Ballo della Regina

 “Ballo” is a very classical ballet at high speed. Virtuosic steps at full throttle; it’s a very joyful happy, uplifting ballet. The music is so full of energy, it gives you oxygen. It’s a wonderful example of Balanchine being more neoclassical and expanding his dance vocabulary.” – Merrill Ashley

Photo: Merrill Ashley in the HK Ballet studios © Conrad Dy-Liacco

By Juliana Araújo

As part of the May/June`s double bill, Ballo della Regina was performed this season, along with La Sylphide by the Royal Ballet of London.

On 12 June last, the dancers did a flawless show. This ballet is a masterpiece, and showed us Balanchine`s technique translated into fast steps, focus on the upper body and arabesques performed with dancers facing the public. With breathtaking extensions, the dancers did their steps with an impressive speed, as if their feet were blades striking the floor.

Rather than sylphs and willies, Balanchine`s dancers are athletic and have lots of personality. As his movements are marked by dynamism and precision, his method entails a great deal of flexibility and muscular strength. So the work is particularly difficult for dancers, whatever their technical level.

Photo: Tara-Brigitte Bhavnani and Claire Calvert in Ballo della regina. © Dave Morgan, via Dance Tabs

Verdi‘s music was a novelty for those who were expecting Tchaikovisky and Stravinsky. However, the music turned the show into a dynamic and dancing experience. Without Petipa`s scenic structure and the ballet d’action`s traditional mime scenes, Balanchine’s work is to be appreciated at a distance, because the creation of asymmetrical lines on the stage made the ensemble look harmonious. As an educated musician, he thought that dance steps should reflect the music itself. Therefore, all  elements that could take the focus away from the human movement and the musical context should be removed.

With Ballo della Regina it could not have been different. According to Merrill Ashley, for whom the ballet was created in 1978, the music is there to be danced to and the challenge for the dancers is that they have to perform their steps with greater speed than in other traditional ballets.

Photo: Marianela Nunez via Evening Standards

As usual,Yuhui Choé and  Marianela Núñez were brilliant in their moves; and their stage presence highlighted the effervescent nature of this ballet. They danced so freely and confidently that there is not doubt they can easily carry the show. Stage popping stars, I would say. Marianela`s and Nehemiah Kish`s adagios were really impeccable. However, despite Kish`s bravura and technique, I think a dancer with a leaner and a lighter build would have been more appropriate for the role.

While watching Ballo, I had a feeling of being in front of a massive bubbling fish tank. At the same time, the pastel shaded costumes in contrast with the blue stage reminding us of Don Carlos`s sea gave me a lasting fresh and joyful sensation.

By putting together  the neo-classical style of the 70s, with a nineteenth-century Romantic ballet, it seemed that the Royal Ballet wanted to give the public an opportunity to appreciate works of different styles. However, by joining  these pieces together in one single show, it was difficult for newbies to understand and assimilate the nuances of these works in the context in which they were created.

While excellent, Balanchine`s piece was overshadowed by  La Sylphide, as the former has greater visual and scenic resources capable of engaging the public more intensively. Therefore, it did not do any justice to the Russian balletmaster`s work, whose ballets are there to show the classical technique through the body movement itself.

Please see below Marrill Arshley`s take on Ballo della Regina, and also her impressions on working with Balanchine:

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