BWW Review: LIVE FROM COVENT GARDEN - DANCE, Royal Opera House
The third installment of Live from Covent Garden is the first to feature two ballet performances instead of one, and all the stronger for it. The result is a more rounded experience for arts fans and the choice of pas de deux more satisfying than those seen before.
Proceedings are proficiently orchestrated by presenter Katie Derham, whose natural warmth and clear enthusiasm for the arts is an improvement on Anita Rani's rather more distant approach, which lacked some authority.
Of course, as before, the balletic performances feature real-life couples who are not required to socially distance. An interview with Royal Ballet Director Kevin O'Hare informed us that it had not been possible to retrieve the original costumes from storage due to the pandemic, so the featured couples would perform in simple practice wear.
The first number is a tender, understated performance from Mayara Magri and Matthew Ball of Christopher Wheeldon's Within the Golden Hour. Appearing to have lost none of their finesse over the lockdown, Magri iss especially radiant, with a faultless, delicate technique and precise développés, while Ball's partnering is smooth and allows them to flow easily between different poses.
The pair deliver the slow, exposing choreography beautifully, flicking from moments to stillness, to covering the vast stage with runs and drags with admirable control over their unhurried, unfolding legs and arms. It's an engaging, if not wholly impactful performance, enhanced by the mournful strings of Ezio Bosso's score.
The lack of costumes is a shame here. Although the practice wear does give an attractive stripped-back feel, fitting for these uncertain times, the original glittering outfits worn for Wheeldon's work are a highlight of the piece.
If Magri and Ball provide an enticing opener, the performance from Fumi Kaneko and Reece Clarke forms the memorable centrepiece to the evening with Kenneth MacMillan's Concerto. Clarke cuts a commanding presence with strong poses and partnering, while Kaneko's fluid, pure movements are wonderful to behold.
MacMillan's inspiration for the piece was drawn from observing how a ballerina works at the barre, and strong partnership, trust and timing are imperative - and something this real-life couple are able to capture effortlessly.
Danced to Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No.2 (the slow movement), the long, lingering, spooling leans and stretches complement the score well. Kaneko is picture perfect in each and every pose, clean arabesque lines held for us to admire, and then held aloft in Clarke's safe arms. At times, she's reminiscent of a ballerina seen in a music box as she is turned en pointe by her partner whilst holding a développé or arabesque with ease.
The combination of the music, simple presentation and choreography is moving to watch, creating undoubtedly the highlight of the evening, even if you're not logging on for the ballet.
You can view Live from Covent Garden for the next two weeks here for £4.99
Image: ROH Facebook page