Photo courtesy Dee Conway/ Royal BaletThe last time I saw the Royal Ballet was at the opera house in Covent Garden after buying four-quid, partial-view seats from a scary man wearing mascara and a hostile attitude.
Up in the slips, in between glimpses of Giselle by Leanne Benjamin—I could see her about 45 percent of the time—I scanned the pasty crowd for royalty and absorbed Adolphe Adam's transporting music.
If at all possible, I recommend getting seats with a 100 percent view for the Royal Ballet's performance of Giselle or Cinderella—especially since up-and-coming ballerina Alina Cojocaru will be performing in both.
Cojocaru, a Bucharest native, infuses her dancing with a purity that makes others onstage look like also-rans: she dances like her soul is blazing. And Giselle in particular is the perfect role: a tale of a peasant girl whose heart is broken after she finds out that her love, an arrogant two-timing aristocrat, is playing the field. Bad men, like black cocktail dresses, haven't changed.
Childlike, with small bones and a peaked white face, Cojocaru goes mad in the first act—a great miming scene—and spends the second act dancing with the Wilies in a bizarre limbo where all the dead, broken-hearted women get together in long white tutus and gently hop across the stage with their heads tucked under their armpits. It's pretty, I swear.
Other exciting female dancers coming to OC include Tamara Rojo in Cinderella, a dancer with fiery Spanish athleticism and long, curvy legs. Beautiful to boot, both Rojo and Cojocaru have already infiltrated the fashion world with splashy spreads in Vogue.
Of course, the Royal has always boasted great leading ladies. Years ago, the company was famous for its Energizer ballerina Margot Fonteyn, who danced until she was 60 partly to pay for the care of her husband, Tito Arias, a former Panamanian delegate to the United Nation who was shot and paralyzed. Her fellow "etoile" in the limelight was the young, brooding Rudolph Nureyev. He had just defected from the USSR in 1962, and together, they were East meets West and Young ignites Old. Often, the audience would stand and applaud for 45 minutes after the performance was over.
The Royal Ballet has a remarkable facility to take the mannerist quality of the English and combine it with vibrant principal dancers. Yes, their technique is impeccable; yes, they are polished, taking on a more refined style than the aerodynamic, shiny—think skyscraper—athleticism of New York City Ballet. And yet against the backdrop of the corps de ballet, showmen such as Rojo and wildflower spirits such as Cojocaru conflagrate the stage.
You've got to see the Royal. It's steeped in tradition, chock-a-block with pomp and circumstance. There is something wonderfully old school about a company with an HRH as the patron (Charles, Prince of Wales). I mean, the only other head of state whom I can think of who patronizes the ballet world with the same aplomb is Castro, and we aren't supposed to acknowledge that.
Royal Ballet performs at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, Segerstrom Hall, 600 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 740-7878 or (213) 365-3500; www.ocpac.org.Cinderella: Mon.-Thurs., July 8, 8 p.m.;Giselle: July 9, 8 p.m.; July 10, 2 & 8 p.m. $25-$100.