Monday, 31 August 2015

August Round-up

St Petersburg Ballet Theatre's
La Bayadere
Photo: Konstantin Tachkin
This month there are reviews of Crystal Ballet's amateur adult Swan Lake and St Petersburg Ballet Theatre’s La Bayadere.

The latest instalment of the Dance Musings ballet steps series explores fouettés.

Other writing:
A feature about Bird College (p.43) and reviews of the Ardani 25 Dance Gala (p.49) and Tring Park School's end of year show (p.75) in Dancing Times, September issue

Monday, 24 August 2015

St Petersburg Ballet Theatre's La Bayadere

Photo: Andrei Klemeshev
La Bayadere, St Petersburg Ballet Theatre, London Coliseum - reviewed on 22nd August

With one arm extended in front and one to the side, Irina Kolesnikova bows her head and bends her body forwards. Delicate movements ripple through her back to the soaring string sounds of Ludwig Minkus's score. This gorgeous moment (in Kolesnikova's Act I solo) was the undoubted highlight of St Petersburg Ballet Theatre's La Bayadere.
Irina Kolesnikova
Photo: Konstantin Tachkin

Dancing was shaky during much of the rest of the ballet. The Act III Entrance of the Shades was the least syncronised I've seen with the leading female rushing ahead of the music and her 31 followers. Musicality and unison were equally lacking in most of the corps de ballet sections and dancers repeatedly looked sideways for clarification of poses and foot positions. (Whether they were under-rehearsed or just extremely tired - after a ten day run of Swan Lake - was unclear.)

In the leading roles, the Bolshoi Ballet's Denis Rodkin literally leapt into life during his dynamic and technically-challenging solos, but lacked charisma in the production's pas de deux and narrative sequences. Anna Samostrelova and Miho Naotsuko gave crisp and confident Shades variations, whilst Kolesnikova excelled in Acts I and II but seemed less suited to Act III's dreaminess.

Notable throughout was the beauty of La Bayadere's music, played by the St Petersburg Ballet Orchestra under the baton of Timur Gorkovenko. The orchestra pit's exquisite performance frequently outshone the action onstage.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Crystal Ballet Swan Lake

Swan Lake, Crystal Ballet Associates, Greenwood Theatre - reviewed on 2nd August

Crystal Ballet’s amateur adult dancers had the near-impossible task of trying to stage a full-length Swan Lake – a ballet typically lasting three hours – in just one week. With four acts of 10 minutes each, their version was much shorter than the original, but it made for an entertaining performance with all the key elements of the story covered.

Choreography was adapted to suit a very wide range of abilities and levels of experience, with highlights including the Act II swans and some excellent acting in Act III. Claire Alajooz stood out particularly as a confident and elegant Odette.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Ballet Steps: Fouettés

The latest installment of the Dance Musings ballet steps series explores fouettés, the technically-challenging pirouettes on one leg found in many ballets.
Alina Cojocaru and Alejandro Virelles
in Swan Lake
Photo: Photography by ASH
The word fouetté means 'whipped' and can be applied to a 'whipping' movement of the leg in various different ballet contexts. For example, a fouetté can involve one leg staying in the same position in space but shifting in terms of its relationship to the torso (such as from in front to arabesque) with the supporting foot pivoting or jumping to realign the rest of the body. Contrastingly, a battlement fouetté, which is usually performed at the barre, involves the working leg commencing lifted to the side and then striking the floor as the foot comes in to end pointed either in front of or behind the supporting leg. This blog, however, refers specifically to fouetté turns, or, to be more precise, fouettés ronds de jambe en tournant.
Fouettés are performed predominantly by female dancers and usually begin with a double pirouette (often commencing in plié in 4th position) as preparation. As the final preparatory spin is completed and the supporting heel returns to the floor with the knee bent, the working leg remains off the floor and performs the ‘whipping’ fouetté movement, by extending directly forward and then circling to the side. The working leg returns to pirouette position (bent, with the foot placed just below the opposite knee) as the supporting leg relevés and the dancer pirouettes again. This sequence can be completed multiple times with each pirouette landing forming the beginning of the next fouetté. A series of fouettés is usually finished with a final virtuosic pirouette – typically including three or more spins – to land with both feet on the floor.
An alternative way of performing fouettés involves extending the working leg directly to the side and straight back into pirouette position, rather than including the forward extension first. Dancers can also choose whether to perform single fouettés, where the body makes one 360o spin in between each ‘whipped’ movement of the working leg, or multiple (usually double) fouettés. The key feature is that after the preparatory pirouette, the working leg must stay off the floor. Ideally, dancers should also remain on the spot with the supporting leg landing in exactly the same position each time, although some choreography involves fouettés travelling forward.
Fouettés are often included in pas de deux coda (following a duet, male solo and female solo). There are the infamous 32 fouettés for Odile in Swan Lake (although contemporary dancers often include more than 32 spins within the music), and fouettés feature in numerous other ballets including Le Corsaire, Grand Pas Classique and Flames of Paris.
Here is Natalia Osipova performing the Don Quixote '32' fouettés twice in the same performance. She combines both single and double turns and spins much faster than most ballerinas: