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'The Unknown Soldier/Infra/Symphony in C' - Royal Opera House

Offering a highly diversified Triple Bill, the Royal Ballet showcases its capability to brilliantly present and dance a wide range of choreographic styles. After premiering a brand new narrative ballet by Alastair Marriott, the company re-explores its contemporary essence by reviving blockbuster work of Resident Choreographer Wayne McGregor. The evening ends in a dazzle while the dancers masterfully interpret George Balanchine’s abstract and geometrical delicacies.

Yasmine Naghdi as Florence Billington and Matthew Ball as Ted Feltham in The Unknown Soldier, The Royal Ballet © 2018 ROH. Photograph by Helen Maybanks

The Unknown Soldier, which was given its world premiere, was the event of the evening. With this commission, The Royal Opera House partakes in commemorating the century passed since the First World War’s armistice. The piece is based on real-life accounts of survivors of the war. These are screened on stage giving resonance to a duty of remembrance. At the same time, the young dancers of the cast personify the story, all the while allowing for a larger sense of universality, embodying the echo that situations and emotions brought by great human loss have through out time and space.

Overall, homegrown Alistair Marriott (trained at the Royal Ballet School, member of the company and one of its regular choreographers) delivers a new work firmly grounded in the ballet’s traditional structures, which provide a solid basis for the deployment of the narrative. The choreography judiciously illustrates the contrast between coexisting worlds during the war by alternating between fluidity and starkness of movement. One is at the front lines while the other rests with those left behind, but never lacking to underline the importance of remembering both.

Artists of The Royal Ballet in Infra © Bill Cooper/ROH 2010

Using a strikingly different dance vocabulary, Infra similarly explores human relationships. Under Julian Opie’s artwork where neon protagonists steadily and repeatedly cross paths without ever seemingly noticing each other, Wayne McGregor choreographs a plethora of abstract human interactions. The diverse cast of dancers interpret with unconditional sincerity the raw emotions held in the piece of longing, supporting, rejecting. They brilliantly execute McGregor’s highly stylized and recognizable movements in a characteristically constant state of imbalance, so justly illustrating the inherent risk to human relations.

Marianela Nunez in Symphony in C © Bill Cooper/ROH 2010

The evening closes with Symphony in C, one of Balanchine’s emblematic works. A staple of the dance world, George Balanchine was a cosmopolitan choreographer of the 20th century. Born and trained in imperial Russia, he worked in Paris and then established himself in New York City. The style he developed is pure, geometrical and bold, and still delights audiences to this day. The corps de ballet displayed its precision in ensemble movement, providing an ideal setting for the company’s principals who took on the soloist roles with their usual virtuosity. Lauren Cuthbertson and Marianela Nuñez particularly deliver striking performances in both of the choreographer’s canons: the joyful lively ballerina of the first movement or the regal airy one of the second. Yasmine Naghdi, who held the lead in Symphony in C’s fourth movement, was remarkable through out the whole evening. The young Principal was on stage nearly at all times, first passionately as The Unknown Soldier’s lead female role, then acrobatically in one of Infra’s pas de deux.

The diversity of styles showed through out the Triple Bill and especially through the two established works by McGregor and Balanchine, compellingly introduces audiences to dance in the many forms it takes today, which is finally an apt way for all to find a right fit. To do so, you can register to the Young ROH programme, which offers personalized ticket opportunities to performances.

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