Both of us were lucky enough to attend the third cast debut for the Royal Ballet’s Viscera mixed bill on 31 October 2015, whereas Andre also got to see the opening night on the 27 of October with the first cast. Here are our thoughts, he says, she says style, on the evening(s). This is Part 1, Morgan’s review.
Having heard about this particular mixed bill through various news sources and Andre himself who saw the opening night, I was really anticipating the evening as it seemed like an evening of ballet that really divided audiences. With such a promising crop of younger dancers performing leads, plus the amazing Lauren Cuthbertson and Matthew Golding being on the bill, I had a feeling it would be a memorable evening irregardless.
Viscera, or, the moment I became aware of the wonderful Nicol Edmonds due to him partnering the consistently splendid Olivia Cowley, was exciting and quick and a wonderful start to the night. The minimalist costumes and lighting complimented each other, and Laura Morera and Ryiochi Hirano brought a great quality of stillness and strength during the main (though lengthy) pas de deux. Another dancer among the corps who projected that unidentifiable something extra to the audience was Yasmine Naghdi.
Afternoon of a Faun
This was such a special part of the evening, and not just because it was a double debut for Royal Ballet up and coming stars Matthew Ball and Olivia Cowley.
When the curtain opened, it revealed Matthew Ball slowly unfurling his long limbs like a graceful creature; he had every right to be so self absorbed by his own lush movements. When Olivia Cowley flitted in the ‘door’ of the ballet studio, I became as smitten with them both as they were of themselves. The intimacy levels were so high that I felt like a voyeur, spying on something I wasn’t supposed to see but unable to look away.
It was absolute perfection and far, far too short; a wonderful goosebump raising 11 minutes. Jacques d’Amboise says in the Afternoon of a Faun documentary, “How can you not love the ballerina you dance with? I mean there you are, feeling the heft of her, the sweat of her, the taste of her…”. Matthew and Olivia really had the audience believing in their love story with each other – and themselves – during their double debut.
(This YouTube footage of Tanaquil LeClercq and Jacques d’Ambroise in Afternoon of a Faun, and the documentary itself, is a must watch.)
Tchaikovsky Pas De Deux:
After a ballet you’re often left with just impressions and certain moments, as you try to hold on to the memory of what you’ve just seen. With the Tchaikovsky Pas De Deux, the main thing that remained with me after the ballet ended was the sense of pure enjoyment and happiness that radiated from Matthew Golding and particularly Lauren Cuthbertson. Executed seemingly without effort, the element of ease and enjoyment injected into such a show stopping piece by both dancers made this part of the evening ballet perfection. It was very gala-esque, and showed off both dancers extraordinary mastery of their craft. I especially loved the daring fish dives during the finale. Fingers crossed Matthew and Lauren are partners more often in the future.
Tierney Heap’s debut as Carmen went beyond the realm of sassy into terribly naughty territory. Watching her toy with the emotions of Vadim Muntagirov’s boyish Don Jose was cruel; a classic “this can only end badly” moment for the audience. Vadim is one of those dancers that I wouldn’t mind in any ballet in any part, he is just a joy.
As Matthew Ball sauntered onstage smoking a cigarette during his entrance as Escamillo I felt the need to fan myself with my cast sheet. His acting continues to astound and impress as much as his dancing, because he is just so believable and committed to his character. Seeing him in two extremely different roles in the same night really brought home how versatile he is as a dancer, and what a wonderful addition he is to the company. Basically, I will now book tickets for Mattthew without any doubts. Two Pigeons next season, anyone?
I am normally a pas de deux obsessive; they are usually the highlight of any ballet for me. The pas de deuxs between Carmen/Don Jose and Carmen/Escamillo were a bit standard to my untrained eye. I would have loved for Carmen to have sassy solo so the audience would have been able to get to know her on her own without being defined only by the men in her life.
The corps de ballet seemed so committed to their characters and to the choreography, making their scenes some of the most enjoyable. The interaction with the set – the rolling chairs, dancing on the tables, were all executed with extra pizazz and a bit of booty popping.
With the mixed reactions the ballet has received from the critics and the audience, here’s hoping it’s back again. I find it pretty fantastic that dance can cause so many different intense and differing reactions amongst dance fans and critics, and starts such passionate dialogue. All I know is love it or hate it, Carmen got a long ovation, with half the stalls on their feet. Fact.
Feature Image Credit: Marianela Nuñez and Carlos Acosta in Carmen © 2015 ROH. Photo by Tristram Kenton