The Arts Alliance UK has brought to the world an event cinema experience, so realistic and enchanting, you might think you have been transported to Covent Garden in London. The beauty of event cinema is you have the luxury of a reclined chair and a choc-top in hand while you watch a performance. The film consists of two short ballets performed by the Royal Ballet, Rhapsody and Two Pigeons, choreographed by Sir Frederick Ashton. In 1963, Frederick Ashton became the director of the Royal Ballet for seven years. He received the Founder Choreographer title when he retired which showed his significant contributions to the English ballet style.
fred ashton
Frederick Ashton as a Dago in Facade, 1953. Photograph by Gordon Anthony.
The first short ballet presented to the audience is Rhapsody. The non-narrative performance originally created in 1980 is one of Ashton’s last works. Ashton overlays his ballet with Rachmaninoff’s score, yet abandons it sparingly to paint a modern picture of playful poetics.
Steven McRae and Natalia Osipova performing a pas de deux in Rhapsody for the winter season 2015/16. Photograph by Helen Maybanks.
At the Palace Cinemas in Melbourne, each viewer gasps in awe during the slow pas de deux between principals, Steven McRae and Natalia Osipova. This piano melody also features in the 1979 classic on-screen film Somewhere in Time. Emotion leaps off the screen and into the viewers hearts as the romance and elegance is maintained during the partner section. The technical control keeps the viewer encapsulated in the ballet bubble, maintaining such strength, not even sculpture artists could mimic such beauty. The connection between these two glorious dancers can only be described as outstanding; they embrace one another with such warmth. There is an element of exceptionally quick choreography, mostly performed in the female’s lead solos. Natalia Osipova’s pas de bouree is so fast, you might think the film is set on fast-forward. She hits every line beautifully and does not let the pace slow her execution down. Succeeding Rhapsody is another short ballet, called Two Pigeons. Originally choreographed 30 years ago by Ashton, the Royal Ballet has not performed this work since its inception.
Royal Ballet’s principals Vadim Muntagirov and Lauren Cuthbertson in Two Pigeons during winter 2015/16 season. Photograph by the Royal Ballet.
Two Pigeons is about a couple who undergo adversity in their relationship. The Young Man is a painter living with the Young Woman, his model and mistress. A troupe of gypsies invade their home studio and the Young Man is instantly infatuated by the Gypsy girl. Blinded by his adoration for the Gypsy Girl, he does not realise until after she makes a mockery of him, that he must seek the Young Woman’s forgiveness. The star principals Vadim and Lauren compliment each other tastefully. The ballet relies heavily on acting as well as dancing. All performers do not over-act, but rather invests in real emotion. Watching the performance on screen gives you the impression you are part of the play, despite the presence of the fourth wall. Lead male dancer Vadim Muntagirov, said he is thankful to be offered the part. “I would never have been able to perform a piece like this back home in Russia.”
Vadim Muntagirov in flight during his dynamic performance in Two Pigeons 2015/16. Photograph by Emma Kauldhar.
Lauren’s character is bird-like in nature, and portrays animalistic qualities through Ashton’s choreography. There is the pivotal moment when her male companion abandons her and she is left standing by the stairs, gently peddling her leg back and forth like a sad child. Her body limps over the stairwell. She soon follows with the ‘birdish’ body contractions to convey her despair. She places her hands behind her hips with her elbows propped outwards, and contracts her ribs as she steps onto retire pointe in parallel. Everything suddenly slows down and most viewers feel inclined to sympathise with her. The show-stopping element of all is there are actually pigeons in the show. The birds are well trained as they fly in from the wings and land on the perch next to Lauren who is weeping. The other pigeon joins in once the Young Man enters and both dancers are reunited.
Pigeons end pose
The final pose of Two Pigeons with Vadim Muntagirov and Lauren Cuthbertson. Photograph by Bill Cooper.
The Gypsy Girl is played by Fumi Kaneko, who lures the Young Man into a spell-bounding frenzy of love. She executes her solos to a very high standard and expresses her sinister side with such playful smirks and winks. She steals not only his heart, but the viewer’s heart, too.
Gypsy girl
Fumi Kaneko as Gypsy girl in Two Pigeons 2015/16. Photograph by Andrej Uspenski.
Before and after each ballet is performed, two presenters (Oscars style) provide context for the viewer sitting in the cinema. Through them you see all the behind-the-scenes action and exclusive interviews with choreographers, directors and veteran dancers. The film even has a real interval during the screening so you can recuperate and tweet your thoughts. Even though some viewers may be disgruntled waiting for the interval to end, it is a smart way to interact with the rest of the world via Twitter, where everyone is tweeting the #ROHashton hashtag. Both ballets are a demonstration of the Royal Opera House’s hard work and dedication to producing high quality art and cinematic construction. Event cinema is the wave of the future; anyone and everyone in the world can indulge in the wonders of ballet from the comfort of their own local movie theatre. Keep an eye out for upcoming films performed by the Royal Ballet, including The Nutcracker (April 1), Giselle (May 6) and Frankenstein (July 1) at Australia’s Palace Cinemas. For more information about the Royal Opera House and Royal Ballet click here. To book tickets in Australia click here.

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