Two of the ballets in the current triple bill at the Opera House are messages of hope, good deeds in a naughty dance world. Both Christopher Wheeldon’s recent Electric Counterpoint and Liam Scarlett’s new Asphodel Meadows are made by choreographers who understand and, plainly, love the language of classic ballet, which is threatened in major troupes today by neurotic modishness and feckless novelty. Wheeldon, grandly gifted, and Scarlett, at the start of what I trust will be a splendid career, offer choreography sprung from a clear line of academic creativity: their works have roots, and from these come dances of true significance.
I revisited them on Wednesday night with enormous pleasure. Electric Counterpoint, in handsome design by Jean-Marc Puissant, is concerned with four dancers’ identities and the ways in which they perceive themselves – and we perceive them on a stage. The piece is shaped by dazzling video imagery from Michael Nunn and William Trevitt: we see the actuality of the dancers, then filmed fantasy, dizzying duplications and hallucinatory confrontations of bodies, leaping, posing.
The camera lies brilliantly in its teeth, and from Wheeldon’s fascinating movement, from the schizophrenic “other” presences that are dream-selves of the cast, there emerge possibilities about the nature of dance in the theatre and what it may achieve in an age of electronic illusion. It is a magic casement opening on to vistas of creativity. Its new cast, Ricardo Cervera, Laura Morera, Marianela Nuñez and Sergey Polunin, are superb.
No less so the second cast for Asphodel Meadows: Sarah Lamb and Johannes Stepanek; Leanne Cope and Jose Martin; Yuhui Choe and Steven McRae. Scarlett’s dances are a continuing joy, musically apt, fresh, yet firmly placed in a classic tradition. I admire his happy command of this language, and there are moments that tell of already sure resource in making emotional and dynamic points.
I noted, too, how the work’s implicit theme of an afterlife runs, like a trace of dye, through the choreography. But the lumbering scenery and the glum costuming need to be rethought. () www.roh.org.uk
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