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Whelan/Watson: Other Stories

Edward Watson and Wendy Whelan in Whelan/Watson: Other Stories by The Royal Ballet Picture: Tristram Kenton Edward Watson and Wendy Whelan in Whelan/Watson: Other Stories by The Royal Ballet Picture: Tristram Kenton
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When two world-class dancers collide the results can be spectacular. But the sparks may not fly immediately. It took Akram Khan and Israel Galvan several tours before their Torobaka collaboration finally ignited. The same might be true of the first-time pairing of Royal Ballet superhero Edward Watson and NYCB’s veteran virtuoso Wendy Whelan.

The five pieces made for them in this world premiere are a decidedly mixed bunch. Of the three duets and two solos, the former trump the latter in spades. Javier de Frutos’s curtain-raiser is a perverse variant on musical chairs as the two flirt in an empty waiting room to the ticking of a clock.

Arlene Phillips follows with a clunky solo for Watson which combines old school pop with baroque music as he dances with a chair in memory of a lost love. It’s ‘dance’ theme – right down to the red shoes/ruby slippers – is sadly cliched.

Whelan’s following solo by Annie-B Parson is cool, spare and unmemorable.

The stage lights up with their second duet, an elegant, stretchily sensual piece from Daniel Desnoyers which gets the pulse hammering – helped enormously by the onstage musicians led by the remarkably versatile Frank Moon, whose magic touch keeps the evening buoyant.

Arthur Pita’s concluding tribute to Brecht and Weill’s Threepenny Opera is typically mischievous and suffused with a dark sexuality that elides

Weimar cabaret with Argentinian tango in a most agreeable manner. Watson rips the shirt from Whelan who responds by debagging Watson – bums away! It may slightly outstay its welcome but it is a sizzling payoff to an intriguing, if variable, night. At last, fireworks.

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Verdict
Former New York City Ballet star meets cute with Royal Ballet principal MBE in a programme that slowly rises to the occasion
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