The Royal Ballet: Monotones I and II/The Two Pigeons Review

Pigeons is such a success that it should see the stage as often as Swan Lake.

The Royal Ballet continues its 2015/16 Autumn Season with a double bill dedicated to its founding choreographer, Sir Frederick Ashton. The bill features a major revival of Ashton’s ‘The Two Pigeons’ which was last seen on the ROH stage thirty years ago in 1985.

Preceding the eagerly-anticipated revival is Monotones I and II, two short pas de trois. The first, choreographed a year after the second, features two female dancers (Emma Maguire and Yasmine Naghdi) and one male (Tristan Dyer) dressed in green and second, the opposite (Marianela Nuñez, Edward Watson and Valeri Hristov) with the dancers in white. The movements of both are simple yet sophisticated and communicate a sense of true British ballet with heavy reliance on arabesques and stillness.  Monotones I carries a heavier feeling than II which is more airy. The former features long, slow walks, pliés and shunts while the latter turns to sissonnes and walks on both demi-pointe and en pointe.

It is difficult to critique this well-thought choreography, but for the dancers the task is to stay in sync and finish each step as any slip becomes noticeable to the audience since there is no set to act as a distraction.  Though out of sync once in a while, the two trios performed the pieces remarkably well, particularly stuning were Naghdi’s beautiful balances and Nuñez’s steely technique.

As for Pigeons, it feels far more Ashton-esque –  with very classical movements complimented by a helping of steps that seem to be pulled from a ridiculous comedy.  The production feels like a mixture of Don Quixote, La Fille Mal Gardée and Coppélia’s comedy, tease and love.

The ballet, which features two live birds, is well designed  from its playful sets to its colourful costumes.  Dancing the lead roles of A Young Man and A Young Girl were Royal Ballet Principals Vadim Muntagirov and Lauren Cuthbertson alongside Laura Morera as A Gypsy Girl and Ryoichi Hirano as Her Lover.   Notable was Cuthbertson’s interpretation of the Girl and the ‘dance-off’ between her character and Morera’s was unforgettable as Cuthbertson skedaddled across the stage in a series of angry bourrées and Morera teased an enticed Young Man.

Muntagirov seems to take better to Ashton’s choreography than MacMillan’s – I found his Romeo choppy at times with hints of uncertainty, but he was able to fly through the quick footwork of Pigeons with ease.

Undeniably, The Two Pigeons is a must-see, and is such a success that it should see the stage as often as Swan Lake.  The double bill will run until 5 December and Pigeons will return during the Winter Season.

For tickets and further details please visit the website of the Royal Opera House.

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