Theatre Royal, Glasgow, UK; September 26, 2013
“The Rite of Spring” has been reimagined countless times, but almost always for a large cast. Created in 2011 for Atlanta Ballet, Christopher Hampson’s version goes to the opposite extreme. It may have a cast of just three, but what a largely powerful piece it turns out to be.Hampson casts the usual scenario aside and opens with two brothers exploring their relationship and different beliefs in an often argumentative manner. Crop-headed, bare-chested and wearing long black skirts not unlike those used by Hans Van Manen in “Grosse Fuge”, they chase and throw themselves against Robert Hand’s modernist solid-walled, concave, white u-shaped set. Trapping the action in this way adds greatly to the tension and makes the atmosphere most claustrophobic. There may be only two dancers much of the time, but Hampson’s choreography has a power, and really does hold its own against Stravinsky’s iconic score.
Christopher Harrison as the older slowly but surely breaks his younger sibling, danced by Constant Vigier, mentally and physically. It’s gripping stuff as both dance with great intensity and passion, although the effect dissipates a little when Hampson reverts to clear gesture as during a fight. Into the scene arrives Luciana Ravizzi, all in white, and symbolising hope, faith and love.
Things change. The set is the same but the place and times has clearly changed. We find ourselves in a war. Those white looks look more like a cell as Harrison reappears in fatigues, bringing with him a stool and black hood. His interrogation of his brother is aggressive. It’s very reminiscent of Christopher Bruce’s “Swansong,” but although Hampson’s ballet is more brutal and has much more overt violence, it lacks the same underlying malevolence. There is no sense of the interrogator playing with his prey before delivering the final blow. Ravizzi again strides into the scene. Prowling menacingly around the top of the set, she now takes on the mantle of fate and the figure of death. Unfortunately, when death does finally arrive, there is little sense of shock. Even so, this “Rite” is an intelligent and thoughtful work, and a welcome addition to the company’s repertory.
After “Rite”, everyone needed a party, and they certainly got one with “Elite Synchopations,” Kenneth MacMillan’s jazzy celebration of 1920s dance. This was Scottish Ballet’s first performance of the work, and you could tell. No matter how fun a ballet is, it can lose some of its fizz over time. This “Elite” didn’t so much fizz as explode. Dressed in Ian Spurling’s colourful body tight costumes, each decorated with spangly stars and stripes, oversize buttons and bows, the dancers looked like kids having a whale of a time with an exciting new toy. They put every ounce of energy and humour into it and more. The audience lapped it up the music and the comic characters too.
Leading the way was Jamiel Laurence, quite perfect as Short, and his much manhandled partner Eve Musto as Tall. The band, upstage on a raised platform, sounded like they enjoyed being let off the leash too. It wasn’t quite all gold medal stuff though. The comedy was all there, and a good time was being had by all, but “Elite” is not only about that. It’s actually a very subtle ballet. It’s about relationships. There should be a lot of momentary looks and glances between dancers. They were not always there, most notably between Sophie Martin and Erik Cavallari during the “Bethena Concert Waltz.” Martin’s baton twirling was also less than it might be.