Can you imagine the Royal Ballet bursting into song mid-performance? It’s certainly not something you’d expect, and yet the New York City Ballet is here to prove that not only can it be done, but it can be done well.
Its last London programme does away with high brow art and instead gives its audience a dose of good old-fashioned American fun.
It begins with the gorgeous Thou Swell which combines the fun and fanfare of the jazz age with the clarity and perfection of one of the best ballet companies in the world.
It’s like Sex and the City onstage. There’s the petite blonde in a cute frock, dancing with reckless abandon and toe-tapping gusto, all knee-swinging, up-flexed wrists and poker straight lines. There’s the dreamer with her head in the clouds, yearning, longing and loving - graceful swirling, sighing, yielding and soft, performing some sublime lifts with her partner. Along comes the vixen/seductress, all satin-wrapped and slinky with three men on the go as well as the sassy one with a biting wit and terrifying perfection.
Danced to popular and recognisable tunes such as The Lady is a Tramp, Getting To Know You and Blue Moon, performed by a live trio and two lounge singers, this is proper music, moonlight, dance and romance kinda stuff.
The programme whips along with a sprightly and charming Tarantella, with Sterling Hyltin and Gonzalo Garcia bashing their tambourines and smiling as if they’re about to burst.
Balanchine’s Western Symphony is a strange blend of heel-toe, high-kicking and yee-hawing with classical romantic steps and folk dance formations. While an odd combination, Jonathan Stafford saves the day as a sparkly cowboy with his thumbs in his britches. He dances with a swagger and his tongue firmly in his cheek. There’s a rugged edge to his jumps and a masculine flair as he finishes his moves.
The show is rounded off perfectly with the best bits of Jerome Robbins’ all time favourite, West Side Story condensed into a 40 minute episode, proving that some ballet dancers can do musical theatre - singing and all.