Ballet Live 2017: Woolf Works

Image not mine – ROH2017

With 19 days until my manuscript deadline and a new job to find I should not be blogging and probably should not have gone to the Ballet live last night but dear reader I am very glad I did.

For the last few years The Royal Opera House have used selected cinemas around the world to show key performance live each season for one night only, enabling more people to access the arts close to home.

I Now, I Then – Image ROH 2017

Last night the Maidenhead Odeon in Berkshire and 850 odd other cinemas in 20 odd countries were treated to a live performance of the award winning ballet; Woolf Works. The ballet is the masterpiece of the in house choreographer Wayne McGregor.

Woolf Works is split into 3 parts using selected works and Virginia Woolf’s diaries and letters to create 3 unique and very different ballets. I should now confess that I am not particularly familiar with Woolf’s literally works, I am more familiar with the authors story rather than her legacy of words.

I should now say that the medium of ballet works on the big screen, especially for those of you, who like me would be in the cheap seats at the top with awkward views and have bad eyes. The performance is captured in digital precession up close and details that would be lost from the rafters can be captured.

The first performance was entitled I now, I then and is inspired by Mrs Dalloway but also Woolf herself. For me this was the most emotionally powerful of the three performances. Woolf herself is depicted on stage by the legendary and inspiring Alessandra Ferri. The visualisation of Ferri’s  depicting the remembering of youthful love sensuality and friendship is beautiful. The ballet moves on to the heart wrenching depiction of grief, the physically and mental pain that anyone who has experiences the full force of the loss through death will understand. If grief could be shown visually this is raw real tragic and beautiful in its depiction.

When you think that the average age that ballerina’s retire is 35 years old due to the toll on the human body, at 53 Alessandra Ferri is amazing inspiring and beautiful as a performer and as a woman.


Becomings – Image ROH 2017

The second part of the ballet was Becomings inspired by the Orlando by Woolf. where I Now I Then was reflective emotional, classical Becomings was contemporary, powerful modern and androgynous. if you were in any doubt of the power and skill of the ballet dancers body this performance will prove that these men and women are athletes.

Visually the performance is modern, with the setting, costumery and use of lasers. elements of Jacobean costume is reinvented in modern materials and as the performance evolves the costumes evolve to until they are skin toned body suits leaving the viewer feeling more voyeur and the human bodies move in front of you, in powerful shapes and positions, making gender hard to define – a theme that is reflected in the literary work as well.

The last section was named Tuesday and was inspired by the work Waves. Woolf is again depicted by Alessandra Ferri and for me it was a moving and beautiful yet a painfully acute visual expression of a depressive crisis. The words read at the beginning of this final part of the performance are resonant of the self analysis  that will be familiar to anyone who has had experience of depression. Like Woolf herself, this ballet ends in death, but it is a reflective beautiful, sacrificial death, freeing her lover as she is grateful for their love and exhausted from the mental struggle. I openly wept as the end scene unfolded and instead of finding it melancholic I found it inspiring – live each day fully, make memories, beautiful memories, feel all emotions, both good and bad, live life fully so that when you come to your end the memories of your swan song replay they will as beautiful as this ballet.

Contemporary, modern, beautiful, physical, emotional and visually stunning Woolf Works is hands down one of the best performances I have ever seen.

Woolf Works runs until Valentine’s day at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London. ROHLive performances coming up include The Sleeping Beauty 28/2, Madam Butterfly 30/3 Jewels 11/4. Check for your local theatre screening.

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