REVIEW: ROYAL BALLET’s Like Water for Chocolate

ROYAL BALLET’s Like Water for Chocolate streamed into a cinema near you.

This is a totally new production, all devised from scratch, the choreography, music, set and costumes, based on the novel by Laura Esquivel. The ballet moves are a fusion of classical rigour and exciting modern expression.

One big break with tradition which I totally applaud is the drastically reduced time ballerinas spend on point – as in – standing, walking, turning and jumping on their toes, even hopping sometimes (Nureyev’s choreography is especially sadistic). Am I the only one who considers ‘pointwork’ a crime against humanity? Quite as bad as foot binding. It’s high time it went the way of all institutionalised abuse, as it deforms the feet, causes untold agony and bleeding, and is sexist since male dancers do not go on point.

Image courtesy of theclassicalgirl.com

Image courtesy of BalletDancersGuide.com

You’ll say, ‘They signed up for it, they could choose another profession’. But to succeed in ballet it takes immense determination, obsessive perfectionism and total compliance to a career-long regimen of daily classes, dietary restrictions and performance schedules. The rebels are weeded out long before the pointwork starts.

Originally, ballet had no point shoes, both sexes were on demi-pointe, i.e. standing on the balls of their feet. It was in the late 1800s that a (misogynistic) Italian choreographer introduced it, and the shoes were adapted to become more supportive – to a point. So stripping pointwork away would be going back to ballet’s roots. The audience could still admire a beautifully turned-out foot, without the the dancer having to stand on it.

Anyway, back to the ballet. It blew me away. The gamut of emotions was expressed with a fierce intensity as the couple soared with young love, then plunged when they were forbidden to marry. Their first pas-de-deux, they never even touched. Unheard of. The lifts, extraordinary. The angular agonised writhing on the floor, unbelievable in ballet, where elegance, apparent effortlessness and The Curve are sacred.

The music and choreography were a blend of Mexican heritage, rhythms and sounds, with special Mexican instruments which the orchestra had to learn to play. For additional authenticity, a Mexican guitarist starred as a special guest. The costumes and back-drops were equally sympathetic to the culture of the story, providing additional richness through the colours and motifs, with a mind-blowing special effect at the end as the couple find happiness. Say no more.

I was dismayed to see a poor turnout at our Odeon, and those who did come, the old guard, were exhausted by it. Despite these valiant efforts to make ballet more ‘histrionic’ and less ‘cardboard-cut-out’, the young are not aware, still seeing ballet as too effete, no doubt.

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