The Royal Ballet ploughs on, undaunted, in spite of another national lockdown, more cancellations and an auditorium closed to members of the public. Kevin O’Hare is surely inwardly despairing but he must be filled with pride when he watches his dancers perform. The second live streaming (with a few company members and very vocal staff in the audience) surpassed even our own high expectations with a performance of sublime brilliance and artistry. They seem to be thriving, perhaps wanting to prove a point – they are not giving up. It was also a beautifully balanced evening in terms of repertoire, casting and musical delights. Established partnerships such as Marianela Nuñez and Vadim Muntagirov in Le Corsaire, leave one breathless. Such faultless, exemplary work, all delivered with majestic elegance which they both manage to make look so natural, one can only marvel. Francesca Hayward and César Corrales gave a fluid, intelligent account of the Swan Lake Act II pas de deux. They will no doubt grow further into it, but the purity, sincerity and absence of affectation was a good start. Laura Morera and Federico Bonelli were rapturous in the Manon bedroom pas de deux as one would expect from these two great artists. Anna Rose O’Sullivan and Marcelino Sambé stormed their way through the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, in a Covent Garden debut, bringing their usual brand of thrilling exuberance to the stage. I believe we are witnessing the beginnings of a great partnership.
Akane Takada and Alexander Campbell brought delicacy and lyricism to Ashton’s Rhapsody pas de deux and Yasmine Naghdi and Nicol Edmonds were superlative in MacMillan’s Concerto pas deux. In both cases, the partnering skills of Campbell and Edmonds allowed their ladies to shine, so solid and attentive were they within every phrase. Edmonds was part of one of the best casts I’ve ever seen in Ashton’s Monotones II. Along with Reece Clarke and Melissa Hamilton, a vision of serenity, the three of them embraced Satie’s score with seamless and impeccable precision. They simply didn’t put a foot wrong, utterly mesmeric, and belying the difficulties of this hugely exposing choreography. It was a revelation. A further revelation was the casting of Romany Pajdak and Calvin Richardson in Cathy Marston’s In Our Wishes. I’ve always admired Pajdak’s interpretive skills, but the advantage of close up camera work meant that the full weight of her beauty and dramatic input, alongside a highly responsive partner in Richardson, turned this into a very powerful duet. Of the two solos on offer, Natalia Osipova gave us her own, very individual account of The Dying Swan. No one gets under the skin of a role in the same way as Osipova. She lives and breathes whatever she does, which I find wholly admirable. I understand what her motives were and yes, one can feel her pain but aesthetically, I didn’t always think that the distorted neck lines worked. William Bracewell in Ashton’s Dance of the Blessed Spirits was blissfully on form. He clearly understands the importance of Ashton’s épaulement and port de bras. Fluid and gorgeously streamlined, definitely one of the evening’s many highlights.
This programme was bookended with two fabulous pieces. Christopher Wheeldon’s Within the Golden Hour is always a complete pleasure to watch and certainly a bonus ending to an evening. Every time I watch it, it seems to get better. It is a feel good ballet and it hits just the right tone of hopefulness. Among an outstanding cast, David Donnelly and Téo Dubreuil were thrillingly in sync in their duet and it was a delight to see O’Sullivan paired with James Hay in the first pas de deux. Fumi Kaneko with Reece Clark and Sarah Lamb with Ryoichi Hirano were dreamy in their subsequent duets.
The evening opened with a world premiere and a main stage debut from first soloist Valentino Zucchetti, Scherzo to Rachmaninoff. He cleverly chose a cast made up of the younger company members and gave them opportunities to show us just how much talent is coming through. Highly structured, almost mathematical and exceedingly musical, this short taster, bodes well for his future. The steps themselves were challenging, especially when delivered at high velocity but Zucchetti’s faith in his dancers paid off. It was terrific, with some excellent solo work from Taisuke Nakao and Leticia Dias and a cast who each had their moments of glory. It was good see youngster Joseph Aumeer being given a small window of opportunity to wow us with his expansive jumps and warm stage presence.
While we have gone back into mourning over the closure of theatres open to the public, there is no doubt that these streamings have allowed a much larger and more diverse public to access performances that might otherwise not have been possible. It also gives an up close and personal view which for the most part has been thoroughly enjoyable. Another benefit is being able to watch it more than once. When it’s this good, it’s impossible not to indulge.
By Deborah Weiss
Available until 12 December 2020 at stream.roh.co.uk at a cost of £10.00