Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, France; July 11, 2014
Saint-Saens’ Symphony No.2 is not what you would call well-known. True, it’s pleasant, youthful, and occasionally lively piece, but it is somewhat unremarkable. Helgi Tomasson’s “Caprice”, set to it, is a little bit like that too. While it’s never going to set a theatre ablaze, it’s certainly easy on the eye, very musical, has some interesting construction and shows the dancers off well. It made for a good evening opener.
Although there is a chorus of six couples, and three others who appear occasionally, Tomasson focuses on the two lead pairings. There’s a bright opening in which Maria Kochetkova and Davit Karapetyan were joined by the ensemble, before the music and the dance shift into a more considered and charming adagio. This is the heart of the ballet, and its best part.
The middle three movements are interesting structurally. In the second, where there is some excellent gentle partnering and impressive lifts, Yuan Yuan Tan and Luke Ingram were joined by two other men (Stephen Morse and Hansuke Yamomoto). The third movement is a trio, this time Kochetkova to the fore, supported by the two lead men, while the fourth features some clever switching between the two couples, one taking over from the other without even a hint of a break of continuity before they finally come together at the end. The ballet rounds off with a return to the energy of the opening, Tomasson following the music’s lead.
Both Kochetkova and Yuan Yuan Tan were as delicate as filigree jewellery. The choreography includes lots of delicious gentle falling into their partners’ arms (Davit Karapetyan and Luke Ingham respectively) and being slid across the floor. There was a noticeable and intriguing difference in approach between the two women, though. Kochetkova looked happy and danced as if on air, whereas Tan rarely gave a hint of even a smile, which somehow added depth, intensity and meaning.
The whole is framed by Alexander Nichols’ four vertical and one horizontal shifting light bars. Looking a bit like modern day Roman columns, they slide into new configurations as each movement begins.
Christopher Wheeldon’s “Ghosts” is a complex, often elegant ballet. It’s sometimes seems a little too busy, and there is no doubt that it’s at its best when there are less dancers on stage, but it’s certainly full of interest.
It has one of those enigmatic opening images that just grabs you and won’t let go: five couples, standing, their arms in s slightly unusual pose, staring up, as if looking at the moon. In fact, unusual arm movements are a feature of the piece. The image turns out to be about the only really strong otherworldly moment in the ballet.
There are times where the sea seems to have been much more to the forefront of Wheeldon’s thinking. In the ensemble choreography, he makes liberal use of canon, giving a flowing effect to the dance. There’s also a constant flowing across the stage, which although elegant, sometimes seems a bit aimless, almost as if it’s there as a filler. The gentle to-ing and fro-ing of the tides comes to mind elsewhere too, not least the way the men crawl under the women, who then roll over them, and in Mark Zapone’s blue-green costumes that are the colour of seawater.
Of the soloists, Sofiane Sylve stood out for her excellent attack. Her dance was full of straight lines and hardness. It was spiky and sharp – and interestingly different from almost all the rest of the ballet.
Wheeldon is usually a most musical choreographer, so it was no surprise that the dance fits C.F. Kip Winger’s score like a glove. The score, full of interesting rhythmic changes and dominated by violin and piano, is run through with mystery.
Balanchine’s “Four Temperaments” is a masterpiece in which the dance is all. In Melancholy, Taras Domitro was sensual and restless as the ladies moved mysteriously around him. Best of the four temperaments was Saguine, in which the excellent Frances Chung was headstrong and passionate. Chung was partnered by Joseph Walsh, who danced with vivacity and spirit. Karapetyan’s backbends and slow stretches were just what was called for in the relatively unemotional and passive Phlegmatic, while the again excellent Sylve was perky and full of cut and thrust, just as Choleric should be.