ashwednesday: blossoms (Spring has sprung)
On Saturday I was lucky enough to get to see Dorian Gray, a newish ballet from Matthew Bourne, who's my favourite choreographer.

The ballet began with a dimly lit bedroom. An alarm clock's light flashed 8:00. Classical music swelled... And then the man in the bed hit the alarm clock and the music abruptly switched off. He stepped out of bed, a lithe young blond man clad only in tight briefs, and surveyed himself in the mirror. This was Dorian Gray. The stage revolved to show a photographer's studio. There Basil Hallward, photographer, was shooting models for a perfume advert. But no one seemed quite right... In the next scene, the White Box Media company is hosting a party, and guess who is a waiter? It doesn't take long before Basil is photographing Dorian, who at first is shy but then begins to enjoy the experience, and the photography soon leads to a passionate encounter...


Basil and Dorian

As you can see, the ballet has a quite contemporary setting. Dom said he felt the music and setting seemed quite early 90s, which jived with the "CK:One" feel of the colour scheme and costuming. Matthew Bourne said he felt the story had modern resonances, with its obsession with youth and celebrity. So there were various clever twists to the story, such as making Dorian's portrait the perfume advert he stars in, the billboard haunting him throughout the production until it begins to get faded and torn, representing his waning star and his desperate attempt to cling onto his beauty.


Basil dancing in front of the "Immortale" perfume billboard

This was a sexy ballet, with lots of near-nudity and sexual content. I think it's the first ballet I've been to that actually had a note that it was unsuitable for children. Bourne says in the programme "Things that people will happily watch on television are sometimes regarded as more shocking in the context of a dance performance." People often associate ballet with pretty tutus and fairytales. Something I've always enjoyed about Bourne (this is the fourth ballet of his that I've seen) is that he's willing to push the envelope in terms of content - not for the sake of it, but because he can tell an interesting story, and really, if you're going to tell the story of a beautiful young man, doing it with a ballet company full of beautifully toned young people isn't a bad way to go about it! So there was lots of seductive and very physical choreography. There was also quite a lot of humour, which is a Bourne trademark - when Dorian goes on a tv show and is introduced by what's quite clearly the Four Poofs and a Piano of Friday Night With Jonathan Ross fame, there were plenty of laughs from the audience. But the ballet got progressively darker as Dorian's corruption increased. He began to be sadistic rather than merely selfish, and the increasingly fractured nature of his mind is reflected both in the staging of his apartment - which moves from bare to sleekly opulent to claustrophically crowded with objects - and in the appearance of a shadowy Doppelganger, who seems to haunt him.

It was a really fascinating ballet. It wasn't as emotionally satisfying as Bourne's Swan Lake or Edward Scissorhands, but that of course is the point - Dorian's life, though beautiful, becomes a void that eventually swallows him. It was quite unsettling, but it was wonderfully executed, and I recommend it if you should ever get the opportunity to see it!


Dorian surrounded by admirers

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ashwednesday

January 2013

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