The two pieces in this mixed bill couldn’t be more different, but enhance each other brilliantly: first, Jerome Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering (1969) is a technical, precise, abstract exercise in pure dance (with Chopin masterfully played by piano soloist Robert Clark); and then Cathy Marston’s The Cellist (2020) is a soul-tearing story through love, music, loss and companionship, which is bound to leave tears in your eyes.
In Dances at a Gathering, The Royal Ballet has an opportunity to show off the lightness and elegance of their technical abilities, dressed in lovely pastel tones, with Marianela Nuñez and Luca Acri particularly standing out for their facial expressions and elevation respectively. But the ensemble somehow lift the work to another level, with subtle comments on friendship, gender dynamics and self-assuredness, and not without a touch of humour.
The Cellist is a brand-new commission, inspired by the life and career of Jacqueline du Pré, her love-story with the cello, and with conductor Daniel Barenboim. The results are astonishingly moving. At its core, Lauren Cuthbertson and Marcelino Sambé give soulful interpretations of “The Cellist” and “The Instrument” itself, amid myriad, truly inventive scenes, including the whole cast dancing the part of an orchestra, (with the real orchestra playing only a handful of metres away). Philip Feeney’s new music is breathtaking, featuring superb solo cello (Hetty Snell).
It’s great that ballets of this quality are being made more accessible through cinema screenings: we benefit from a number of close-ups, although we also miss out on a couple of (what should be) stunning views of group routines. Watch out for the revival, and book early.
All dates 18 February – 5 March 2020 are sold out. Watch the website for revival details.