The finale, and star attraction of this astounding mixed bill of ballet, is the world premiere of Liam Scarlett’s Symphonic Dances (2017), named after Rachmaninoff’s rich and romantic orchestral work. Sexually charged and occasionally homoerotic, bold red lighting and an enormous video rig dominate the scene as lovers and suitors, threatening and cutesy, vie for attention.
Part two is Christopher Wheeldon’s contemporary masterpiece Strapless (2015), in its first revival. The true story follows the days leading up to the scandalous unveiling of John Sargent Singer’s infamous Portrait of Madame X, originally painted with one dress shoulder strap suggestively loose. Set to Turnage’s gorgeously jazzy score, we see Madame X’s aching collapse following the scandal, and how the romantic fantasy of Singer’s male lover collides with his artistic vision – an emotionally-charged, 40-minute fable.
If that weren’t enough, part one kicks off with the madcap The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude (1996), as five dancers in cartoonish fuschia and lime-green whirl about a grey shallow pit, to Schubert’s machine-gun orchestral pomp. A George Balanchine Tarantella (1964) immediately follows, an extraordinarily camp (but utterly charming) pirate-esque duo featuring tambourines, ceaseless “look at me” flourishes, and a little kiss at the end.
With this season’s mixed bill, The Royal Ballet have pulled off a must-see, magnificently diverse evening of dance, guaranteed to move and entertain audiences from all backgrounds.