Riding a wave of energy with The Royal Swedish Ballet in Artifact Suite and The Grey Area

Royal Swedish Ballet at the Opera House, Stockholm
April 13, 2018

Maggie Foyer

With Nicolas le Riche now in place as the artistic director of the Royal Swedish Ballet and the new season’s productions announced there is a welcome emphasis on raising technical standards and unifying the company. The upbeat performance of William Forsythe’s Artifact Suite showed a positive beginning.

Artifact Suite is one of Forsythe’s most popular works and it is easy to see why. Disarmingly simple, a double duet and large ensemble, all uniformly dressed in practice clothes of green and black and working in orderly formation, it is actually as complex as the accompanying music. J.S. Bach’s Chaconne from Partita No 2 in D minor is the source and Eva Crossman-Hecht provides the improvisations on the score. In similar vein, Forsythe improvises around the strict classical roots of ballet moving at lightning speed through Petipa and Balanchine to take ballet on into the new millennium. It rides on a wave of clean sharp energy that, despite its 2004 origins, is absolutely of today.

The four soloists gave splendid performances. Kaho Yanagisawa partnered by Dragos Mihalcea and Minji Nam dancing with Jonatan Davidson were well matched. The catch and thrust on the lifts and the partnering, in Forsythe’s works always restless and edgy, was accomplished with panache while the ensemble seemed to relish getting their teeth into this wealth of modern movement.

The Grey Area by David Dawson(dancers pictured: Calum Lowden and Madeline Woo)Photo Sören Vilks
The Grey Area by David Dawson
(dancers pictured: Calum Lowden and Madeline Woo)
Photo Sören Vilks

David Dawson’s The Grey Area is a sombre affair. The work is finely crafted, subtle and elegant, and structured on geometric symmetry but it needs performances of total commitment and this only came in parts. The work was taken into the company’s repertoire in 2004, two years after its premiere in Amsterdam, but I cannot remember on either occasion it being so uniformly dim. On the dark depth of the Opera House stage it was often difficult to distinguish the dancers or to become engaged with the action. However, the long final pas de deux with Sarah Jane Medley and Daniel Norgren-Jensen was well done and brought the work to a climax. There was a brief epiphany as Desislava Stoeva was swept into one of the ecstatic high lifts by Norgren-Jensen but throughout the dancers, who admittedly were not the first cast, did not seem fully at home with the challenges of Dawson’s choreography where a cool classical exterior embraces a passionate soul.

The Royal Swedish repertoire in recent years has featured little contemporary ballet and it was a treat to see twenty-first century works with a stage full of dancers and the popularity of the programme was evident in the good attendance and enthusiastic response.