Tuesday, 31 December 2013

December 2013 Round-Up

Daria Klimentova and Vadim Muntagirov in The Nutcracker
Photo: Caroline Holden

I have also explored the grand jeté in my monthly ballet steps analysis feature, and chosen the top 10 performances of 2013.

Other writing:

A preview of the London International Mime Festival on Londondance

A review of Ballet Cymru's Romeo and Juliet on Bachtrack
A review of English National Ballet's The Nutcracker on Bachtrack
Reviews of Dance Proms (p.75) and Bird College's Joie de Vivre (p.79) in Dancing Times, January issue

A review of Dance Proms (p.54) in Dance Today, December issue
And, of course, Dance UK's December e-news

Friday, 27 December 2013

Ballet Steps: Grand Jeté

Edward Watson in Romeo and Juliet
Photo: Bill Cooper
For this month's ballet steps blog, I look at the wonderful split-leap jump, the grand jeté. One of my favourite steps, it is performed at the end of a ballet class as well as in lots of ballet choreography, and gives the feeling that a dancer is flying through the air. It involves springing off from one leg, reaching a 'split' position in the air (with one leg forward and one back) and then landing on the other leg in arabesque.

Kristina Sharpan in Coppélia
Photo: E Fetisova
The step should be taught only when other smaller jumps have been mastered, as the dancer needs to be able to land confidently in plié. For students, it is a good idea introduce the step as a grand battement (a brush and kick of the leg to the front), followed by a small up and over action to land on the kicked leg (with knee bent) and the other leg extended behind. The student can then try stepping into a grand jeté and eventually running. The stronger the push off the supporting leg before the leap, the greater the height of the jump.
Grand jetés can be performed with a variety of arm lines, including 1st, 2nd and 3rd arabesque, 4th and 5th positions, and hands on hips. Higher arms typically give the illusion of a larger jump.

Here are the Royal Ballet's Dawid Trzensimiech and Akane Takada performing a grand allegro (or large jumping sequence), which includes grand jetés. It's worth noting that Takada uses a developpé (flicking) action and Trzensimiech uses the more traditional straight leg grand battement action:

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Strange Blooms

Photo: Chris Nash
Configurations/ Strange Blooms, Shobana Jeyasingh Dance, Southbank Centre - reviewed on 4th December
Shobana Jeyasingh Dance celebrates its 25th anniversary with a double bill showcasing both the company’s origin and present. In Configurations (pictured), Jeyasingh’s choreography reflects her classical Indian heritage with four dancers performing traditional movements, but in innovative formations and to the unusual accompaniment of a string quartet.
2013 work Strange Blooms is in such contrast that it could have been made by a different creator. Inspired by plant life, masses of rippling bodies reflect the projected scribble animations by Jan Urbanowski. In primarily other-worldly movements, there are only occasional, delightful glimmers of the choreographer’s South Asian background.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

2013 Top 10 Dance

Akram Khan in DESH
Photo: Richard Haughton
It has been a wonderful year for dance in London, with hundreds of performances by companies from both locally and internationally covering styles from hip hop to classical ballet. Here are my top 10 highlights of 2013:

Yuhui Choe in Voices of Spring
Photo: Bill Cooper
10. ZooNation Youth Dance Company's Groove on Down the Road (August)
I couldn't help beaming throughout this vibrant hip hop version of The Wizard of Oz, performed by talented dancers aged just 10-19.

9. Construction Industry Council Gala (November)
This fundraising event, organised by dance critic Graham Watts, included the White Swan pas de deux gorgeously performed by Daria Klimentova and Vadim Muntagirov, a charming hip hop solo from Tommy Franzen and the world premiere of Slanjayvah Danza's injury-inspired Minor Tears.

8. FLOW at the Print Room (February)
I had to wear a bin-liner to watch this, but loved Hubert Essakow's choreography with dancers performing in several inches of water.

Northern Ballet's Ugly Duckling
Photo: Martin Bell
7. The Royal Ballet's Ashton mixed bill (February)
This quintuple bill showed the best of Frederick Ashton's choreography, from passionate narrative to strikingly simple shapes and exuberant duets.
6. Akram Khan's DESH (June)
Alas, I didn't review this show and in fact, I didn't particularly follow it - but there was something wonderful and emotive about Akram Khan's choreography that I felt physically in my being rather than understanding logically.

5. The Royal Ballet's Onegin (January/February)
I love this ballet which features John Cranko's superb choreography, Tchaikovsky's beautiful score, and leading roles that are open to really varied and dramatic interpretation.

Natalia Osipova and Carlos Acosta in Romeo and Juliet
Photo: ROH/ Bill Cooper
4. ROH2's The Metamorphosis (March)
10 litres of treacle and some extraordinary contorting body movement by Edward Watson make this a superb and engaging piece of theatre.
3. Northern Ballet's Ugly Duckling (May)
This charming animal-filled children's ballet was a delightful 45 minute's lunchtime entertainment.
2. Laurretta Summerscales in English National Ballet's Swan Lake (June)
This wonderful performance by Laurretta Summerscales was her debut in a leading role, with her serene and impassioned Odette especially moving.

1. Natalia Osipova in the Royal Ballet's Romeo and Juliet  (November)
An impressive MacMillan style, sublimely effortless technique and touching characterisation made for a beautiful and emotive performance that was undoubtedly my 2013 highlight.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Rambert Moves

Rambert dancers in their new building
Photo: Hugo Glendinning
Rambert Moves, Marie Rambert Studio - reviewed on 4th December

Rambert opens the doors to its £19.6million new home on the Southbank this week. Public events include tours, open rehearsals and a Rambert School performance of Mark Baldwin's The Rite of Spring.
Preparing students for the next generation is also hot topic of a panel discussion. Janet Smith is keen not to manufacture talent only for current company moulds: "We want to train people to shape the future of dance." For Mikaela Polley, students need more confidence to "explore and be expressive in technique class".
Rambert is clearly leading thw way not only in architecture but also with artistic debate. Events continue until 14 December.

Monday, 2 December 2013

BRB Nutcracker

Jenna Roberts as the Snow Fairy
Photo: Roy Smiljanic
The Nutcracker, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Birmingham Hippodrome - reviewed on 28th November
Created in 1990 as a gift for the city of Birmingham, Sir Peter Wright's The Nutcracker for Birmingham Royal Ballet is surprisingly different to the choreographer's version for the Royal Ballet in Covent Garden. But it has much to like, with its designs by John Macfarlane giving a particularly magical feel as mice emerge from the fireplace and six soldier dolls in a box under the tree come to life to battle them.

The company's performance in Act I was excellent, with the seriously impressive acting skills of the young children (associates and students of Elmhurst School for Dance and the Royal Ballet School) giving the party scenes a wonderfully animated and engaging flavour. Lewis Turner also made a vibrant Jack-in-the-Box with enormous jumps and the Snowflakes shimmered exactly as they should.

Act II was less successful with many precarious moments, including Delia Mathews nearly being dropped in the Arabian dance and a Prince (Yasus Atsuji) who pirouetted out of control. BRB First Artist Yvette Knight gave a sweet performance as the Sugar Plum Fairy, in what was only her second attempt as the ballet's lead. She was lyrical and delicate, but didn't yet have the artistry or indulgence that more experienced dancers bring to the role. I am sure she will develop these skills over time, and she certainly has the makings of a great Sugar Plum.

All in all, Birmingham Royal Ballet's production has plenty of magic and sparkle and made for a lovely evening at the theatre, but the cast need greater attention to detail to make it a truly world-class Nutcracker.