Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

03 June 2014

Balanchine’s ‘Le Palais de Cristal’ (The Crystal Palace)

Set to music by Bizet



A feast of colour, costume and sound, Le Palais de Cristal is a bold brilliantine showcase of ballet with no narrative. In four parts, this tribute to the French school is a wonderful watch for ballet aficionados and novice viewers alike. Each sequence is themed on the colour of jewels; Russian ruby red, serene sapphire blue, vigorous verdant emerald, glinting-eyed diamond – individual colours highlighted by the bold new costumes designed by Christian Lacroix. The Corps de Ballet’s tutu’s are stiff, encrusted with shimmering jewels, contrasting with the floating edges of the Etoile’s skirts. The final ensemble comes together in a glittering gathering evoking the contents of what could be Elizabeth Taylor’s jewellery box. A joyful display of balletic prowess and flair.


Millepied’s ‘Daphnis and Chloe’

Adapted from music by Ravel

Millepied’s take on the second century story of Daphnis and Chloe is a modern masterpiece informed by classical traditional ballet. Sleek, silky and sexy, this performance exudes sensuality and emotion. Retaining the storyline of the lovers and the trials of their relationship – mostly desire and being desired, culminating in the abduction of Chloe by a gang of pirates dressed in black – this version is contemporary in it’s fluidity. As Millepied describes in interview, this is a “modern, literal, classical ballet” which seems incongruous as a description but is actually very fitting. The lack of props or set (apart from the coloured geometric striped shapes which float like kites above the dancers) and pure white of their attire is both contemporary and timeless, alluding to the classical story in a twenty first century mode. Lily-petal-white bias cut dresses have weight and yet are delicate, flowing like milk pouring from a jug, modern shapes hinting at the gown of a Grecian sculpture. The nymphs’ fine, other-worldliness is accentuated by their translucent long skirts and braided hair.

‘I work with music that inspires and touches me,’ says Millepied. ‘I want to create ballets that use the classical craft and yet still feel intensely modern, and represent people in a modern way, and relationships. Exciting ballets to watch. That’s it.’

While the Paris Opera House was packed out and bustling with excitement, as the film commentary showed, the atmosphere at the Festival Theatre was thin and somewhat sombre; an audience of around one hundred was a disappointing turnout for such a fabulous showcase of ballet. The live screening of these performances is a great way of reaching places without touring. The main benefit of watching dance this way is the opportunity to see the dancers close up and detailed at certain points, allowing a deeper appreciation of their form and the embellishments of the costume. A drawback of attending a screening is the lack of atmosphere; the majority of the audience at this screening did not applaud, which I found very difficult to do, as part of attending a performance for me is showing appreciation through applause. Although the auditorium lacks the heat and energy of a live performance, no warmth from stage lighting, no smell of makeup or the distinctive fragrance of velvet curtains and wardrobe, no frisson of excitement from the knowledge the dancers and crew are in the same building, a screened performance is a terrific way of essentially everyone in the audience having the best seat in the house. FIVE STARS


Reviewer – Elaine Parker