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Your Reaction: The Royal Ballet's programme of four works 2017

Audience and press reviews of The Royal Ballet's collection of pieces by Forsythe, Balanchine, Wheeldon and Scarlett.

By Asher Korner (Former Assistant Content Producer)

19 May 2017 at 12.55pm | 22 Comments

Press reviews:
Financial Times ★★★★★
Bachtrack ★★★★
Guardian ★★★★
The Stage ★★★★
Arts Desk ★★★★
Telegraph ★★★
Evening Standard ★★★
Independent ★★

What did you think of The Royal Ballet's mixed programme 2017?
Share your thoughts via the comments below.

The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude / Tarantella / Strapless / Symphonic Dances runs until 31 May 2017. Tickets are still available.

The productions are staged with generous philanthropic support from The Royal Opera House Endowment Fund, with additional philanthropic support from the JP Jacobs Charitable Trust.

Symphonic Dances: Generous philanthropic support from Thomas and Deirdre Lynch, Simon and Virginia Robertson, Lady Robey, The Constance Travis Charitable Trust in memory of Leslie Edwards, and the Symphonic Dances Production Syndicate.

Strapless: Generous philanthropic support from Kenneth and Susan Green and Mr and Mrs Edward Atkin CBE

This article has 22 comments

  1. Patrick John Gordon Shaw responded on 19 May 2017 at 1:41pm Reply

    HOW nice that some Forsythe back at the ROH - MORE please!!

  2. Graeme Williams responded on 19 May 2017 at 5:39pm Reply

    My wife and I found this an interesting programme which we felt got better as the evening progressed.
    Vertiginous I'm afraid to say we didn't like. No criticism of the dancers (after all, in my view the sainted Marianela can do no wrong) but it was frantic choreography with some strange positioning between dancers when viewed from the Ampitheatre.
    Tarantella was fun and must have been exhausting. Brilliant dancing from Frankie and Sambe.
    Strapless we enjoyed, probably more than when we saw it previously (Ballet always seems to improve with exposure) but then came Symphonic Dances!
    What an excellent work! The staging, the lighting... and the dancing. How did Zen manage to dance in that wonderful dress? It must have been a great relief to exchange it for a dinner jacket and not much else in the middle scene with the male dancers taking their turn to dance in what appeared to be voluminous skirts. Throughout the programme, Zenaida stood and danced with authority, clearly the most significant character on stage. Of all four pieces, this is the one we would love to see again... and again. Well done Liam.

  3. Stephen Jay-Taylor responded on 20 May 2017 at 2:27am Reply

    No-one seems to have noticed - or if they have, can't be bothered to mention - that Strapless returns some six minutes shorter than it began life last year, with the character of Sargent's lover Albert much pruned (now no significant interaction between them in the Café de l'avenue scene) and Amelie's agonising over her frocks to the despair of her maids, together with a dance with her husband now all excised. I missed them, though the piece undoubtedly gains in concentration, if not coherence.

    I thought the opening movement of the Rachmaninov almost entirely misjudged. It's one thing to treat Zenaida as an object of extended company homage in theory: quite another to leave her standing there in practice motionless like a lamp-post whilst James Hay capers around her like a mad gnat...

    And the stiff, cat-sick green tutus in the Forsythe are a piece of visual horror not easily overlooked either.

  4. Bridie Macmahon responded on 20 May 2017 at 9:55am Reply

    I agree with Stephen Jay-Taylor's comment above about the opening movement of Symphonic Dances; unfortunately, I thought the whole work was entirely misjudged. Incredbily tawdry designs, like a child's idea of what is beautiful or glamorous (red lights and swirly dresses!!) and incoherent choreography. Yanowsky was tremendous; but then she always is. And Hay and Clarke were excellent. But I found the work embarrassingly dated.

    Even cut, Strapless simply doesn't work. But the Forsyth was very enjoyable, and Tarantella was absolutely brilliant and superbly danced by Hayward and Sambé.

  5. Berenice responded on 20 May 2017 at 3:00pm Reply

    Zen magnifique and unique!!!
    Pleeeese film this. We will miss her so very much.

    I wondered why Strapless moved me less than in its last outing.....

  6. Andrea responded on 21 May 2017 at 10:25am Reply

    I thoroughly enjoyed last nights performances. Tarantella stood out for me. It looked like perfection and it was so much fun! Alexander Campbell and Meagan Grace-Hinkis were fantastic.
    Symphonic Dances was so impressive. I especially loved the male dancers who were very strong and powerful in the middle section. World class choreography in my humble opinion!
    Lauren Cuthbertson danced beautifully, she shone on that stage. However, Strapless and Vertiginous weren't as enjoyable for me as the other ballets. Last night was the first time I had seen any of these ballets and I'd like to see them all again!

  7. Patrick Buckingham responded on 22 May 2017 at 11:32am Reply

    I enjoyed Saturday evening's performance very much. Symphonic Dances fascinated from start to finish with so much to enjoy. Highlights included Zenaida's pas de deux with James and Reece and some electrifying jumps from Marcelino and Luca. One of Scarlett's strongest pieces for a bit.

    The Forsythe opener set a frantic pace and goes to show that a true classic (in the form of Schubert's Great Symphony) can be a perfect companion to an abstract ballet. There seemed to be a few stumbles (and poor Itzibar had a tumble) which demonstrates how unforgiving this type of ballet can be.

    Strapless is better in its new abbreviated form but I must confess to it being my least favourite Wheeldon ballet. A case of too much complex narrative in too little time. That said, I loved Lauren's performance as Amelie, particularly the moving finale when she comes back as a ghostly figure to view a contemporary audience adoring her portrait.

    Tarantella was a party piece which did not disappoint. Alex Campbell showed once again what a good all rounder he is and I was once again impressed by Meaghan Grace Hinkis (who was a brilliant Stephanie in Mayerling only a week before). Another good potential pairing of the future.

    All in all, this was a thoroughly satisfying evening of ballet demonstrating the company's undoubted strength in depth.

  8. ML responded on 22 May 2017 at 12:50pm Reply

    The Mixed Programme was hugely enjoyable. My favourite was Tarantella - we had Hinkis and Campbell, and their virtuosity and artistry were incredible. If they were previously excellent at what they performed, for Tarantella they raised the bar even further- their speed, their daredevil confidence in the trickiest steps, and their charisma.

    A quick glance at the archive information reveals some interesting information about The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude when the Royal Ballet first performed in 1999 and the 2002 revival. In the first cast? - none other than Zenaida Yanowsky, now dancing the lead in the final ballet created for her. In the revival cast? - why, it was Edward Watson, now dancing John Singer Sargeant, the role created for him, in the third ballet. What a coincidence! I've seen TVTOE with various companies and loved the cast of Stix-Brunell, Hayward, Mendizabal, Sambe and Hay- their speed, musicality and precision are up there with the best casts ever to dance it. The colours and stiff tutus are now instantly recognisable as being those of TVTOE. It's fast and fun, and so unusual to have classical music with a Forsythe ballet (another exception being Steptext).

    I couldn't help feeling that Symphonic Dances looked very much like a goodbye tribute to Zenaida Yanowsky, with a nod to some of her best known roles (or perhaps a coincidence, as she danced such a wide range of roles). The score is a popular Rachmaninov piece- having recently been seen in London as a gorgeous ensemble piece for San Francisco Ballet by Edwaard Liang. Scarlett's version is more dramatic and focuses more on its leading ballerina Zenaida; it occasionally felt a little plodding when she wasn't there, but for the most part, it was a dramatic and engaging piece which the company performed with great commitment. I'd happily see this mixed bill again, although I would probably have liked Strapless to be the first work of the evening rather than the third.

    A final note: hasn't Marcelino Sambe been brilliant this season? In this mixed bill, he prepared and performed demanding roles in all four ballets (not all on the same night of course). Also on stellar form in Jewels, Human Seasons, Flight Pattern, Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty and Fille (I missed him in Multiverse and Woolf Works) it's hard to believe he is a soloist and not a principal - his performances have star quality every time: fearlessness, virtuosity and total commitment to each ballet.

    • ML responded on 22 May 2017 at 2:13pm

      Almost forgot to add: Zen was wonderful in Symphonic Dances, of course!

    • Patrick Buckingham responded on 22 May 2017 at 8:37pm

      I agree with your comment about Marcelino who has been an undeniable star turn of this season. He is particularly magical when paired with Frankie Hayward or Luca Acri.

  9. Gwyneth Macaulay responded on 22 May 2017 at 6:01pm Reply

    Symphonics - another winner from Liam Scarlett. The RoH is so lucky to have him ( as well as Chris Wheeldon of course) on their team.
    We shall miss Zenaida who was commanding and moving at the same time and what faultless dancing whilst wearing that difficult dress!
    Oh and I look forward to seeing more of Marcelino Sambe (Tarantella) - what gravity defying talent!

  10. Charles N responded on 23 May 2017 at 1:24pm Reply

    We'll all miss Zen hugely. Liam produced the biggest possible staging for her, and she still filled it with ease!!
    I'm feeling incredibly lucky to have a ticket for June 7.

  11. Maggie responded on 24 May 2017 at 7:27pm Reply

    I had a wonderful evening last night, a privilege to see so many of the wonderful dancers AND Kevin O'Hare at the end of my row, and then spotted Jonathan Cope as well! Star struck!

    Liam Scarlett produced a thrilling parting gift for Zenaida, and she demonstrated how she can convey more with a tiny tilt of her head or hand than us mere mortals can with our whole bodies. She's going to be so missed. But you can see the future of the company is in safe hands with wonderful dancing from the rest of the cast, plus earlier in the evening Francesca and Marcelino delighting in Tarentella - rays of sunshine both.

    All five dancers in the Forsythe were breathtakingly fleet of foot, and looked as if they were enjoying themselves thoroughly.

    I enjoyed Strapless more this time round than last, maybe because I was more familiar with the plot, but it's hard to engage with - it's a slight story, and the characters are so self absorbed, they aren't people you want to spend time with. Natalia does such a good job at conveying Amelie's shallowness that it's hard to care when it all goes wrong.

    Back on the 7th, and I'm simultaneously looking forward to it and dreading saying farewell to Zenaida. Tissues will be at the ready!

  12. Eddie Maxwell responded on 25 May 2017 at 12:49am Reply

    I attended on 23rd May and had a wonderful time. The company looks wonderful in a mixed bill like this, all classical dance and no contemporary shuffling such as we had from Shector and Pite. Glorious dancing all round. However, I feel that 'Strapless' is a strange piece. Beautiful choreography beautifully danced, yet somehow the whole is less than the sum of its parts. 'Symphonic Dances' is a wonderful new work. I am so disappointed that we won't have more opportunities to see the glorious Zenaida Yanowsky in it. I assume that Liam Scarlett made it for her. I support the call to have it filmed with La Yanowsky. It would be a lovely tribute to her to issue it on dvd. Speaking of dvds, when will the recording of her 'Swan Lake' be made available to the public? The Shop teases us by showing it regularly on the screen in their window.
    Thank you to all involved in such a memorable night

    • Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media) responded on 25 May 2017 at 11:19am

      Hi Eddie,

      Thanks for your comments and your question about releasing Swan Lake starring Zenaida Yanowsky on DVD and Blu-Ray.

      This was captured for cinema, but I'm afraid that there aren't any plans to offer a home release at this time. As you may be aware, we released the 2015 recording starring Natalia Osipova and Matthew Golding (



    • ML responded on 11 June 2017 at 1:38pm

      Eddie, if you get Sky Arts on subscription as part of a satellite tv package, they do broadcast it every now and again, and you can record it on DVR to (hopefully) keep it forever. I've recorded it once, but erased it to make room for Zen's performance in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland! (This is by no means an advertisement for Sky Arts as it's not the best channel around, but it's the only dedicated round-the-clock arts and popular music channel, and the only means of seeing this particular performance of Swan Lake that I know of).

  13. Dewi Hughes responded on 25 May 2017 at 6:18am Reply

    At last night's performance the dancing was excellent - couldn't fault anything. The outstanding piece was Tarantella with Yasmine Naghdi and Valentino Zucchetti. The disappointing piece was Strapless which had such dull (black) costumes. Surely this would not have been France in the 1880's. I normally like Bob Crowley's designs but feel that this time it did not work and spoilt the excellent dancing. Symphonic Dances was the icing on the cake with such colour and energy on the enlarged stage dancing area. Liam Scarlett we want more of your works.

  14. Nick B responded on 25 May 2017 at 12:10pm Reply

    I saw the mixed programme on Wednesday 23rd. It was a wonderful experience. I love the idea of being able to see such a range of talented dancers all in one evening. I thought the programme was very well put together in terms of variety and, yes, I too appreciated the essentially 'classical' nature of the dance. 'Strapless' is definitely growing on me. What a privilege to have this company in our midst. And the orchestra - if you had kept your eyes closed you would have heard a feast of fine orchestral playing. Happy times!

    • Dewi Hughes responded on 25 May 2017 at 4:34pm

      I agree that the dancing and the music were superb. However I go to see the ballet not just listen to the music and therefore the sets and costumes are important in placing the dancing in its correct setting viz France 1880's. I am also interested in all technical aspects of each performance lighting and the movement of the sets. However, altogether Wednesday evening 24th May performance was very enjoyable.

  15. D Gifford responded on 27 May 2017 at 2:07pm Reply

    I'd hoped for a better response to Strapless on this second showing, but still felt disengaged. The piece has no dramatic spark and feels overlong. At least I don't have to see it again (couldn't it be put to rest now, along with Raven Girl?). Liam Scarlett's use of the huge stage was bold, imaginative and impressive; a welcome antidote to the dullness of Strapless, even if it did teeter on the edge of High Camp much of the time. I loved how Scarlett had thoughtfully referenced Yanowsky's characteristics as a dancer and she was magnificent. I'm looking forward to seeing it again. The combination of Forsyth and Schubert was a delight, though I find Macrae's over-eager style of dancing rather a challenge, and Sambe (make him a principal soon!) and Hayward, in Tarantella, were pure delight.

  16. Liz A responded on 28 May 2017 at 9:18pm Reply

    Brilliant Quadruple yesterday. An excellent mix. Strapless better for being shorter. Absolutely loved Symphonic Dances - want to see it again and soon! Liam's best yet. Laura was superb.

  17. Susan Y responded on 5 June 2017 at 8:33am Reply

    I saw the 27th May matinee and, although it pains me to say it, I left disappointed. The first time in ages.

    Vertiginous felt lacking in energy, with several of the dancers being out of time with each other in places, no doubt owing to some last minute cast changes. This isn't my favourite Forsythe anyway (In the Middle is, especially after seeing ENB perform it during their last mixed bill). Love the costumes but just didn't feel punchy enough - with the exception of Akane Takada. She was really going for it.

    Tarantella was danced a little too safely for my liking. It's still a sweet piece, although more suited to a gala perhaps, and it's short enough to not outstay it's welcome. Wish I had seen the first cast here if I'm honest.

    Strapless was dire. I had no idea what to expect, but a Ballet that can't even be saved by wonderful dancers isn't worth seeing, in my opinion. Most of the pas de deux happened on the far left of the stage so was often in my blind spot. Despite that, my main issue is the weak story. All the characters are 1 dimensional and vapid. The society is shallow. Who is the Ballet about - Amelie or Sargent? I felt nothing for either of them (besides thinking how naive they were). The whole thing dragged. Nothing more to add if I'm honest, but I'll make a point to avoid this in future.

    The final piece - Scarlett's Symphonic Dances - started off brilliantly. Loved the dramatic opening with the red dress. The music is so beautiful so I can forgive this piece a lot due to that... however, after the first section I found my mind drifting. It sort of fizzled out & reminded me of pieces I've seen before (a la McGregor). I did like the use of the stage, & despite my reservations on this piece, I'm very much looking forward to Scarlett's Swan Lake.

    I've put off posting my thoughts just because of how disappointed I was, but thankfully the current triple bill is wonderful (The Dream etc).

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