Performance Picks: Bolero Three Ways!

Pure joy in three different takes on Bolero plus gems from National Theatre and Glyndebourne.

Author: Jan Lennox
Tuesday, 30 June 2020

This week, I came across a completely engaging video of a Spanish street band doing a flash mob performance of Ravel’s Bolero. With its heat and passion, what perfect music for these hot summer days! The Bolero is all about love and romance – but also has influences from Spanish bull-fighting. It has a certain grace and athleticism – like a bull fight, you might say – and it teems with dramatic tension.

The best known Bolero is Maurice Ravel’s. It has accompanied many passionate film scenes and was also made truly famous by ice skaters, Torvill and Dean. According to, it’s one of the most frequently played pieces of classical music and every 15 minutes, somewhere in the world, a performance begins. Given that the full piece is only 17 minutes long, this suggests that Ravel’s Bolero is being played constantly somewhere in the world!

Contributing to this extraordinary fact, many, many choreographers have also taken this music as their inspiration – and here are some of my favourite takes on it. I hope you enjoy them, too.

And then as always, some gems from world-class venues that are currently closed: a fascinating-looking play about colonialism, racism and revolution from National Theatre at Home, and a lush treat from Glyndebourne, Der Rosenkavalier.

Flash Mob Bolero by Banda Simfonica d'Algemesi

Streaming now. Free.

Banda Simfonica d'Algemesi

Flash Mob Bolero


What a great idea to do a flash mob performance of Ravel’s Bolero! Here’s the Banda Simfonica from Algemesi in Valencia, gradually taking over their main city square. Just pure joy!

Bolero by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui et Damien Jalet for the Opera de Paris

Streaming on YouTube. 2mins. Free,

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui et Damien Jalet for the Opera de Paris



More seriously, we have a Bolero from Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, a Belgian-Moroccan dancer, choreograher and director. He is the artistic director of the Royal Ballet of Flanders and an associate artist at Sadlers Wells in London. But he is a very interesting choreographer who has taken many influences into his work. At 19, he won his first prize for a solo performance of vogueing, African dance and hip-hop. Along the way, he has studied or worked with the likes of Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, Pina Bausch, Trishs Brown and Akram Khan. And he made this production of Bolero for the Opera National de Paris.

His Bolero is for 11 dancers and it also has a giant suspended mirror at the back of the stage, giving a rather other-worldly effect. With the Bolero, the dancers really need to surrender to the music, and they do. There is a certain abandon here, which is really not that usual in ballet. For me, the spiralling choreographic shapes take in the swirling emotions of love, hate and jealousy just perfectly!

Bolero by Jesus Rubio Gamo

Streaming now. 2mins. Free.

Jesus Rubio Gamo



Those who come to the outdoor performances at Bell Square will recognise this show by Jesus Rubio Gamo from last year – on a perfect, hot summer day in August. Jesus is a Spanish choreographer, trained in London and now living in Madrid. His dance has an extraordinary intensity and, like the music, builds and builds throughout. There is increasingly a fine line between pleasure and exhaustion. By the end, the dancers are at the limit of their endurance, at the point of breaking – but there is a desperation, a determination, to keep going!

National Theatre at Home: Les Blancs

Thur 2 July, 7pm. Streaming for 7 days. 2hrs 30mins. Free. Age recommendation 15+.


An African country teeters on the edge of civil war. A society prepares to drive out its colonial present and claim an independent future. Tshembe, returned home from England for his father’s funeral, finds himself in the eye of the storm. A brave, illuminating and powerful work that confronts the hope and tragedy of revolution. Les Blancs marked the National Theatre debut of the multi-award-winning director Yaël Farber, whose productions include The Crucible (Old Vic) and the internationally acclaimed Mies Julie and Nirbhaya.

Glyndebourne: Der Rosenkavalier

Sun 5 July, 5pm on YouTube, then available for 7 days. Free.


One of opera’s great romantic comedies, Der Rosenkavalier is a musical fantasy that tempers sweetness with satirical wit, farce with philosophy, humour with pathos. Carried along on the lilting rhythms of the waltz, the voluptuous score paints a gilded vision of a fairytale Vienna. Romance is woven through every bar of a lyrical masterpiece that celebrates a world on the brink of change.

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