Three modern ballets
triple bill of modern ballets - one a new one - at the Royal Opera House yesterday evening.
Glen Tetley's Voluntaries dates from 1973 and is danced to Poulenc's Organ Concerto in G minor (an electronic organ provided a reasonable facsimile of a church organ). Just as the concerto, though distinctly in Poulenc's style, uses phrases which might have come from Bach, the choreography uses many of the basic building-blocks of classical dance, but suffused with a layer of emotion - mostly tension. The dancers were led by Maria Nuñez and Rupert Pennefather.
Voluntaries has no plot: The Lesson, choreography by Flemming Flindt to music by Georges Delerue, has a very distinct plot, drawn from a play by Ionesco. A scruffy rehearsal room: an eager female student waits outside and rings the bell while the stiff-backed female pianist clears up the mess from the last session. The pupil enters and begins limbering up with infectious enthusiasm. The teacher appears - a nervous looking man (perhaps a cousin of Norman Bates). He instructs the pupil in ugly dance movements: she transforms them into something approaching elegance. As the lesson proceeds he becomes more demanding and bullying. She protests and becomes upset but he forces her to dance in awkward and ugly movements. He argues with the pianist, who storms out. The lesson continues: in the end he strangles her. The pianist helps him remove the body, and begins to tidy up. The next pupil rings the bell... Edward Watson asnthe teacher, Yuhui Choe as the pupil and Elizabeth McGorian as the pianist in a performance which veered expertly from black comedy to disturbing drama.
Wayne McGregor's Infra received its first performance only a few days ago (this was its fourth). 'Infra' is the word modifier meaning 'beneath': the programme note begins with a quote from T.S.Eliot's The Waste Land: the few lines which end 'I had not thought that death had undone so many'.
A plain stage (even the curtains at the top of the proscenium with the ROH crest were raised to allow only a black curtain) with, halfway back and above the dancers, a video screen stretching across the stage: simple animations of people calmly walking back and forth continue through the ballet - perhaps commuters, they show no emotion as the dancers perform. Angular, tense and twisting, sometimes affectionate, sometimes confronting, they dance in different couples, occasionally in groups. At the end a large group walks calmly left to right, mirroring the animations: one girl collapses in despair, another watches but does nothing, and the commuters walk, and walk... Commuters do not make eye contact. Beneath the visible run the feelings which no-one shows.
The music - electronic plus a live string quartet - is by Max Richter: the difficult choreography was well performed by all, with lead dancers Leanne Benjamin, Yuhui Choe, Lauren Cuthbertson, Ricardo Cervera and Ryochi Hirano.
Posted: Fri - November 21, 2008 at 09:56 AM by Roger Wilmut
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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM