Royal Ballet – Opening the New bill – Hull

Xander Parish in <I>Ballet 101</I>.<br />© Robbie Jack. (Click image for larger version)

Xander Parish in Ballet 101.
© Robbie Jack. (Click image for larger version)

Royal Ballet
Opening the New bill

★★★★✰
Hull, New Theatre
16 September 2017
www.roh.org.uk
www.hulltheatres.co.uk

The Royal Ballet’s away-day to Hull, this year’s UK Capital of Culture, was dramatic in its scale: 17 pieces presented over three hours, with an impressive number of the company’s big stars – plus local lads Xander Parish (Mariinsky Ballet principal dancer) and Joseph Caley (English National Ballet principal dancer) – performances from Hull ballet schools and a video relay to about 3,000 shivering souls in the nearby Queens Gardens.
 

The Hull New Theatre.<br />© Robbie Jack. (Click image for larger version)

The Hull New Theatre.
© Robbie Jack. (Click image for larger version)

The Royal Ballet director Kevin O’Hare (himself from Hull) had clearly pulled out all the stops to make this opening night for the refurbished New Theatre a memorable occasion – this was a deluxe tasting menu covering the breadth of the Royal Ballet’s work, which confused some punters (“I wasn’t expecting it to be all these little minuets,” one audience member opined in the interval) but certainly gave a lot of bang for your buck.
 

Yasmine Naghdi and Xander Parish in <I>Sylvia</I>.<br />© Robbie Jack. (Click image for larger version)

Yasmine Naghdi and Xander Parish in Sylvia.
© Robbie Jack. (Click image for larger version)

Parish and Caley were on top form for their homecoming: Parish locked into the warmth and humour of Eric Gaulthier’s Ballet 101, where a demanding voiceover calls out the numbers of 101 poses to put him through an increasingly frantic routine. With the newly promoted principal Yasmine Naghdi, he looked majestic as he powered through the party pieces of the Sylvia pas de deux. Caley, meanwhile, was a dynamo in the jazzy Hamlet solo from David Bintley’s The Shakespeare Suite, which reimagines Hamlet’s interior agonies as grand expansive gesture. And in the closing pas de deux from Le Corsaire he presented a firework display of big moves alongside another newly minted principal, Akane Takada.
 

Akane Takada and Joseph Caley in <I>Le Corsaire</I>.<br />© Robbie Jack. (Click image for larger version)

Akane Takada and Joseph Caley in Le Corsaire.
© Robbie Jack. (Click image for larger version)

The classics and heritage works of the repertoire were well represented. The Act II pas de deux from Swan Lake had Reece Clarke showing off beautiful partnering skills with Fumi Kaneko. Despite overly murky lighting, Natalia Osipova shone as a joyous Juliet to Matthew Ball’s Romeo in Macmillan’s balcony pas de deux. Ashton’s Méditation from Thais, performed by Yuhui Choe and Ryoichi Hirano, was a display of stately, controlled grace. The final pas de deux from Ashton’s The Two Pigeons (complete with birds) was a bit difficult to read when presented in isolation, but allowed us to see the rather sweet husband and wife pairing of Steven McRae and Elizabeth Harrod.
 

Steven McRae and Elizabeth Harrod in <I>The Two Pigeons</I>.<br />© Robbie Jack. (Click image for larger version)

Steven McRae and Elizabeth Harrod in The Two Pigeons.
© Robbie Jack. (Click image for larger version)

The modern repertoire included Forsythe’s The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude – an ambitious choice for the opening number, not least because I’m not sure the RB has quite got a handle on this punishing piece (although James Hay acquitted himself well). Marianela Nuñez and Thiago Soares were as affecting as always in Christopher Wheeldon’s sensuous, melancholic duet After the Rain. But the standout by far was the pas de deux from Wayne McGregor’s Qualia, which showed off the contortionist skills of Ed Watson and Melissa Hamilton in all their glory and looked like luxuriously world-class dance.
 

Marianela Nunez and Thiago Soare in <I>After the Rain</I>.<br />© Robbie Jack. (Click image for larger version)

Marianela Nunez and Thiago Soare in After the Rain.
© Robbie Jack. (Click image for larger version)

Hull’s Skelton Hooper School of Dance and Theatre, which trained O’Hare, Parish, Caley and Harrod, as well as Parish’s sister Demelza (an RB first artist, also performing) got its moment in the spotlight, as did the city’s Northern Academy of Performing Arts, which staged a cheeky piece called Death of the Spoken Word, in which the dancers brandished mobile phones throughout.
 

Akane Takada in <I>The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude</I>.<br />© Robbie Jack. (Click image for larger version)

Akane Takada in The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude.
© Robbie Jack. (Click image for larger version)

There was also a chance for RB dancers to flex their choreographic muscles. McRae’s stirring solo Czardas Tap Dance let him combine his considerable tap and ballet skills to startlingly unusual effect as he whirled round the violinist Robert Gibbs. And Calvin Richardson’s interpretation of The Dying Swan was also arresting, using a broken articulation as his defiant swan fought against its end.
 

Demelza Parish and Lukas Bjorneboe Braendsrod in <I>Heart's Furies</I>.<br />© Robbie Jack. (Click image for larger version)

Demelza Parish and Lukas Bjorneboe Braendsrod in Heart’s Furies.
© Robbie Jack. (Click image for larger version)

Disappointments? Maybe Francesca Hayward and Alexander Campbell’s Tarantella, which had the energy, certainly, but not the chemistry that Hayward has achieved when she has performed it with Marcelino Sambe.  And Heart’s Furies, Andrew McNicol’s piece specially commissioned for this evening, was a rather ponderous pas de trois that didn’t really hit the emotional heights it was aiming for. But the enthusiastic response from the Hull audience buoyed the whole evening.
 
 

About author
Work for DanceTabs

Siobhan Murphy is a freelance writer, reviewer and editor, based in London. Between 2005 and 2014 she was London Metro's arts editor. She also contributes to LondonDance and tweets sporadically at @blacktigerlily.
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