Saturday, April 16, 2016


More disappointing that I could imagine


An maybe interesting ballet but by far too long. Imagine bringing together Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, King Lear, the famous Chinese character the Monkey, the four kings from the four cardinal points and the four winds alluding to the four Chinese dragons. And probably many other allusions. It is a potpourri of cultural allusions.

It is classical dancing and it is entirely based on, as for the choreography, basic numbers, two, four, six, eight, mostly and then here and there three, five and seven. Even twelve is also used and sixteen. The whole palette of Christian and Jewish symbolism. Does the music requite that? I do not think so. It is the vision of the choreographer, or rather the amplification of Benjamin Britten’s own vision by the choreographer. The four kings did not require such a heavy play on multiples of four.

Two sisters, one is a half-something. No mother whatsoever and no mother-in-law of any sort. The father thinks he is King Lear and like an old idiotic tired man of power decides to share his kingdom between the two sisters. Good morning Vietnam. The non-half-sister has a betrothed boyfriend but the half-sister turns him into a salamander. Then the half sister summons four kings from the North, dressed in black, from the East dressed in an effeminate flowery attire, from the West dressed in green and from the South dressed in pink with golden skin. They bring presents for the half sister, but that is purely decorative.

Of course the half sister seizes power and the non-half sister goes beyond the looking glass into another world and there she finds her salamander prince. It will all end up well when with one kiss the non-half sister returns her salamander prince into his human shape. Then she can help her wheel-chaired father to go back on the throne, to get rid of her half sister and her four kings and to end up in a celebration of the legitimacy of the two non-half sister and no-longer-salamander prince.

Sorry but in the time of Prokofiev and a few other ballet composers, this is definitely trite. The music itself is in no way original, spectacular, fascinating. It is a very standard if not banal ballet music and the dancing to it is so “classical” that it becomes frankly boring. It is dancing for people who do not know the world has changed since 1850. Why 1850? Just because it is a nice date.

But, and that is the score, the second half, at least, of the third act is a series of dancing pieces for the various groups of dancers, the various couples and the various solos. That adds nothing to the ballet and we had already noticed these groups, these pairs and these soloists.  A pas-de-deux is a pas de deux, though the choreographer seems to have invented two parallel, mirror-like, symmetrical pas-de-un’s which are a pas-de-deux without any contact between the two dancers of the couple. Like a play that was famous in a theater in Charring Cross Road in the early 70s by Alistair Foot and Anthony Marriott: “No sex please, We’re British!”

I am disappointed at such a heavy and hollow ballet with nearly no plot, with no real magic and with no really innovative dancing. Even in 1990 there were quite more creative ballets in the world. In fact it was more a Jacobean masque without any text than a real ballet for even the end of the 20th century.


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