It is like the release of the prisoners in Fidelio. Blinking as they emerge into the light, three one-act ballets – recent creations made (as it were) on the premises – arrive on the Covent Garden stage, and are greeted by an enthusiastic public. And not a swan’s feather, not a snowflake in sight. So Royal Ballet’s new triple bill, all about dancing, denied most of the tra-la-la that usually attends its upholstered full-evening ventures, and on offer at bargain prices. I have doubts about one work, but the chance to see our national ballet shaping its future, with the cream of its dancers on stage, is irresistible.
The programme is a fascination, even if its two novelties are second-hand: Liam Scarlett made his Viscera for the Miami City Ballet last year, using Lowell Liebermann’s piano concerto as score; Christopher Wheeldon created his Fool’s Paradise for his Morphoses troupe in 2007 to Joby Talbot music. But both are sprung from the Royal Ballet’s ethos, and both speak to the company’s dancers and to the company’s identity. They are at home on the Royal Opera House stage. The third part of the evening is Wayne McGregor’s Infra, which strikes me as entirely alien. Its cast is splendid, albeit deformed by McGregor’s manner.
Viscera shows Scarlett’s young, impressive talent responding with an unfailing elegance to Liebermann’s writing. Design is stripped to the bone; dance springs from the stage as lines and energies form and change, and in the spare slow movement, choreography responds to each note with an austere, persuasive clarity. We see the music.
Wheeldon’s Fool’s Paradise is allusive, curious, offering hints and sideways glances at feeling and identity, choreography holding its cards close to its chest and then suddenly revealing penetrating insights into relationships. As with Viscera, performances are splendid: the dancing of Laura Morera, Marianela Núñez, Ryoichi Hirano, Sarah Lamb, Melissa Hamilton, Edward Watson, Steven McRae and their colleagues throughout the evening is impeccable. A significant event, marking the new directorate of Kevin O’Hare with the Royal Ballet. “Ballets,” someone should write in big letters in the rehearsal studios, “are about dancing”.