An unlikely mix of ballets that covers technical proficiency, intriguing narratives and stunning partner work. The whole show takes you through a versatile look at ballet over 70 years, with each piece contrasting with the others to bring something captivating.
The Unknown Soldier
Alastair Marriott’s new ballet is charming with an exquisite pas de deux that stands out in the 30 minute piece. This playful section is an obvious highlight as you see two young adolescents fall in love, ending with a passionate kiss that has been tantalised throughout the dance. The effortless lifts are pleasing and even though the dancers produce a stunning presage, it is most impressive when he pick her up and hovers her 4 inches above the floor as though she has no weight at all – a fantastic effect.
Marriott has taken the true story from Florence Billington’s experience of WW1 and included heart rendering interviews clips of her in full stage gauze. It is a beautiful piece but doesn’t feel original or distant to any war commemorations already in the arts.
The tell-tale signs of the war trumpet from Dario Marianelli’s new score are sure to send chills up your spine, and while the score works perfectly with the ballet; it is very easy not to notice it as it doesn’t add anything particularly exciting to the ballet itself.
Overall The Unknown Soldier is very peacefully beautiful and danced fantastically, but feels as though it is missing something in the story to hook the audience.
Wayne McGregor’s Infra is a complete contrast to The Unknown Soldier. With Marriott demonstrating a piece staying within the realms of ballet tradition, McGregor doesn’t shy away from breaking them. And although Infra is 10 years older, it feels a lot fresher. He does this by straying from typical ballet steps and instead using intricate contemporary movement.
Infra explores what happens ‘below’ the everyday faces we see. What actually goes on beneath the skin? The set (designed by Julian Opie) creates a clear status from the outside/ inside with an LED screen above the dancers, demonstrating pedestrians walking about their everyday life. This is visually spectacular.
However at times it feels as though the dancers are demonstrating their flexibility rather than dancing. It is highly impressive to see legs go beyond 180 degrees, but it starts to feel tiresome and less artistic. As this is an extremely emotive piece and has moments of anguish, it feels watered down by the technical legs.
Symphony in C
Finally, Balanchine’s Symphony in C stands out as the most technically and visually stunning piece of the triple bill. The extremely intricate but always precise dance is satisfyingly coupled with Bizet’s music perfectly. The royal ballet does this justice with very few mistakes, which seem almost inevitable due to the sheer speed of the dance.
Again a complete opposition to its previous ballet (Infra) as this classic piece shows physical excellence but no emotion. This is entirely made up by the agility and pure legendary of Symphony in C.
All in all, it is a fantastic night at the Royal Opera House with extreme variety and as always, stunning dancing.
The Unknown Soldier/ Infra/ Symphony in C is playing at the Royal Opera House until 29 November 2018. For more information and tickets, click here.