London Beckons

The twin allure of the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden and Pina Bausch at Sadler’s Wells was irresistible. So Ballet to the People ordered some fine spring weather and hopped across the pond.

Edward Watson and the artists of the Royal Ballet in Balanchine's THE FOUR TEMPERAMENTS (Photo: Tristram Kenton)

Edward Watson and the artists of the Royal Ballet in Balanchine’s THE FOUR TEMPERAMENTS (Photo: Tristram Kenton)

On deplaning, she hightailed it over to the Royal Opera House for the final night of a curious mixed bill that seems to have been programmed by the ancient dart-throwing method. Balanchine’s iconic The Four Temperaments set a high bar for the rest of the evening, followed by a much-anticipated new work by Hofesh Shechter, Untouchable. And a 65-minute closer, which violates the general rules of programming evenings of dance – except that it’s Kenneth MacMillan’s Song of the Earth, set to the sublime Mahler song cycle, “Das Lied von der Erde.”

Artists of the Royal Ballet in the world première of Hofesh Shechter's UNTOUCHABLE (Photo: Tristram Kenton)

Artists of the Royal Ballet in the world première of Hofesh Shechter’s UNTOUCHABLE (Photo: Tristram Kenton)

Carlos Acosta, Marianela Nuñez, and Nehemiah Kish in Kenneth MacMillan's SONG OF THE EARTH (Photo: Tristram Kenton)

Carlos Acosta, Marianela Nuñez, and Thiago Soares in Kenneth MacMillan’s SONG OF THE EARTH (Photo: Tristram Kenton)

Click here to read her full review in the Huffington Post.

The following evening, jet lag fully banished by the Shechter, she gatecrashed a rehearsal at the Royal Ballet, in which Wayne McGregor took Alessandra Ferri (in an audacious comeback, after retiring from the stage in 2007), Edward Watson and Federico Bonelli through their paces for a new, full-length ballet inspired by three novels by Virginia Woolf.

Hanging upside down, draped over Federico Bonelli’s back, the fragile-looking Alessandra Ferri piped up, offhandedly: “I think you have the other leg.”

There then ensued a conversation over whether Bonelli should have wrapped his arm around her upstage leg. “I thought you bent it so I could get through to the downstage leg,” he explained.

Watching the two work it out, choreographer Wayne McGregor mused: “Perhaps it’s a good thing they’re not married.” The audience of about 100 in the Royal Opera House’s intimate Clore rehearsal studio chuckled.

Click here to read her full account of the Woolf Works rehearsal on Bachtrack.

 

Wayne McGregor in rehearsal (Photo: Johan Persson)

Wayne McGregor in rehearsal (Photo: Johan Persson)

Next up was a Pina Bausch work never previously seen in London. In Auf dem Gebirge Hat Man ein Geschrei Gehört (On the Mountain a Cry Was Heard), the striking dancers of Tanztheater Wuppertal spent the evening diving into and thrashing around in a thick layer of dirt that covered the stage at Sadler’s Wells – a clean, chemical-free, soil, we were relieved to hear, that minimized the hazard to the dancers.

They danced to Billie Holiday’s feverish protest song, “Strange Fruit,” about lynchings in the American South, Mendelssohn’s “War March of the Priests,” tunes made popular by Fred Astaire and Edith Piaf, and schmaltz played live by a dignified, silver-haired ensemble identified in the program as An Orchestra of Senior Musicians.

A glimpse of Pina Bausch's In Auf dem Gebirge Hat Man ein Geschrei Gehört through the smoke brilliantly engineered by Bausch's long time collaborator and designer Peter Pabst  (Photo: Ulli Weiss)

A glimpse of Pina Bausch’s In Auf dem Gebirge Hat Man ein Geschrei Gehört through the smoke brilliantly engineered by Bausch’s long time collaborator and designer Peter Pabst (Photo: Ulli Weiss)

When not slip-sliding around in the dirt, the dancers careened around the auditorium, stripped, played the piano, tried to scale the proscenium wall, ganged up on one another, and executed rituals by turns lyrical, cryptic, and cruel.

Click here to find out what we thought of the whole extravaganza on Bachtrack.

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