Royal Ballet Beauty Mixed Programme review – in the theatre, I would have been sobbing

UNs dance shakes out its post-lockdown limbs, one thing is clear: the online sharing of performance is here to stay. It gives companies an opportunity to reach a much wider public than could cram into the theatre on any given night – and offers those who can’t see something live an opportunity to be part of the experience in a different way.

When I was forced to miss the Royal Ballet’s recent Beauty Mixed Programme at the Royal Opera House, it felt like a real boon to be able to catch up digitally with a programme that celebrates the company’s 90th anniversary with a bill of variable quality and interest, but absolute commitment to its founder Ninette de Valois’s mantra of “adventurous traditionalism”.

It opened with two new pieces, one live, one filmed: the decorative Anemoi by Valentino Zucchetti, which displays exactly the qualities of precision and elegance that he has always revealed as a dancer, and then, slightly oddly, Agnus Dei, a solo choreographed by Arthur Pita to music by Rufus Wainwright, which set a glamorously agonised Leo Dixon floating in midair across the auditorium.

Next were a series of pas de deux from the company’s past: the dancing of Yasmine Naghdi and Joseph Sissens made an unexpected highlight of Wayne McGregor’s Morgen, as they found striking new inflections in its longing for a better world. The third act of The Sleeping Beauty, the Royal Ballet’s signature piece, became a rich showcase for the deep classical understanding of Marianela Nuñez, a princess in her kingdom, her smile as broad as the stage.

But the night belonged to 28-year-old Beatriz Stix-Brunell, who is leaving the Royal Ballet to go to Stanford University. In Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain, the vivid simplicity of her movement revealed just what a communicative presence the stage is losing. In the theatre, I would have been sobbing; watching at home, I waved a sad goodbye.

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