Monday, 23 March 2009

Roayl Ballet double Bill

To the Royal Ballet on Friday to see the double bill of MacMillan's Isadora and Jerome Robbins Dances at a gathering.

I saw Isadora when it was new, when it was a 2 act ballet which used a dancer (Merle Park I believe) and an actress to play Isadora and mixed spoken and dance sections. It was interested, but never seemed to gel. Now MacMillan's widow has digested it down into a single act of just over an hour. The staging uses a lot of film, much of it archive, along with Nichola McAuliffe's recorded voice as Isadora. The result flows a little better, but it still seemed disjointed and the dance never seemed to get time to build. Each number followed by spoken dialogue and film, effectively meant that any emotional tension was dispersed.

The same is true of Richard Rodney Bennett's score, which never seemed to develop much of a life of its own. It was not helped by the fact that some of the big numbers needed pastiche music (which Bennett does very well). But the more serious moments never seemed to have the emotional pull that the best bits of his Edward II score, for David Bintley, did.

I'm afraid that Isadora seems to be an honourable failure. We have to admit that MacMillan, if he had lived, would undoubtedly cast the work into a rather different form.

The companion piece was Jerome Robbins Dances at a Gathering. Set to Chopin piano pieces, 5 couples dance solos, duets and ensembles. The language is classical with some wry touches of humour. But after 40 minutes, though the dancers exhibited poise, grace and wit, I wanted something more; I longed for the Revolutionary Prelude, something which stretched the emotions somewhat. The ballet was enormously popular with the audience. But at around an hour and a quarter, it had left me behind long before the end.

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