The Royal Ballet’s Like Water for Chocolate will be broadcast to 909 cinemas in 33 countries worldwide in the new year.
The production is choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, the Company’s Artistic Associate, and inspired by Laura Esquivel’s captivating novel of the same name.
The Times explained the story:
Like Water for Chocolate is at heart the story of Tita and Pedro, forbidden to marry by her tyrannical mother, who instead pushes Pedro into marrying Tita’s eldest sister, Rosaura. What makes their love triangle unique is magic: when Tita cooks the family meals her overheated emotions — sadness, desire, despair — are transmitted into the food, and from there into the people who eat it, a fact not clearly explained in Wheeldon’s choreography.
Not a conventional plot. Yet it worked: The Guardian said,
Not all choreographers are good directors, but Christopher Wheeldon is. Even when dealing with a tricky text such as Laura Esquivel’s magical realist novel Like Water for Chocolate, his is a steady hand.
Despite caveats, the solidity of the production and the imagination of Esquivel’s world keep this ballet an engrossing, propulsive, fulfilling watch.
The production reunited Wheeldon with the creative team who transformed Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (2011) and The Winter’s Tale (2014) into dance – composer Joby Talbot, designer Bob Crowley, and lighting designer Natasha Katz. Mexican conductor Alondra de la Parra acted as musical consultant, and Esquivel worked closely with the team to reshape her richly layered story into an entertaining and engrossing new ballet.
In 2014, Wheeldon directed and choreographed the stage version of An American in Paris, and recently directed and choreographed MJ The Musical, which opened on Broadway in 2022; both productions won Tony Awards. Like Water for Chocolate is his third full-length work for The Royal Ballet.
The cinema broadcast on Thursday 19 January 2023 stars its opening night dancers from June last year: principal dancer Francesca Hayward as Tita and Marcelino Sambé as Pedro, with Mexican musician Tomás Barreiro on guitar.
The New York Times said:
In the ballet’s final moments, however, comes a pas de deux for Tita and Pedro that is the equal of any Wheeldon has created. Like his mesmerizing “After the Rain,” it offers two figures moving through an abstract landscape. To a haunting song based on Octavio Paz’s poem “Sunstone,” sung by Siân Griffiths, Sambé and Hayward move with liquid beauty through a series of spiraling, cross-body swirls and high, off-kilter lifts before being engulfed by flame-lit clouds, behind which we glimpse the white-clad brides we saw at the start.
It’s a coup de théâtre finale, one of many visually breathtaking moments in the ballet. But it’s also where the dance shows us something more than a narrative idea. The spare purity of the final pas de deux offers a glimpse of the unity of body and spirit, emotion refined into abstraction. There is plenty that is entertaining in “Like Water for Chocolate”; here, Wheeldon shows he can do much more.
Encore screenings will run from Sunday 22 January 2023.
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.