Unknown Soldier triple bill at Royal Opera House 20/11/18

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The centenary of the end of the First World War has been marked widely in dance. Now, the Royal Ballet present their tribute within this latest triple bill, headlined by Alastair Marriot’s new work The Unknown Soldier.

It tells the real life story of wartime sweethearts Florence Billington and Ted Feltham, who, after a whirlwind romance, promise they will get engaged to each other once he returns from war – but of course he never does. It’s a devastating tale, told by a now elderly Billington, who is projected onto the main stage to tell the tale, but it makes Marriot’s work too disjointed and the dance near redundant.

Nor do we explore beyond the bare bones of the story. Billington (danced with wonderful purity by Yasmin Naghdi) and Feltham (Matthew Ball) fall in love in the opening moments. Their story is true, but we are given no background and feel little investment in them. The war scenes all feel predictable too: men stumble haphazardly with guns and Feltham’s death is clumsily conveyed, as we only see him carried away on the shoulder of his fellow soldier.

Read my full review of BroadwayWorld.com

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La Bayadere at Royal Opera House 01/11/18

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Ballet narratives have always used their artistic license rather liberally, and stories don’t come much sillier than that of La Bayadère – or Swan Lakewith ghosts as I prefer to think of it. Neither do casts come more starry than the powerhouse line-up of Marianela Nunez (Nikiya), Vadim Muntagirov (Solor) and Natalia Osipova (Gamzatti).

You can assess their interpretation of these varied roles however you please, but Natalia Makarova‘s 1989 version of this ballet is best enjoyed for the visual spectacle it is. It includes what is perhaps the most demanding and complex corps de ballet scenes in the classical repertoire, and the aesthetically dazzling celebration and wedding segments are what ballet dreams are made of.

It’s Nunez who comes out on top of this ballerina face-off, as one might expect with Osipova debuting in her role as Gamzatti (intriguingly, the two will swap roles later in the run).

Nunez easily commands the stage with the subtlest of movements. Her simple entrance of slow deliberate steps with her face obscured by a white veil is demure, preemptive of the heartache that awaits her. On meeting and falling quickly for Solor the pair share a sweet chemistry rather than burning passion, but it’s a happy connection, enhanced by Nunez’s sumptuous use of her upper body and Muntagirov’s surprising charisma.

Read the full review on BroadwayWorld.com

 

Dein Perry’s Tap Dogs at the Peacock Theatre 24/10/18

TAP DOGSDein Perry’s Tap Dogs is a tap show unlike any other. The execution is crisp and slick; each inventive segment is an exciting watch, with an innovative use of set and lighting alongside complex choreography. Forget the elegant moves of Fred Astaire, here the set is a gritty construction site and its dynamic cast of six are dressed for a day’s manual labour.

An Australian sensation, Tap Dogs was devised by Dein Perry in 1994 with the show debuting at the 1995 Sydney Festival. It has gone on to receive numerous international awards and enjoyed a lengthy run of uninterrupted touring around the world.

On first inspection the set appears simple, if a little haphazard, with a central platform for tapping and a staircase behind, but with each new section the set unfolds to create a fresh setting, and the cast act as workmen on a building site. There are metal arches which they swing from, and platforms created from steel girders that are later filled with water to create a memorable finale. With each set change the technical demands increase.

Each dancer brings their own style and flair that Perry incorporates into the staging and choreography. As the foreman, Anthony Russo is the leader of the tap pack, who orchestrates the set changes. He takes great pleasure in berating the show’s youngest contributor, Kid Reid Perry, whose cheeky asides to the audience ensure popularity.

Read the full review on CultureWhisper.com 

Mayerling at Royal Opera House 13/10/18

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It’s never easy to debut in a role when half the audience bought tickets to see someone else, but this was the situation Ryoichi Hirano faced last week as announcement of Edward Watson’s injury was made.

Watson is known for his compelling portrayal of the multifaceted role of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria. Nonetheless, Hirano makes an honourable go of the challenge, assisted ably by a stellar female line-up in MacMillan’s now 40-year-old ballet.

Hirano’s troubled protagonist displays flashes of storminess in the opening two acts, but not quite enough to convince the audience of his turmoil. He is a fine and controlled dancer, but at times he doesn’t convey Rudolph’s psyche with the maturity needed, instead coming off a little aloof and detached. His portrayal doesn’t noticeably develop until he hits his stride in a devastating Act Three conclusion.

Of the many wonderful female interpretations perhaps the most unforgettable is from Principal Francesca Hayward, whose ease of movement and commitment to the role of Princess Stephanie makes for wonderful storytelling.

Her petite stature makes her terror in face of Hirano’s towering presence all the more believable. She is stoic in her duty to her husband during the court scenes whilst in private with him she trembles, but fights gallantly.

Read the full review on BroadwayWorld.com 

Carlos Acosta: A Celebration at the Royal Albert Hal 02/10/18

3 Carlos Acosta - A Celebration at the Royal Albert Hall 2 to 5 October 2018 Credit Tristram KentonNearly two years ago to the day, Carlos Acosta presented A Classical Farewell at London’s Royal Albert Hall, a mix of solos and pas de deux with his esteemed Royal Ballet colleagues to celebrate his career.

Fast-forward to 2018 and he’s still saying farewell, but now with a focus on the future through his dynamic Cuban company, Acosta Danza.

There are sadly a number of issues when it comes to the Albert Hall as a venue for dance that hinder the enjoyment of the evening. The flat level arena seating makes for, frankly, terrible sight lines. In the opening contemporary numbers where dancers repeatedly drop to the floor, arena-based audience will lose sight of them completely.

A quick glance at ticket prices informs me that seats here cost £79. If you’re of small stature these are to be avoided; many located here on press night moved elsewhere after the interval.

Seating aside, and what of the dancing one could see? …

Read the full review on BroadwayWorld.com

Image: Tristram Kenton

New English Ballet Theatre at the Peacock Theatre 28/09/18

NEBT in 'REMEMBRANCE' by Wayne Eagling. Photo by Deborah Jaffe (6) (1)

Since launching in 2011, New English Ballet Theatre (NEBT) has established itself as a leader in nurturing young talent and offering professional opportunities for dancers, choreographers and designers. Each year, the company seeks to create new work to share with audiences up and down the UK, and this time it brings a double bill of contrasting pieces to the Peacock Theatre.

It features lively choreography from Jenna Lee to Max Richter’s reworking of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, alongside a new creation from Wayne Eagling (lately Artistic Director of English National Ballet). Eagling’s Remembrance follows the wartime experiences of British ballet pioneer Marie Rambert and her husband Ashley Dukes, to a stirring Handel score.

Lee’s The Four Seasons is a stylish affair, thanks in part to April Dalton’s fine costuming. Each season is clearly signposted, not only by the choreography that integrates the pas de deux with strong full ensemble sections, but also by Andrew Ellis’ vivid lighting.

The opening moments of Spring fizzle with nerves and the occasional wobble as the 13-strong company settle into the energetic choreography.

With the warm hues of Summer comes the standout pas de deux of the piece from Sophie Allnatt and Benjamin Holloway, who execute the choreography in spritely fashion while remaining neat and compact in the bold jetés and shapes that denote the season.

Read the full review on CultureWhisper.com 

Image credit: Deborah Jaffe

English National Ballet’s Lest We Forget at Sadler’s Wells 20/09/18

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It can be a rarity, but every so often, perhaps once a year if you’re lucky, you stumble across a work so sublime it leaves you a little stumped as to how to describe it. Unfortunate when you need to review it, however.

English National Ballet’s Lest We Forget first opened in 2014, marking the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War. Just two years into Tamara Rojo’s tenure as Artistic Director, it was a bold statement about where the company was heading. Four years later, it sits proudly in their repertoire, a modern masterpiece to absorb, devour and shed a tear.

Liam Scarlett’s No Man’s Land is an emotive opening, tracking the separate roles of the men and the women and the desperate longing the war puts between them. Scarlett is aware his strengths lie within the classical vocabulary and the imagery packed into the piece responds to this; we see the women wrap their arms around the torsos of their men representative of the straps of heavy backpacks, the repetitive work done by the women in factories, and all plagued by fatigue and loneliness – to Franz Liszt’s turbulent score.

The piece is characterised by three lead partnerships, the standout of which is Alina Cojocaru and Isaac Hernandez. It is preceded by some adventurous choreography for the other two couples with breathtaking lifts and jumps upon being reunited. However, for Cojocaru, her partner does not return, as she waits, lit by a single spotlight. She reaches out to touch the absent Hernandez face as he disappears before her in a heart-wrenching sequence that tracks her grief

Read the full review on BroadwayWorld.com 

Photo: Laurent Liotardo