Monday, 19 November 2012

Ballet Cymru

Little Red Riding Hood/ The Three Little Pigs, Ballet Cymru, Lilian Baylis Studio Theatre reviewed on 16th November
Nominated for a 2013 National Dance Award, Ballet Cymru describe themselves as a company who “like to do things a bit differently”. Their current tour covers 21 venues in just ten weeks with only a brief two-night stopover for London’s spoilt-for-choice dance crowd.
At the Lilian Baylis Studio Theatre, the company offers two dramatically different bills. The first uses Welsh-born writer Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes and shows Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs in a light quite distinct from their original fairy tales. The second takes inspiration from leading Welsh artists and musicians with live vocals by Cerys Matthews. As the latter performance clashed with the Royal Ballet’s latest opening night, I was only able to see one incarnation of this Welsh company, but I was most impressed by its choreographic ingenuity and dancer prowess.
In the Dahl double bill, the stage is transformed into a magical forest inhabited by other-worldly creatures and creatively-costumed wolves who prowl and leap. Little Red Riding Hood strides onto stage, flexing her biceps and cartwheeling to display bright pink bloomers. A dancer narrates action via Dahl's clever verse and both choreography and story are funny and inventive throughout. As houses are blown down, masked pigs stamp their feet and girls whip pistols from their knickers, Ballet Cymru’s performance is a delightfully entertaining mix of humour and cunning. My only complaint is that it was over too soon.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Bond-style Ballet

00 and His 7, The London Ballet Company, Bridewell Theatre – reviewed on 8th November

The London Ballet Company aims to “bring the highest quality of dance performances to intimate venues”, engaging with audiences who wouldn’t usually see ballet. Its latest James Bond-style show at the Bridewell Theatre uses the well-known and well-loved films to inspire a charming performance, with not only great dance but also truly mass appeal.

Opening with the sounds of a drum beat as black-hooded dancers roll across the floor pointing guns, this is not a typical ballet. Our suave hero (Fran Mangiacasale) becomes irresistibly camp as he runs Baywatch-style across the stage in tight swimming shorts to accept his mission. His task is to retrieve a diamond necklace stolen with equally delightful and ridiculous humour by a masked criminal who simply parts the jewellery’s Velcro fastening.

This is clearly not great art, but it is undoubtedly great fun. Dancers are all trained at professional schools and their technique is of an excellent standard. Choreography is similarly well-crafted and entertaining to watch, with a diverse mix of styles from musical theatre to classical ballet and contemporary included.

The London Ballet Company now have a home at the Bridewell Theatre and will be performing there for 12 weeks in 2013. Just off Fleet Street, the venue offers low-cost lunchtime performances where local workers can bring along sandwiches and break up the day with a show instead of a Starbucks.

This really is quality dance made appealing for all. I look forward to seeing what theme the London Ballet Company will tackle next to continue encouraging a new audience to enjoy dance.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Valentino Zucchetti Choreographic Afternoon

Valentino Zucchetti on Choreography, Ivy House Music and Dance, London Jewish Cultural Centre - 4th November

Leticia Stock (right) in Ballo della Regina
Photo: Bill Cooper, courtesy of ROH
Valentino Zucchetti created a unique pas de deux for performance at the London Jewish Cultural Centre last weekend. Working with fellow Royal Ballet dancers, Leticia Stock (pictured) and Dawid Trezensimiech, he guided a small audience through creating a new work, including completing the duet's choreography live during the session. Observers were encouraged to ask questions and even offer suggestions to improve dancers' performance!

Zucchetti began by explaining how he approaches choreography. He typically plan what he wants before reaching the studio but his detailed visualisations often need to be compromised when translated into real life. He also takes inspiration from dancers particularly in terms of choreographing transitions between main movements.
The duet created for the afternoon, Misericordia, featured a choral score from Macnificat by Johann Sebastian Bach. Zucchetti has been listening to the music for three years and hopes eventually to choreograph for the whole piece. His vision for the pas de deux took inspiration from the score's lyricism and displayed a woman highly dependent on her partner for support through a series of lifts and poses. Zucchetti highlighted to dancers the importance of taking risks with Stock leaning on Trezensimiech as much as possible. 
The afternoon finished with a beautiful performance of the then-finished pas de deux with dancers in simple costumes. The London Jewish Cultural Centre will host another dance event, with Royal Ballet principal Steven McRae, in April 2013.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Osipova and Balletic Brilliance

As a frequent theatre-goer and dance enthusiast, I see performances several times a week. I also have an MA in Ballet Studies and often write reviews and articles about dance, so I guess I’m somewhat of an expert. But I have often wished I could just be ignorant and enjoy the prettiness or prowess of a show without questioning.
I have seen so many different dancers, companies and works that it is seldom now that something seems truly new or exciting. But on the rare occasion that it is, I know that my dance knowledge enables me to appreciate it on a much deeper level than most people can. And it is these really moving and thrilling experiences that make me eager to return to the theatre each time.

Natalia Osipova and Carlos Acosta in Swan Lake
Photo: Alice Pennefather, courtesy of ROH
This long introduction leads me to describe a recent performance that was so exquisitely beautiful it simply cannot go unmentioned. It was Natalia Osipova in the Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake (on 25th October) and I confess I shed a tear during the Act II pas de deux. Osipova’s Odette was heartfelt and vulnerable with every step imbued with meaning. Instead of a ballerina executing technical movements, the choreography became evocative and powerful as a woman, trapped in the body of a swan, desperately and unsuccessfully tried to escape her fate.
Osipova has a number of features which make her White Swan so beautiful and emotionally intense. She has a waif-like figure with long arms and legs and seems able to balance endlessly. I have never really connected with the characters of Swan Lake before, but these ethereal qualities added to Osipova’s portrayal of Odette as helpless and trapped and made the ballet all the more moving and human.
It is always tricky to describe movement in words and I am far from doing justice to Osipova’s interpretation here. But this was certainly a performance that made me glad I can fully appreciate brilliance when I see it.