, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The consensus is that it is a bad idea to write about or review ballets.  Audience members have, to some degree, the same bad reputation as the performers and venues: blinkered, pretentious and antiquated. The winter months in particular promote the idea that ballet is all about pretty white waifs in feathers pretending to be princesses to the strains of Tchaikovsky.  Both the big venues and the small crack open the Nutcracker and get the tube pasted with pictures of music box twirlers. Despite the Royal Opera House also playing host to a performance of Swan Lake this November, something far more exciting is also taking place.  For alongside the usual suspects on the bill, a number of modern ballets – often short, one-act performances coupled together in groups of three – are also being touted.

A few weeks back, I went to see one of the first of these this winter, a mixed bill of Viscera, Infra and Fool’s Paradise.  Having been shunned by my first date for the night – apparently a UCL Ulysses tour around Dublin was more enticing than Me in Covent Garden – I tentatively messaged Olia instead, half expecting to get a ‘Ballet, seriously?’ response.  As it was, she not only really sweetly accepted, but later even admitted to shedding a few tears during the evening – and not, I believe, at having witnessed a snap shot into our future aged lives.

I get the impression that these three ballets were the kind of thing that would be fully applauded by Thomas Leroy, the control freak director played by Vincent Cassel in Black Swan.  I could hear his instruction ‘we want to strip it all back…’ as the first set of dancers came on in teeny deep red leotards made to look backless so that when they turned around all you saw of the female dancer was a tiny pair of pants and long back knotted with crazy over-developed muscles.  Along with no tutus, there were also no props of any kind on stage, so all focus was on the semi-naked dancers instead of on ornate cots for Sleeping Beauty or scary nutcracker dolls.

I don’t know what the story was behind any of the three performances.  I have the programme next to me, so I could find out.  Doing so, however, might miss the point.  For the point was that you could fall into the performance as easily as post-wine sleep without having been brought up on a Disney version of it.  It was enough just to be entranced by the movement of the dancers and their insane athleticism.  It was also amazing to see so many male dancers and to really see them dance, and not just flit in and out with a hunting bow or lifting up the prima ballerina lead.  If a grown-up version of Billy Eliot really does exist somewhere then surely he is, or should be, dancing this kind of role and not just playing handsome-and-wealthy to a Half Girl, Half Swan.

It was also – and here is something for the ‘everything is over-sexualized these days’ brigade – one of the most truly sexy things I have not just recently, but ever, seen.  Yes, that is correct, Sex at the Royal Opera House: lock up your daughters.  By which I mean it was sexy in a broken down, dusty and sweaty way, with hints of both old-fashioned romance and modern inhibition losing, a lot like a Dolce and Gabbana advert.

Until the 5th December another three-part show Concerto/Las Hermanas/Requium is showing and later in December another mixed bill, this time of classics including The Firebird appears.  I am really hoping many more contemporary ballets are going to be shown in coming years, either in this format or as full productions, as this is completely the direction the Royal Ballet should be heading in order to keep audiences and to create a legacy of new and contemporary choreography and performances.  This, I think, rather than Odeon screenings of the classics is going to bring in a new set of people unashamed to go to The Ballet.

Read this and weekly London culture pickings at:http://www.suitcasemag.com/cherry-picked-londonyoud-be-a-fool-not-to/