Monday, 25 March 2013

Central Forward

Ballet Central, The Lowry, Salford 25 March 2013

Ballet Central is the Central School of Ballet's touring company.  Its members are final year students on its honours degree course in professional dance and performance. Apparently that is the only degree course of its kind in the UK.  It is the sort of course I used to dream about when I was an undergraduate reading a conventional honours degree subject.

On 25 March 2013 I attended the company's octuple bill at The Quays theatre in the Lowry.  It was a wonderful show. One that I would eagerly have watched from beginning to the end immediately afterwards.  It was good to see the company in Manchester because it was founded by Christopher Gable who later became artistic director of the company that is now Northern Ballet.

The programme was arranged in three acts.  The first consisted of five short works by different choreographers including "Fireside Pas de Deux" by Gable himself. The music for that work (and indeed several others) had been composed by Philip Feeney and the maestro was at the piano in the auditorium. Indeed, I also caught a glimpse of him in the bar at the first interval.

All the ballets in the first act were good but the one I enjoyed most was Stacey Haynes's "Love on Top". Set to the music of Michael Bublé's "Cry me a River" and Beyoncé's "Love on Top" this was a jazz piece with the girls in black sparkly dresses and heels and the boys in white shirts and black ties. This was a work to show off the company's versatility and the boys' virtuosity with some spectacular jumps.

The second act showed the company in a familiar classical work, a pas de trois from Act III of Sleeping Beauty.  It was good to have this little bit of Petipa's choreography fresh in my mind as a reference point when watching Matthew Bourne's re-working of the ballet at The Alhambra in Bradford on Thursday. Tchaikovsky's score, Petipa's choreography executed convincingly by promising dancers with good technique resplendent in Richard Geller's sumptuous costumes this little work satiated all the senses. It was a good example of what I call total ballet.

The extract from Sleeping Beauty was followed immediately afterwards by Darshan Singh Bhuller's Mapping #3.  With males and females dressed alike in loose white judo style tops and trousers dancing to a score that included Shankar this was a perfect foil to Tchaikovsky and Petipa. The clever bit of the choreography was to protect dancers' movements on the floor on to a screen that gave the impression of weird and wonderful acrobatics.

If anyone wonders why I called this post "Central Forward" it is because the last act was about football.  At least that was one of the dreams of a bespectacled bookworm danced engagingly by Bethany Pike in Christopher Marney's anon. She also dreamt of Viennese waltzes. Sitting on a massive pile of books the bookworm receives a delivery of books from the postman into which she daydreams roles for herself first at a ball of which she was the belle and then at a football match in which she was the striker's darling. I loved Marney's humour - longing glances by the girl at the very fit postie and her futile attempts to dance a romantic pas de deux with her beau without her glasses. The quest for love makes fools of us all.  With costumes by Geller ingeniously morphing Royal Mail blue shorts and shirt into red and white football strip and music arranged by Feeney it was another example of total ballet.

This is the 30th anniversary tour by Ballet Central. Tours like this must provide  enormously valuable experience for young dancers at the start of their careers.  It is only possible through generous public support.  There are several ways in which balletomanes can help future tours from funding pointe shoes at £35 a throw to sponsoring a whole production or a dancer for £5,000.  Further information about helping the company is available from Joanne McIntosh, the company's development and communications director, on 020 7837 6332. Oh and don't forget the School which also welcomes support from its audiences. You  don't have to be Bloomberg to bankroll ballet.

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