not normally a big ballet fan – but couldn’t help but be incredibly moved by Darcey Bussell’s Friday night final fling at Covent Garden (shown live on BBC2). She was dancing in Kenneth MacMillan’s choreography of Mahler’s Song of the Earth – extraordinary music by itself, but with the ballet, it was overwhelming. This is how the Royal Ballet’s blurb describes it:


In MacMillan’s powerful Song of the Earth six episodes evoke the journey of life through its central figures of the Woman, the Man and the Messenger. The music is Gustav Mahler’s great song cycle to 8th-century Chinese poetry that explores subtle reflections on the beauty of the world and the fragility of human emotions.

The Messenger is a messenger of death and cuts a sinister figure on stage, wrestling with the Woman and the Man to claim death’s inevitable right. Human mortality was never more poignant, never more uncomfortably close to the bone.


I have to say that i found it all much more impressive and meaningful than a lot of classical ballet with its frills, twirls and formality. What a swansong for Darcey (top as the Woman with Gary Avis as the Man). Like athletes, ballet dancers can’t go on for ever and a dancer’s retirement is always an intimation of mortality. Still, Darcey leaves at 38 at the top of the tree. A brave and courageous decision (despite what the comments on the Telegraph leader say). Her tears as she took her final Covent Garden curtain were poignant but infectious. And they pointed to something greater to my mind – the transience of beauty and wonder in life. Oh, for something that doesn’t perish, spoil or fade…



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