Posts Tagged ‘london ballet reviews’

Review – Giselle – Mikhailovsky Ballet at the London Coliseum 2010

July 26, 2008

I’ve realized there’s little point in posting a review of a show that’s already finished up as most people look for them to help determine whether or not to go, but I will say just a bit about this show, sparing you the details about trying to find someone to go with me when my date for the evening said, “But … but … I totally forgot about you buying me those tickets for my birthday!” (Grr!)

Last night we saw the Mikhailovsky Ballet performing Giselle at the London Coliseum, part of a five night/three show visit by this group. I’m not sure if they’ve ever been to London before, but I was pretty eager to check them out … I’ve enjoyed the visits by the Bolshoi and was quite sad when I found out they weren’t coming to London this summer. The prices were quite high (again), so I decided against seeing more than one show, but I’ve noted that they’ve had tickets available at the half price booth everyday so some concessions have been made to keeping ticket costs in the breathable part of the atmosphere. I guess part of the issue is also that the Coliseum is really just such a barn – it’s hard to fill every seat, and, really, many of them aren’t that good; still, I suspect there are far few crappy seats at the Coliseum than there are at the Opera house (and let me tell you, when they say “standing room, restricted view,” they mean “enjoy the music because for between 60 and 40 percent of the time, that’s all you’re getting). The Coliseum also just has more damned seats, but this is good as it means less sell outs (which is how I wound up in lame standing side seats at the ROH).

At any rate, due to having most of the rest of the week booked (notice the near daily postings here, and, truth be told, I’m actually a day behind as I’ve already seen another show but not had time to write about it yet), Giselle was the winning show. I had seen this done by the Cuban National Ballet in Seattle some years ago and loved it; the story is quite fun (young girl falls in love with prince and then dies of a broken/faulty heart; ghost of young girl finds prince in wood and tries to KILL KILL KILL him – or something close enough to that, basically act two has evil fairies, which is enough for me to love the show) and the music is good. The surviving 19th century ballets are really just quite good and since every company plays them differently, it never gets old to see them (especially when they have great scores).

The show starred Anastasya Matvienko, who is apparently famous. I, of course, didn’t know her, because I am not up to date on dancers around the world; I just try to learn the ones in the local groups. She was really just extremely good – light hearted and lovely as a young woman; beautiful and powerful as a Wili (evil fairy). I was really amazed by how expressive she was with her feet – watching her dance during the second half, after the prince has been caught by the Wilis, was really impressive. She also brilliantly captured the “mad scene” after the prince’s identity (and non-availability) was revealed. Suddenly with her big eyes and her thin face she looked every bit the broken hearted, out of control, sickly teenaged girl who really just wasn’t going to make it past the end of act one. So Matvienko pulled off the thing I rarely see in Russian dancers – great acting married to the (expected) excellent technique – and she didn’t show off so much that it distracted from the story being told. I applaud her, and add this: I could not take my eyes off of her when she was on stage. What a treat!

She was paired with Denis Matvienko, who did a good job of being both arrogant, fearful, and, finally, tender and loving. His bravado leaps in the first act (which I always tend to think of as “showing off to the girl to prove how virile he is”) were high and sharp, including the ones with the half-turn in the air (God, can I please talk to somebody who can actually help me learn more about ballet so I can describe what’s going on with the right words?), but he also seemed to really understand how his dance conveys character and situation, so when he’s being forced to dance by the Queen of the Wilis (Oksana Shestakova), the smoothness and, well, lack of passion in his dancing – a bit hard to convey when you’re also trying to show that you’re being forced to dance very hard – really nicely conveyed the idea of being bewitched. Good on you, Denis, and as a side note, very nice work by Roman Petukov in the role of the the man who does have to dance himself to death. Actually, I’m a bit amused, because both Giselle and “The gamekeeper” die, but instead of feeling moved at the tragedy, instead I was excited by how good their dancing was. It seemed morbid, but, what can I say, I loved watching them and they gave great performances!

Anyway, in short: gorgeous. My only complaint is the lighting design – it was irritating to watch the dancers walk from light into shadow when merely going across the stage, and some places in which the dancers were standing were positively dark. The follow spot operator also did a poor job of keeping the light on the person who was the center of attention in any given scene, something which would have helped overcome the deficiencies in the lighting of the set. And, truth be told, I preferred the choreography that the Ballet Nacional de Cuba used, which had much more forceful Wilis – I just didn’t get the kind of shivers up my spine that I did when watching theirs (though I was happy to say goodbye to the cheesy 70s sets). That said, I am sorry I am not going back to see the triple bill tomorrow but my wallet failed to make the grade. With luck we’ll see them again next year!

(This review is for a performance that took place on Friday, July 25th, 2008.)

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Carlos Acosta and Friends – London Coliseum

April 10, 2008

Tonight was the long-anticipated “Carlos Acosta and Friends” show at the London Coliseum I bought tickets for, er, two or more months back. Since I’ve moved here, I’ve become quite a fan of this dancer. The show I saw him in two autumns ago blew me away; I felt as if I were in the presence of a Barishnikov, of one of the true legends of dance. The way he lands his jumps, the angle his body takes in the air, his attentive partnering, his stage presence … he leaves me breathless. It’s just hard to believe dance can be this good.

The show was very equally focused on Mr. Acosta and the various members of Danza Contemporanea de Cuba. It opened with Alicia Alonzo’s staging of Petipa’s “Don Quixote Pas de Deux,” with Yolanda Correa. Whew – what a dancer she was! When he held her up on pointe – her other leg extended behind her, one arm gracefully above her, the opposite hand in his – and then let her go, it was like she was pinned to the floor, like seeing a hummingbird poised in the air in front of a flower. Acosta was also amazing – he did a leap that I thought was physiologically impossible – something about how he threw his back and his leg just made me think he couldn’t possibly do that and then land on his feet, and yet he did, and then repeated it. I can’t really even describe the jump, it didn’t seem like how a human being could move and my brain couldn’t process it. Anyway, even though I frequently find these old-time ballet duets cheesy, with two such brilliant performers it was all fireworks and left the audience roaring. And God, can Acosta spin! I’m surprised the floor didn’t catch on fire.

Next up were two contemporary pieces featuring the Cuban company. The first one, George Cespedes’ “La EcuaciĆ³n,” didn’t initially seem very promising. Four dancers walked, one by one, onto a silent stage on which was a wire cube, about 10 feet high; each dancer paused in the cube and did some kind of … well, it seemed like horrible mime, and as the audience members coughed loudly I couldn’t help but feel they were passing some kind of judgment on the piece.

But then the music came on and the lights flashed to color and the cube became all their was of the stage, and suddenly we were watching what seemed to me very much like an insane Capoeira demonstration. It was all about stylized street fighting, the three women and the man bouncing off each other, in twos, in threes, dancing all four, ganging up two on one, flipping each other over their arms, while this driving Cuban drum music made me want to get up and dance. I caught that Alena Leon and Sorgalim Villarrutia were in this piece, and two other dancers whose names I’m not sure of (the program didn’t make it clear which of four possibilities were on each night), and LOVED their commitment and energy. Every second they were on stage they were completely “there,” completely engaged with each other if they were partnering, and their bodies moved like magic. It was really energizing, even in our crap seats in the second balcony. Shockingly, the dancers ended the piece as if they still had a little more in them – hard to believe, really!

The third piece, “El Peso de Una Isla” (also by Cespedes) started out with a smoke covered stage that the various members of the 14 or so strong company slithering out and then doing backflips or something on stage. I didn’t know what to think – were they zombies? Were they vampires? Was this suddenly going to turn into “Thriller?” What it did turn into was a pretty big group thing with a lot of couple work, a lot of spinning on knees, falling onto backs and then knees, men pushing women around, women catching men and yanking them … and it all just seemed to take a little too long.

The final piece, “Tocororo Suite,” had a live Cuban band and the entire Danza ensemble. It’s about Carlos discovering … I don’t know, he needs to leave ballet behind and learn the moves of his country? It didn’t really seem to have much of a plot, but there was very fine Cuban dancing, Carlos got to show off a bit, and the music was great. I fear Mr. Acosta doesn’t really have great chops as a choreographer, but … one can hope this will change over time, as at 35 the word on the street is he’s passed his peak. That said, I’m going to make it my mission to see everything he’s in in the next year so I can take advantage of him while he’s around.

Overall, it was a good evening – not brilliant like the Sadler’s Wells production I saw some 18 months ago, but fun with great dance and wonderful music. I would recommend it, though tickets are VERY steep – best to go if you love Acosta or Cuban music/dance (or, like me, both).

Royal Ballet Mixed Rep: Robbins’ “Afternoon of a Faun,” Balanchine’s “Zigane” and … something by Wheeldon

March 26, 2008

Last night I went to Covent Garden with Josela and Mabel_Morgan to see the mixed bill on offer. I hadn’t initially been too tempted, as I have yet to see a dance incorporating video that I’ve liked; but when I read that Carlos Acosta was going to be strutting his stuff AND there would be a Jerome Robbins piece, I was sold – especially when I realized I could get Ye Olde 5 quid day of show tickets. Color me shallow, not in the least because I decided I could leave without seeing the last performance (by Ashton, who’s still very “whatever” in my book) and then have some much needed time to pack. Oh well, I guess they wouldn’t have two intermissions if they didn’t want to let us leave without disturbing everyone else.

So, the Wheeldon – “Electric Counterpoint,” brand new and all, only on its fifth performance. Can I mention the night started extremely well, thanks to getting a free, bad-work-memory-erasing, second round of margaritas at Wahaca? Anyway, music credited to Bach and Reich – I was happy about that. But. Oh, the but. The dancers each came on stage for little solos, accompanied by some Bach and their own voices speaking about how they felt about dance and while dancing, while a video of him/her performed behind on a screen, sometimes mirroring them, sometimes illustrating what they were saying. It wasn’t bad, the dance and the video, but the movement was uninteresting (sadly on both parts) and the voiceovers were vapid. I mean, gosh, I’m sure the dancers are nice people, but all of it was a distraction from the dance, and the dance wasn’t good. Mabel said the whole thing reminded her of “Creature Comforts,” a TV show (I was told) in which normal people answer questions and their answers are then reproduced as claymation. Horribly, I think she was right.

The second half of the piece benefited from having nothing but the live Reich to listen to, and while I enjoyed it, it didn’t have a lot of energy or excitement – a quality sadly shared by the action on stage. I’ve seen Wheeldon do good couple work, and there were some moments when I got lost watching two people just dancing with each other, but mostly I just had no response to the performance at all. The videos weren’t always aggravating and I was mostly able to ignore them, but … it just seemed like a big failure to me, one of those pieces that will get revived one more time and then fall out of rep. So it goes.

Next up was Jerome Robbins “Afternoon of a Faun,” which, to my surprise, I realized I had seen before the one time we’d seen City Ballet in New York. It’s a clever play on the traditional story, with a sexy dancer lounging about in a studio, but to be honest what I really want to see is the original choreography. I aslo wanted it to be longer. And I wanted a pony.

Finally it was time for “Zigane,” a Balanchine piece I’d not seen before. It was kind of fun and certainly better than the Martins I’d seen the night before, but in no way mindblowing – fun, well-executed filler that he probably crapped out at a nickle for the dozen back in the day. We all left together; if I’m going to be convinced of the genius of Ashton, it’s far more likely to happen at Sylvia than during a short work.

(This review was for a performance that took place Wednesday, March 19th, 2007.)

Review – English National Ballet’s “Nutcracker” – London Coliseum

December 17, 2006

Alternate title: Clara’s First Acid Trip. Clara comes home from college and decides to chemically improve her holiday visit. With all of the wacky guests “dropping” in her folks’ house, there’s no doubt she’s having a great time! Her uncle Elvis Drosselmeier gives her a toy nutcracker, which she completely gets hung up on in a way sobriety will prove oh too embarassing. Too wired to sleep, she returns to the living room after everyone else has gone to bed, only to discover the Christmas tree glows and glows, then grows and grows! Later on she has fights with giant mice, sees her Nutcracker come to life, and then goes on a magical journey to Sugar Plum Land, where she watches snowflakes dancing. Eventually, she flies away on a paper crane with her Nutcracker man, and thus ends another fine holiday.

Anyway, that’s what I saw today, though I think it’s not the subtext they intended. The backdrops were SO “Oh the Places You Will Go!” and the dancing not so good. Next year: the Royal Ballet’s Nutcracker.