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The costumes created by Barbara Karinska for Balanchine’s Allegro brillante many moons ago are, in their mimsy way, quite as lowering to the spirits as the no-coloured leotards and murky lighting that are endemic to Christopher Wheeldon’s Morphoses dance company. Karinska proposed pinkish dresses, the men cursed with abbreviated pastel jerkins, like peasantry from some long-abandoned operetta. But, and how much that “but” means, the choreography springs with celestial inevitability from Tchaikovsky’s third piano concerto, brilliant in every effect. (Balanchine liked to say that he compressed into its 13-minute span everything he knew about ballet.) It is a marvel, and as the opening for the second Wheeldon programme, it blazed, with joy and with Alexandra Ansanelli’s blissful account of the ballerina role.
It is a work Ansanelli knew during her New York City Ballet days, and she has the speed, the assured and utterly musical bravura needed to soar through every coloratura challenge. Exact in everything, with the most taxing fiorituri of pirouettes placed perfectly on the musical phrase, it is a performance of grandest distinction and irresistible charm – the choreography offered with radiant generosity. The ensemble, Angel Corella as cavalier and four gifted couples, was no less pleasing.
In the very different circumstances of Forsythe’s Slingerland duet, Wendy Whelan transformed the piece by the intelligence and wit of her dancing. What seemed obscure and tedious at Wednesday’s opening, was brought to life: here was rare artistry.
The evening also brought the first performance of Wheeldon’s latest choreography. Fools’ Paradise is set to a neo-romantic score by Joby Talbot, entitled The Dying Swan. Ask not. There are four couples and an extra chap. Add the reign of darkness, the usual hateful leotards, an occasional shower of silvery confetti to relieve the gloom, and dance well-made and marked by fascinating poses and groupings, but seeming to me to be so self-obsessed that it would not speak to us. What was it about? It was about 27 minutes long.
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