This double bill is yet another example of why Sir Frederick Ashton deserves to not just be remembered as part of the Royal Ballet’s past, as their founder choreographer, but as someone whose ballets should be celebrated and danced into the twenty first century and beyond.
Rhapsody was originally choreographed as an 80th birthday gift for the Queen Mum in 1980, created on international ballet stars Lesley Collier and Mikhail Baryshnikov and set to Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. If the premier night in 1980 was anything like what I witnessed, it was the ultimate birthday gift fit for royalty.
I was lucky enough to catch Valentino Zucchetti and Yuhui Choe in the principal roles of Rhapsody, supported by a wonderful selection of Royal Ballet artists, first artists and soloists. Originally created on a Russian and English trained dancers, both Valentino Zuchetti and Yuhui Choe manage to perfectly execute the mix of big flashy Russian style jumps, and quick English footwork, giving this plot-less ballet lots of expression and infusing it with emotion. Moments that stuck with me were Choe’s entrance, silhouetted in the background as she fluttered onto the stage and entered down center stage, and Zuchetti’s impressive athleticism and superb partnering. The corps de ballet impressed with delightful musicality throughout, and danced the complex steps with ease. This was 30 minutes of true balletic perfection.
A clip of Lesley Collier and Mikhail Baryshnikov in Rhapsody on opening night in 1980.
Rhapsody was followed by the always romantic The Two Pigeons, which was paired up last season with Monotones I and II. This was was an astounding multiple debut for Matthew Ball (The Young Man), Beatriz Stix-Brunnel (The Young Girl), Claire Calbert (Gypsy Girl) and Nicol Edmonds (Gypsy Girl’s Lover). What an exciting time for the company to have such talented young dancers on the rise. You can read more about our Two Pigeons experience from last season from Andre’s point of view here, and mine here.
Read more here about Andre’s experience watching the same mixed bill.
Featured Image: Set design by Frederick Ashton for his Rhapsody (1980), The Royal Ballet. Photograph by Donald Southern © 1980 ROH/Frederick Ashton