Feature: Royal Ballet 75th Anniversary

Friday 9 April 2010

‘The Rake’s Progress/Divertissements/Homage to the Queen’

The Royal Opera House- 5/6/7/9 June 2006

Royal Ballet 'The Rake's Progress' 5-9 June, Royal Opera House. Photo: Bill Cooper The Royal Ballet is ending its 2005/6 Season with a flourish in a week full of nostalgia writes Graham Watts…

This Thursday, (8 June) it will celebrate its 75th Birthday with a Gala and on every other evening from Monday to Friday there will be a mixed bill that continues the Company celebrations with choreography from three of its greatest formative influences: Ninette de Valois, Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan. Into this mix are added some new interpretations of old memories by the brightest of this generation of Royal ballet-inspired choreographers, including Christopher Wheeldon and David Bintley.

*The Rake’s Progress* was created in 1935 by Ninette de Valois and how highly appropriate it is that her choreography is celebrated in the 75[^th ^]Anniversary of the Company she founded. It is performed to music by the little-known Gavin Gordon, a pupil of Vaughan-Williams, and adapts Hogarth’s images of a reckless young man’s downfall, seduced by the temptations of 18th-century London. The original Rake’s Progress was funded by Mrs Henderson, the proprietor of the Windmill Theatre and subject of the recent feature film. The Rake’s Progress can lay claim to being the first English Ballet since every element of it (music, design, costumes, and choreography) was home grown.

The two main roles will be played by Johan Kobborg and Laura Morera on 5 and 9 June and by Viacheslav Samodourov and Belinda Hatley on 6/7 June.

Many of the Company’s principal dancers will be featured in a large number of
Divertissements which form the central part of the programme. These will include
Ashton’s Dante’s Sonata: first performed in the eighth week after the Second World War broke out, this
was controversial at the time since the soloist’s bare feet are turned in and
there is tremendous use of the dancer’s body and flowing hair. Zenaida Yanowsky performs the solo on 5 & 9 June with Marianella Nun?z taking the role on 6/7 June. Other diverts will include *Birthday Offering*; pas de deux from Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo & Juliet and *Winter Dreams -* _and the _*Ragtime Nightingale* from Elite Syncopations.

Frederick Ashton’s Homage to the Queen was commissioned as part of the Coronation celebrations of 1953 using music
by Malcolm Arnold. It is being revived in the year of The Queen’s 80th birthday in a slightly
different form. Since only fragments of the original Ashton choreography remain,
with only Air remaining as a complete section, three British choreographers have provided
the ballet’s missing movements, to be seen in new designs by Peter Farmer: Wheeldon has recreated the *Fire* section; Bintley has remade *Earth* _and _*Water* is by Michael Corda.

This is a judiciously chosen programme, once again demonstrating how well the
Royal Ballet puts together relevant and appropriate mixed bills that gel, historically
and artistically.

Article posted June 2006

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