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The Royal Ballet in Sweden have just presented a wonderful triple bill, varied and well balanced, comprising three masterpieces: Robbins' In The Night, The Concert, and Balanchine's Theme and Variations. (When will we see a good triple bill again?) I was able to attend two performances. According to a video discussion available on the company website it was the first time the company had performed works by either choreographer so the level was competent rather than exceptional. The Concert never fails, one of the very few funny ballets where the humour survives, and mostly the dancers didn't overdo the humour, always a risk as Robbins coach Ben Huys said on the video. (He himself was amusing when describing Robbins' own notorious rehearsal technique, describing how he would make the dancers spend infuriating hour after hour gazing into the distance at that passage in Dances at a Gathering when the dancers are together, immobile, at the end.) Robbins' choreography, like Ashton's, looks much less difficult than it is, and it can be difficult for dancers new to his work to capture his style, but overall the dancers did well. The second pas de deux in In The Night almost invariably presents partnering problems ( true when The Royal did it) and this was no exception. But at the second performance I saw Rikako Shibamoto and Kentaro Mitsumori were exceptionally good in the first pas de deux, musical phrasing , capturing the delicate emotional engagement wonderfully.

 

The theatre is grandly baroque inside but the auditorium feels quite intimate. There was a display of Swan Lake costumes and information on the history of Swan Lake in Sweden. It turns out that the first time Swan Lake was danced in Sweden was 1908, with the Mariinsky and Anna Pavlova in her first performances outside of Russia. But it wasn't called Swan Lake- but Swan Pond! The Ballets Russes also called the ballet Swan Pond when they took it to Stockholm in 1937, starring Igor Youskevich (who created Theme and Variations 10 years later, with Alicia Alonso, a coincidence that the theatre didn't note). The company itself has had seven productions, including by Mary Skeaping, Mts Ek, Peter Wright and Nureyev.

 

There is a dance museum, quite close to the theatre and all the royal and government buildings, and on a main shopping street. Currently it has an exhibition on Nureyev that includes many of his costumes and many photographs, including some not seen in public before, owned by Charles Jude, one of the wonderful dancers Nureyev nurtured, and who, with his wife, did much to support Nureyev in his final months. The general material in the museum includes information about Pavlova, including the film of her in The Dying Swan, and a sculpture of one of her feet! It also has a pair of tiny pointe shoes owned by Galina Ulanova, and a huge sculpture of her dancing. There's a considerable amount of information on the Ballets Suedois in the 1920s and other key figures in Swedish ballet history. Well wort visiting.

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Rikako Shibamoto has spent a short time until the end of the previous season as a member of the corps de ballet of the RDB and I liked her very much for her musicality and graciousness. Luckily for her she was invited as a solist to the Royal ballet of Sweden. Great to know that she shows her talent there as well!

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