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Royal Ballet mixed programme

Marianela Nuñez and Carlos Acosta in Song of the Earth. Photo: Tristram Kenton

The Four Temperaments/ Untouchable/ Song of the Earth

It must be nerve-wracking to be sandwiched between two drop dead masterworks but Hofesh Shechter’s Untouchable emerges unscathed. While it is a long way from his most powerful work its churning, synchronised paramilitary design still packs a punch. As the mixed ensemble – which could represent anything from the Israeli Army to a gang of Ronin – shuffle and stamp, shake their wrists or lope and crouch in unison, small groups attempt to break out and do their own thing. A trio suddenly crouch and stomp like Maori warriors, a heartrending throb of violas replaces the customary thunderous drumming to drive the implacable army onwards, a droning mantra repeats the name ‘Nigel Farage’ over and over again. The final image recalls the Chinese terracotta army brought suddenly to life.

Balanchine’s opener is a thing of austere and alarming beauty, set against a backdrop of Della Robbia blue. The themes and variations of Hindemith’s musical interpretation of the four temperaments – or moods of man – offer extraordinary scope for choreographic experimentation. Stripped down to its barest essentials this is ballet stretched into a new form. Highlights include a quartet of hip-thrusting bad girls, Steven McRae’s elasticity put to the service of Balanchine’s jazzed classicism and Zenaida Yanowsky in attack mode during the final variation ‘Choleric’.

Finally, a masked Carlos Acosta looks impossibly young as the Death figure in MacMillan’s intense, moving and surprisingly funny ballet, Song of the Earth. Supple, wild, witty – especially in the endlessly inventive exits – it is the perfect synthesis of mythic and modern, classical discipline and mischievous variation.

Verdict
Hard-rocking Hofesh turns down the volume for his Royal Ballet debut

Production

Venue
Royal Opera House
City
London
Starts
27 March, 2015
Ends
14 April, 2015
Press night
27 March
Composer
Paul Hindemith (Four Temperaments), Hofesh Shechter and Nell Catchpole (Untouchable), Gustav Mahler (Song of the Earth)
Choreographer
George Balanchine (Four Temperaments), Hofesh Shechter (Untouchable), Kenneth MacMillan (Song of the Earth)
Set
Nicholas Georgiadis (Song of the Earth)
Lighting
John B Read (Four Temperaments, Song of the Earth), Lee Curran (Untouchable)
Costume
Holly Waddington (Untouchable)
Technical
Patricia Neary/Monica Mason/Gary Avis (staging), Carl Root (production manager)
Stage manager
Johanna Adams Farley
Cast includes
Itziar Mendizabal, Valeri Hristov, Yuhui Choe, Melssa Hamilton, Ryoichi Hirano, Steven McRae, Yasmine Naghdi, Zenaida Yanowsky, Luca Acri, Benjamin Ella, Kevin Emerton, Isabella Gasperini, James Hay, Carlos Acosta, Thiago Soares, Marianela Nunez
Producer
The Royal Ballet
Running time
3hrs