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Irmgard

A Thrilling Triple Bill at the London Coliseum

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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.

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This triple bill did not thrill me, apart from the stellar dancing of Katja Kaniukova in Radio & Juliet and Olga Smirnova in McGregor + Mugler. 

I was unfortunately too far away to be able to read the dancers' facial expressions on a dimly lit stage but there were aspects of Radio & Juliet that I enjoyed: the mix of film and dancing was effective at times but we waited far too long for any dancer to appear on stage. 

Faun was an energetic wrangle.

And, after the McGregor + Mugler, my companion (wondering what the 'staged' cheering was all about) commented that Edward Watson had surely danced enough McGregor by now to have made a decent job of the choreography himself. The costumes were great but, then, "the emperor's new clothes" are often referred to in the context of McGregor!!!

 

[I did enjoy reading Irmgard's review, though.]

 

 

Edited by capybara

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An extract from one of tomorrow's Links:

 

"All Edward Watson had to do was support her with dignity, no mean feat when he was dressed like an intergalactic drag artist." 

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And this one from today's links:

“Manfred Thierry Mugler is not only a true fashion icon, but an incredible collaborator. It has been a pleasure to share energy, passion and trust throughout this new creative adventure. The process has offered new perspectives for both of us. The resulting work is unexpected, extreme and transformative.” Wayne McGregor… Hmm... if only...

Well, all I can say is "You've lost me there, Wayne". It was absolutely to be expected, extremely predictable and transformative merely because the two dancers shed an item or two of clothing along the way.

 

 

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Very amusing- the 'Manfred Thierry Mugler' (who he?)  costumes are hilarious, like something from one of those glamrock bands of my youth...

Haven't we seen something very like that sort of-  er  - gold loincloth? or whatever it is  ( don't want to be indelicate) before somewhere quite recently? Racking my brains.

 

(But really it sounds as if these wonderful artists -Watson especially and Smirnova- were not very well served.....they are worth better.)

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25 minutes ago, Mary said:

Haven't we seen something very like that sort of-  er  - gold loincloth? or whatever it is  ( don't want to be indelicate) before somewhere quite recently? Racking my brains.

 

Project Polunin? (I saw neither!)

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I saw Faun danced by  Acosta Danza and very much liked it. I wonder if they did it differently? 

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My goodness just seen a small photograph in the Evening standard - yes very like project Polunin minus the Swarovski crystals. If I had attended I am not sure that I would have been able to keep a straight face.

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13 hours ago, Mary said:

There are lots of photos in the reviews on the Links page.....

 

Oh dear.

 

A small part of me thinks those costumes are so ridiculous as to be funny.

A larger part of me is angry that grown adults would produce (and be allowed to proceed with) such a thing (especially on a major stage, for major artists). What a terrible waste of time, money and resources, and what an insult to the dancers.

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If you had seen the self-congratulatory way in which McGregor in particular took his bows, with his exhuberant body-language playing to the group of 'fake' cheerers in the Stalls and completely overshadowing the dancers, your anger would probably have risen to bursting point, bridiem.

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I can't say I noticed that, but then possibly I might not have been paying attention by then.

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It's interesting to see that ballet is being linked to high fashion in two Coliseum programmes in quick succession.  I bought tickets for 'Chanel' but was too ill to go.  The McGregor-Mugler thing didn't appeal from the start so I didn't even get as far as booking for that.  From our forumites' reports, it sounds as though the contrast between the two was of exquisite taste vs no taste.

I gather 'Chanel' had a lot of empty seats.  What was the take-up of tickets for this Thrilling event?

Edited by maryrosesatonapin
missed word

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I believe there was a considerable amount of paper for the latter (i.e., triple bill) programme.  I must say I found the choreography of this triple bill far from 'thrilling' as the title of this strand seems to purposefully advance.  Quite the opposite in fact.  That too was the measure from many I overheard at the interval and on departure.  I had been fearing it might be just me.  I certainly feel the dancers have all been served better elsewhere.  

 

Of course the Modanse programme was originally to have run the majority of week - but the performances were slashed to three when tickets didn't sell.  A shame as it turns out.  I would certainly have gone to that again.  Some truly brilliant dancing.  The Friday night was - as it turned out - dark and this triple was added relatively late in the day.  From a purely commercial perspective if the producer(s) did not entirely lose their shirt, it surely must have been at least torn - a bit as was the case with SFB at the Wells this year. 

 

Edited by Bruce Wall
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Well, I was surprised to see the Upper Circle was full - and I don't think that's an area they'd paper when there were other more important areas to bother with?  Presumably everyone who'd booked the balcony had been moved down, which might account for it.

 

Your explanation of the circumstances goes a long way to explaining the short notice, though.

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56 minutes ago, alison said:

 Presumably everyone who'd booked the balcony had been moved down, which might account for it.

 

 You've got it, Alison.

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2 hours ago, Bruce Wall said:

I believe there was a considerable amount of paper for the latter (i.e., triple bill) programme.  I must say I found the choreography of this triple bill far from 'thrilling' as the title of this strand seems to purposefully advance.  Quite the opposite in fact.  That too was the measure from many I overheard at the interval and on departure.  I had been fearing it might be just me.  I certainly feel the dancers have all been served better elsewhere.  

 

Of course the Modanse programme was originally to have run the majority of week - but the performances were slashed to three when tickets didn't sell.  A shame as it turns out.  I would certainly have gone to that again.  Some truly brilliant dancing.  The Friday night was - as it turned out - dark and this triple was added relatively late in the day.  From a purely commercial perspective if the producer(s) did not entirely lose their shirt, it surely must have been at least torn - a bit as was the case with SFB at the Wells this year. 

 

I hoped I had made it clear in the first line of my post (in bold!) that the title of this strand was the title given to the programme by the organisers and was NOT of my making!

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3 hours ago, Irmgard said:

I hoped I had made it clear in the first line of my post (in bold!) that the title of this strand was the title given to the programme by the organisers and was NOT of my making!

 

So sorry ... Didn't get that link... But now see your note. In that case the title of the enterprise ... as much as some of its stuffing ... was a bit much .. Nay, a trifle preposterous. Not to worry :)😃 

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My friend’s daughter’s school in Bromley were given tickets to the Sunday evening programme. They attended and were very positive about what they saw.  I didn’t see this programme so cannot comment on its content but am pleased that the producers did at least outreach to the paying audiences of the future. 

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I must admit, I was initially disappointed to find out from the cast sheet that the Smirnova/Watson piece was only to be 15 minutes long: it was a rather oddly balanced programme, time-wise.  I also think it might have shown to better advantage in a smaller theatre - say Sadler's Wells - because from my seat towards the back of the theatre I was struggling to make out faces and expressions in the gloom, which was a particular problem for Radio & Juliet (although it didn't stop me being blinded by the Mugler costumes :) ).  I'm not sure I'm sorry to have missed those from closer range.  Fortunately, I decided that the performance of Faun alone was worth the (admittedly not very high) ticket price - I particularly liked Vaycheslav (is that really correct?) Lopatin's very floppy, almost boneless, characterisation of the young faun.

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Lopatin appeared in Modanse pieces last week and he has extraordinary light landings I think someone described him as panther like and I would agree with this. 
I do feel sorry for Ed Watson fans if the piece he was in was so short after not seeing him perform for so long. 

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6 hours ago, LinMM said:

Lopatin appeared in Modanse pieces last week and he has extraordinary light landings I think someone described him as panther like and I would agree with this. 

 

Indeed: watching him doing the "Slave pas de deux", I think it's called, in the Bolshoi's Le Corsaire would certainly confirm that.

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6 hours ago, LinMM said:

Lopatin appeared in Modanse pieces last week and he has extraordinary light landings I think someone described him as panther like and I would agree with this. 


Lopatin is a great dancer - I am sorry that I missed him 

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4 hours ago, alison said:

Indeed: watching him doing the "Slave pas de deux", I think it's called, in the Bolshoi's Le Corsaire would certainly confirm that.

 

If you, Alison, mean Pas d’esclaves, well, he made it his own. His brilliant solo here starts at about 5.55:

 

 
 

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Here you can see a younger Lopatin in a production (Kobborg's La Sylphide as was once in the RB's rep) and opposite a dancer (N. Osipova) perhaps more familiar to local viewers - Turn to 3.13 for a segment of his thrilling second act solo. 

 

 

Edited by Bruce Wall
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