January 8, 2014 5:53 pm

Jewels, Royal Opera House, London – review

Not all the performances gleamed, but Natalia Osipova and Steven McRae were glorious in ‘Rubies’
Natalia Osipova in ‘Rubies’©Bill Cooper

Natalia Osipova in ‘Rubies’

The musical sensibilities that are needed when dancing Balanchine ballets – works whose lifeblood is the choreography’s miraculous response to a score – were both grandly in evidence and depressingly absent in Tuesday’s Royal Ballet account of Jewels. Emeralds, evoking the world of Verlaine’s Fêtes galantes, depends upon nuances of feeling, steps and poses whose elegance hints at emotion only half-expressed, arising effortlessly from Fauré’s shadows and delights. Laura Morera, in the second ballerina’s role, was exquisitely apt, her artistry living in its music, playing in the subtlest way – phrases shaped and flowering into life with a loving assurance – with the choreography, and revealing its secrets.

Faultless artistry, subtlest responses to Balanchine and Fauré, matched on Tuesday night by Edward Watson’s elegance in seeking to create a world of feeling while partnering an irredeemably pedestrian Roberta Marquez, and by Dawid Trzensimiech’s clean-cut grace in the trio, offering stylish, apt dancing. Performances such as these tell much about the true classic identity of Britain’s national ballet, its power as an ensemble, even a chameleon skill in presenting works foreign to its traditional identity.

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In the final Diamonds section of Balanchine’s “applause-machine” – so Lincoln Kirstein described it – the ensemble was admirably exact, and I offer compliments to the male dancer who led the men in the right-hand (from the audience’s view) line of danseurs: an exact, dashing and musical exemplar. Laurels to him and all his colleagues. The leading couple, Lauren Cuthbertson and Rupert Pennefather, were decent, but their roles are far greater than they showed.

And in the central Rubies we found Natalia Osipova, ideally matched with the blazing Steven McRae. Blissful, joyous, naughty, bravura dancing from them both. Osipova was witty, saucy, extravagant, living in the score, knocking spots off her choreography, fizzing through pirouettes, playing to and with McRae – who rejoices in every challenge that she and Balanchine set him. With both artists, bravura moments have a heady and intoxicating verve and ever more dazzling effects. But these do not distort the choreography: rather do they burnish movement to a brighter gloss, and everywhere honour the dance itself. Glorious.


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