Salenko And McRae Put On An Emotional Display


“Their balcony pas de deux bled endless emotions…”


Another Romeo and Juliet, another couple, another review!  On Tuesday night, Steven McRae danced the role of Romeo alongside Ukranian Guest Artist, Iana Salenko.  Salenko made her debut with the company as Juliet back in September but I was unfortunately unable to attend.  I simply cannot imagine their first performance being better than this, their second.  If it was, well….

Apart from a rushed score – I honestly find that Keon Kessels’ conducting leaves a lot to be desired – the performance was, in every way, flawless.

I have already spoken highly of McRae’s Romeo, but last night he seemed to be even more on top of his game – if that is possible.  He anticipated every turn, calculated every jump and displayed an undeniable control over his character.

Salenko’s Juliet was childish, mischievous, scared and heartbreakingly sorrowful. Although Salenko never studied at the Royal Ballet School, I find her style to be surprisingly English and she takes well to MacMillan’s choreography.  She balanced and turned without trouble and toyed with the music as she skittered across the stage.  She took the ballroom pas de deux with Paris (Valeri Hristov) notably slower than the other Juliet’s I have seen and it served her well.

But, the main attraction is the couple’s chemistry.  McRae and Salenko have recently been described by the Independent as the Royal Ballet’s best couple in years and I agree wholeheartedly.  Their pairing is like a spider’s web – elaborate yet easily constructed.  When Salenko’s Juliet shies away from Paris and spots McRae’s Romeo you see her breath escape her – from then on the two can no longer last a few seconds without chancing a glance.

Their balcony pas de deux bled endless emotions and it was only here that I found the music to be perfect – allowing them to hit each and every note impeccably.  The audience erupted as the curtain closed on the first act with the star-crossed lovers trying to reach each other over Juliet’s balcony.

Their partnership is, undoubtedly, the best I have ever seen – for not only is their technique perfectly matched, but so too are their looks.  While Salenko stated that family commitments in Berlin will prevent her from fully moving to London to join the Royal Ballet, she will perform in many of their performances during the 2015/16 season including the principal roles in The Nutcracker and Giselle.

Another notable portrayal was Thomas Whitehead’s Tybalt – by far the most lyrical and layered that I have witnessed, besting even Gary Avis’ in my opinion – which is a feat in itself.  I found Whitehead’s Tybalt also added an extra dynamic to the sword fighting scenes both in this cast and in the one starring Matthew Golding as Romeo.  His attack made me feel as though someone was actually about to be sliced right open.

Alexander Campbell and Tristan Dyer portrayed Mercutio and Benvolio respectively and both danced wonderfully, perfectly in time with one another and boasting wonderful technique and musicality.

This cast will perform together once more on 23 November and the production will run until 2 December.  For tickets and further details visit the website of the Royal Opera House.

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