Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, France; July 12, 2014 (3pm)

David Mead

Sofiane Sylve and Tiit Helimets in Robbins' In The Night.  Photo © Erik Tomasson

Sofiane Sylve and Tiit Helimets in Robbins’ ‘In The Night’.
Photo © Erik Tomasson

Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante is one of those bright, light, joyous ballets that is guaranteed to put everyone in a good mood and a get a programme off to a wonderful start. The dance comes non-stop, as if the cast has somehow been swept up in Tchaikovsky’s swirling, sweeping score.

The expansive romantic music almost seems to tell the dancer what to do, though actually doing it, of course, is another matter. Maria Kochetkova and Carlos Quenedit gave a vibrant performance, both dancing with lots of passion and drama. Kochetkova showed great interpretation of the music. Balanchine liked his ballets danced ‘on the edge’ and there were signs of that here. More than once she seemed to hang on to those slightly off-balance Balanchine extensions for longer than was possible, showing a touch of daring while keeping the necessary precision. The leads were perfectly supported by the wonderfully synchronized corps of eight, with some great entrechats six and pirouettes from the men.

You can read Hans van Manen’s “Solo” as three solos – it does, after all have three dancers – or as one that just happens to be danced by three people in a sort of relay race, one running on as one leaves. Strictly speaking, it’s the latter, the structure having come about because Van Manen didn’t think one dancer could match the speed of Bach’s Partita No. 1 in B minor as he wanted. Whichever, it’s seven minutes of delight.

Quirky and full of gesture, Van Manen certainly packs things in. There’s a bit of ballet, some jazzy tilted turns, quite a lot of head nods and some comedy shrugs of the shoulders. It was joyously danced, with each of Hansuke Yamomoto, Joseph Walsh and Gennadi Nedvigin managing to bring a little of themselves to the piece. It maybe a little bit silly, even a little bit camp, but it’s certainly an audience favourite.

Jerome Robbins’ “In the Night” is another romantic jewel of a ballet – albeit one of gentler hue than “Allegro Brillante”. It’s a study of three couples who one could imagine are just walking in a moonlit park, or maybe have escaped into the garden from a soirée. It’s a simple premise and remarkably effective. Against a backdrop of a starry sky, each pair draws you in to their particular relationship.

In the first pas de deux, Mathilde Froustey and Ruben Martin Cintas were the dreamy romantics full of loving tenderness. Next up, Sofiane Sylve (the stand out female dancer of the season so far) and the always excellent Tiit Helimets at first dance apart. It’s all restrained elegance, but you just sense something is bubbling not far under the surface. Sure enough, before too long she dives at him, her golden rust gown becoming a blur. When she bourréed across the stage, you could sense the excitement coursing through her body.

San Francisco Ballet in Jerome Robbins' 'Glass Pieces'. Photo © Erik Tomasson

San Francisco Ballet in Jerome Robbins’ ‘Glass Pieces’.
Photo © Erik Tomasson

Finally, Sarah Van Patten and Luke Ingham were the impulsive and unpredictable third pair, their dance full of dramatic rejections, pleadings and makings-up. Of the three, this is the one you can imagine happening for real. While all the necessary moments of humour were there, it just needed a little more gusto. When the three pairs finally meet accidentally, good manners are everywhere. They bow, the men briefly talk, the women exchange pleasantries, before they go their own way, as if nothing had ever happened. Bliss.

“Glass Pieces” is Robbins in different mood. It’s sleek, modern, has great designs and music, and I could watch it over and over again.

The opening ‘Rubric’ brings forth ideas of looking down on a busy New York City intersection – people coming and going – no-one much acknowledging anyone. The constant crossing of the stage looks very straightforward on the surface, and it is a simple idea, but the dance gets ever more complex as it develops. Into this, come three couples, free spirits in a modern, impersonal world.

Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith in the pas de deux from ‘Façades’ in Glass Pieces.  Photo © Erik Tomasson

Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith in the pas de deux from ‘Façades’ in ‘Glass Pieces’.
Photo © Erik Tomasson

In the pas de deux that is ‘Façades’, Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith danced a pas de deux full of suggestions of loneliness – and for all the people around them, it is said that the loneliest people are those in big cities. Tan’s face was almost expressionless as she floated her way through the dance, her sinewy extensions as glorious as ever. Despite all that, the eyes are drawn constantly to the line of women who slowly make their way across the back of the stage. Their movement is simple, repetitive, and yet maddeningly crazily hypnotic, the lighting makes them look like moving Egyptian hieroglyphs. Rounding the ballet off, the company looked fabulous in Akhnaten.