The curtain rises on a cavernous shell, skinned in black. Two figures exchange a silent round of rapid-fire gestures; a solo violin pierces the atmosphere with a lingering melody.

Edward Watson, Matthew Ball and Calvin Richardson in <i>Obsidian Tear</i> © Andrej Uspenski
Edward Watson, Matthew Ball and Calvin Richardson in Obsidian Tear
© Andrej Uspenski
For the world première of his Obsidian Tear at the Royal Ballet, Wayne McGregor pulls together a stellar all male cast. Obsidian is a reference to the dark volcanic rock of the same name, formed from searing hot lava and razor-sharp to the touch. A female presence is invoked by the orchestral work Nyx composed by Esa-Pekka Salonen. Nyx  a Greek deity of opaque origins – represents night. The score is both dream-like and violent. McGregor responds with a seething web of bodies oscillating between jagged, staccato gestures and undulating curves. Movement tumbles out of the dancers' limbs; irrepressible and relentless. Like gladiators they agitate one another, as if vying for the attention of Nyx's unseen presence.

Much is talked of McGregor's choreographic language. He is the king of creative dissonance and ambiguity. His movement has a rare algebraic quality. Watching Obsidian Tear is like trying to unravel a vast, dense equation of elemental forces. The collaboration between McGregor and Salonen has been aptly described as a "perfect storm". There's a porous membrane between McGregor's professorial physicality and Salonen's gritty score. The chemistry is palpable and their shared creation is spell binding.

Gary Avis and Francesca Hayward in <i>The Invitation</i> © Andrej Uspenski
Gary Avis and Francesca Hayward in The Invitation
© Andrej Uspenski
From the inky black of the Obsidian rock to the darkest abuse of power, The Royal Ballet restages Sir Kenneth MacMillan's The Invitation. Premiered in 1960 to both critical acclaim and moral outrage, it depicts the brutal rape of a young girl by an older man. Francesca Hayward as the Girl teeters on sexual maturity. She embodies the contradictions of adolescence; the desire for affirmation and the struggle for independence. With her Cousin (Vadim Muntagirov), Hayward explores a sun-kissed friendship, laced with gentle flirtation. Muntagirov wraps his arms around Hayward's legs in an exuberant embrace – a playful gesture that MacMillan later echoes in the Girl's agonising encounter with the Husband (Gary Avis). These two characters are drawn together in their isolation. Avis is handcuffed by convention in a loveless marriage and Hayward is rejected and taunted by her peers. Mutual curiosity and flattery are twisted into cruelty and violence. With his back to the audience Avis takes his wretched ecstasy. Hayward is coiled around his body, her head arched in terror. All the principal roles are superbly acted. While The Invitation draws on 20th century mores, it stands up to 21st century scrutiny.

Members of The Royal Ballet company in <i>Within The Golden Hour</i> © Bill Copper
Members of The Royal Ballet company in Within The Golden Hour
© Bill Copper
Christopher Wheeldon's Within the Golden Hour is a fitting finale to this triple bill. Hailed as Balanchine's heir apparent, Wheeldon fashions a kaleidoscope of shifting symmetries. His brand of neoclassicism is eloquent and softly spoken. He whittles away the hard edges of abstraction with convivial references to waltz and tango, and subtle hints of emotion underpin sparkling displays of virtuoso. The dancers move like the current of a river. The three central pas de deux follow the expansive, meandering arcs of Ezio Bosso's melodies. The choreography swells and converges in the ensemble sections, layers of repetition cascade over one another in an intricate waterfall to deliver a fast-paced final sequence.