Getting together is hard now. Gathering to dance might be even harder. Under these circumstances, it’s quite symbolic that the Royal Ballet chose ‘Dances at a Gathering’ for their latest streaming of #OurHouseToYourHouse series.
The joy of pure dance
It was in 1969 when Jerome Robbins, one of the most celebrated choreographers in the ballet history, created ‘Dances at a Gathering’ to the piano music by Frédéric Chopin. Originally made for the New York City Ballet, this production travelled overseas to join in the repertoire of the Royal Ballet.
In early 2020 before the pandemic, it was a part of the double bill with the highly anticipated ‘The Cellist’, for which I went to the Royal Opera House twice. Though my main attraction was the premier of ‘The Cellist’, I instantly fell in love with this light-hearted, colorful dance piece. When I say ‘colourful’ I really mean it, because the dancers in this piece are named according to the colours of their costumes: the pink girl, the blue girl, the brown boy, etc.
There is no plot. What this joyous piece conveys is not a story but a scenery of dancers dancing together, purely enjoying themselves. They appear on stage sometimes alone, sometimes in a pair, sometimes in a transformable group. On stage, what we see is a lively community of dancers.
The Green Girl dancing alone
The most unique role would be the Green Girl, performed in the streaming by lovely Laura Morera. While other dancers communicate in two or three or more, she‘s predominantly by herself. When she dances her second solo, enjoying herself, the boys walk past her, one by one, but they decline to dance with her. Being playful, there’s nothing sinister about it. She comically shrugs her shoulders about the indifferent attitudes of the boys, then leaves charmingly.
Considering there are five boys and five girls in total, it might feel unfair that she doesn't have a dancing partner. Nevertheless, she doesn't look sad - she seems to be enjoying dancing, although the boys don’t even take her hand. As this piece represents a sense of free, playful community of dancers, she might symbolise independence. She’s dancing with herself, or as herself, happily, with or without a partner.
The yearning for dancing together
Still, partnering and dancing together are ultimately important for the world of ballet. Since the pandemic, most ballet companies have been struggling to arrange ‘normal’ gatherings of dancers. In the past few months, performing pas de deux was restricted to ‘real-life’ couples.
Now, most ballet companies seem to have resumed studio rehearsals. Imagine how grateful the dancers must be feeling about getting together, dancing together, after the lockdown. On 9th October when the whole company of Royal Ballet is supposed to be back on stage together, we hope to see them dancing joyfully in their real ‘dances at a gathering’.
Why The Royal Ballet love performing 'Dances at a Gathering'
‘Dances at a Gathering’ by the Royal Ballet
(The streaming is available until 25th October 2020)
‘The Royal Ballet: Back on Stage’
(The online live performance planned for 9th October 2020)
Donate Now - Royal Opera House
‘The Cellist’ revisited, or a prayer for performing arts