Posts Tagged ‘Linbury’

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
Scottish Dances: Highland Flight & Bonnie Anne
Lancashire Clog Dance
Joy (2nd prize 2008 MacMillan Choreographic Awards)
Irish Dances: Lannigan’s Ball & Reels
Con Alma
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

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


Great review on Clement Crisp’s talk about the state of ballet

May 12, 2009

I had a Twitter person refer me to this wonderful report on Clement Crisp’s pre-show lecture at the National Ballet of Canada. Now, I didn’t agree with his take on Northern Ballet’s Hamlet, but it was certainly clear he’s got the decades of experience behind him. And this review makes clear that he’s also dedicated to one of my pet causes, supporting the future of ballet. It must not die, and to not die, it needs fresh blood in the forms of new choreography and new audience members. To die, it just needs to be allowed to become a museum piece.

That said, I’m helping (eep!) support the death of ballet by going to see Giselle tomorrow. It’s one of my favorite classical ballets, and I figure that it will be a nice addition to the version by the Mikhailovsky I saw last year and the version I saw performed by the Ballet Nacional de Cuba way back in ’99. (Good lord! A performance before I was blogging!) Sure, it’s a museum piece, but on the lines of the Mona Lisa when you’ve got an excellent company performing it. (Actually I’d say it’s more like Millais’ “Ophelia,” but that’s just me.)

In addition to a night with an old standard, I’m also going to see the New Works at the Linbury on Thursday, because I do, seriously, support the vitalization of this art form which I love so much. And to add to this, I’ll be popping over to Sadler’s Wells on Tuesday to see the Northern Ballet Theater’s mixed bill (Gillian Lynne’s “A Simple Man,” “Angels in the Architecture” and “As time goes by”). Supporting these performances will help ballet move forward as an art – but I’m going because I love ballet, and I love the chance to see new works, and the thought of seeing some amazing dancers performing makes me grin from ear to ear.

The rest of my month is going to mostly be classical music at the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music – three or four concerts (including Phantasm and Emma Kirkby) over its two weeks – and I’m really looking forward to it. I’m only going to see two plays – Exquisite Corpse at the Southwark Playhouse, and Aunt Dan and Lemon at the Royal Court. Overall, May won’t be much of a theater month, but I think it will be great!

Review – New Works in the Linbury (spring 2008) – Royal Ballet

May 22, 2008

Lured by the promise of seeing a Wayne McGregor piece I hadn’t yet had the fortune to see, I headed down to the Royal Opera House today to check out “New Works in the Linbury.” (Here’s the description of the show: “Monica Mason is delighted that The Royal Ballet are back in the Linbury Studio Theatre presenting a series of world premieres by choreographers from within the Company. Plus, there is an opportunity to see Wayne McGregor’s new short work Nimbus, which was specially commissioned for the World Stage Gala last November.”)

Well, the night is over and I’m not sure when the chance was to see Nimbus. Was it in the lobby before the show started? Was it a special “extra features” at the end of the night, after the dancers had all taken their bows as if it really was all over? Was he really laboring in such obscurity that it was no longer possible to see his stuff on stage? I really have no idea. Thankfully it meant there was also no chance of an unfortunate encounter with Mr. McGregor, in which I would be tearfully ashamed of liking his work so much and yet being no longer capable of speaking to him, but then, surrounded by what I can only assume were British ballet folk, I suddenly felt, well, I really was just a nobody anyway – none of these people were ever going to speak to me of their own will other than to tell me to please let them pass by or kindly stop whispering during the performance. What a change from the software testing conference I went two three weeks ago, when the giants in the field were all most open to speaking about their work and how it might relate to what you personally are experiencing, in a helpful, problem-solving way.

The list of works were as follows: “What If,” choreography Ernst Meisner, danced by Romany Pajdak and Sergei Polunin; “b,” choreography Viacheslav Samodurov, danced by Sarah Lamb and Ivan Putrov; “Of Mozart,” choreography Liam Scarlett, dancers a cast of hundreds (or rather eight); “Agitator,” choreography Matjash Mrozewski, danced by Isabel McMeekan and Thomas Whitehead; “Monument,” choreography Vanessa Fenton, also many dancers; “Stop Me When I’m Stuck,” choreography Jonathan Watkins, danced by Yuhui Choe, Lauren Cuthbertson …. and some more dancers, but I’m trying to avoid carpal tunnel here.

The opening number, as it turns out, was my favorite of the night. “What If” was just … what do they say, luminous? The two dancers were fun, young, athletic, and made me fall in love with them. They were young colts frolicking on stage, and though Romany seemed to not quite smoothly get two of her turns, I couldn’t help but get excited about a future of watching the two of them dance together.

Liam Scarlett’s “Of Mozart,” with a musical choice that couldn’t help but make me think of Mozart’s Journey to Prague, seemed straight out of the school of modern choreography that plays it straight, with lovely, classic costumes (long, toned skirts for the women; shorts and long sleeved, tight-fitting tops for the men); old music; and a dance vocabulary that’s very familiar but throws in occasional bits that show its modernity (feet held at a 90 degree angle; supporting dancers by holding the back of the neck). It even had little bubbly “personality” bits that made me think of Jerome Robbins; most notable was the hand movements (clenching; rotating; opening and closing) during a pizzicato movement. Liam really seems to get what I think modern ballet audiences want, and I expect he’s going to have a pretty successful career as he gets more fully into his stride.

Sadly, I don’t think what he’s producing is what ballet needs. How are we going to get new audiences? Are we going to stick to what’s safe until there are no more people under 65 watching ballet? I started thinking about “Chroma” and how awesome it was and how the choreography was just so blistering fresh at some point in the middle of “Of Mozart” and just couldn’t get my concentration back. The performance I was watching was fine, but it wasn’t pushing myself or the art just one little bit. I felt sad about this and kind of relieved that it was time for intermission.

After intermission the evening restarted with “Agitator.” This also wasn’t a genre-breaking piece, but … my god, could Isabel McMeekan dance. I could not get my eyes of her fantastic legs and her fluid movement from one position to another. (I felt a bit badly for Thomas Whitehead as he didn’t have nearly the opportunity to show off she did.) I felt like it was on the verge of breaking into that really exciting partnering work that Forsythe does, but no luck. That said – it was still pretty damned yummy. I’ll be watching for her in the future.

My last review is for my least favorite piece of the night – “Monument,” which is apparently by a choreographer that was quite popular with the audience. It all started off quite well, with fantastic electronica (“Pathogenic Agent”) by Jens Massel, aka Senking. The full-body, black with orange neon and glittery lines bodysuits were all a little to amusingly Cyberdogs for my taste, but we had black toe shoes to deal with and I was just kind of riding with it, watching the dancers contort themselves, the women’s feet arching in their shoes, the men throwing them over their shoulders, the music sounding really fantastic on the Linbury sound system.

And then it all went south. Maybe I had show fatigue; maybe … it was bad. Suddenly we transitioned into the second movement of Bach’s Violin Concerto in E, and we were staring at a couple on stage. The woman was stiff, her feet as flat as they can get, her eyes staring straight at the sky – and if we weren’t clear that she was dead, the man waved his arms over his head in this Z motion straight out of a Greek play (and, I think, Martha Graham). Good God! Why the obviousness? What happened to what we were watching before? Then it was grief, grieving, oh, the sadness, the other dancers joining in the sadness … and at the very moment I was thinking about what I’d just seen and how cliched it was and how with any luck I’d never see someone making this Z motion with their hands again … all of the dancers were doing it at the same time! AAAAUGH!

I’m afraid at this point I snapped the tether, and then I was looking at things like the bottoms of the pointe shoes (were they black, too?) and the violinist (Tatiana Bysheva, really making a career in classical music look sexy). Eventually it was over, and we got to watch “Stop Me When I’m Stuck,” which I was now too tired to really enjoy but J said reminded him of a dream ballet (it was his favorite bit of the night). There were occasionally some pretty great solos but I had my fill for the evening, and without Wayne, I felt like the evening had a few too many empty calories in it as a whole (despite being filled with utterly gorgeous dancers).

(This review was for a performance on Thursday, May 22, 2008. Reviews of the other pieces may come later.)

Will Tuckett’s Pinocchio at the Royal Opera House/Linbury

December 22, 2007

After work on Friday I went to the Royal Opera House for the misbilled “ballet” Pinocchio. It wasn’t a ballet; it was a sung opera, in that irritating modern style (like the Pierrot ballet, may I die before I see such a bad thing again), with accordion music backing it (making no fans in shadowdaddy). It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen, but I was grateful that it was short, and during the scene in the whale, I pointed out to bathtubgingirl, “Look! They’re swimming toward the denouement!” I also mentioned to her that she’s young enough now to know to skip it if they revive it.

I can’t get excited about writing about this show. We debated leaving during intermission but stuck through it though only because it was short. I can only say that the bit after the intermission was better because we saw the end drawing nigh. Music and ballet: I think it’s not a good combination.

(This review is for the December 22nd performance.)