Sunday, 31 March 2013

March 2013 Round-up

Ballet Revolucion
Photo: Bernd Uhlig
This month I have written blogs on A Chorus Line, the BalletBoyz, Birmingham Royal Ballet's Aladdin, The Metamorphosis and the Royal Ballet School's aDvANCE performance. Links to my other writing:

Emerging Dancer dress rehearsal write-up for English National Ballet
ENB's Dance is the Word course write-up
 
A review of Burn the Floor at the Shaftesbury Theatre for Londonist
A review of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland at the Royal Opera House for Londonist
A review of Gala Flamenca at Sadler's Wells for Londonist
A review of Giselle (Mikhailovsky Ballet) at the London Coliseum for Londonist

A review of Ballet Revolucion at the Peacock Theatre for Londondance
 
A London Ballet Circle talk report on Darius James
A London Ballet Circle talk report on Lady Deborah MacMillan and Jann Parry
 
I also wrote Dance UK's February e-news and March e-news.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The Metamorphosis

The Metamorphosis, Linbury Studio Theatre @ ROH - reviewed on 22nd March

Edward Watson in The Metamorphosis
Photo: Tristram Kenton, courtesy of ROH
The Metamorphosis is such an overwhelming piece of theatre that two people walked out on the night I saw it. With Edward Watson and the stage covered in 10 litres of (black vomit) treacle, Arthur Pita's choreography explores the notion of conformity and what happens when character Gregor Samsa changes overnight into a creature described in Franz Kafka’s original novella as ‘monstrous vermin'.
 
Watson's movement quality is astounding; he walks on his knees, wiggling his toes and contorting his spine. But what I loved most about the work were the diverse reactions from Samsa's family. Sister Grete helplessly absorbs Samsa's movement patterns, with bizarre twitches interrupting her training as a ballet dancer. The maid shouts at him and pushes him away with a mop, whilst Samsa's mother refuses even to enter his room.
 
The family struggle on, attempting normality as the bug-like Watson scuttles and slides around his lair. Whilst the transformation is clearly physical, the repercussions make it feel like Samsa has gone mad and is being abandoned by his relatives, unable to handle this deviation from normality.
 
The Metamorphosis is utterly captivating, poignant and beautiful. It is rare to find a work that is so incredible in its power, but this certainly is.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Royal Ballet School aDvANCE

Royal Ballet School aDvANCE students performance, Linden Studio Theatre @ Royal Ballet School - reviewed on 24th March

The Royal Ballet School's aDvANCE programme links UK A-level and BTEC Diploma students with young dancers at the Royal Ballet Upper School. Through creative workshops and the study of two  British ballets (Kenneth MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet and Frederick Ashton's Monotones), students created choreography to perform at the Linden Studio Theatre on 24th March.
 
Peter Symonds College performed The Outsider, exploring the notions of exclusion and conformity that are present in MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet. Using the same work as inspiration, Cheadle and Marple Sixth Form College took ideas from 'Dance of the Girls with Lilies'. South Gloucestershire and Stroud College's more modern piece to music by Plan B demonstrated conflict and power, using motifs from MacMillan's sword fighting scenes.
 
The Royal Ballet's Emma Maguire, Dawid Trzensimiech and Akane Takada in
Monotones I. Photo: Bill Cooper, courtesy of ROH
Inspired by  Monotones, King Edward VI Sixth Form College's Elusive Moonlight conveyed the calmness and simplicity of Ashton's choreography. Day Dream by Arthur Terry School focused on port de bras and small group formations. The Royal Ballet's School second year students explored folding and unfolding movements in a series of intricate pas de deux.
 
The Royal Ballet School first years completed the performance with the energetic finale from Ashton's Daphnis and Chloe. As ROH Director of Education, Paul Reeve, stated, the afternoon was "a great example of how dance can inspire young people".

BRB's Aladdin

Aladdin, Birmingham Royal Ballet, London Coliseum - reviewed on 20th March

Ambra Vallo and Tyrone Singleton as Rubies
Photo: Bill Cooper
Birmingham Royal Ballet brought a real family treat to the London Coliseum last week with their joyous Aladdin. Nothing like the Disney version (except for a flying carpet), David Bintley's ballet focuses more on the pleasure of dancing than the narrative.

In the opening scene, we meet Aladdin in a crowded street before he ventures into the cave of riches in search of the infamous lamp. Every moment is filled with delightful choreography – on Aladdin’s journey, he dances with the desert winds and inside the cave, human jewels become an extended divertissement of solos, pas de deux and group numbers.
 
Particularly pleasing was the Rubies duo by Ambra Vallo and Tyrone Singleton (pictured), with showy movements and enormous lifts reminiscent of Don Quixote and La Corsaire. Natasha Oughtred also excelled in the more lyrical Sapphire pas de cinq.
 
In Acts II and III, Aladdin meets his Princess and she is rapidly kidnapped and rescued. The lead characters, performed by César Morales and Nao Sakuma, were sweet but outshone by other performers. Tzu-Chao Chou had the hugest jumps as the Djinn of the Lamp and Marion Tait gave a pleasing humorous twist as Aladdin’s fusspot mother.

The score by Carl Davis is delightful as are the costumes and sets by Sue Blane and Dick Bird. But it is the dancing that takes centre stage. Unlike Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice's Adventures in Wonderland where the choreography takes a back seat, this is a ballet that is all about… ballet.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

BalletBoyz

Serpent/ Fallen, BalletBoyz the Talent 2013, Sadler's Wells - reviewed on 12th March

BalletBoyz the Talent in Serpent
Photo: Panos
I first saw the BalletBoyz as a teenager and remember being fascinated by their movement quality, strength and dexterity. The original pair (Michael Nunn and William Trevitt) are now no longer onstage, but their talented ten protégées continue to provide plenty to intrigue.
 
In their 2013 double bill, two new works are performed by the all-male cast. Choreographer Liam Scarlett explores fluid snake-like movements in Serpent, opening with the dancers curled up on the floor, seemingly naked (though they are actually wearing flesh-coloured shorts) and lifting their arms, rotating their wrists and splaying their fingers.
 
As Royal Ballet Artist in Residence, Scarlett is more familiar with ballet vocabulary and relies heavily on pas de deux in his classical works. Here instead he is forced to create male-male duos, which have many of his usual trademarks but benefit from the exciting addition of changeable roles as each dancer both lifts and is lifted.
 
To Max Richter’s score which encompasses divergent sounds and moods, it was Scarlett’s intention to hide a subtle deadliness underneath his supple movements. This sense of attack is seen when dancers grab each other by the neck, as if preparing to strangle. The BalletBoyz dancers, with their elegant yet resilient movement and muscular physiques, make ideal demonstrators for exactly this idea.
 
Russell Maliphant’s Fallen has a contrastingly industrial feel, with the threatening drum beat score by Armand Amar reflected in the choreography as dancers aggressively circle and rebound off each other. Andrea Carrucciu stands out particularly in a deep back bend which he coils out of with incredible control of movement.
 
The BalletBoyz are an excellent company of truly gifted dancers. The Spice Girls's motto was ‘girl power’ but this is ‘boy power’ at its best.

Friday, 8 March 2013

A Chorus Line

A Chorus Line, London Palladium - reviewed on 5th March
A Chorus Line cast in 'One'
Photo: Manuel Harlan
A Chorus Line instantly transports its audience to the tough world of dance auditions. We see a stage crowded with performers facing an enormous mirror upstage and repeating over and over a short routine.

Audition director John Partridge calls out the numbers of his chosen dancers and the rest grab their bags and leave. Much like reality, the unsuccessful ones are not seen again and don’t even take a bow at the end. The selected performers are lined up and instructed to share their life stories. What were their parents like? Why did they decide to become a dancer? The tales we hear are a combination of the amusing, sad and frivolous.


Sheila (Leigh Zimmerman) describes the strained relationship between her parents and how dance was her escapism with the gorgeous song lyrics “everything was beautiful at the ballet”. Paul (Gary Wood) gives a very moving account of discovering his homosexuality. Diana (Victoria Hamilton-Barritt) showcases her superb voice in a song that explores the character's troubles in acting class. Other stories are more puerile and less to my taste, such as having wet dreams, wanting a boob job and being unable to sing in tune.


A Chorus Line stands on the strength of the group as a whole and when they perform together, the effect is stunning. The final song, ‘One’ (pictured), is superb, with the cast sparkling in gold outfits and top hats. I wish there was more of these impressive ensemble numbers.

A Chorus Line has as much relevance today as it did when it was created in 1975. Its great music, talented performers and engaging storyline make for a wonderful evening out at the theatre.