A Gathering and a Dream

If I had to nominate just one ballet as a favourite it might very well be Dances at a Gathering, choreographed for the New York City Ballet in 1969 by Jerome Robbins, to eighteen short piano pieces by Chopin (played on the piano, not orchestrated). The Royal Ballet first performed it in 1970, and I saw it nine times between then and 1975 with casts including Rudolf Nureyev, Anthony Dowell, Monica Mason, Antoinette Sibley, Lynn Seymour and Michael Coleman - stars indeed. I wish someone had had the wit to film it. I've waited thirty-three years for the Royal Ballet to revive it and yesterday evening I saw their new production.

The cast of five men and five women appear in various combinations including solos and one man with three women, but not all ten appearing together until the finale item. There is no plot: Robbins was insistent that it was pure dance, but it is possible to see little stories and shifting relationships in the dances, which are also strongly influenced by the personalities of the dancers (in the original I well remember Nureyev and Dowell warily circling each other like fighting cocks). The choreography is broadly classical, with some mazurka-like movements, and is affectionate, witty and moving: though deliberately avoiding show-off sequences it's brilliantly done and I was surprised how much I remembered of it after all these years.

The cast included Marianel Nuñez. Lauren Cuthbertson, Leanne Benjamin, Carlos Acosta and Martin Harvey. They all inhabited the work well, their personalities shining through: I felt there was possibly a little less electricity than I remembered with the original, but that may be because I was more familiar with the original dancers. It's well worth reviving and I hope they will keep it in the repertoire: not much hope that anyone will film this version either, but worth hoping for.

The second item was Ashton's The Dream, a version of the forest scenes of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream - inevitably simplified and concentrating more on Oberon and Titania. Dating from 1964, I feel that the choreography is less subtle and fluid than Ashton's best work, but it captures the Victorian fairyland associated with Mendelssohn's music well. The cast included Roberta Marquez as Titania, Johan Kobborg as Oberon, Paul Kay as Puck and Bennet Gartside as Bottom.

Posted: Thu - June 5, 2008 at 09:16 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM