Crystal Pite reinvents the corps de ballet, alongside Christopher Wheeldons classy meditation and a flawed world premiere by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui
The world premiere of Medusa is Sidi Larbi Cherkaouis first commission for the Royal Ballet. The Belgian-Moroccan choreographer has made brilliant works in the contemporary sphere, for his own company and others, all while serving as artistic director at Royal Ballet of Flanders, performing himself, and working on feature films, Beyonc videos and much else. Its possible he is spreading himself too thinly, certainly on the evidence of this piece.
The beautiful priestess Medusa (Natalia Osipova) is raped by Poseidon and punished by Athena, who turns her into the snake-haired Gorgon. Theres some first night untidiness and unstable partnering, but the real problems lie in the clarity of storytelling. Im no fan of watching women be raped on stage, but the nature of Medusa and Poseidons encounter is unclear. A groin-centred shiver from Medusa at first suggests something consensual. Later, Matthew Balls Perseus dances a pas de deux close enough to Medusas face to get snake-bitten but its not obvious how hes protected from her stony gaze. It feels as if not enough time has been spent with these characters, or on their connections, and its in the connections between people that stories exist.