Natalia Osipova ‘Pure Dance’ at Sadler’s Wells 13/09/18

Leaves are FadingPure Dance, assembled and directed by Natalia Osipova herself – taking a break from her busy schedule as a Principal at the Royal Ballet, and guest Principal at American Ballet Theatre (ABT) – consists of six very different pieces. Four are world premieres, and of these one is the pick of the first act: Ivȧn Pėrez’s Flutter.

Performed with the secure partnering of former Rambert dancer Jonathan Goddard, it gets off to a slow start with unstructured choreography, as the pair run from the darkness at the back of the stage into the light at the front. Initially they are joyful and leap gleefully; but later we see ripples of tension as Nigel Edwards lighting switches from soft glow to a starker and exposing white. Although it’s a struggle to see the promised ‘journey of discovery’ from the programme notes, Osipova’s beautifully fluid, light movements are still a triumph, especially in the sequences of aerial choreography which seek to evoke a sense of flight.

Aside from this Act One is a little sparse. Antony Tudor’sThe Leaves are Fading is a sweet opener, but lacks impact. It gives many in the audience their first glimpse of Osipova with her preferred partner, ABT’s David Hallberg. The two share a delicate chemistry and demonstrate a well established partnership, but at just seven minutes, the segment leaves you wanting more.

Read the full review on CultureWhisper.com

Image: Johan Persson

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St Petersburg Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake at the London Coliseum 23/08/18

Dmitri Akulinin and Irina Kolesnikova- photo credit Vladimir Zenzinov

London dance fans are still reeling from the glorious opulence of Liam Scarlett’s new Swan Lake for the Royal Ballet. Heavy with emotion, high on budget and dramatic staging, it’s in stark contrast to the precise, drilled and efficient Swan Lake courtesy of Konstantin Tachkin’s St Petersburg Ballet Theatre, playing at the London Coliseum this August.

The production is led by the company’s only prima ballerina, Irina Kolesnikova, a dancer so ubiquitous she headlined her own season in London three years ago, alongside young Bolshoi Principal Denis Rodkin.

In many ways, this typically Russian Lake is entirely predictable. The corps of shimmering swans are disciplined but uninspired. Tchaikovsky’s score never fails to captivate, but there are no goosebumps when the stage is filled by countless white tutus and wafting arms, nor when Rothbart and Odile enter the ball in Act III. Fortunately, Kolesnikova provides the much-needed drama, adding intrigue to this otherwise slightly bland production.

Read the full review on BroadwayWorld.com 

Image: Vladmir Zenzinov

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

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

Emerging Dancer Competition 11/06/18

Francesca-Velicu-and-Daniel-McCormick-performing-Le-Corsaire-©-Laurent-LiotardoEnglish National Ballet’s Emerging Dancer Award is now in its ninth year. It’s an invaluable resource to balletomanes and dance critics, allowing the opportunity to focus on the rising stars, to put faces to names and glimpse their vibrant personalities for a unique evening that highlights the depth of talent within the company.

As always, the finalists pair up for a classical pas de deux, followed by the contemporary solos – a section I have always found a little more hit and miss than the show-stopping duets already known to audiences.

Exciting talent Precious Adams opens the evening with Fernando Coloma and the Harlequinade pas de deux – a playful, characterful choice, perhaps chosen due to the success of Adam’s performance with the Royal Ballet last year in Macmillan’s Elite Syncopations.

Lithe and energetic, Coloma is full of charisma and comic timing as Harlequin, landing the demanding double and triple jump combinations with precision. Adams does her best to be light and skittish in the role of Columbine, but it’s not a piece that showcases her to best of her technically assured abilities.

Read the full review on BroadwayWorld.com

Image: Laurent Liotardo

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

Alina-Cojocaru-as-Princess-Aurora-in-The-Sleeping-Beauty-©-Laurent-Liotardo

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