Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 6, 2024

REVIEW: Jacob’s Pillow, The Royal Ballet

Jacob’s Pillow, Becket, MA
through July 7, 2024
by Josephine Sarnelli

The debut of the 93-year-old United Kingdom’s Royal Ballet at Jacob’s Pillow offers an opportunity to enjoy a performance of both classical and modern ballet of unchallenged magnitude.  For most in attendance, it is a once-in-a-lifetime event to see this internationally acclaimed troupe.  Jacob’s Pillow’s leadership must be commended for finding sponsorship to make this the company’s sole stop in the United States!     

The Ted Shawn Theatre, with its orchestra pit, allowed for live music by a string quartet and pianist for three of the nine pieces. The backstage doors were opened after intermission to further enhance the unique experience of dance on the Pillow stage.

If there is a word to describe the success of this performance, it is “chemistry.”   Observing the connection between the performers and the audience and among the dancers is a significant part of attending live dance.  The Royal Ballet has not only mastered the art of dance, but also these relationships in solos, duets and groups.  From the kiss by Lukas Brændsrød on the hand of Sarah Lamb in Balanchine’s “Diamonds” to the dropping of the rose by Giselle after saving the life of her lover, there was a feeling of intimacy in these performances.

Photo by Christopher Duggan
One of the highlights of the evening was the choreography by Kenneth MacMillan of the “bedroom” pas de deux from “Manon.”  Anna Rose O’Sullivan and Marcelino Sambé dance superbly with effortless overhead lifts, but it is the passion that they expressed through their dance that is most memorable.  Their magnetism made the embraces and kisses seem so genuine.

An excerpt of Franz Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” was performed flawlessly by the string quartet for the performance by four male dancers entitled “For Four.”  The transitions were executed with precision; the athleticism and grace of the dancers was impressive.  Of note was the audience’s recognition of Daichi Ikarashi’s powerful performance, which included multiple grand jetés exploding across the stage.

For Isadora Duncan fans, the program included a solo dance choreographed in her novel and improvisational style.  It was danced to five Johannes Brahms waltzes that were beautifully performed by piano soloist Kate Shipway.

A lighthearted pas de deux from “Carousel” preceded the finale.  “Figures in a Landscape,” a world premiere choreographed by Wayne McGregor, had a futuristic texture with dissonant music and blinding lights. Without transition, the music abruptly changed to a more subdued score.  Unlike the other program selections, this piece lacked sincere connectivity among the dancers or with the audience.  Although technically well executed, the performance was a disappointing conclusion to an otherwise outstanding evening.

Unfortunately, the audience was not given an opportunity to applaud the entire dance troupe or musicians after the finale.  Had they been called back, they certainly would have received a well-deserved standing ovation, having lived up to their name of royal.