The last two weekends, I enjoyed four nights of amazing dance performances – two times on stage, at The Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and two times on the silver screen, at Laemmle’s Royal theatre.
After 24 years, The Royal Ballet returned to Los Angeles to perform its signature work, Mayerling, created by famous choreographer Kenneth MacMillan in 1978. Set in 19 th century Vienna, it tells the story of royal dangerous liaisons with the death of an Austro- Hungarian Prince and his teenage mistress. Sumptuous set design. Gorgeous costumes. Amazing dancers. All this impressed me, but, to be completely honest, it didn’t emotionally engage me as much as I had hoped it would.
As a pure coincidence, two days later, I went to see another performance by The Royal Ballet, this time, Romeo and Juliet, set to Prokofiev’s iconic score, with original choreography by MacMillan from 1965. It was filmed during a live performance at The Royal Opera House and presented by Laemmle theatre here in LA. This time, I was completely and fully engaged by the dancers who told the heartbreaking story by Shakespeare, fortified by Prokofiev’s music.
Another two days passed, and I found myself back at Laemmle Royal – this time, to watch a filmed performance of Swan Lake, with choreography by Matthew Bourne, in which all the swans are male dancers. Talk about a challenging and eyebrow-raising interpretation of a classical ballet… I give it a high-five.
Last Saturday, I was back at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, for another evening of dance performances – this time, a collaboration between The Royal Ballet and Company Wayne McGregor. The Los Angeles Philharmonic, under the direction of composer and conductor Thomas Adés, returned to Dorothy Chandler for the first time since the orchestra moved to Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2003.
Watching the dancers perform impossibly difficult movements with unbelievable lightness, one could have thought that Gods and Muses gave them an extra vertebra. It was an extremely sensual and seductive presentation.
The most intriguing part of the program that evening for me was Living Archive: An AI Performance Experiment, which included a video installation by Ben Cullen Williams. Who knows? This artificial intelligence tool developed in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture Lab might have been an opening into the future of ballet theatre.
The most anticipated program of the evening was the dance world premiere of The Dante Project Part 1 (Inferno), with set and costume design by famous British artist Tacita Dean. Dark, moody, and spectacular… that’s how it felt to me.
Here we are with Virgil and Dante, traveling through the netherworld – but, the music score of Inferno by Adés with the choreography of McGregor made me feel like I was in paradise. With all these dance performances over the last ten days, I was as visually informed, engaged, and challenged as I would expect to be visiting art galleries and museums. It was music to my eyes, and ears.