Polyphonia, Sweet Violets, Carbon Life

Tuesday 10th April 2012

The Royal Ballet are performing a triple bill at The Royal Opera House until April 23rd. Polyphonia choreographed by Christopher WheeldonLiam Scarlett’s Sweet Violets and Carbon Life choreographed by Wayne McGregor.

Polyphonia (2001) to music by Gyorgy Ligetti opens the evening. I loved the clean abstract lines created in the dance. I drew in pencil in small sketch books, in the dark.

Polyphonia. copyright Sally McKay PolyphoniaPolyphonia Polyphonia, choreographer Christopher Wheeldon

In a total contrast the ballet that follows, Sweet Violets, is a narrative ballet exploring the British Impressionist painter Walter Sickert’s macarbe fascination with and possible link to Jack the Ripper, set to Rachmaninoff’s music of piano, violin and cello, played live and beautiful. Sweet Violets is confusing to say the least but interesting to draw.

Sweet Violets Sweet Violets

Sweet Violets 

Sickert founded the Camden Town Group of artists, his paintings were painted in a dark palette, sometimes quite seedy and often haunting. He used prostitutes as models which upset the public, apparently he wanted the nudes he painted to look ‘ordinary’ not in idealised poses. Some beautiful drawings by the Camden Town Group are on show at Tate Britain until May 7th.

Finally, Carbon Life by Wayne McGregor is a huge treat. Wonderful lighting by Lucy Carter, a band playing live at the back of the stage are joined by singers, Boy George, Alison Mosshart, Hero Fisher, Jonathon Pierce and rapper Black Cobain. Fashion designer Gareth Pugh has designed mad and gorgeous monochrome costumes, some of which restrict the dancing, as in Bauhaus. The dancing is fabulous, everything feels extreme, hyperextended arched backs, very high legs, almost impossible twists and turns, I smile from start to finish and love drawing this ballet – it’s so dark I can’t see the paper, I have no idea what I’ve drawn until I’m in the train home and take a look in my sketch book.

Carbon Life Carbon Life

above left: Rapper, Black Cobain joins the dancers

Carbon Life below: fabulous costumes by Gareth Pugh

Carbon Life Carbon Life

I’d like to take some of these drawings further, though I’m not sure which direction, certainly to sugar lift or soft-ground etchings, possibly a painting in oil on canvas. My ideal would be to make a full size wire sculpture showing the extraordinary moves and crazy gorgeous costumes in Carbon Life, unlikely as for the sculpture I only work to commission.

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