Royal Ballet: Polyphonia/Sweet Violets/Carbon Life

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Royal Ballet: Polyphonia/Sweet Violets/Carbon Life

A definite 'event' in the dance calendar, a triple bill from the three most talented British choreographers working in the ballet realm: Liam Scarlett, Christopher Wheeldon and Wayne McGregor.

McGregor's contribution has had all the hype, thanks to its starry collaborators Mark Ronson (music) and Gareth Pugh (designs). The piece, 'Carbon Life', has all the ambition and self-confidence of a deluded pop wannabe, and McGregor incorporates a few pop tropes into his usual warped and disjointed choreography - adding a big unison chorus and playing with the slouched postures of hip hop.

But the bluntness of the lyrics (sung live by Boy George, rapper Black Cobain and The Kills' Alison Mosshart among others) makes a cringeworthy match with the complexity of the dancers' bodies. Pugh's boldly striped backdrops are fantastic and his insectoid costumes become gradually more unwieldy as the show goes on. The whole thing pretty much sums up how fashion works - if you buy into it it's dazzling, cool and fun. Once you step outside it starts to look faintly ridiculous.

Meanwhile, Scarlett's 'Sweet Violets', inspired by painter Walter Sickert and Jack the Ripper, is an impressive move into narrative work, with sex, murder and gripping drama in spades. And Wheeldon's divine 'Polyphonia' may be overshadowed by the newsworthy new commissions but its nuanced neo-classicism, incredible performances and powerful Ligeti score make it easily the most accomplished piece on the bill.

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