Sunday, 29 January 2012

Insight: Dream and Song

Insight evening: The Dream/ Song of the Earth, Linbury Studio Theatre @ ROH – reviewed on 27th January

Ballet master Christopher Carr rehearsed Valentino Zuchetti and James Hay as Puck in Frederick Ashton’s The Dream. Despite both dancers being cast as covers, Zuchetti will now actually get to perform the role on opening night next week.
Carr highlighted the minute details that define Puck’s character. On his first entrance, he’s like a ‘rabbit in headlights’ as he runs on, rapidly changing direction and making repeated momentary halts. Puck has a number of large leaps and Carr encouraged the dancers to “live en l’air” and hold the jump position for five minutes! He also emphasised that preparations into virtuosic steps should not be visible to the audience.
Carr described his own experience in the role as very tiring. He stated that the “scenery is like an obstacle course” and that Puck has to perform lots of swift running and jumping sections without crashing into anything.
Carr then sat down with Royal Ballet director Monica Mason to discuss the upcoming double bill with works by defining British choreographers Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan. The Dream displays typical Ashton style, with classical and romantic choreography that ‘speaks’ of its characters. It follows the play very closely in structure, with emphasis on musicality and story-telling. Mason highlighted the beautiful pas de deux for Oberon and Titania which is rooted in classical technique but with “luscious arms” crossing the centre line of the body and giving the choreography an exotic feel.

The Dream
Photo: Johan Persson, courtesey of ROH

Mason compared the two choreographers’ styles by stating: “They were both so different which is why it is great to have their works side by side in the double bill. Fred loved beauty and romance. Kenneth wasn’t bothered by beauty but his ugly was beautiful.”
Monica Mason then coached principal dancers Nehemiah Kish, Marianela Nuñez and Edward Watson in MacMillan’s Song of the Earth. She described Song as “one of Kenneth’s greatest works, depicting life’s miseries and joys and looking death in the face”.
Dancers performed knotted duets and trios including complex lifts with poise and fluidity. Mason highlighted the meaning of some of the choreography – where Death (Watson) is speaking to Nuñez and she refuses to listen.
Mason was keen to keep dancers on the beat of the music. “The Mahler counts are like chewing gum – all stretchy – try not to arrive late.” She also encouraged Nuñez to avoid ‘decorating’ her gestures in typical ballet style: “We don’t need any romance. Don’t feel beautiful. It’s about the simplicity of the music and nothing extra”.
In coaching the final female solo, Mason described the choreography as saying farewell to the world, with the core of the body driving every movement. She finished by asking Nuñez if she was excited about performing Song. Her answer was unequivocally positive: “I’ve been waiting forever!”.

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