team effectively and thereby left Lamb and McRae over-exposed and alone for two sections of the symphony. In the Pita, the movement given to both Osipova and Watson felt underwritten and it was all to easy to be distracted from the (in)action by the surrounding gadgetry.

 

I have stayed for Untouchable but it didn't work as well for me as on its first airing in 2015 - perhaps because the coruscating presence of Matthew Ball was missing this time.

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...and why did Twyla Tharp select a Principal ballerina... only for her to end up in the sextet corps doing very little? It really  felt as if Tharp needed some quick "glue" to bond the two sections together but she did not use the selected dancers to their full potential. Lamb danced beautifully.

A mixed emotions Triple Bill for me, and yes I did miss Matthew Ball too in Untouchable. 

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5 minutes ago, Nina G. said:

...and why did Twyla Tharp select a Principal ballerina... only for her to end up in the sextet corps doing very little? It really  felt as if Tharp needed some quick "glue" to bond the two sections together but she did not use the selected dancers to their full potential. Lamb danced beautifully.

A mixed emotions Triple Bill for me, and yes I did miss Matthew Ball too in Untouchable. 

 

the casting was made before Yasmine's promotion

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1 hour ago, capybara said:

It felt as if Twyla Tharp ran out of time to deploy her supporting team effectively and thereby left Lamb and McRae over-exposed and alone for two sections of the symphony.

 

It's on record that the original commission was for a piece for Lamb and McRae. Tharp's decision to expand (or complete) her earlier piece came later. That seems to account for the unusual structure. 

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Yasmine was cast in this whilst she was still a First Soloist.  After she was promoted, she was asked if she still wanted to dance the role.  She certainly did, because she wanted the chance to work with Twyla Tharp, as most dancers do!  

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5 hours ago, Sim said:

Yasmine was cast in this whilst she was still a First Soloist.  After she was promoted, she was asked if she still wanted to dance the role.  She certainly did, because she wanted the chance to work with Twyla Tharp, as most dancers do!  

 

I'm very pleased she was in the piece. Yasmine was luminous in The Illustrated Farewell - as is usual, of course.

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I really didn't need the extra cardigan and shawl tonight:  so unusual to get duff advice from ballet forum!- but in fact it was far too hot in the theatre for me and the slight breeze from the stage was a very welcome one!

Apart from that I agree  with those who found The Wind  rather a disappointment. The huge machines were irritatingly dominant, and surely completely out of keeping with the rest of the set. The dancers were often made to struggle with their costumes in a way which distracted them and the audience, unhelpfully I thought.

The scenario was entirely cliched and 2 dimensional, and some of the narrative unpleasant without the depth that would have made the nastiness acceptable or meaningful. Like other posters I am fed up with scenes of women being abused and writhing around in their underwear. Hayward deserved much, much better.

A poor choice of story and focus I thought.

The dancers, however, were great, especially Edward Watson as the spirit figure whose relation to the rest of the ballet was unclear to me, but whose characteristically brillliant performance seemed to spiral off into a strange ethereal world of its own. Memorable.

I also liked the cowpunchers silhouetted against the sunset, and their dance.

Otherwise- a miss. Such a shame as the other Pita pieces I have seen have been original and witty.

 

I loved Farewell. A lot of dancing to wonderful music, with no distractions. Well, apart from  the costumes for the fabulous McRae and Lamb, who were on superb form tonight, which did seem bizarre. Dirty looking hotpants? Why? -and it was all a bit grey and dreary- when music of such luminous beauty and dancing of such sensational quality seemed to call for a more harmonious design.

 

A rather odd evening.

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I was there tonight and Mary has pretty much echoed my opinions.  Too late for me to write more now, but I will have a go tomorrow.

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7 hours ago, Mary said:

I really didn't need the extra cardigan and shawl tonight:  so unusual to get duff advice from ballet forum!- but in fact it was far too hot in the theatre for me and the slight breeze from the stage was a very welcome one!

 

I'm very sorry you felt my advice was 'duff', Mary.

 

At the General Rehearsal, it was not just a 'wind' but pretty much a 'gale' which hit the Stalls Circle and had people reaching for their coats. Hair was being ruffled elsewhere and people were talking about how much the machines had affected them, albeit temporarily. I was only trying to be considerate in warning BCF members and I actually feel slighted offended that you felt you needed to describe my post as you did. It's good that things have clearly been adjusted and it is now completely comfortable for the audience.

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Oh dear! I was only joking! Sorry if any offence was taken. I usually find it too hot anyway.

 

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I approached last night with some trepidation, having read all the mixed reviews.  I was hoping that, at worst, I would fall somewhere in the middle of the wildly varying opinions of this triple.  I think that is what happened, leaning towards the negative camp.

The Illustrated Farewell

I enjoyed the pas de deux in this Twyla Tharp piece.  I didn’t mind the costumes as much as some other people seem to have.  Sarah Lamb and Steven McRae have always worked very well together, and this was no exception.  Two incredibly talented dancers, who impart their delight at being onstage to all of us in the audience.   The second part of the piece was a bit ‘meh’ for me, and as with others the shopping list moments started happening.   I have long admired Mayara Magri, and last night reminded me why.  Her solo was danced with great attack and speed, coupled with class and innate, polished technique.  I could have watched much more from her.  She lit up the stage, as did Yasmine Naghdi and Joseph Sissens.  Their light pierced the gloom of the piece, and thank goodness for that.  I loved the ending, with Sissens, on the stage, mirroring what Sarah and Steven were doing on a walkway above.  What a shame that was left until the end;   I thought it was very effective.

The Wind 

A lot of hot air?  I am very glad I read up on the story beforehand, because it wasn’t made clear enough in this short piece.  The narrative was rushed, and there was no time to establish any kind of relationships between any of the characters, nor indeed any character of the characters.  It was like it was all on fast forward.  Who were these people?  What did they do?  How did they interact?  The young girl is meant to be driven mad by the incessant wind, the heat, the dryness and the dust of the prairie.  Despite valiant attempts by a wonderful Francesca Hayward, there was no indication to me of any of this madness, ennui or malaise.  There was some nice choreography in the group dances, and some lovely effects;   I too loved the entrance of the cowboys in silhouette against a dark yellow sky.  I wish those three humongous wind machines had been offstage;   for me, it would have been much more effective if we didn’t know where the wind was coming from, and as with normal life, you can’t see what is buffeting you and where it’s coming from.  The machines were distracting, as was the constant battle the dancers were having to keep their costumes under control.  At one point Hayward’s wedding veil got caught on her pointe shoes.  She dealt with it very well, but it was noticeable.   I’m very glad I’d known in advance that Ed Watson was supposed to be the spirit of a dead Comanche warrior.  My daughter didn’t know this, and prior to the piece starting (having seen some photos) thought that HE was meant to be the wind!!   And who was that old lady who kept popping up? I think the word ‘muddle’ describes this piece best.  The music was a muddle;   it didn’t know whether it wanted to be the sweeping accompaniment to a Western movie, an intimate ballet piece, or a country music instrumental.  The story-telling was a muddle, and because there was no development of any relationships or of character, or even a backstory, I found I didn’t care about any of them.   I think there are the bare bones of a good narrative ballet here, but Pita will need to expand it.  There are very, very few choreographers who can tell a believable story in a very short amount of time (MacMillan, Ashton, Tudor spring to mind);   for those who can’t, give them a wider berth.   And give the dancers a wider berth by removing those wind machines off the stage. 

Untouchable

I noticed that some people left during the interval, and quite a few of the regulars who I saw were also leaving at the interval.  None of them wanted to sit through this piece again.  As this is the only time I am seeing this triple, I stayed.   I really didn’t like this last time I saw it, and my mind wasn’t changed by seeing it again, although I disliked it less than I was expecting to.  There were some elements I really did like:  the militaristic choreography presented a challenge to the classically-trained dancers, and they all attacked it with great commitment and aplomb;  special mention to Paul Kay and Beatriz Stix-Brunell, who both managed to stand out of a very cohesive group.  I loved the co-ordinated movement, and the influence of Middle Eastern folk dances….as well the influence of Middle Eastern music on the score.  However, I think that this ballet was of its time and hasn’t stood time’s test, even though it’s only a couple of years old.  The chanting of ‘Nigel Farrage’ over and over again was strange and uncomfortable….but maybe that’s the point.  

 

 

 

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I'll confess to being one of those that left at the 2nd interval. I like the way that 'Untouchable' starts, the first few minutes are quite enthralling, but then, with the occasional 20sec exception, if just seems to go and and on. And on.

Thought Francesca Hayward handled the wedding veil blowing around a lot better than Natalia Osipova, who seemed to be hanging on to it for grim death (not unlike someone doing a 'hanging' mime). Some of the images those wind machines drummed up were stunning - some (like those darn flapping curtains and the door opening all the time) were frankly annoying. As were the wind machines themselves - did they really need to be on stage? Think I might be leaving at first interval next time... Will certainly turn up to see 'Farewell' though - just loved it. Beautiful music with beautiful dancing - just the ticket for me! Didn't mind the costumes that much either, as I enjoyed the other elements so much.

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49 minutes ago, Sim said:

I’m very glad I’d known in advance that Ed Watson was supposed to be the spirit of a dead Comanche warrior.  My daughter didn’t know this, and prior to the piece starting (having seen some photos) thought that HE was meant to be the wind!!   And who was that old lady who kept popping up?

 

I latched onto these two characters  representing the spirits of the wind and I see that Mark Monaghan in The Telegraph described Edward Watson as "the wind incarnate".

 

Clement Crisp's review (see today's links) is scathing and he says that the new triple bill  gives rise to questions about the suitability, quality and identity of the RB as a national ensemble. Strong stuff. But, since my two viewings, I have been wondering whether this programme is really worthy of the RB or does justice to the dancers.

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Whilst Clement Crisp is indeed scathing in some of his comments, he did award 3 stars.  

 

I think it's also interesting to see some of the dancers' comments.  I can very much appreciate how stimulating it must be for dancers to work with choreographers like Twyla Tharp and Arthur Pita and the two Insights rehearsing The Illustrated Farewell and The Wind I think are excellent - good to see key sections from The Wind without the wind machines, with Francesca, Ed and Tomas Mock.  James Hay and others have been incredibly positive about the experience of dancing Untouchable.  Inevitably some new dances will be more successful than others and there are opportunities for revisions etc both during a performance run and at subsequent revivals.

 

Like zxDaveM, I thought Farewell excellent, genuinely uplifting, and I would hope that it will be regularly performed.  On Sim's point, I thought the ending perfect, precisely because Sara and Steven were held back for the very closing moments with Joseph Sissons who had just said farewell to his two main partners.  Worked beautifully with the music for me.

 

 

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1 hour ago, capybara said:

 

I latched onto these two characters  representing the spirits of the wind and I see that Mark Monaghan in The Telegraph described Edward Watson as "the wind incarnate".

 

 

I thought he was the spirit of the wind too...if he wasn't the wind, what was the point of his presence?

 

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12 minutes ago, JohnS said:

Whilst Clement Crisp is indeed scathing in some of his comments, he did award 3 stars.  

 

Yes he did. He has said in the past that he awards stars for the dancers, not the piece(s), which is as it should be.

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Quote:  "Ed Watson was supposed to be the spirit of a dead Comanche warrior."

Quote:  "My daughter ...  thought that HE was meant to be the wind!!"

Quote:  "The Telegraph described Edward Watson as "the wind incarnate".

 

Another guess from Michelle Potter who wrote in her review: "Mawarra (the Lost) danced by Edward Watson ... appear to represent Mason’s mental state.”

Any other guesses?

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I liked the Tharp a lot, although I wondered if the ending could have been set up better with more Lamb/McRae during the middle section. My standouts in the ensemble were Magri, Sissens, O'Sullivan and Storm-Jensen. Naghdi, Ball and Heap always draw my eye but I wish they'd been given more to do - the pas de six seemed oddly underpowered, especially compared to the larger ensemble work.

I didn't actually hate The Wind. I liked the general look of it, there were a lot of visual moments which I'll remember, and I did find the wind itself interesting - I think it really came across as a character in its own right. I remember quite liking the music at the time although it was very much tied to the work. I certainly couldn't hum it to you twenty-four hours later. The problems all seem to stem from the fact that the story demanded longer than a forty-minute slot in a triple bill. With only one scene to illustrate the slow descent into madness - crushing cumulative effect of prairie fever, or young bride annoyed because her husband won't fix the door? - the ending lost a lot of power. She's walking into the wind because...why? Edward Watson told her to? Psychically? Hayward and Watson were great, Ball was wasted, but they weren't given a lot to work with. Like Sim, I also wondered why the wind machines had to be onstage - artistic decision ("Look at our amazing feat of engineering!", or more charitably, "look at this brooding presence! Isn't it malevolent?") or logistical necessity? I have a feeling that machines that big couldn't be put in the wings without causing some fairly hefty backstage rerigging. I agree that the effect would have been better had they been invisible to the audience.

The Schechter was...fine? It was the first time I'd seen it and the beginning made a real impression, but it seemed to run out of ideas after the first fifteen minutes and then ended about six times. The Nigel Farage thing was just plain weird. I'm sure it was making a point but there was something about the combination of the Faraging and the choreography that bordered on parody. I can believe that the dancers enjoy it, and Stix-Brunell and Kay stood out. I'd probably score it neutral overall - wouldn't avoid seeing it again but won't seek it out.

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1 hour ago, capybara said:

 

Yes he did. He has said in the past that he awards stars for the dancers, not the piece(s), which is as it should be.

 

That's worrying, if so.  I'm thinking of the 0, 1 and 2-star reviews he's given in the past.

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15 minutes ago, alison said:

 

That's worrying, if so.  I'm thinking of the 0, 1 and 2-star reviews he's given in the past.

Must have been performances with no Russian ballerina or men with red hair

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1 hour ago, alison said:

 

That's worrying, if so.  I'm thinking of the 0, 1 and 2-star reviews he's given in the past.

 

I recall, on a couple of occasions, him making it clear that his 1 star was to recognise the dancers.

 

The star system is as faulty in terms of theatrical reviews as it is in relation to hotels and B&Bs.

 

1 hour ago, Tony Newcombe said:

Must have been performances with no Russian ballerina or men with red hair

 

Oh, Tony, why not tell it like it is? Hahaha! You've made me laugh out loud, thank you!

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Back to Ed Watson - Jann Parry, now on DanceTabs, has him as "an angry ancestral spirit .... the wind made visible."  And later he is "a shaman foretelling disaster" and then " a future spirit."  A busy chap, it seems.

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!

...and at the beginning he has to struggle with the most enormous roll of clingfilm I've ever seen, an all too familiar domestic trial of our times........(you know how it gets over everything except the thing you want it to go over....)

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I will own up at the outset that my mind did go elsewhere on a few occasions during Wind and Untouchable, but I watched the live stream of Frankie rehearsing Wind and I am sure that there was a bum lift when dancing with her husband ( Darcey’s term not mine). Tonight I did not see that or was I having a senior moment. Natalia did not look impressed with her flowers and they did not come out in front of the curtain at the end. Loved the first one; downhill thereafter for me BUT it sounded like the reception at the end was the loudest of the night, so what do I know.

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Well, here I am on the midnight train, minus Gladys and any Pips, wondering why I bothered.

 

I guess I am supposed to eulogise over Twyla, dissemble about The Wind and confess to walking out before Schechtet.  If that’s your bag don’t read on.

 

 I don’t  Know much about Ms Tharp, other than that she appears to be revered by ballet nerds And her Insight revealed a lady not in doubt of her superior ability.  Which makes it doubly disappointing that she has produced a piece of work of baffling banality that appears to be about... well...nothing at all.  I’ m going to put a caveat in here:  I love  new work, applaud KOH for commissioning stuff that is not necessarily a crowd pleaser and am willing to give anything a try, but... well, within five minutes of the start I was willing this to end.  Actually, I spent most of the time trying to work out when blokes wore underwear of this type. and wondering what psychological nuance I was meant to imbibe from the fact that Steven Macraes underpants were a greyer shade of grey.

 

okay, I wasn’t getting in the vibe so I thought I’d look for innovative choreography.  I found none unless you count dancerssliding across the floor -ywawn, repeat incessantly.  In essence we had two dancers at the the top of their game dancing their hearts out and achieving nothing.  And all set to music that cried out for repetitive formality but didn’t have even a nodding acquaintance with the choreography.  For me, Twyla Tharp talks a good game but doesn’t get remotely close to walking the walk.   I have never been so bored at ROH - and that  tincludes Acosta’s Don Quixote.

 

i had to console my companion with a double round of drinks before we tackled The Wind.  Maybe we fell on It like starving wolves but we both loved it because it was everything Twyla Tharp wasn’t.  Excellent stage setting that immediately transported the audience to the Mid-West. Fabulous lighting and music that all gelled with the story and real drama.  Yes, there are lean parts, but it enthralled and entertained in equal measure.  Ed stupendous and Natalia fabulous.

 

Schechter?  I saw it first time round and liked it.  Tonight it was okay, but that’s enough now. I am a fan of Schechter but this is not his best work.  If he does another commission for ROH, the gloves need to come off.

 

Tonight was still  a £50 bargain for  patrons, but I guess it must have made  heavy inroads into artiste’s time.  I Certainly won’5 be rushing to see anything Ms Tharp produces again.  Methinks she doesn’t realise that she has been overtaken by innovators like Wheeldon and Macgregor and I thank god for them.p

 

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This thread is so enjoyable. The terrific mix of critique (with varying views), humorous remarks, and information is exactly what BCF should be about.

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I was sitting next to two Twyla fans and I'm afraid we all found it dull and repetitive. Best things to me were Magri and Sissens. I almost got the giggles in Wind, at one time I wished I was watching Oklahoma instead, then I got interested in the mechanics of the wind machines, then I wondered how much it had cost to stage. I felt that Ed Watson was underused - I always enjoy watching him on the stage but felt that Pita could have made more of the role for him.  Untouchable I rather enjoyed. I saw it first time round and admit to total admiration for the dancers in it. Don't think it would stand a third viewing, but I think my enjoyment of it says a lot for the programme as,a whole. Not the best triple I've ever seen!

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I haven't read any of today's press comments yet, looking forward to Clement Crisp, but my views are probably close to others, firstly I have never particularly been impressed by Twyla Tharp's works, although I haven't seen many, but was expecting to like Farewell ,the most I can say is  that  it was a pleasure to see Sarah Lamb back and dancing with Steven McRae in the sort of ballet that they do so well, i.e. those with an extrovert showbiz character, didn't like the drab costumes or lighting, and wasn't really keen on the choreography especially all the sliding, Joseph Sissens was notable though. I will read the programme before I go again next week, especially with reference to the music.

 

I liked The Wind, actually wished it had been longer as it could have been a much better work, Edward Watson was the highlight for me, I took him to personify the wind itself, and also a ghost of the past presiding over his former land, he was quite spooky. It was similar in style to other Arthur Pita works in that it had a very black sense of humour, and unreality. Those were the best aspects, the wind machines themselves made me smile, and the idea of nearly blowing the dancers off the stage struck me as rather stupid, especially the pdd where Natalia Osipova has to hang on to her huge wedding veil as she is lifted by Thiago Soares, noticed them smiling as they fought with the wind! Credit to the dancers for bringing drama to their parts in these circumstances!

 

Although the second interval had been shortened to 25 minutes I still couldn't bear the thought of sitting through it for Untouchable, I don't like these similar dark lighting modern ballets together in one evening, not a well balanced triple bill,  but worth the £14 ticket for sure!

 

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