Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Gala for Ghana

Last Sunday some of our finest performers gave up their evening (and no doubt a lot more rehearsal time) to dance, sing and make music at a gala at the Britten Theatre for Ashanti Development. This is a charity set up by Ghanaians living in London to raise money for development in the Ashanti region of Ghana. It has done some remarkable work in health care, sanitation, education and income generation. It was a wonderful evening and I for one am doubly grateful to the artists not only for their magnificent performances but also for supporting a very worthwhile cause.

The evening consisted of 14 items introduced by Harriet Thorpe.  Though now an actor Thorpe said that she had studied at the Royal Ballet School. "That training never leaves you" said Thorpe and she offered to stand in for any dancer who might be indisposed. Happily, nobody was indisposed  but I have no reason to doubt that she would have risen to the occasion had she been put to the test.

The works were as follows:

Two ballets were premièred on Sunday - Avant la Haine and Clair de Lune - and we saw Volver, Volver only a few days after MEN IN MOTION's première and these were three of the works that impressed me most. It was the first time I had seen choreography by Ondiviela and Zucchetti and I am certainly looking froward to seeing more.

Avant la Haine means Before the Hatred and if I understood the ballet correctly it tracks the breakup of a relationship. I had last seen Whitehead in Giselle (see "Giselle - Royal Ballet 18 Jan 2014" 20 Jan 2014) and I may be biased because he comes from Bradford but Whitehead has become one of my favourite dancers. In this ballet he appears to fight with Bracher actually delivering what seemed to be a rabbit punch. Far worse than just spilling the beans about a philanderer but don't get me started on Giselle because I know my views are unpopular.

Zucchetti's Clair de Lune was one of the most delightful new ballets I have seen for some time. Part of the credit must go to Debussy whose music like Aaron Copland's is particularly apt for ballet but much must got to the lyrical choreography and the elegance by which it was interpreted by the dancers. I hope to see this work again.

Watson was, of course, magnificent. It devolved in a fascinating way which I won't reveal from those who are to see MEN IN MOTION. I was urged to go by Susan Dalgetty who pressed a flyer into my hands at the London Ballet Circle AGM. I did not buy a ticket largely because one can't see everything, especially if it means trekking to London but I think I made the wrong choice. When I see a dancer like Watson I am reminded of the remark attributed to Einstein about dancers being "the athletes of God."

And what of the rest? I had decided not to go to this gala until I saw Dave Wilson's post on BalletcoForum that Glurdjidze was to dance the Dying Swan. This was a ballet that I had always wanted to see but have never managed to catch. When she was a little girl my mother saw Pavlova dance it in Leeds and the impression never left her.  I have seen some flickering footage of Pavlova many times but I have always wanted to see it on stage (see "In Leeds of All Places" 18 Sept 2013). Owing to a problem with the Royal College's e-commerce system I feared I would not get a ticket for the show but thanks to Josephine and Bangor Ballet Boy they put me in touch with a lady who had a ticket to sell. It was a good seat too right in the centre of the dress circle. I am so grateful to all concerned.  Well Dying Swan lived up to my expectations. It was danced beautifully. I became pretty emotional earlier in the day when I saw Antoinette Sibley again for the first time in decades. Tears do not come to me easily but I felt the tears welling up when I saw this ballet. It was good that we had Wagner and Strauss before more dancing.

But my favourite work of the evening was Cuthbertson's Requiem.  I admire her greatly.  More perhaps than any ballerina in the Royal Ballet since Sibley. Indeed she reminds me a little of Sibley. She shows the same grace. In this work she danced to a voice that complemented her movement remarkably. I long to see this work again and preferably with the same artists.

The evening was over too quickly. But the show did not exactly end there. On the way out there was more music and dance from two Ghanaian ladies with collection buckets rattling their containers to a rhythm and chant "Thank you! God bless you!" My only surprise and slight regret was that there were no Ghanaians on stage and few even in the audience. Well it was a sell out and ballet is only beginning to establish itself in Sub-Saharan Africa. But it is taking root there as I have mentioned elsewhere (see "Michaela dePrince" 4 April 2013 and "What can be achieved by a good teacher" 3 March 2013). I hope to see a Ghanaian ballerina or premier danseur noble step out on stage in my lifetime. There is already a Sierra Leonean on her way to the Linbury on the 28 and 29 May 2014.

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