With any truly gifted artist, it is their spirit that moves the material and so it is with Alina Cojocaru, undoubtedly one of the special dancers of this or any other generation. This programme of music, film and dance provided a rare opportunity to see Cojocaru present the material that she has chosen, giving the briefest of glimpses into her boundless potential as an artistic director, a role in which her partner, Johan Kobborg has already demonstrated a particular panache.     

Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg in <i>Reminiscence</i> © Andrej Uspenski
Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg in Reminiscence
© Andrej Uspenski

Ironically, in a week that started with The Cellist (The Royal Ballet’s latest work, loosely based on the life of Jacqueline du Pré), this programme also began with a cellist in the arresting presence of Margarita Balanas, accompanied by the violinist Charlie Siem in the brief string duet of Johan Halvorsen’s Passacaglia, which the Norwegian composer themed on the final movement of Handel’s Harpsichord Suite in G minor. Halvorsen extended and rearranged Handel’s composition into a technically challenging Baroque conversation, originally for violin and viola, between the two instruments with a range of tempi and technique, performed here with attractive virtuosic flair.  

Balanas’ cello also featured prominently in the first danced work, which takes Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel as its inspiration, providing another musical duet, this time with Sasha Grynyuk at the piano. Reminiscence is a duet by Tim Rushton for Cojocaru and Kobborg that has taken more than a decade to come to fruition due to busy lives, which in essence became the work’s theme. The title references their occasional get-togethers, meeting and reminiscing before going their separate ways. This gentle pas de deux was one more precious opportunity to experience the alchemic stage presence of Cojocaru and Kobborg, still riven with infectious expressiveness and a conspicuous mutuality of awareness and support. There is a singularity to the quiet deliberation of their partnering with Kobborg the rock and Cojocaru the glistening dew.    

Alina Cojocaru in <i>Journey</i> © Andrej Uspenski
Alina Cojocaru in Journey
© Andrej Uspenski

Rushton has said that “working with Alina is a dialogue without words” where “a glance or lifted eyebrow is enough…” and these words come to life in Faces, an adagio film portrait by Kim Brandstrup that captures the unspoken emotions as dancers absorb choreography into their bodies, reflected in their facial expressions. Brandstrup has caught these intensely intimate studio moments on film in this endearing portrait of a great dancer’s thought processes.

The second danced work was a trio made for Cojocaru to dance with two male partners, entitled Journey, choreographed by Juliano Nunes. This young Brazilian only came to my attention a week previously with his Mundo Interpretado for Acosta Danza and that early appreciation of his talent was immediately reinforced by this fascinating pas de trois. Congratulations are due to Dominic Harrison (seen recently as Prince Edward in Daniel Proietto’s RASA for Ballet Vlaanderen) for stepping in at short notice to perform strongly with Nunes and Cojocaru in this complex exploration of the inter-connectivity in a triangular relationship.

Cojocaru is perhaps the best-known graduate of the Kiev State Ballet School and she had not returned to her alma mater for 25 years before going with Brandstrup in December to make the programme’s next film, simply entitled Kiev. Brandstrup evocatively and ethereally captures this enchanting, decrepit building where the hopes and dreams of so many young dancers are etched into the patina of the walls, including the silent presence of their great teachers (Alla Lagoda, Vladimir Denisenko, Alla Rubina and Larisa Obovskaya). It was surely ordained that Pärt’s Für Alina would come to be associated with Cojocaru and here it is the recorded performance of Alexander Malter’s pianism that provides the score to this mesmerising film.   

Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg in <i>Reminiscence</i> © Andrej Uspenski
Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg in Reminiscence
© Andrej Uspenski

A fascinating first act of sundry gems – understandably punctuated by lengthy pauses – was brought to a close by Kobborg’s Les Lutins, a burst of virtuosic challenges for both musicians and dancers. Siem and Grynyuk completed the mix-and-match musical pairings, performing the fourth of Henryk Wieniawski’s Etudes and Antonio Bazzini’s La ronde des lutins while danseur-du-jour Marcelino Sambé – fresh from winning the National Dance Award for Best Male Dancer the previous day – let some big jumps fly alongside Takahiro Tamagawa (a young dancer of considerable promise) with Cojocaru demonstrating her rarely-seen flirtatious and comedic allure.

The second act was taken up by Marguerite and Armand, once the precious preserve of The Royal Ballet and now a ubiquitous part of the international ballet scene. Cojocaru has great experience of playing Marguerite Gautier, notably in John Neumeier’s La Dame aux camélias and it is a role that soars with her dramatic expressionism. Francesco Gabriele Frola debuted as Armand, bringing the necessary earnestness to the young bourgeois lover. A very strong support cast included Kobborg, as Armand’s patrician father, and Alastair Marriott as Marguerite’s wealthy aristocratic protector. Here was a mature presentation of a company work by this itinerant group of experienced players. 

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