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? …

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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.

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Image credit: Deborah Jaffe

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


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

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Photo: Laurent Liotardo

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.

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Image: Johan Persson

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.

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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.

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


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