Sunday 19 March 2017

Cornwall's Coup: Duchy Ballet's Sleeping Beauty

Tom Thorne and Laua Bösenberg in The Sleeping Beauty
Photo Zoe Green Photography
(c) 2017 Duchy Ballet: a;; rights reserved 

Duchy Ballet, The Sleeping Beauty, Hall for Cornwall, Truro, 18 March 19:30

Cornish folk are as different from Yorkshire folk as it is possible to be. Whereas denizens of my adopted county make exaggerated claims of excellence for everything even when it is quite ordinary, Cornish folk tend to hide their lights under a bushel even when they have something to be proud of. There seemed to be genuine surprise that anyone would drive from Holmfirth to see their show. "You mean to say you have driven nearly 400 miles just to see us" I heard more than once last night. "Well, yes," I replied, "it is a long way but not nearly as far as Cape Town from where your guest artists have flown." And how else am I to see a company that attracts the likes of Roberta Marquez and Laura Bösenberg. Nobody would say that in Yorkshire about the Huddersfield Choral Society which is indeed good. If you want to see the Choral sing The Messiah in Huddersfield Town Hall well you have to come to Huddersfield - if you can get a ticket, mind - and that's that.

Duchy Ballet is beginning to get some recognition outside Cornwall. Vanessa Roebuck wrote two and a half columns about them in the education section of this month's Dancing Times  (page 122 if you want to look it up) but that is not comparable with the attention that other youth ballets get and Duchy Ballet is at least as good. 

Why do I say it is good?  I offer two reasons.  It takes children, young people and those not so young from an enormous county and coaxes the best out of them but it never asked the impossible. Yesterday's production involved some tricky choreography - especially for the young soloists who carried it off magnificently - but it skipped the rose adagio for the obvious reason that the company would have to train up four strong male dancers and rehearse them for some time with Bösenberg which would have been asking far too much of them. Instead, several new divertissements were introduced for different age groups of children who were brilliant.  Secondly, it involves a wide section of the local community. Truro is not a big city but the Hall for Cornwall which seats well over 900 was not far short of full and there had been several other performances that weekend. There were deafening cheers for the corps. You could see families' involvement from the lovingly sewn costumes and the cleverly constructed forest to the slickness of the front of house.

Turning to the show itself I was impressed by the guest artists.  Rachael Gillespie of Northern Ballet, who had trained with Tom Thorne at Central, wrote: "Tom is a lovely guy and beautiful dancer." I did not get a chance to meet him though I am sure she is right but I can confirm that he is a beautiful dancer.  He is tall and very strong and commands the stage effortlessly.  Bösenberg is attractive in a different way. A winning smile combined with virtuosity, she follows in the tradition of Mason and Nerina.

Of course, the company had it's own stars. Terence Etheridge, who choreographed the show, was a magnificent Carabosse in the tradition of Robert Helpmann. The lilac fairy (danced, I think by Alabama Seymour) was delightful. Matthew Phillips was a great bluebird and he was partnered well by Amy Robinson. Jasmine Allen was a charming white cat.  I need to credit the wardrobe, those who made the sets, the lighting designer - I could go on but it's late and I have a long journey tomorrow.   The company won a standing ovation for its performance and that is all I need to say.

My congratulations to all involved - especially to the artistic director, Kay Jones, and Terence Etheridge whom I met briefly. I will follow the company and its talented young dancers with considerable interest.  I will write more about them by and by as I get to know this company better.

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