Royal Ballet triple bill review – effervescence and daredevil virtuosity | royal ballet
In 2019, Steven McRae broke his Achilles tendon mid-show. After surgery and intensive rehabilitation, he returned to the stage earlier this season and tonight played a starring role in Frederick Ashton’s Rhapsody: a showpiece of bravery that tests the speed, virtuosity and certainly the strength of his Achilles’ tendon.
Before this finale, however, two more works by Ashton make a triple program by the founding choreographer of the Royal Ballet. Ashton’s dance is full of playfulness: unexpected combinations, changes of direction, descriptive details in the hands – even in a serious piece like A Month in the Country, inspired by a play by Ivan Turgenev and star of the evening .
The wonderful and moving Laura Morera is Petrovna, the listless young wife of an older husband in 19th-century Russia, whose heart leaps at the arrival of her son’s tutor (Vadim Muntagirov), the spark of hope which makes it shine. Trickily, the ward of Petrovna (Meaghan Grace Hinkis) is also in love with him. The emotions of each pas de deux are beautifully delineated, with Muntagirov essentially the canvas on which the women project their fantasies of love and escape, while being trapped by sex and circumstance like the caged bird in the big sepia set by Julia Trevelyan Oman.
Emotions await in 1948’s Fabulously Retro Ballet Scenes, a chic mid-century modern piece on Stravinsky, with finely tuned geometry, pizzicato steps and a touch of melodrama in its brisk gestures. Reece Clarke holds the stage with charismatic stillness and Yasmine Naghdi is so sharp, brilliant and efficient that there isn’t an ounce of wasted energy.
In this and in Rhapsody, the set could have been tighter – the choreography demands specificity. In Rhapsody, the body contrasts with the daredevil effervescence of the main man – originally Mikhail Baryshnikov. More recently, McRae has made the role his own, exuding a confidence and delightful arrogance, rushing like a squirrel onto the stage as if to say, “Oh that? It’s nothing!”