Royal Ballet: Ashton double bill review – Osipova is regal and electric

Royal Opera House, London
The Royal’s revival of Rhapsody turns from pretty to thrilling, while Two Pigeons takes off in playful, touching style

There are sections of Rhapsody that are as brilliant and romantically sublime as anything Frederick Ashton created. Yet it’s a strange ballet. Unevenly paced, it struggles to make structural sense of the light and dark in Rachmaninov’s score; and since its creation in 1980 it has struggled to find the right designer. After two unsatisfactory stagings, the Royal has now revived Rhapsody in its original form, with Ashton’s own set design and costumes by William Chappell that cast the women as sparkly nymphs and the men as jewelled courtiers.

Ashton’s set – a simple classical pavilion – has the virtue of clarity, allowing the intricate musical patterns of the choreography to register sharp and clean. Yet the pastels and glitter of Chappell’s costumes introduce a less convincing note of whimsy, which the dancers have to work hard to overcome. There should be intimations of turbulence and tension in the ballet from the start, yet during the opening section, while the chorus dance beautifully (especially the women) and Steven McRae darts and slices though his material with ease, the ballet looks too complacently pretty.

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Source: Guardian Dance News

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