The English National Ballet’s Tribute to Roland Petit

Stilettos, ready! To keep the audience entertained, the postwar French choreographer Roland Petit resorted to high jinks, low jinks, whatever jinks he could summon. He’s a one-man, nonstop coup de theatre. Petit’s women, long-legged and aloof, aren’t asked to be graceful so much as dangerous and strange: they slither, prance and stamp, opening and closing their knees in insectoid twitches and mechanical jerks. It’s as if they are perched on high-heeled toes. The men must earn advanced degrees in acrobatics (with post-graduate liniment for their abused muscles) to perform Petit’s Cirque de Soleil cartwheels, tumbling, and feats of strength (such as forming a human bridge for the ballerina to stretch out on — at least she doesn’t walk over it in stilettos). These antics were on display in a triple bill mounted by the ever-ebullient English National Ballet, the romping younger sibling of the Royal Ballet, which soberly covets its right of primogeniture.

A Singer’s Notes, 11: New Year’s Blessings and my Favorites from ’09

The holidays are over in my rural kingdom of music and art, and there were some blessed nights. I enjoyed particularly a cogent and real My Fair Lady played at the Capital Rep. This was a show that seemed like it belonged in the same universe with George Bernard Shaw. The speaking in particular was entirely believable. The Professor Higgins (Fred Rose) did not ingratiate. He wasn’t charming. He had all the negative aspects of the character connected with a vocal honesty that made us wonder what Eliza could possibly see in him. I felt the tension I think the creators intended. A tough, harsh character who sings. He was in every way the best performer of this part I have seen.

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