Royal Ballet review – Kyle Abraham’s fresh style connects to the real world | Dance


Without seeming as if he’s trying too hard to be new or different, choreographer Kyle Abraham fills the stage with dance that feels effortlessly fresh. The American draws on movement from ballet, contemporary dance, hip-hop and everyday life to create work that connects with the world outside the theatre. In work for his own company, AIM, Abrahams has dwelt on subject matter from street violence to the American prison system. The Weathering, his first big piece for the Royal Ballet (he made a short, Optional Family, last year) is informed by the idea of losing the people we love, but it comes in the form of glowing remembrance, transported to youthful energy and hopeful connections, opening to Ryan Lott’s score sounding like twittering spring birds.

There’s a looseness in the torsos that means when dancers move they seem like real people, even though the choreography also delights in ballet’s virtuosity: jumps full of crisscrossing beats, high-velocity turns. There is exuberant life and tender duets, especially one for Joseph Sissens and Calvin Richardson, which opens with them touching foreheads in arabesque. The stage is bathed in shades of rose gold, each lighting change (by Dan Scully) a small revelation. Only in a subtly moving final solo does the sense of loss arrive; glowing lamps descend from the ceiling, perhaps one light for every person missed.

Dancers perform Christopher Wheeldon’s DGV: Danse à Grande Vitesse at the Royal Opera House, London.
Finely engineered … Dancers perform Christopher Wheeldon’s DGV: Danse à Grande Vitesse at the Royal Opera House, London. Photograph: Robbie Jack/Corbis/Getty Images

This triple bill showcases the chameleon-esque abilities of the modern ballet dancer. Crystal Pite’s Solo Echo was made for Nederlands Dans Theater, but the seven dancers here fully embody its exclamatory style and tensile urgency, especially Luca Acri in the central role, always an expressive and explosive mover. Compared with Abraham’s freshness, the crisp neoclassicism of Christopher Wheeldon’s DGV: Danse à Grande Vitesse looks very 2006 (when it was made): it’s all about the display of long-limbed extensions and finely engineered bodies.

With Michael Nyman’s propulsive minimalism as backdrop, it’s easy to let it all wash over you, but a couple of dancers shake things up: Sissens tearing on to the stage with gusto, and William Bracewell turning his pas de deux into a game and teasing the superpoised Yasmine Naghdi to let her guard down.

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