The Times review opens with,
Frederick Ashton’s Rhapsody, the opening salvo of the Royal Ballet’s latest triple bill, was created in 1980 to mark the 80th birthday of the Queen Mother. It was also conceived as a showcase for the extraordinarily virtuosic talents of the company guest star, Mikhail Baryshnikov. At this week’s opening night performance Steven McRae reignited the role, skyrocketing across the stage when not partnering the perfectly poised Alina Cojocaru.
And The Evening Standard is in perfect agreement,
Australian-born McRae is near- perfect in the role, with both the technical finesse and the sense of humour to mix bravura moves with self-deprecating smiles…
… The choreography is famously full of fireworks, with multiple spins piled on spring-back jumps, and turns so speedy it looks as if the dancers are moving in two directions at once.
McRae is master of these, as he is of the airy manners and gossamer gallantries. The slow movement with Alina Cojocaru (also debuting) when the pair softly slip into each other’s arms is one of the loveliest and most poignant in classical dance. There is, of course, an undertow to Ashton’s elegance, which is that most of the world is nothing like it, and it’s his ability to splice these more serious themes with the show-off steps that justify all the raving.
Although Alina Cojocaru has also scored a personal triumph in her role début, the critics keep returning to McRae. Here’s The Guardian:
From the moment of Cojocaru’s first entrance – steps skimming fast and delicately as moths’ wings – she gives a masterclass in dancing as metaphor. The music evokes water and light as Cojocaru gathers up the notes of piano and orchestra in her arms then flicks them away like droplets. It feels like the pulse of a yearning heart as Cojocaru beats one leg with slow erotic deliberation against the other.
While McRae partners her with exemplary skill, he executes his own wilder virtuosic material with poetic brilliance. So fast does he take his pirouettes and turns that time seems to slow down, giving him every opportunity to etch and embellish each step. Best of all is the wit with which the dancers leaven the high romance of their roles and the vividness with which they conjure other Ashton lovers – the ghosts of Oberon and Titania, Ondine and Palamon.
Photo credit: Steven McRae and Alina Cojocaru in Rhapsody by Tristram Kenton for the Guardian
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.