I am not a ballet fanatic, but I love certain ballet dancers and this art form in general, so if Bolshoi or Maryinsky come to town, I run. However, it’s not just the Russian ballet that I adore, so when I heard that renowned American Ballet Company was coming to town, I got my tickets as soon as I could, particularly as Alexei Ratmansky,who lifted Bolshoi’s repertoire to new heights while in residence, has become ABT’s artist in residence in 2009.
Sadler’s Wells is a great venue for dance performances ( if anything I almost prefer its stage to any other in London)-it was close to the university where I did my studies, so I went there and watched Baryshnykov or Sylvie Guillem and the crowd and atmosphere was always lovely and buzzing-it was great fun to come in advance, sip a glass of wine or juice and just watch the crowd assemble.
I chose to see ABT’s Programme One, which included four pieces. The first ballet was called ‘Seven Sonatas’ and was choreographed by Ratmansky, who just blows me away with his choreography every time and this was no exception. Ballet dancers-three men and three women, even though different in height, colouring and technique, were beautiful in their movements and even though many moves appeared classic, they were very modern at the same time too. This was followed by world renowned Twyla Tharp’s choreographed ‘Known by heart (”Junk”) duet of striking Gillian Murphy and incredibly athletic Blaine Hoven (he is build more like a gymnast than a ballet dancer, in my view, but is incredibly supple and his movements are so powerful yet beautifully precise and rhythmic-i wish I possessed his sense of rhythm). From the first sounds of music, I just fell in love with this unusual piece which was funny and charming and mesmerising all rolled in one-when the music and the dance came to an end I wanted to cry because….I wanted to see it again-so unusual and so striking, I didn’t think it was possible to dance like that.
The third ballet, ‘Duo Concertant’ which had choreography of George Balanchine and music by Igor Stravinsky was very classic and maybe even a little too much so for me on that day. The costumes and the colour and the importance of light were all there, but it just didn’t pull at my heart strings….
Final piece, ‘Everything doesn’t happen at once’ was choreographed by Benjamin Millepied, who I have seen dance a while back and who is currently in the news because of his incredibly evocative choreography for Oscar nominated movie ‘Black Swan’. I loved watching the stage being prepared and the dancers warm up but the beginning was so unusual and the music quite unnerving, I was a little let down but then, as if sensing that, the energy picked up and the piece and the dancers just made me pause for breath as the moves were very complex, the stage full of beautiful dancers and they moved so fast, I wondered how do they not bump into each other-it was so dramatic and difficult but I smiled seeing so much youth and energy and combination of classic and modern ballet that it just made my evening out totally perfect. ‘
Going home I pondered how ballet has been changing, as years go by-I grew up watching the ballet classics like Spartacus (my uncle danced in it), Swan Lake and the Nutcracker on the stage of Bolshoi theatre-and now even classical ballets look so different, somewhat more visual and the dancer’s built has changed dramatically too. I almost find myself thinking at times that I hold a traditional view that ballerinas should be very slim and petite, and if they have bulkier thighs and rounder upper body it sometimes distracts me, even though it’s a very personal opinion and I would never disrespect those beautiful creatures dancing on stage giving joy to the eyes and the soul.