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Royal Ballet, Onegin, Saturday 19th January 2013 7pm, Royal Opera House Main Stage
Seen from Stalls Circle Left, seat B 6, £9 – perfectly comfortable but this was actually too far, a good half of the stage was obscured
There is no one like Alina Cojocaru. She is such a talented actress, her movements are featherlight  - she must be so easy to dance with. It struck me that her feet are so small, and her poor bunions so large, that en pointe she is hardly any taller. No one makes you believe in ballet as she does, with tears in her eyes (passion or pain?) she brought them to my eyes too at least twice. She never stops acting, each movement embodies the obsessive fascination of naïve youth as she constantly flicks her gaze back to Onegin, fidgeting when his eyes are on her, she is so subtle, understanding that the most obvious action is often not the most natural, she appears to whisper as she acts, drawing me in still further. She effortlessly slips from pretty ballerina to gritty actor – this ballet has a reality about it unlike any other, more so perhaps because it does not end as a love story.
Jason Reilly, on the other hand, was disappointing. He was not giving much away, while Cojocaru – who seemed to be carrying his part too – never stops giving, and became more irritatingly wooden as the ballet progressed. I wondered briefly if I was simply reacting to his portrayal of an unlikeable, cold, bored character but there was nothing there that would justify Tatiana's falling for him – not even a mystique that could have been intriguing. Nothing. He looked genuinely bored even when he ought not to have been and by the end I had decided that he knew only two facial expressions. He exhibited his aerial prowess only occasionally but is clearly an excellent partner; perhaps that is why he was invited.
I had never heard of Akane Takada before but she was a delightful surprise, expressive and lovely she complimented Steven McRae marvellously. McRae, of course, never disappoints. He is the real male star of tonight and he is just brilliant as the truly tragic element of the story – he makes it so definitely not a secondary part.
However, being substituted in like this (for Johan Kobborg, injured) is always daunting for both dancers, especially with such terrifyingly demanding and risky choreography, and they certainly both pulled it off. Being this close to the stage also has advantages when watching the corps and I was tapping my foot along with them; the expressions never slip (though some are better than others) and the Royal are fantastic with the details; the man too fat to dance, the humorous individual flirting of each couple which got a soft laugh from the audience... The costumes lack something from so close though, dresses which historically would have been floor length have to be the most unflattering length there is (ankle length) so dancing in them is possible, and the men's tights end up looking rather like baby clothes.
The story is extraordinarily powerful and moving – boredom can be frightening and bleak and deserves this kind of exploration – and the turning point of the play is beautifully done: we see Tatiana mature as she hears the gunshot ring out, standing there swamped in that dress. By the third act we've grown up – hair is no longer in plaits, the tights are saved by tailcoats and there is languid acting from the corps. Some, sitting at the side, seem to watch the principals because they have been told to, whereas others seem to be dancing with them, watching because they can't keep their eyes off them. Everything about this ballet seems short however and though it works beautifully I wonder if it could benefit from having been drawn out a little more.
The music was just gorgeous, swelling and soaring perfectly with Cranko's choreography, which itself was everything one hopes for – the final pas de deux especially is stunning and quite disturbing. It reminded me so much of the sort of naturalistic emotion and ambitiousness that MacMillan combines. It is also a ballet of refreshing gender equality, both in numbers and in time in the spotlight. However it was sadly difficult to appreciate the set from my angle.
Reilly only cracked a smile once, during the applause at the end, but Cojocaru looked as if she had given it her all with that anxious, thin face. For me, it was her who made the whole evening worth it – I only hope she felt as happy with her performance as she left us.
A note on the seat: even bent double I could sometimes hear the music soaring to a climax while frustratingly being able to see nothing, I was aching by the end but it was worth it still, I wouldn't sit here again but the excitement of being so close still at times had its advantages over sitting so far away it's as if one was watching television. From here you can see right into the wings and experience the surreality of seeing a technician in a tracksuit wandering around in the background of a pas de deux, dancers waiting in the wings gesturing to their colleagues and warming up (though today they didn't do that collapsing too early thing!), people hurriedly fixing pieces of set...you can see the conductor (who looked uncannily like Reilly as they stared at each other), and behind the curtain during the curtain calls when the dancers were congratulating and thanking each other and even joking around. I love to see that moment when someone steadies themselves before running out onstage.
Dancemania1 year ago
Clearly Stalls Circle Left, seat B 6 is a seat to avoid but I wish I'd been there none the less :)