Some brief thoughts on the mixed bill, as seen on 1 December.
On paper, this was a terrific programme, but on the night it was one of those occasions which didnít quite gel: all the ingredients were there, but somehow the evening promised more than it delivered: a patchy experience. I will be returning later, to see other casts, and I hope that the works might settle a little in performance.
The programme included Ashtonís La Valse, Symphonic Variations, and Monotones II (back on the main stage here for the first time since 1990): followed by Tudorís Lilac Garden, revived after a very long absence, and MacMillanís Gloria. La Valse looked as glitteringly magical as ever: it seems to whiz by in less than five minutes, although in fact itís more like quarter of an hour. This is very much a work for the corps rather than stars, and in some ways was all the more satisfying for it, as some of the principals in other works seemed a little unsettled.
I badly missed Bruce Samson in Symphonic, and Inaki Urlezaga didnít convey the same grace and authority at all. Yoshida didnít quite seem at the top of her form: still very impressive, but I had a niggling sense of something lacking. Perhaps it was a sense of unity among the six dancers, as if they werenít all Ďinsideí the work yet. Still, it is always a pleasure to see this work, and there is always something fresh to see in it. The reception was oddly subdued though.
The audience loved Monotones, or at least adored Darcey Bussell. Interesting (and preferable) to see this from much further away, after seeing it close up in the Linbury. Again, this work didnít seem to quite come off as smoothly as it might. This is a fiercely demanding piece in terms of purity of line. I couldnít help but keep noticing that Urlezagaís timing was often slightly behind the other two and found this distracting. Alistair Marriot had replaced Nigel Burley at fairly short notice, which might explain occasional tiny hesitations in some of the complex manipulation of Darcey between the two men. Wonderful to see it though. There is a passionate article by John Percival on Monotones in the programme (and incidentally a lovely picture of Beriosova in Lilac Garden) especially on Ashtonís gift for cutting away anything irrelevant.
Guillem did her best with Lilac Garden (and that, as always, is considerable), and her performance had some beautiful tiny, telling details - her hands, the way she turns her head. But it really never quite came to life. It had a very stilted feel, and the stiff carriage of the bodies may have been as Tudor intended, but it mitigated against real feeling for and involvement with the characters. It ought to be exactly the kind of work which would fit in with the Royalís repertory, but somehow ...... it all seemed to be happening very far away. The fact that Caroline never really gets time with her lover sounds fine from a conceptual point of view, but it also means that you are always teased with the prospect of a passionate pas de deux that never arrives. Better in a more intimate setting maybe ? Good performances from Christopher Saunders and Nicola Tranah.
Gloria got a really tremendous performance from the leads - this time everything seemed to come together for the company, and it all really worked. Christopher Saunders and Leanne Benjamin were exquisite in the pas de deux, and Cope seemed to find some reserve of passion and despair that normally only Sylvie calls forth.