Sunday, 24 May 2015

Better than Eurovision

KNT Danceworks, Move It, The Dancehouse, Manchester 23 May 2015

I crossed the Pennines last August to take KNT Danceworks's Complete Beginners' Ballet class when Northern Ballet Academy was on vacation and Hype and Team Hud were taking a short break. I thoroughly enjoyed the class and wrote about it in So Proud of Manchester - KNT Danceworks Complete Beginners Class. I liked it so much that I returned on the Monday, Tuesday and Thursday of the following week. As KNT were promoting classes in Liverpool I attended short classes with Karen Sant in ballet, jazz and contemporary in the splendour of the ballroom of Liverpool Town Hall (see It's not every Class that you can use Lord Canning's Eyes for Spotting 9 Sept 2014).

Because my over 55 classes at Northern Ballet in Leeds take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays and my classes with Fiona Noonan in Sheffield and Huddersfield are on Mondays and Wednesdays I have not been a regular in Manchester but I have continued to come whenever possible. I have also brought two of my friends from Yorkshire. Gita also liked Ailsa Baker's Complete Beginners' class and wrote about her experience in Coming Back to Ballet 12 March 2015. She and I also took a contemporary class with Ailsa which we both enjoyed (see My First Contemporary Dance Class 27 Feb 2015).

The reason we like KNT Danceworks so much is that they have some really good teachers. I have already mentioned Ailsa and Karen but I have also enjoyed class with other instructors whom I cannot name.  You will see some of my teachers in the above YouTube clip from last year's show and I think you will be impressed. They attract a good crowd of students of different ages and abilities all of whom are keen to learn. I like them a lot so when they put on a show called Move It at The Dancehouse team Terpsichore came to watch them.

You might have thought that KNT would have struggled to fill the auditorium on the night that the Eurovision Song Contest was on telly and Ballet Theatre UK were in Tameside  but far from it. There was a good crowd in a happy, clappy mood. Unlike the usual audience at the Grand or Palace there were folk of all ages, all races and both genders. A pretty representative sample of the population of Manchester I should say.

"Good evening" said a lady who later did a brilliant belly dance. The crowd mumbled. "Good evening" she repeated to a slightly louder response. "How are you?" The response became a murmur. "Do you like dancing?" A moderate "Yes".  "Do you know somebody in the show?" A much louder "yes". "So your job is to support them". That was answered with some serious applause. So she read out the acts that were to appear in the first half: intermediate ballet, tap, belly dancing, beginners' ballet, hula, African rhythm, contemporary, Chinese and contemporary.

All those acts were good and some were outstanding. My main interest was, of course, in the ballet. Both classes did well. Both had challenging choreography with music that I would not have found easy to dance to. The intermediate ballet cast were dressed as cats and slid across the floor. Two or three even ran off stage and into the audience. The beginners had some tricky temps levés which they executed well.  I am very proud to have done class with them and I have to congratulate Ailsa and Karen on a very creditable show.

Of the other acts I loved the African rhythm trio and the Chinese dancers. The Chinese, all women most but not all of whom appeared to be of Chinese heritage, wore beautiful costumes. They seemed to have a very wide repertoire for they were on stage longer than most of the other acts. I particularly liked a dance in which they waved and trailed long scarves. But I liked every part of the show - the contemporary, belly dancing, hula solo, jazz and contemporary.

After a short interval our compère reappeared but this time in a glamorous, shimmering costume. She introduced the remaining acts one of which was herself.  "We teachers like to dance as well" she explained. When she came on stage a few minutes later she was thrilling. I have not seen enough belly dancing to make comparisons but she seemed pretty good to me.  She deservedly got a deafening round of applause.

So, too, did the African dance trio who amazed us with their virtuosity. The man in the middle particularly with his cart wheels and hand and head stands. Their enthusiasm was infectious. First they got us clapping to the beat of the drums, then they got is waving and swaying our arms in time with them. They invited the audience to join them and one young woman did so. She was brilliant. I don't know whether she had rehearsed with the trio or whether she had picked up the dance on stage but she was a delight to watch.

There was one other star of the evening. A young woman of African or Afro-Caribbean heritage who danced with one of the advanced classes. I don't know her name but my guess is that she must be a teacher because she was very good. You can tell from her face that she loves to dance. She is vivacious and she can make her body do the most amazing things. She also got us clapping and moving in our seats.

There were also impressive performances by the hula dancers some of whom could rotate their hoops around one leg while balancing on the other.  There were some excellent jumps in the contemporary,  But once again it was the ballet that delighted me. The pointe class dazzled with "Putting on the Ritz" each of them with a tie round her neck which made for impressive turns.  The evening was rounded off with the advanced ballet class who were delightful. They wore lovely flowing dresses which emphasised their elegance.

I have to say a word for the technicians of the Dancehouse particularly the person in charge of the lighting. There were no props except for such things as the Chinese dancers' scarves and the pointe class's canes but there were plenty of changes of scene and mood and they were all accomplished with sound and lighting.

This week I have seen some great performances in York and Doncaster by Birmingham Royal Ballet and Northern Ballet and I left both theatres on a high. They are of course world class companies and one would expect them to be good. Last night I saw part-time dancers like myself - but I left The Dancehouse on no less a high.

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