This was an Ashton mixed bill which both of us attended on opening night with absolutely no expectations because we weren’t familiar with any of the ballets. Quelle horreur! But as new ballet fans, you’ve got to learn sometime, and this was our night! Going in with no expectations is the best approach to go into any situation, but this holds especially true for ballet; no expectations means no disappointment and generally something you enjoy is all the sweeter.
Having never seen this ballet in action, I was only aware of the infamous costumes and the fact it was an abstract ballet set to Satie’s Trois Gnossiennes and choreographed by Ashton in 1966. Yasmine Naghdi, Emma Maguire and Tristan Dyer were up first in Monotones I. The costumes, which I found so distracting in still photographs, became a non-event and faded into the background as the dancing began. The choreography looked fresh and modern as the three artists danced, moving slowly in unison with gorgeous extensions and nuanced movements completely in sync with one another. The three dancers were supremely well matched, and conveyed such feeling and depth of movement as they undulated across the stage as one body with three limbs. I wish we saw more of Yasmine Naghdi, she has been a revelation for me this season and was also excellent in Viscera.
We were treated to Edward Watson, Valeri Hristov and Marianela Nunez in the second pas de trois, dancing to Satie’s Trois Gymnopédies . Unfortunately this didn’t connect as much for me as Monotones I did, but it was such a treat to see such wonderful dancers. Edward Watson’s lines were divine, and Marianela embodied geometric perfection, all angles and corners.
The Two Pigeons:
Created in 1962 by Ashton, and performed for the first time by the company since the 1980s, this was the star event of the evening. Set over two acts in France, a Young Girl struggles staying still while she has portrait painted by a Young Man, who eventually falls for a Gypsy Girl before asking for the Young Girl’s forgiveness. It’s a simple tale, but a vibrant one, lush and full of comedy and swirling colours.
I will have a hard time seeing anyone else as the Young Girl besides Lauren Cutherbetson in the future, because she was just perfect; absolutely real and relatable in her portrayal. Lauren’s striking comedic timing was perfectly matched with Vadim Muntagirov’s Young Boy as they naturally played off each other with an easy rapport.
Laura Morera embodied the sassy Gyspy Girl who walked straight out of Don Quixote to seduce the Young Man, causing him to momentarily lose his head and fall for her. Seeing her dance an Ashton ballet with Vadmin again after their memorable La Fille mal gardée outting was magical. The dance off between Lauren and Laura was extraordinary, showing off their immense technical skills while they still remaining true to their characters. My hands were numb from applause.
The second act brought the audience to the Gypsy camp, with Marcelino Sambé executing extraordinary solos as he jetéd among the corps who danced nonstop for most of the act, perfectly executing the tricky Ashton footwork with ease and gypsy swagger. Choreography like this really show off that the Royal Ballet has one of the best corps de ballet in the world.
The Young Man and Young Girl reconciled in a heart wrenching concluding pas de deux, made even more tender by the titular pigeons behaving themselves and perching on the chair that the dancers weaved in and out of. This is a ballet to treasure, and such a shame that it wasn’t performed for so long. Fingers crossed it stays around for a long time to come, because it definitely demands repeat viewings.
Two Pigeons information: http://www.roh.org.uk/productions/the-two-pigeons-by-frederick-ashton
Monotones I/II information: http://www.roh.org.uk/productions/monotones-i-and-ii-by-frederick-ashton