A Ser­e­nade to the de­lights of true har­mony

Daily Express - - WEEKEND WEEKEND DANCE THEATRE -

IDOUBT if there is a more ex­quis­ite open­ing tableau in con­tem­po­rary clas­si­cal bal­let than that of Balan­chine’s Ser­e­nade. Seven­teen fe­male dancers, all clad in pow­dery blue, stand in di­ag­o­nal lines, one arm ex­tended up­wards as if ward­ing off a bright light. They sug­gest a group of moon­beams wait­ing for a chance to shine.

And once Tchaikovsk­y’s Ser­e­nade gal­vanises them into move­ment, shine is what they do. Cre­ated by Balan­chine out of class work at the School of Amer­i­can Bal­let, it in­cludes el­e­ments of ac­ci­dent and chance – a girl fall­ing over, the late ar­rival of a few male dancers – evolv­ing into a gen­uine en­sem­ble piece.

Here it works beau­ti­fully, with the lines and for­ma­tions of the corps in per­fect har­mony.

Above all, this is a cel­e­bra­tion of the fe­male mys­tique, a dance to the joys of sis­ter­hood. At times, the women al­most skip across the stage.

When three women un­pin their hair it is a shock, al­though more de­mure here than when I saw it per­formed by the New York City Bal­let, who added a more raunchy el­e­ment.

But the ethe­real, enig­matic beauty of the piece is in­tact. The moon­beams shine bright.

Like Balan­chine, Michael Corder un­der­stands the value of myth. His lyri­cal bal­let, L’In­vi­ta­tion Au Voy­age, is stud­ded with ex­otic im­agery that seems to com­bine el­e­ments of the Far East with ro­man­tic clas­si­cal tra­di­tion.

A med­i­ta­tion on the rise and de­cline of love, it wears its com­plex­ity lightly, held to­gether by an on-stage singer (Har­riet Wil­liams), who weaves in and out of the phys­i­cal action, ef­fort­lessly con­vey­ing the songs of Henri Du­parc.

From the in­tox­i­ca­tion of first love beau­ti­fully evoked by Sergei Pol­unin and the im­pos­si­bly pretty Mar­i­anela Nunez to the dark, vi­o­lent ma­noeu­vres of the con­clud­ing se­quences, played un­der a cop­pery-red sky, there is a no­table mus­cu­lar­ity on dis­play.

Corder is par­tic­u­larly adept at cre­at­ing vir­ile move­ment for male dancers, ex­press­ing sinewy strength through a se­ries of lifts and lit­tle knotted dra­mas played out in groups of two and three.

Fi­nally, Balan­chine’s cheer­ful trib­ute to the grand Rus­sian man­ner, Theme And Vari­a­tions, is played with sparkling fizz and bal­letic bling against the tal­is­manic op­u­lence of a Rus­sian ball­room, com­plete with chan­de­liers and glit­ter­ing blue drapes.

A be­guil­ing bal­let, stuffed with great struc­tures and hurtling lines, it is a glo­ri­ous, glitzy romp. The Rus­sians may play it faster, but not much.

NEIL NOR­MAN

LYRI­CAL: Mar­i­anela Nunez and Sergei Pol­unin in Corder’s L’In­vi­ta­tion Au Voy­age

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