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La Valse/Divertissments/
Homage to the Queen

Royal Opera House

THISwas the second time in a couple of years I have been to a performance attended by the Queen and Phil the Greek. For the second time, the security was quite relaxed. This is in stark contrast to the arrangements when Charlie and Camilla attend a function. So brava to Her Maj for not making us get into our seats 30 minutes before the curtain goes up or having make us go through the kind of security checks that make LAX on September 12, 2001 seem like a swingers' party, as Charlie did at the ENO in December.

This bill was part of the Royal Ballet's 75th anniversary celebrations, but it was also chosen by the Queen as part of her 80th birthday bash, and the Royal Ballet rolled out all its big guns.

Frederick Ashton's version of Ravel's waltz La Valse was very much a curtain raiser to the series of dances that made up Divertissements, and the array of class performers that Covent Garden can count on. There was Miyako Yoshida and Frederico Bonelli in the Rhapsody Pas De Deux, Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg in Two Footnotes to Ashton - 1, with soprano Katie Van Kooten singing Glick's aria Di Questa Centra in Seno. The list just goes on: Zenaida Yanowsky, Tamara Rojo and Roberto Bolle, Darcey Bussell and Carlos Acosta. The highlight, though, was Sylvie Guillem dancing Russell Maliphant's Two, where she performance in a square of spotlight at the front of the stage with her body moving in all directions. Sublime.

Most of the principles returned for Homage to the Queen, where each of the four elements - earth, water, fire and air - were performed with a different choreographer for each one. Originally produced by Ashton, to Malcolm Arnold's music, for the Queen's coronation, it returned after 48 years and with modern choreographers replacing lost parts.

Bussell took centre stage as the Queen of the Air at the end in one of her last performances as a Royal Ballet principle. If her career as she approaches her late 30s takes off in the innovative directions that Guillem's has, then we have yet to see the best of this marvellous talent.

This really was a feast to set before a Queen, and the Greek seemed to enjoy himself also.

Review by Peter Wilson


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