SFB are following up their very well received gala opening with a very nicely structured mixed bill, for two performances, before moving on to Swan Lake later in the week - a very varied and ambitious programme overall. It was another impressive evening, with some lovely performances from the principals and a chance to admire the discipline of the corps. The only item which let the evening down was the leaden playing by the English Chamber Orchestra who clumped through the Tchaikovsky as if it had all the grandeur and poetry of a railway timetable. Next time SFB visit (and they must come back), please let it be with a different band.
Balanchineís Theme and Variations was the opener. The leads were taken by two soloists, Vanessa Zahorian and Guennadi Nedviguine. He was impressive, but I found her a little tentative or perhaps lacking in authority: the four women soloists looked rather more confident than she did. The corps looked very much at home in the work, nicely drilled, with just a few nerves showing in the trickier long passages on pointe. It was delightful to see this work again, as it hasnít been staged in England for a while - BRB used to do this a few years ago and I have fond memories of Yoshida in it. Itís just so beautifully structured, and seems to pass so quickly.
The second work, Robbinsí the Cage also hasnít been seen in London for quite some time: BRB toured it a few years ago, but never brought it to London. Iíd never seen it before and was totally gripped: one of the few ballets I wish were longer. It was given a powerful performance by an excellent cast. Muriel Maffre was a seriously scary insect Queen, utilising her wonderful long legs to maximum effect. Lucia Lacarra was a lusciously pliable Novice: she must be made of some different material, something more flexible and elastic than ordinary mortals. David Palmer was her unfortunate victim, and the partnering in the pas de deux was exemplary. It was received a passionately enthusiastic response.
A shirt piece from SFBís Artistic Director, Helgi Tomasson, followed. Although this was done with some panache by Joanna Berman and Possokov, it didnít carry anything like the impact of the work which preceded it.
The final item was Mark Morrisí Sandpaper Ballet, made for the company this year, and an ideal closing item. For the first time that evening, the company appeared to relax a little and the 30 dancers on stage started to really have fun and project a real sense of enjoyment as well as concentration. It was great fun, but itís not a throwaway piece of work: however light hearted and jokey it is, and at times it is quite delightfully silly, it has still been beautifully crafted, and tailored to the music with Morrisís usual care and affection. Seeing this after Morrisís own company has been here so recently is interesting - the same ideas sometimes with groups of dancers flashing across the stage like shoals of fish, contrasting with small groupings of two or three dancers. But here the vocabulary is different, made on a more classical base. Itís a work which could do with much more description than I have time for here. I hope we get the chance to see it again sometime. The audience loved it: a very successful evening for SFB.