Robbins/Balanchine from the Royal Swedish Ballet

Opera House, Stockholm
November 18, 2022

Two of Jerome Robbins’ most popular ballets and one of Balanchine’s most enjoyable. What’s not to like in the Royal Swedish Ballet’s new triple bill?

The Concert, with its wild fantasy and laugh-out-loud comedy is a perennial favourite. Robbins must have been a serial people watcher as he documents every misdemeanour in audience behaviour from the clatter of setting down chairs, the annoying person who hasn’t checked the seat number properly and the noisy search for the favourite sweet in the cellophane packet. Neither does he miss a trick with the ill-rehearsed corps, or the flat-pack transportation of ballerinas. Well timed and delivered, the comic moments kept the jollity bubbling throughout.

Calum Lowden, as the philandering husband with latent paranoid tendencies is captivated by the fluffy ballerina Alessa Rogers who is in turn enchanted by pianist, Terés Löf. It’s a recipe for mishaps and neatly captured in the physical comedy but they were trumped by the withering look from master of the art, Nadja Sellrup as the wife. The ballet was a delight, but possibly not best placed as the opening work.

The Concert by Jerome Robbins
(pictured: Therés Löf (piano), with (l-r) William Dugan, Carl Sjögren
and Taylor Yanke)
Photo Nils-Emil Nylander

George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, a ballet in the grand manner, is a treat for virtuoso dancers. Madeline Woo and Hiroaki Ishida expertly fitted the bill. The short, brilliant sequences of turns, jumps and batterie are interspersed like a string of jewels and framed by the corps de ballet, a beautifully rehearsed team and a credit to repetiteurs Eva Nissen and Marie Lindqvist.

Woo matched the energy in Tchaikovsky’s music, sharp focusing her turns with laser precision and closing each fifth position with dovetailed accuracy. Ishida, a dancer of ease and elegance displayed a powerful jump that enabled crisp clean batterie and ronds de jambe. Their pas de deux also presents challenges but none that daunted the pair. Marie Rosenmir, conducting the orchestra with passion, brought the work to the thrilling climax it deserves.

In the Night by Jerome Robbins
(pictured: Rikako Shibamoto and Kentaro Mitsumori)
Photo Nils-Emil Nylander

In the Night, set to Chopin’s haunting, Nocturnes is one of my favourites. The three pas de deux each at a different moment on the path of true love, reveal Robbins at his most human. The first brings the passion of young love, the second, stylish and confident in an established relationship and the third a tempestuous break down. The work offers fine material for the dancers but sadly lacking were meaningful relationships or any sense that the couples had intense feelings for each other. It was simply a display of technique in fussy costumes, with only Desislava Stoeva in the third duet, giving her all in a passionate display.

The Royal Swedish Ballet is saving the environment by no longer printing a cast sheet. There are no boards showing the cast and no QR reader in the theatre to give the information. The programme has some of the casting, but nowhere does it give the full list of company members or any biographies. I know of no other company in Europe that treats its dancers so shabbily. They deserve better.