Royal Ballet School
Children’s Mazurka from Paquita, Waltz and Pas d’Action from La Bayadere, Third Movement, Sechs Tanze, Chanson, Les Rendezvous, Rush, Grand Défilé
London, Royal Opera House
12 July 2015, matinee
I thought this year’s Royal Ballet School (RBS) performance on the main Royal Opera House stage was pretty damn’ good. The students always give their all but this year’s testing repertoire was suitably wide-ranging and picked up on last year’s excellent approach. I wasn’t the only one who appreciated the performance and the applause and screams at the end were some of the loudest I’ve ever heard, even by the school’s normally high decibel levels. It’s easily the loudest thing you will ever hear at the Opera House as the exuberance of proud parents, relatives, teachers, friends and committed fans spontaneously spills out at the end of the closing Grand Defile. Just as I’d advise anybody to go and see Ballet Central’s touring final year show, I’d advise folks to see the RBS show on the main stage, for the vibe of great work presented by great students.
This year’s show started with classical ballet, the Children’s Mazurka from Paquita for some of the younger students at White Lodge – all looking sweet in wonderful white costumes with red capes and hats. From those at the start of their RBS schooling we went to those near the end with the Waltz and Pas d’Action from the Royal Ballet’s La Bayadere production by Makarova. Terrific to see the students in the richness of the full-on costumes and painted sets. It was led out by Chisato Katsura as Gamzatti – she is just about to join the Royal Ballet (RB) and similarly led out Raymonda last year. Not sure if I felt much of Gamzatti’s plight but, my, she had both confidence and technique – what legs, what jumps, what soft landings! Her Solor, a year below and so about to enter his final year, was Francisco Serrano. He made a good impression as partner and somebody who could jump and deliver a believable character. But perhaps the biggest revelation were the 6 Waltz boys, mostly from the first year of the Upper School (and thus 2 years away from graduating) who put on a glorious display of high jumping. They all looked tall and beefy – goodness knows what they will deliver in their final year. The main company (RB) would be hard pressed to deliver 6 boys looking so impressive – although of course the main company have many more demands on them. But certainly a telling nod at the standard we saw.
The new commission this year went to Liam Scarlett who, in Third Movement, delivered an apt piece of neoclassicism for the older White Lodge students – around 5 years off graduating. Too some expressive Rachmaninov the movement was both serious and fun – showing us the grown-up dancers they are not so far off becoming and also the playful snappiness of young bodies moving rapidly. At times the stage was bursting with dancers and energy and I can’t begin to understand how this could have been put on in the much smaller Linbury at first. But a well judged piece from Scarlett and good on him, as a busy and much-in-demand world class-choreographer, for again creating something special for the school.
More fun followed, if of the rather balmy variety, as eight final year students got to dance as striped-down 18th century misfits in Jiri Kylian’s Sechs Tanze to Mozart. I haven’t seen this in ages and good to renew acquaintance as all the formality we expect of the bewigged posh classes is thrown aside in silly hi-jinx and a fog of wig powder. No ballet here really, just difficult and constantly odd movement to tantalise. It feels almost like it was put together by a high class Benny Hill, complete with a short Wilson and Keppel Sand Dance. Funny and professionally delivered, it was also a first chance to see Giulia Frosi and Lukas Bjorneboe Braendsrod who then danced a 1982 duet by Derek Deane. Chanson is a serious pas de deux, in the MacMillan tradition, originally created for Alessandra Ferri and David Wall. The programme note talks of it being ‘mesmerising’ on them: I’m sure it must have been because the two students turned in the most stunning and polished performance of the show. The music is slow and languid which makes the technically challenging choreography all the more difficult and they nailed it all with ready ease, so we could concentrate on the emotional depth and perfection of it all. Phew – I did like this. Frosi is joining Dresden Ballet and Bjorneboe Braendsrod going to RB as part of the Aud Jebsen Young Dancers Programme.
Ashton’s Les Rendezvous, from 1933, was danced by younger Upper School students and, unusually, in recreations of the original William Chappell designs, kindly lent by Sarasota Ballet. The designs are much better than the current Royal designs by Anthony Ward, but still not perfect – the boys costumes seemed not to fit well and their princely look rather fell flat. But it’s a joyful piece, all smiles as young couples promenade and caper in a park: it was diligently done and led out by Kaho Yanagisawa and Joseph Sissens.
The last piece was again something from the new generation of dance makers – Christopher Wheeldon’s Rush to Martinu, originally created for San Francisco Ballet in 2003. “Rush is a celebration of youth.” said a perceptive Jann Parry in her review of it at Edinburgh that year. It’s a piece of both mysterious romanticism and high energy that looks particularly handsome in its Jon Morrell costumes. Danced for the most part by the final year, it seemed the best send-off for them – modern, confident movement performed with panache.
No chance to catch breath – straight into the Grand Defile and the deafening roars. Good stuff.