The schedulers at Covent Garden clearly know that Guillem on the bill pulls in the punters, and that with her and Le Riche appearing in Marguerite and Armand, they can take a few risks with the rest of the programme. So Saturday night included a new work from Michael Corder, and a Tudor work not seen her for, it was said, seventeen years - Shadowplay. It was something of an uneven night: and again it was an irritant that the intervals were longer than the ballets.
The Tudor work was something of an enigma and seemed to leave the audience rather baffled: the applause was polite, but not ecstatic. Down in the jungle something is clearly going on for the Boy: initiation ritual or test, seduction or assault, or possibly all of these. Whatever it was, somehow the audience were not drawn in to the process: we watched, but we were never involved, or made to care about the outcome. There were some fine performances from Nigel Burley as the Terrestrial, and from Tamara Rojo, imperial, sexy and dangerous.
Shadowplay was created on Anthony Dowell, now in his final season as Artistic Director. Presumably casting Acosta in the lead role was his choice, but in some ways it does seem an odd one. Costa is an amazingly gifted dancer, and technically the performance was fine. But he never looked at ease in the role. It would be interesting to see a young and less experienced dancer in the role, to find more vulnerability and wonder in it. Watson and Putrov and scheduled for later in the run, but ticket prices are such that going back for a look at another cast is less likely these days.
Although it didnít make the impact that one suspected it should, Shadowplay was undoubtedly a well-made piece of work, with plenty of fascinating detail in the texture of the work. Corderís Dance Variations, to music by Richard Rodney Bennett was, by contrast, a good performance of something rather less substantial. It was nicely cast: Bussell and Cope as the leads, with two further couples in support (Tapper & Persson, Hatley & Tuifua). The designs were bright and cheerful, with stripes of blurring watercolour wash, although the costumes were less flattering for the men than the women. But the dance itself didnít really seem that memorable. Corder seemed mesmerised by Darceyís legs (understandable, I suppose) and delighted in displaying them this way and that. It was all amiable enough, and Bussell and Cope sailed through all difficulties with ease. Tapper and Hatley didnít look too well co-ordinated together. But overall, there wasnít the warmth and charm that made Masquerade rather fun, and this felt like a dutiful but rather dull exercise.
Plenty has been said about Marguerite and Armand already. Guillem and Le Riche are moving into deeper and still more affecting portrayals of the lovers. David Drew is excellent as the father - this is beautifully understated and played. Ashtonís use of the music seems more impressive every time, and the craftsmanship of this work, the simplicity and economy of means used to convey complex situations and emotions become more evident on every viewing. It was a starry end to an uncertain evening.