He Says: The Royal Ballet – Rhapsody & The Two Pigeons 23/01/2016

James Hay in Frederick Ashton's Rhapsody © ROH, 2016. Photograph by Helen Maybanks

Before proceeding with my review of The Royal Ballet’s double bill, I must confess that I am slowly falling in love with Ashton’s work. To be fair, I must be biased because Frederick Ashton was born in my hometown – Guayaquil, Ecuador – but still there is something about his work that makes it exciting – is it the choice of music, the choreography, or maybe the plot? I don’t know but there is something. Again, I am no expert since I have only seen La fille mal gardée, Monotones I & II, The Two Pigeons, and now Rhapsody.

The Royal Ballet’s revival of Rhapsody, part of the bill with The Two Pigeons, takes us to a night of classical ballet – something that seems to be slowly disappearing from the Royal Ballet. Known as one of Ashton’s last works, he choreographed Rhapsody for a festive occasion – Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother’s 80th birthday.

When the curtain goes up, we are taken to a dream world back in ancient Greece (or Rome), where our ensemble of six men and six women are all posing just like marble statues. The principals for tonight were Yuhui Choe and Valentino Zucchetti. (Not pictured on this post)

Francesca Hayward and James Hay in Frederick Ashton's Rhapsody © ROH, 2016. Photograph by Helen Maybanks

Francesca Hayward and James Hay in Frederick Ashton’s Rhapsody © ROH, 2016. Photograph by Helen Maybanks

From the moment Choe makes her way to the middle of the stage, we are greeted with a smile that illuminates the whole auditorium. She is so petite but it is impressive how her charisma gives her this grandeur presence. Throughout the whole performance she combined her graceful port de bras with an incredible physical strength giving an effortless performance. To be honest, she looked like a goddess which is quite fitting to the staging.

Zucchetti is another charismatic dancer that took command of the stage and without hesitating what is next move was. While Choe’s role was delightful and calm, his role seemed to be more about showing off. In summary, Valentino nailed every turn, slide, and defied gravity just like Steven McCrae a few nights earlier – words from ballet veterans not only mine! His pas de deux with Choe was simply exquisite with both of them balancing perfectly against each other. I’ll even dare to say that they performed their roles they way that Ashton envisioned it when choreographing Rhapsody.

Finally, what I love about Ashton’s choreography is that he always made sure that the corps de ballet shined as much as the principals. The ensemble were incredible and they complimented the whole performance. Also it is admirable how much intensity they put into their performance. They make it look so easy while dancing but once they rest on the side of the stage you can notice that how the dancers were trying to catch their breath.

Overall if you love classical ballet, good music, and beautiful choreography, then this double Ashton Bill is a must see!

You can read my review of Monotones I & II and The Two Pigeons from November 2015.

Feature Image Credit: James Hay in Frederick Ashton’s Rhapsody © ROH, 2016. Photograph by Helen Maybanks

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