Following recent Royal Ballet rehearsals of Twyla Tharp‘s Illustrated Farewell, now it is time for Arthur Pita to showcase his new piece ‘The Wind’ also commissioned for the Company as part of ‘The Illustrated ‘Farewell’ / The Wind / Untouchable’ triple bill.
Unlike plotless Illustrated Farewell, The Wind is a short narrative piece, which was choreographed on Dorothy Scarborough’s 1925 novel with the same title. The story portrays the breakdown of Letty Masson, a young lady originally from Virginia, who was sent out to live in remote rural Texas. Feeling unsettled in her new life, she marries cow puncher Lige Hightower for protection. In his absence, she is raped by cattle buyer Thomas Whitehead, whom she kills in self-defense.
Pita is welcomed into the Clore Studio by Emma Southworth, where he is set to coach Edward Watson (a warrior representing the wind), Francesca Hayward (Letty Mason) and Thomas Mock (Lige Hightower) on two specific moments of the ballet.
Francesca kicks off by shooting her abuser. Following, Edward appears as a warrior trapped in the wind and starts shadowing her. The dynamics between the pair is interesting and fluid. The synchronicity of their movements and the music is evident.
In this choreography, Pita has explored the dancers’ acting skills really well. There is a lot of eye contact between them. Francesca’s gaze changes completely from a distressed and astonished looking woman — soon after the gunshot — to an almost hypnotised look as she is carried away by the force of the wind. Her technique is perfect and the choreography is rich in lifts and bourrées. The torso movements are expressive and she makes good use of the physical space on stage. While she appears to be controlled by the wind, her movements express a great deal of freedom.
Instead of adopting the traditional miming language often seen classical productions, Pita opted for using gestures adapted from Native American sign language, which Edward uses to tell the story. His role is central to the narrative. It is linked to nature and evokes different types of emotions such as fear, anxiety, and empowerment that can be interpreted in many different ways by the spectator.
The second part of the rehearsal begins with the pas de deux which follows the scene where Letty (Francesca) marries Lige (Thomas). The interaction between the dancers is somewhat awkward. This could be, however, because according to the original text, there is uncertainty in the characters’ relationship, as they barely knew each other when the wedding took place. Nevertheless, the choreography is well constructed and intricate. There are dynamism and fluidity and in a way reminds me of MacMillan’s style.
Pita and Tharp come from different perspectives. While the focus of the Wind is the narration of a story through dance, the Illustrated Farewell shows how the movements of classical ballet can be enhanced by the addition of the contemporary technique which allows dancers to push their boundaries throughout the creative process.
As I have said in my previous post, I would recommend that you watch the rehearsal video first and then buy your tickets to watch the live performance.
I was also meaning to give my first impressions on the Untouchable production, but unfortunately, there was not enough material available to comment on. Therefore, I will save my comments for when I have seen the live show next week.
‘The Illustrated ‘Farewell’ / The Wind / Untouchable continues at the Royal Opera House until the 17 November.