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  • Ballet Essentials: Obsidian Tear / The Invitation / Within the Golden Hour

Ballet Essentials: Obsidian Tear / The Invitation / Within the Golden Hour

Our quick introduction to this mixed programme of works by great British choreographers — Kenneth MacMillan, Christopher Wheeldon and Wayne McGregor.

By Paul Kilbey (Content Producer (Ballet))

24 May 2016 at 9.22am | Comment on this article

Obsidian Tear

Physicality and emotion

Wayne McGregor’s first work for The Royal Ballet since the Olivier Award-winning Woolf Works brings together a diverse set of influences. Obsidian Tear is a choreographic response to the mythic grandeur of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s symphonic poem Nyx. The ballet’s title takes inspiration from the epic geological journey of the volcanic rock, obsidian, as metaphor for the potent emotional and social forces exerted on human life.

Fashioning music and dance

As always with McGregor, the ballet is further enhanced by the contributions of his collaborators. In Obsidian Tear, McGregor collaborates for the first time with Salonen, whose Lachen verlernt for solo violin and Nyx for orchestra make up the ballet’s score. Salonen also conducts three performances, in his Royal Ballet debut. Joining the creative team are McGregor’s regular collaborators lighting designer Lucy Carter and dramaturg Uzma Hameed. Fashion director Katie Shillingford has curated the dancers’ outfits. The set is designed by McGregor himself.

The Invitation

No fairy story

‘I’m sick to death of fairy stories’, said choreographer Kenneth MacMillan in 1960. His choreography and scenario for The Invitation, created and first performed that year, took ballet far away from its traditional image and drew inspiration from hard-hitting contemporary drama. The Invitation is a powerful expression of a theme that obsessed MacMillan throughout his career – the loss of innocence.


MacMillan drew up the scenario for The Invitation from several literary sources, working closely with composer Mátyás Seiber. In the scenario, a young girl and her cousin find themselves in the company of an older, unhappily married couple. The story of the girl takes a violent turn, and the ballet shocked its first audiences with its unflinching depiction of rape. Its remarkable emotional honesty make it an important work of MacMillan’s, and it has been revived many times, although not by The Royal Ballet since 1996.

Within the Golden Hour

Couples and ensembles

Christopher Wheeldon’s seven-movement Within the Golden Hour is for 14 dancers, and demonstrates his ever-inventive handling of ensembles. Three pas de deux alternate with movements for other groups, with the full cast coming together in the shimmering finale.

The beauty of movement

While the work was created in 2008 for San Francisco Ballet, it was first performed by The Royal Ballet earlier this Season as part of an all-Wheeldon programme, in a new production with lighting and projections by 59 Productions and Martin Pakledinaz’s original costumes re-created by Lynette Mauro. The designs combine with the choreography and Ezio Bosso’s music to create a deep-toned, wistful hymn to the beauty of movement.

Recommended if you like…

Wayne McGregor’s Woolf Works
Kenneth MacMillans’s Romeo and Juliet
Christopher Wheeldon’s

Obsidian Tear/The Invitation/Within the Golden Hour runs 28 May–11 June 2016. Tickets are still available.

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