Carmen La Cubana at Sadler’s Wells 02/08/18

CARMEN LA CUBANA,Carmen La Cubana is an ambitious production that attempts to merge fiery ferociousness of 1950s Cuba at the dawn of the revolution with Georges Bizet’s world-renowned opera. It’s all the concept of Tony Award winning Director Christopher Renshaw, whose production of The King and I is currently wowing the crowds at the London Palladium. On paper, the pedigree of Sadler’s Wells summer musical is clear, but sadly this Carmen his hard work, despite the commitment from the Havana-born cast.

In this reimaged Carmen, the protagonist is a cigar maker in a factory when a military unit led by Sergeant Moreno, and including the already engaged José,  take up their posts there. When Carmen is arrested for causing disruption, José is ordered to take her to prison but he lets her go, and as a result is arrested.. In a subsequent fight, José kills Sergeant Moreno.   So far, so Bizet.

The pair flee to Havana where Carmen becomes infatuated not with the Spanish bullfighter of the opera, but with a Cuban boxer, El Niño. The bloody and tragic conclusion returns to the original plot.

There is no individual element that fails in Renshaw’s production; however the overall result feels muted, lukewarm even. Primarily it is the dance content that feels lacking, with the same party pieces rolled out in each ensemble number. These Cuban dancers, of course, have the rhythm to pull off the Sambas and the Cha Chas, but the choreography is lazy, with much skirt swishing and hip wiggling that lacks impact.

Read the full review on CultureWhisper.com

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Karen & Kevin Dance at The Royal Festival Hall 09/06/18

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2017 saw Karen and Kevin Clifton’s first UK tour, it was a touching yet high energy show that charted the perfect romance of the couple’s love story from their days on Broadway with Burn the Floor, their selection as Strictly professionals, and marriage. The wholesome, feelgood display that made it impossible not to get swept up in the heartwarming spirit of it all. There were gushing declarations of love before passionate rumbas and tangos. The whole production, skillfully created by Jason Gilkison left me a little giddy. Fast forward just 12 months and things are a little different, and it takes two professionals such as the Cliftons to handle it with the grace, confidence and authenticity that they do.

The opening act is a slightly disjointed affair with too much cheerful chit chat and (initially at least) too little dance. The pair are keen to address the news of their split with humour and honesty yet Kevin’s over enthusiastic storytelling wears a little thin if you’re not here for the Strictly gossip, and we eagerly wait for content.

This year’s show is loosely based on those who inspired the pair to pursue dance careers and to start, each Clifton dances a host of separate numbers inspired by their dance idols; Gloria Estefan, Liza Minnelli and Beyonce for Karen, Michael Jackson, Fred Astaire and Elvis for Kevin.  Numbers between the two Strictly stars are few and far between with this opening act doing it’s best to paint them as opposites – Karen as the tall, tanned Venezuelan beauty, Kevin as the pasty white lad from Grimsby.

Read the full review in Dancing Times – July 2018

The Sleeping Beauty at The London Coliseum 06/06/18

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Kenneth Macmillan’s The Sleeping Beauty was one of the first ballets performed by ENB under Tamara Rojo’s directorship back in 2013. Five years later it remains a glorious spectacle in their repertoire, packed with Marius Petipa’s demanding choreography, opulent glamour and lucid storytelling.

It’s likely that you’re familiar with this classic fairytale; however, for newcomers to the ballet, it’s a lengthy production that balances moments of dense storytelling with decorative solos and pas de deux. It all culminates in a luxurious wedding celebration for Aurora and her Prince Désiré, denoting the victory of good over evil.

The Prologue – which depicts a celebration for the christening of Princess Aurora – displays the only moments of stiltedness and nerves amongst the expansive corps, with a little raggedness occasionally visible. This is hard not to forgive however, as the stage is filled by Nicholas Georgiadis’ spectacular array of costumes, the most grand saved for Aurora’s dazzling fairy godmothers.

The grace and poise of this quintet is the highlight of this opening act. Begoña Cao executes fine precision and is beautifully elegant as the Fairy of the Crystal Fountain. Rising stars of the company Rina Kanehara and Katja Khaniukova both give assured performances as the Fairy of the Golden Vine and the Enchanted Forest, respectively. Both dance their solos with maturity and musicality, handling Tchaikovsky’s score confidently.

It is this sweet and picture perfect opening, enhanced by Peter Farmer’s lush green set design, which is dramatically invaded by James Streeter’s magnificently evil Carabosse. Streeter commits fully to this role, he paces the stage, eyes wide with anger at the betrayal of his forgotten invite to the party.

Read the full review on CultureWhisper.com

Image credit: Laurent Liotardo

Giovanni Pernice – Born to Win at the Lyric Theatre, 23/04/18

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We are in prime Strictly spin off season with all but a couple of the programme’s professional dancers touring the lengths and breadth of the country. Sultry Tangos, cheeky Cha Chas and energetic Jives are common place, audiences are surely approaching saturation point, so it was with limited expectations I approached relative newcomer to the circuit, Giovanni’s Pernice’s tour Born to Win.

Pernice has been a fixture on the BBC’s popular ballroom programme since 2015 and has made the final twice in three years allowing him enough airtime to quickly rack up a loyal fanbase. It’d be very easy to put out a slap dash ballroom romp with cliches and catch phases aplenty but Pernice and co. have been a little more savvy and created a unique and entertaining tour de force that sits proudly amongst the extensive family of Strictly offerings.

The defining feature that sets this show apart is the input of Strictly’s resident choreographer Jason Gilkison. The staging is slick, the costumes colourful and the routines have the glossy feel of the Saturday night TV show. The outfit is enhanced further a group of young and versatile ensemble dancers who ably support Pernice, allowing for smooth storytelling and impactful group numbers.

Read the full review in Dancing Times magazine – June 2018

Swan Lake at the Royal Opera House 22/05/18

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There is no greater anticipation in the ballet world than that for a new Swan Lake. The unenviable pressure of this task has fallen to one of the Royal Opera House’s current Artists in Residence, Liam Scarlett.

Scarlett’s more recent works for the Royal Ballet include The Age of Anxiety and Frankenstein, as well as the heart-wrenching No Man’s Land for English National Ballet’s Lest We Forgetprogramme.

The most striking success of this new production is Scarlett’s partnership with designer John MacFarlane. This is a luxurious, opulent, no-expense-spared Swan Lake, in which the swans shimmer in glistening white tutus with flecks of gold.

The ball of Act III is packed with the grandest of costumes, rich velvet curtains, golden pillars and a sweeping staircase. With a backdrop this breathtaking, it’s easy to be caught up in the romanticism of the classic story.

Read the full review on BroadwayWorld.com

Image: Tristram Kenton

Northern Ballet’s Jane Eyre at Sadler’s Wells 15/05/18

Victoria Sibson as Bertha Mason and Javier Torres as Edward Rochester in Cathy Marston's Jane Eyre. Photo Emma Kauldhar. (2)_previewLeeds-based Northern Ballet have never shied away from staging complex dance drama; and in recent years have done so with impressive proficiency in 1984 and Casanova. Now, returning to London for their regular Spring visit, they tackle one of literature’s most admired female heroines, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.

The storytelling on offer here is ambitious. Fortunately the programme synopsis is detailed; however, Cathy Marston’s work might just benefit from being less faithful to the complex original text that traces Jane’s life from miserable childhood with awful relatives to self-contained adulthood. At times Marston’s choreography feels bogged down in the clunky detail and unnecessary characters that would not be missed for dramatic purposes.

Marston tells this fast moving and nuanced tale with deep coherence, and takes great care in the detail of each character’s choreography. There are several memorable motifs such as Jane’s clenched fists, Rochester’s outstretched foot on denying her exit, housekeeper Mrs Fairfax’s unstable tittering about the stage. Patrick Kinmonth’s muted colour palette for both set and costumes reflects the repression and entrapment Jane feels in the different environments she is confronted with.

Read the full review on CultureWhisper.com

Phoenix’s Dance Theatre’s Windrush at the Peacock Theatre 27/04/18

915662ea02175ad961e3945983535f62The Artistic Director of Phoenix Dance Theatre, Sharon Watson, originally created Windrush: Movement of the People to celebrate the integration of Caribbean culture in British society today. However, timing is a curious thing and publicity has certainly spiked in recent weeks in light of the ongoing Windrush scandal over the treatment of long-standing Caribbean migrants in Britain.

The journey of the SS Empire Windrush has become symbolic of the great migration from the Caribbean 70 years ago, and Watson has created a joyful, thoughtful and culturally important work, that explores the relationships, ambitions and hopes of the newcomers, as well as the struggles they faced.

This is not, however, a heavy piece of history: Watson’s selection of upbeat musical accompaniments means it’s hard not to feel uplifted by her take on this important era in British social history.

Snake-hipped men and joyous women in billowing floral dresses fill the stage as we are welcomed to a dockside in the Caribbean with its glowing orange backdrop. Phoenix boasts a cast of supremely talented dancers who carry off Watson’s detailed choreography with ease. Every move is deliberate, foot flexed or pointed, the ease and slickness of every lift and the tightness of the full ensemble together impressive throughout.

Read the full review on CultureWhisper.com