Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Aladdin at Sadler’s Wells 31/10/17

BRB_Aladdin_0603Fresh from taking part in the dazzling nationwide celebration of Kenneth MacMillan’s work, a severe change of gear is required as Birmingham Royal Ballet now turn their attention to Aladdin, for a brief run at Sadler’s Wells.

Aladdin is a three-act ballet, but it’s Act One that will perhaps linger the longest in the memory for the sheer amount that is packed in over the course of 51 busy minutes.

Once Aladdin (a spritely Mathias Dingeman) is captured by the Mahgrib (Valentine Olovyannikov) what follows is a cross between Nutcracker‘s divertissements and George Balanchine’s Jewels with an (almost endless) procession of set-pieces.

Young viewers will adore the colours and the beauty of different Sapphires, Emeralds, Rubies and Diamonds who …

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Eun Me Ahn – Let Me Change Your Name at The Place 25/10/17

cw-19397-mediumEun-Me Ahn’s Let Me Change Your Name was first created in 2006, and is thus danced with the confidence and familiarity one might expect. Having previously featured larger casts, these performances for Dance Umbrella 2017 feature a core set of six performers with occasional cameos from Ahn herself.

There is a slow-burning, almost off-putting start; six dancers circle the stage solemnly and slide ungainly on their knees before breaking off into sets of twos and threes to deliver more deliberate movements. Their faces are expressionless and neutral, symbolic of an archaic, barren environment where only black is worn. The understated and synchronized choreography hints at the bold athleticism to come.

The fun of this piece really begins when Young-Gyu Jang’s score changes to a more pulsating techno rhythm. The dancers begin to experiment with their vivid costumes, the women are lifted in the air …

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Concerto / Le Baiser de la fee / Elite Syncopations at Royal Opera House 18/10/17

2873The Opera House’s new season continues with a joyful celebration of Kenneth MacMillan, seeing the Royal Ballet joined by the country’s other top companies for a rare spectacle.

This was an eclectic programme, covering a range of MacMillan’s work – from the plotless but technically strenuous Concerto, with its dreamy central pas de deux, to the zesty and playful Elite Syncopations, with its zany costuming. Between these two there is the ethereal and scarcely performed La Baiser de la fée.

Birmingham Royal Ballet takes the reigns for Concerto. The choreography is intricate for the vast ensemble, who rise to this demanding challenge set to Dmitri Shostakovich’s score.

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BalletBoyz – Fourteen Days at Sadler’s Wells 10/10/17

BalletBoyz-Fourteen-Days.-Photo-Credit-Panayiotis-SinnosIn Fourteen Days BalletBoyz bring us an eclectic quartet of new works from four choreographers, all of whom were challenged to put together their creation in 14 days, exploring themes of balance and imbalance. The choreographers were also paired up with composers and the result is a varied but largely successful evening.

In an interesting scheduling decision, what is likely to be the most divisive work is put up first: Javier de Frutos’ The Title is in the Text.

Two men dressed simply in stone-coloured boiler suits first experiment tentatively on a oversized seesaw placed centre stage, before being joined by the full company.

This gentle interplay gradually develops into something more confrontational. As one dancer balances, another can manipulate the seesaw with his weight. They become bolder with the full company atop the beam, the risks increasing as …

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Tero Saarinen Company, Morphed at Southbank Centre 10/08/17

Morphed02_hi-resFinland’s Tero Saarinen Company last appeared in London in 2008 with Next of Kin, a piece widely regarded as deeply unsettling. It featured ghoulish makeup and costuming, the kind of theatrics Saarinen is so fond of.

By comparison, Morphed appears rather tame. However, the pleasure Saarinen takes in creating this brand of indefinable work is still evident in this intense slice of interplay among a band of seven performers.

Morphed premiered in Helsinki in 2014, has toured internationally since and has now reached the Riverside Terrace in front of the Royal Festival Hall building as one of the many elements of the Southbank’s Nordic Matters festival. It examines the relationships between its cast members using Saarinen’s signature style of choreography, which blends brutal and aggressive movements with …

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Flamencura, Paco Peña Dance Company at Sadler’s Wells 08/08/17

untitledA flamenco show is always easy to spot when you take your seat at the theatre. The stage is stark except for a few unevenly placed chairs. The performers are left to do all the work here and that includes 75-year-old Paco Peña, along with his small but effective ensemble of singers, dancers and musicians.

Flamencura was first seen by London audiences in 2015 featuring a slightly alternative cast of dancers to now. The non-narrative line-up of ten key numbers has been fine-tuned and polished, allowing for maximum impact.

The two female dancers are the stars of the cast, their contrasting styles both alluring and engaging as they undulate against the traditional wailings of the two singers, Inmaculada Rivero and Jose Angel Carmona. Whether the vocals are appealing to you will be down to personal taste.

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English National Ballet’s Romeo & Juliet at the Royal Festival Hall 01/08/17

R&JEnglish National Ballet have done little wrong of late. Only recently in Tamara Rojo’s tenureship audiences have marvelled at ENBs two contrasting Giselles, and just earlier in the year a remarkable contemporary triple bill. Why then, revive Nureyev’s rather drab and dated production of Romeo and Juliet when balletomanes have so much affection for the much celebrated MacMillan interpretation?

The hardworking corps feel cramped on the shallow and restrictive stage which distracts from the extensive detail in Nureyev’s choreography. Act I begins tentatively however Prokofiev’s rousing score lifts the iconic ball scene and the company rise to the occasion. The experience is enhanced further by the opulent costumes in rich shades of contrasting red and green for the rival groups.

It’s only a shame the intricacies and detail in the corps distract our attention from the main action. This said there is still much to appreciate and enjoy..ENB are a company with many rising stars in their ranks and it’s a pleasure to marvel at their top to bottom talent. Precious Adams gave a wonderfully regal stage presence and Sarah Kundi was eternally energetic in the tightly choreographed interplay between the Montagues and the Capulets.

R&J2Individually Erina Takahashi is a flighty, skittish Juliet and despite her experience she is all too believable love struck fourteen-year-old Juliet. She is a dance who can carry the weight of this role with delicacy and vulnerability. Isaac Hernandez’ Romeo is wistful and dreamy. His leaps light up the dingy Festival Hall stage however as a pair these two left me unsatisfied. Despite Takahashi’s tiny stature, the what should be effortless lifts and throws seemed clumsy and under-rehearsed. I got less passion and more sweet friendship resulting in less emotional investment in their plight.

The final tragic scenes feel laboured are some lengthy build up and the final image of the Capulets and Montagues embracing each other on sight of the deceased lovers will be a trifle too saccharine for some tastes.

Alison McWhinney took ownership of the role of Rosaline in a elegant, ethereal performance. Her fleeting floating and purity of movement always eye-catching.

Of course Nureyev’s production is not about the women. The men are the true focus, not just Romeo but we are indulged in plenty of blokey bravado from the leaders of the rival groups. There is some particularly enjoyable sword swishing from James Streeter’s majestic Tybalt and some accomplished exhibitionism from Fernando Bufala’s Mercutio, bum-wiggles et all.

Sadly the entire production is plagued by clunky and awkward scene changes. Curtains creak, and beds bang as they are disassembled all of which detracts our focus from the protagonists. The Festival Hall setting simply lacks the right atmosphere and amenities for such a large scale production.

ENB commit pluckily to the worthwhile cause, however Nureyev’s cluttered choreography and at times laboured storytelling means this Romeo and Juliet feels like an unnecessary struggle for a talented company.

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Image credit: Dave Morgan