Northern Ballet’s Casanova at Sadler’s Wells 09/05/17

covermedia-northern-ballet-cover.1477395346

There is something to be said for a ballet that despite lacking clarity in the narrative can still be pulled off by its dancers and remain hugely enjoyable visual spectacle and this is certainly true of Kenneth Tindall’s first full length story ballet, Casanova. Ably supported by a highly talented creative team, Casanova is a glossy, proud and distinctive first work from Tindall. The various encounters of the protagonist may all blur into one as we move from various locations in Venice to Paris but ultimately, we still understand Casanova’s conflicted mindset throughout.

The marriage of Christopher Oram’s set and Kerry Muzzey’s often mournful score lift Casanova to be the intense viewing experience it is. It is dripping with mesmerising images; from the moment the curtain raises, the burning incense hanging low from the ceiling and razor thin shards of light shown within the church, to the opulence and grandeur of the Masquerade ball and gambling table.

Read the full review on CultureWhisper.com

James Thierrée & Compagnie du Hanneton – The Toad Knew, Sadler’s Wells 03/05/17

methodetimesprodwebbin38a470e8-6adb-11e6-998d-9617c077f056James Thierrée’s latest offering is an another polarising work from theatrical experimentalists Compagnie du Hanneton. Having previously presented work in London in 2007 and 2014, Thierrée and co are making their much anticipated return to Sadler’s Wells to intrigue and shock a fresh audience; it will certainly divide opinion.

Entitled The Toad Knew, it is impossible to pinpoint the piece as being about anything in particular at all, but this 90-minute show is oddly captivating once you accept its lack of narrative and that events simply occur as a stream of consciousness.

You need to let go early on and be content to go with the flow; “Perhaps foolish things can become meaningful,” Thierrée posits in the programme.

Until May 7th at Sadler’s Wells. First published on BroadwayWorld.com

Remembering Fred at the London Palladium 14/04/17

3.Remembering Fred 20172017 has become affectionately known by Strictly fans as “The One With All the Tours”. With The Strictly Live Tour, Anton & Erin and Brendan Cole all having just finished nationwide runs and the likes of the Clifton’s Giovanni Pernice, Pasha Kovalev and others all embarking on runs soon competition is strong and and the need to stand out never more pivotal.

Remembering Fred is the inaugural tour of Aljaz Skorjanec and Janette Manrara who have cleverly employed the help of one of dance’s best loved masters to enhance their appeal. Skorjanec and Manrara are two professionals at their peak but unfortunately this tour’s concept is still a little rough around the edges.

Read the full review in Dancing Times – May 2017

Buy tickets & tour info

Matthew Bourne’s Early Adventures at Sadler’s Wells 04/04/17

matthew_2In 2017 the New Adventures company is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Younger dance fans will know Bourne for his iconic Swan Lake, Nutcracker!, gothic themed Sleeping Beauty and most recently The Red Shoes but here Bourne revisits some popular works from the early years. The triple bill features a comparatively small cast and harks back to some more simplistic concepts that still remain hugely entertaining.

The evening starts with a brief visit down memory lane in Watch with Mother, a piece very much aimed at audiences for whom the title will speak for itself. It’s a playful romp exploring childhood games as well as casting an eye to bullying and the loneliness of being excluded from friends at school. The quirky, comical stereotyping is all there along with the heartwarming ending where one of the flighty girls offers her hand to a previously lonely classmate.

The piece overall feels like it deliberately lacks a little refinement. The humour is obvious and the gear changes are quite vast as we go from schoolyard games to the loneliness and isolation of bullying indicated from Percy Grainger’s mournful piano compositions. It’s still clear to see where the seeds were sown for Bourne’s later global hits though, there is slow, weaving, undulating choreography used in some solo moments, strongly reminiscent of those in Sleeping Beauty and precise synchronised movement from the wider ensemble.

Town and Country is even more recognisable as an early Bourne success in which a touch of camp is never far away. In Country, we see two farm hands perform their own take on the ribbon dance from La Fille Mal Gardee and natural hilarity ensues. Bourne has to work a little harder for the humour in Town and dutifully delivers. A beautifully choreographed set piece ensues where a group of servants bathe and dress their self-absorbed middle-class employers as they swish about the bathroom with exaggerated sweeping movements. Charismatic Mari Kamata really steals the show here with her impeccable timing and easy extensions.

The references to Brief Encounter in Town are skillfully done too. A pair of couples pull off the famous station cafe scene with perfect synchronicity. Lez Brotherston’s designs are evident and come into their own too with a towering Big Ben in the foreground.

Town is well conceived and staged however with Country Bourne has chosen easy fodder for comedy and cliche. There’s plenty to poke fun at; unpredictable animals, clog dancing and of course a healthy sexual appetite are all ticked off the list. Animals feature through the use of puppetry and the moment when the hedgehog meets his death during the over enthusiastic clog dance is genuinely amusing and Bourne wisely revisits later in the piece displaying his talent for entertaining the audience and engaging storytelling.

JS120216583_Johan-Persson_EARLY-ADVENTURES-large_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqpVlberWd9EgFPZtcLiMQf1X_50byq9Ah3wJAV0YS_MsFrench satire The Infernal Gallop completes the bill and by this point, the choreography in this third and final piece begins to feel repetitive compared to the Bourne we’re used to. Featuring the full cast of nine dancers the concept seeks to expose the English’ assumptions on French culture; stripy shirts, high-jinx at some urinals and the cancan all feature. The piece does offer space for some flat out dance allowing the female cast (Kamata along with Sophia Hurdley and Jamie Emma McDonald) to really inject some power and ownership of the stage.

In essence, these works don’t grab you in the way Bourne’s modern classics do, there’s a patchy lack of variety in the choreography and cliches can be pushed too far. However, they work nicely as enjoyable tit-bits or a satisfying stocking filler to the unforgettable blockbusters that followed later.

3 Star Review

First published on LondonTheatre1.com

Jewels at the Royal Opera House 01/04/17

dm-emeralds-ryoichi-hirano-laura-morera-pdd_1000It’s plain to see why Jewels, Balanchine’s work that marks it’s half-century this year, has an enduring appeal. It’s a pure, glossy, glittering spectacle to be devoured and enjoyed by those viewing it. The advantage of a plotless ballet is that it allows one to sit back and absorb the beauty of the movements, costuming and staging, and that’s what good theatre for the masses is all about.

The evening warms up gradually with the elegant and understated Emeralds set to Gabriel Faure’s melodic score. Emeralds whets the appetite nicely for the indulgence of Rubies and Diamonds that follows, with gentle ambience and similarly effortless dancing. Beatriz Stix-Brunell is regal and controlled, while Laura Morera displays intelligent musicality and super sharp footwork. Morera portrays a vibrant impression of Balanchine’s style of movement, all big, bold shapes while still delicately springing from foot to foot in her pointe shoes.

Read the full review on BroadwayWorld.com

 

MOVE IT 2017 at the ExCel Centre 12/03/17

article-0-1218B48C000005DC-376_468x702It occurred to me in the build up to dance extravaganza MOVE IT this year that it marks exactly ten years since I first set foot inside this now impossibly huge exhibition as a wide eyed teenager. Very little has changed in earnest beyond the scale and the now conscious emphasis on hip hop and contemporary rather than classical, but there’s still more than enough to keep all varieties of dance fan occupied over this hectic weekend.

Last year, MOVE IT moved itself a few miles east to London’s Excel Centre. Despite being a pain to get to from just about anywhere this has proven to be an inspired choice in terms of securing the future of the UK’s biggest dance event. Back at Kensington Olympia, the three day show was beginning to feel suffocated. Navigation was near impossible and any kind of crowd management always failed miserably. At the Excel there is room to breathe (just) and further extensions of the MOVE IT brand have space to develop.

MOVE FIT, a new fitness and lifestyle arm to the show makes it’s debut this year boasting over 100 fitness classes, a main stage with interactive workout sessions and numerous stands encouraging you to buy shiny lycra and the latest health concoction of whatever is cool at the moment. The main stage is nestled closely to the exhibitors meaning … 

First published in Dancing Times – April 2017

English National Ballet Triple Bill at Sadler’s Wells 23/03/17

ENBTripleAs her experience as Artistic Director grows, Tamara Rojo continues to get bolder and ever more ambitious.

Before Rojo, English National Ballet always felt bound by public demand, dutifully putting all the classics the common ballet-goer wanted, the Nutcrackers, the Swan Lakes and the Romeo and Juliet’s because this is what ballet was to so many. This tune has been inconceivably changed since and Rojo boldly characterized her plans in a memorable Modern Masters triple bill two years ago.

Her rejuvenation of the company since then has resulted in a run on uninterrupted successes. So much so we’re almost waiting to see if she will ever put a foot wrong. The company very much feels like Rojo’s own now, dancers have come and gone and the corps largely comprises of those who only know Rojo’s tenureship.

Unlike two years ago, the evening opens instead of closes with Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated.  The powerful clashing, crashing score is pretty grating after twenty odd minutes or so but choreographically it remains as exciting as ever especially with so many debut performances. There are unexpected and impressive showings from Precious Adams, Madison Keesler and Sarah Kundi who continually caught my eye. Adams undulates so rhythmically and Kundi’s petite frame exhibits the wonderfully snappy musicality required for this piece. Together these nine dancers skillfully bring multiple personalities and textures to Forstythe’s choreography set to Thom Willems relentless score.

Tiffany Hedman attacked the piece with all the confidence and fearlessness of a dancer ranked far higher than a First Artist. For those twenty five minutes she was an accomplished principle demanding the attention of the Sadler’s Wells stage, her lithe legs repeatedly extending beyond imagination into the memorable poses symbolic of the Forsythe’s renowned work. Emerging Dancer winner Cesar Corrales is the standout male in the piece, his strength and precision  enlivening the piece further.

ENBTriple2This intense start is counterbalanced by the calming inclusion of Hans van Manen’s trio of duets danced to Beethoven’s Adagio Hammerklavier. It’s a work in which the dancers featured gentle billow as peacefully as the backing curtain that wafts intermittently. And what a sextet of dancers we are treated to the work of. Young Principal Laurretta Summerscales who moved with such zest and athleticism in the Forsythe piece is a picture of control here whilst still managing to convey the rippling undercurrent of tension between the couples in her beautiful arm and head placement. Her dancing is raw and vulnerable and Fabien Reimar is a strong and resilient partner.

Van Manen’s choreography is pure classical heaven and those who have a soft spot for the traditional stalwarts of the repertoire will enjoy this. Beethoven’s score is not demanding for the ear, however it is the slowness that makes it a challenge to dance.

It’s left to Rojo herself to present a masterclass in poise and elegance. The painfully slow balances are so clear, crisp and effortless. Isaac Hernandez meanwhile ably assists her and demonstrates an abundance of energy whilst not losing the feel of softness and sensitivity.

ENBTriple3Above all it’s the attention to detail, precision that demands respect here. In a rush to put out new work so many companies appear under rehearsed but that cannot be said about this piece, indeed this whole bill is faultless in its committed approach. The van Manen six make such tricky synchronicity look so effortless.

The evening is completed by the much anticipated The Rite of Spring. Pina Bausch’s 1975 work has only ever previously be danced by Bausch’s own company and the Paris Opera Ballet and as such, securing permission for the ENB collaboration is no small feat.  

Bausch certainly creates an atmosphere of intensity and freneticism that slowly builds but it’s a far less accessible piece for the ballet goer that ENBs work would once have appealed to. This is no bad thing but, for me, the work felt directionless and the narrative asked too many questions. Criticism aside, nothing can be taken away from 18 year old Francesca Velicu making her debut in the central role here. Her dance of death is a highly uncomfortable five minutes as we periodically hear her cries and whimpers amongst her gasps for breath. It can only be a matter of time before she rises up the ranks.

Put simply, the current ENB are a very exciting company to watch, and with each success under Rojo’s belt, increased anticipation mounts on what she will do next.

First published on LondonDance.com