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I hasten to say that the title of this topic is the title given by the organisers for this triple bill at the Coliseum performed 7 and 8 December 2019 and not one of my own making! This programme, which I saw on 7 December 2019, is one in which the choreographers rely heavily on the beautiful fluidity of movement and pliant bodies of their classically trained dancers with varying results. It is hard to believe that the first piece on the programme, “Radio & Juliet” is already fourteen years old and only now having its UK première, such is the immediacy of the wonderfully rhythmic and intriguing choreography. As there was no programme on sale in the theatre, with only a free cast list being available, I am glad I read an online synopsis beforehand so that I was aware this was not a straightforward telling of “Romeo and Juliet” but rather flashbacks entering Juliet’s mind in no particular order, apart from the final, heartbreaking moment. Costuming was contemporary and, as the title suggests, the ballet was set to music by Radiohead. Juliet was ENB’s Katja Khaniukova in a triumphant début and Romeo was the Mariinsky’s Denis Matvienko, with very strong support from five male dancers from Slovenia’s Maribor company who represented other character such as Mercutio, Tybalt and Friar Laurence. Much use was made of a black and white film projected onto the backcloth but, as effective as it was, I felt it went on for a little too long at the beginning before the dancers appeared. However, I enjoyed the filmed ‘replay’ of the very effective choreography for the fight between the Capulets and Montagues. Another high point was the choreography for the death throes of the character I assume was Mercutio. Overall, the sometimes quirky choreography contained motifs which seemed to draw on street-dancing for the various arm movements and undulations of the mid-torso, and was quite repetitive but this repetition had a strangely hypnotic effect. In one scene, the men, all dressed in black suits with open jackets revealing their bare chests, donned surgical masks and I gradually realised this was a reference to the Capulets’ masked ball in which Romeo and Juliet meet for the first time. I really liked the moment here in which the two of them are left alone at opposite sides of the stage and, in a series of blackouts, they gradually move closer to each other and finally Romeo takes off his mask. Although lit only in silhouette, it was in this beautiful moment of stillness, with the tiny Khaniukova looking up into the eyes of the much taller Matvienko that their love for each other was clearly visible in their body language, because the lighting in other scenes frustratingly obscured facial expressions at times during the various pas de deux. These were not pas de deux in the conventional ballet sense in that they were not passionate like MacMillan’s, but there was a quiet beauty to them, reflecting the fact that Juliet was playing back these lost feelings in her mind. There was also no pointework involved for Juliet but Khaniukova’s own exquisite sense of line and footwork made it seem as if she were en pointe instead of a very high demi-pointe. Juliet is costumed only in a corset and the briefest of shorts, reminiscent of Jiri Kylian’s “Petite Mort”, which emphasised her vulnerability, particularly when surrounded by the much taller men, but it did not stop Khaniukova showing us Juliet’s headstrong nature, particularly at the beginning, with wonderfully strong, dynamic movements which contrasted at other times with her beautiful legato quality. Poignancy is also something Khaniukova does extremely well, which made her final solo of grief over Romeo’s dead body heartbreaking as despair overcame her whole body but in a dignified, almost resigned way. “Faun” is only the second piece I have seen by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, the first being the disastrous (in my opinion) “Medusa” for the Royal Ballet last season. Set to Debussy’s ravishing score with interpolations by Nitin Sawhney of what sounded like chanting, this appeared to be the confrontation of the faun and the nymph, with costumes vaguely reminiscent of those for Jerome Robbins’ version but without the beauty of movement contained in his choreography. It was energetically danced by Anastasia Stashkevich and Vaycheslav Lopatin of the Bolshoi but, for me, there was rather too much entanglement of bodies in a somewhat clumsy manner and certainly not enough choreographic invention to keep my interest for the whole fifteen minutes. From the rapturous applause and standing ovation given to the final piece by those in the centre of the Stalls, I think the final piece was the one they had really come to watch. This was a collaboration between Wayne McGregor and fashion designer Thierry Mugler, unimaginatively entitled “McGregor + Mugler” and created for ballet stars Olga Smirnova and Edward Watson to a thumping soundtrack reminiscent of music used for the catwalk at fashion shows. Mugler dressed the two dancers in flesh-coloured bodystockings with a fishnet-type design and plenty of bling placed in strategic locations, gold for Watson and silver for Smirnova, which sparkled in the very bright lighting. The bling on the lower legs, and the helmets and masks were gradually stripped away so that we could finally see Smirnova’s arabesque in all its glory, although Watson was left with a ponytail which unfortunately covered his face for the rest of the piece. However, by this time, I had had enough of this style of ‘contemporary’ choreography and longed for the much more expertly created “Radio & Juliet” which I would happily watch again.
Edward Watson is appearing in a triple bill at the Coliseum on 7th and 8th December 2019. He is dancing in a world premiere by Wayne McGregor with Olga Smirnova: https://www.broadwayworld.com/westend/article/A-Thrilling-Triple-Bill-Comes-To-The-London-Coliseum-20191108 The programme also includes Radio and Juliet and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's Faun.