Swan Lake at the Royal Opera House 22/05/2018

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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 swept along in the romanticism of the classic story.

Read the full review on BroadwayWorld.com

Image: Tristram Kenton

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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

English National Ballet’s Voices of America at Sadler’s Wells 12/04/18

3698Emerging from a winter of traditional crowd-pleasers featuring Nutcracker and La Sylphide, the dancers of English National Ballet were finally allowed to cut loose in this new mixed bill – thanks to some eerie swamp monsters and a new and unexpected club banger from William Forsythe. This certainly ain’t the Kingdom of Sweets anymore.

The aforementioned Forsythe world premiere, Playlist (Track 1, 2), is left tantalisingly to the end of this American-inspired programme. It’s worth the wait though as 12 of ENB’s fine male dancers dominate the stage with sky-high leaps and perfectly stretched feet set to Peven Everett’s Surely Shorty.

It’s a spirited and slick performance and an impressive party piece full of moves that have the audience cheering and whooping aplenty. The American flavour is hinted at in the costuming (designed by Forsythe himself), with the dancer’s plain burgundy shirts emblazoned with their names on the back as if they were an elite sports team.

 

Read the full review on BroadwayWorld.com

Obsidian Tear/Marguerite & Armand/Elite Syncopations at Royal Opera House 14/04/18

Marguerite and Armand. Alessandra Ferri and Federico Bonelli. ©ROH, 2017. Photographed by Tristram Kenton. (4)The Royal Ballet’s latest offering is a rather curious mixed bill containing contemporary, classical and carnivalesque works from three of its resident choreographers.

On the surface, each of them are tried and tested Opera House hits, but together the programme feels confused – with no common thread to weave them together.

It’s hard to imagine the average balletomane enjoying all three of these contrasting pieces equally. Contemporary fans will lap up the primal physicality of Wayne McGregor’s Obsidian Tear, whereas admirers of the more classical will be absorbed by the tragic love story of Marguerite and Armand.

And as for Elite Syncopations … it’s hard to imagine anyone not adoring the array of quirky, colourful company members as they take us on a romp through the stylish ragtime era.

What you enjoy most will depend on personal taste, but it’s very hard to resist Alessandra Ferri’s Marguerite. Now 54 years old, she still floats effortlessly through Ashton’s choreography, her petite stature suited to the vulnerability of fragile Marguerite.

First published on BroadwayWorld.com 

Mid Century Modern – Richard Alston Dance Company at Sadler’s Wells 23/03/18

cw-23717-712x413Richard Alton choreographed his first work 50 years ago, and now in 2018, his company of ten accomplished dancers celebrate this landmark anniversary with Mid Century Modern. It’s a stunning journey through Alston’s back catalogue with work dating back as far as 1970.

In addition, this triple bill includes more recent choreography in the form of Alston’s Carnaval, a beautifully staged take on the relationship between Robert Schumann and his wife Clara (Elly Braund). The evening opens with Martin Lawrance’s more physical work, Cut and Run, a brief but energetic piece brimming with urgency and centred on the pacy interplay of two main couples.

Carnaval is a classical work set to Schumann’s score of the same name, played on stage by pianist Jason Ridgway, who makes light work of the piece’s turbulent energy.

Schumann is played by both Liam Riddick and Nicholas Bodych who represent his dual persona. Riddick is slick, and moves smoothly, exuding a majestic aura. By comparison Bodych is spritely and unpredictable.

The beauty and musicality of Alston’s choreography makes an evening with this company more than worth the ticket price. The head-to-toe precision of the dancers and the ease of the lifts between the tranquil, floating waltzes make for beguiling viewing, also enhanced by Fontini Dimou’s wafting fairytale costumes.

Read the full review on CultureWhisper.com

Royal Ballet’s Berstein Centenary at the Royal Opera House 17/03/18

RB_Bernstein_1687Following on from the Royal Ballet’s popular story ballets, such as Giselle and The Winter’s Tale, the company now turn their attention to work of Leonard Bernstein to mark a century since his birth. It comes in the form of a stylish mixed bill of Bernstein’s compositions created for the concert hall.

The bill features two new works. First up is Wayne McGregor‘s Yugen, a short piece set to the distinctive Chichester Psalms. It is, as expected, an intellectual and calculated McGregor work executed with precision to a collection of choral, but unexpectedly jazzy Hebrew texts.

The pace is fiercely led by Olivia Cowley, who is eye-catching throughout in her encounters with her various partners. Edmund de Waal’s angular set is also mimicked in the choreography through the stylised movement – arched backs and intricate partnering.

Read the full review on BroadwayWorld.com