Archive for July 9th, 2009

Mini-review – Royal Ballet School Linbury Performances 2009

July 9, 2009

On Friday I went with Alice and J to see the Royal Ballet’s School’s summer performances at the Linbury. Unfortunately I’m not going to be able to credit most of the dancers who performed as there were so many of them and no pictures to help me identify them, so this will have to be a short review that just captures the flavor of what went on.

The first half was mostly young dancers – to me they seemed to be about 8 to 10 years old, though they went up to 14 or so – in a series of very short pieces. It started with the youngest, 6 girls and about 10 guys – a veritable phalanx of little Billy Elliots! It was so exciting to think that a silly movie and bad musical had actually managed to make dancing cool for young guys – and awesome, too, as the worldwide weakness in men’s corps is painfully obvious. You go, boys!

As an overall comment, I was surprised by how incredibly conservative the dance style was – very traditional costumes and classical music, with an emphasis on cute (the cowgirl (Leanne Morris) kissing her suitors and “milking a cow” in the “Swiss Yodeling Song” was nearly too much, but then the cute red-headed boy in “Petit Pas de Trois” (Thomas Bedford) knocked the “adorable” ball out of the park). I was pleased to see there was a strong emphasis on non-toe, folk dance style work – I’ve often thought it was a neglected part of the Western dance program, based on how much more stronger this sort of ensemble work is in the Russian troupes I’ve seen. That said, I was a bit flabbergasted at the inclusion of a Lancashire clog dance, though I found the dignified approach the young blonde gentleman took to its performance great – he looked so proud, and even though I could have imagined him squirming in adolescent angst at the indignity of dancing with clogs, instead he performed like a total professional. It made me think he was really on the career track – and only about 14! I also was surprised at the inclusion of Irish and Scottish folk dancing, as I tend to think most ballet schools are too caught up in cultural snobbery to embrace their own folk dancing traditions. If only this kind of stuff would make it on the ballet stage more often – I feel like it would do a lot to encourage people to watch dance.

Con Alma, from this section, was especially notable for a long scen in which four men lifted and manipulated one woman as she “danced” (including pirouetting on a guy’s leg). She look petrified with terror, and, I think, rightly so – throughout I felt sorry for the young men who weren’t quite there in terms of being able to lift women overhead. Still, they need the opportunities to develop. And I imagined them teasing the girls for weighing so much in the way teenaged boys do. (A good story appeared just a few days later in teh Times about life in the ballet school – it was fascinating!)

The second half was mostly older students, some of them clearly on the verge of going off to do professional work. Still, despite the focus on classical scenes in a slightly larger vein, what I saw was the affect of youth on dance – a lack of skill in putting forth a character (always hard in short shows, but Albrecht should always be such a seducer – not really something a 16 year old boy could do), nerves (one poor fellow was covered in sweat), inexperience in keeping the stage face on (most of them did alright but I could see thinking going on). But it was lovely to watch them having this experience both to grow and to also to show off all that they have learned.

Sadly, I was unable to put names to the faces i found showing so much talent – the dark haired girl with the sparkling black eyes, the gangly boy with fluffy black hair and a big grin, the blonde fellow I mentioned earlier. I was hoping this could be a chance to “develop a relationship” with a dancer that I could track throughout their career. But it was not to be. Still I did enjoy my evenign and was very glad I got an opportunity to see this show.

The program was as follows:
Danse Bohemienne
Ukranian Suite
Facade: Scotch Rhapsody & Swiss Yodelling song
Petit Pas de Trois
Danse Russe
Seguidillas
Scottish Dances: Highland Flight & Bonnie Anne
Lancashire Clog Dance
Joy (2nd prize 2008 MacMillan Choreographic Awards)
Irish Dances: Lannigan’s Ball & Reels
Con Alma
(Interval)
Giselle (excerpts from Act 1)
Coppelia (excerpt from Act 3)
Broken Silecne (3rd Prize 2008 MacMillan Choreographic Awards)
Sleeping Beauty – Pas de Cinq act 3
Reawakening

(This review is for a performance that took place on Friday, July 3rd, 2009.)

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