Galanteries Introductory notes

In 1986, David Bintley was the new Resident Choreographer at the Royal Ballet. Tasked with creating a new piece for that company, he wanted to create a very classical piece and began searching for suitable music. He eventually selected music from two pieces by that master of elegant understatement, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

He chose a Divertimento (K205) and a Serenade (K101) and from these a score was created. Bintley, perhaps best-known for his successful, full-length dramatic ballets, has admitted that in Galanteries it is possible to see the influence on his abstract style of his two idols, George Balanchine and Frederick Ashton. Among the dancers that Bintley created on were Mark Silver, Bruce Sansom and Jonathan Cope.

Bintley created an unpretentious piece of ballet to complement Mozart's equally understated music. Most of Mozart's numerous Divertimentos and Serenades were written as entertainment for the functions and gatherings of the well-to-do of the day, and entertain is certainly what this ballet does. However, after the ballet received its premiere, despite being a public success, critical response was mixed. Some disliked it, whilst others proclaimed it one of Bintley's best works to date.

Performed by a company of only 12 dancers (four men and eight women), the ballet looks sparse, but beautiful. The men are clad in elegant, softly patterned grey-blue tunics and tights; the women in flowing skirts of similar design, which accentuate their every step and turn, and enhance the grace and style of this 20-minute gem.

The ballet opens with the full company on stage in a symmetrical pattern – six on each side. After the slow introduction, a lively allegro springs to life and the stage quickly clears to leave four girls. These are joined by two more pairs, and as the mood of the music changes, the men also rejoin.

The next movement (Menuetto I from Mozart's Divertimento) is a stunning pas de trois for two men and the principal woman. Despite the stately nature of the music, the ballerina never stops her elegant and lyrical movements as she is swept and lifted around the stage by her male counterparts.

The following slow movement, again from the Divertimento, is a technically demanding pas de deux. The piece centres its attention firmly on the ballerina, supported by the man. Bintley then brings in the four short contredanses from the Serenade K101. These provide a series of fleet and spritely variations for four soloists, three women and a man. Each takes a brief turn to show off their command of the intricate footwork.

The finale is the energetic last movement of the Divertimento. It opens with a lone woman on the stage, but she is quickly joined by two more. Bintley gradually adds dancers in ones and two until the whole company is on stage for the glittering finale.