#TBT: Anthony Dowell in "Four Schumann Pieces" (1980)

October 16, 2019

Sir Anthony Dowell dedicated four decades for his life to The Royal Ballet, first as a principal dancer, and then as the company’s artistic director. His monumental career is a testament to his love for the art form. That love can also be seen in this solo from a 1980 performance of Dutch choreographer Hans van Manen’s Four Schumann Pieces, created for the company five years earlier. Van Manen’s choreography slips in and out of pedestrian and balletic vocabulary. Dowell demonstrates his virtuosity by ascending into sublime classical shapes without an intimation of effort.

Van Manen uses repeated steps to construct complex movement patterns that reflect Robert Schumann’s lilting syncopations. Simple gestures and minimal port de bras serve as a counterpoint to highly technical phrasing for the lower body. Despite constant weight shifts, Dowell sustains each balance with impeccable placement. His prolonged concentration throughout the solo makes the understated dance nothing short of thrilling. Full of soaring elegance, one of the most beautiful moments in this solo comes at 1:40, when Dowell breathtakingly slides from a suspended pirouette into a split as the music climbs to a crescendo. Happy #ThrowbackThursday.