Friday, 30 June 2017

More than "Dancing Bananas": Chantry Dance's Demystification of Contemporary Dance

Halifax Victoria Theatre
Author: Space Monkey
Reproduced licensed by the user
Source Wikipedia

Chantry Dance Company  Demystifying Contemporary Dance 29 June 2017, 19:00  Halifax Victoria Theatre

Chantry Dance Company is a family enterprise based in Grantham in the East Midlands which was already famous for its parish church with its chained bible and magnificent spire, its biennial science festival in honour of Sir Isaac Newton the most famous scholar of the town's grammar school who was born and raised nearby, its Beehive pub with its living inn sign and, of course, the grocer's shop in which Baroness Thatcher, our first woman Prime Minister was born. Chantry Dance has recently added to the fame of that handsome market town with their performances and school.

I first came across Chantry Dance just over three years ago when I allowed myself to be dragged onto the stage of the Lincoln Drill Hall by Gail Gordon to take part in a dance workshop called Dream Dance where four of us created and danced a modern ballet to accompany the company's performance of The Sandman (see Chantry Dance Company's Sandman and Dream Dance 10 May 2017). That was the first time I had danced in public and it emboldened me to put my name down for Northern Ballet Academy's  end of term show (see The Time of my Life 28 June 2014) and a number of other shows right down to last May's MoveIt in the Dancehouse on Oxford Road in Manchester (see "Show!" The Video 10 Jun 2017). But for Chantry Dance, it is unlikely that I would I have tried any of that which would have been a pity because I have also found out that performance is essential to dance education.

But I digress.  Chantry Dance has expanded the show it performed in Lincoln in 2014 into a full-length work which it is taking on tour (see The Sandman Tour 27 Jan 2017) including the North (see Chantry Dance goes North 14 March 2017). To prepare audiences for that work the company's directors, Paul Chantry and Rae Piper, are visiting some of the venues in which they will perform with an audio-visual presentation called Demystifying Contemporary Dance  (see Demystifying Contemporary Dance 1 June 2017). I caught them yesterday in Halifax in the bar of the Victoria Theatre.

Having seen hundreds if not thousands of ballet and other dance performances over the last 50 years, having kept this blog since 2013, having attended adult ballet classes for most of that time and having read loads of books and articles on all forms of dance I doubted that there was anything Paul and Rae could tell me in a PowerPoint presentation that I did not already know. I was wrong,  I learned a lot last night.

Rae started her presentation with exploding some myths about contemporary dance such as "It's all about dancing bananas" with a great slide of dancers in banana shaped tutus. She and Paul started with the characteristics of classical ballet (Paul trained at Central and Rae has been dancing since she was 5) and then the history of dance. They illustrated various points with a dance or demonstration.  So, the question "will you marry" me was reflected in a balletic flourish of the arms about the head ending with the right hand pointing to the ring finger.

They proceeded to the divergence from the classics such as The Rite of Spring, Les Noces and L'Après Midi d'un Faune by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, Isadora Duncan where Rae danced a few steps from one of her routines, Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham and finally to Mats Ek, Wayne McGregor and Sir Matthew Bourne of our own time and a summary of their respective contributions to dance. They listed some of the characteristics of modern dance and Paul appeared in a boiler suit and brush to demonstrate all of those.  The evening ended with a duet from The Sandman which the company will dance on the main stage in September.

There followed a Q & A and a mingling wth the audience which would have continued all night had an official not reminded us with a gentle "Eh Up!" that he had a home to go to even if we didn't. There will be similar presentations next month in Andover, Horsham and Lincoln and if you live in or near any of those places I would advise you to go.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

The Ultimate Masterclass

Richard MacDonald working with Sergei Polunin
Author Richard MacDonald
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported licence

It will not surprise readers that Sergei Polunin masterclass at Danceworks between 13:00 and 14:30  on 18 July 2017 is sold out. There is a waiting list although I am sure that must be as long as the River Nile by now but if you want to put your name down in the hope that everyone ahead of your drops out you will find the link on Danceworks 2017 Ballet Summer Masterclasses page.

I have only seen him dance once at the Yorkshire Ballet Summer School Gala at Sadler's Wells in 2013 and I remember that he was pretty impressive (see More Things I do for my Art - Autumn Gala of Dance and Song  30 Sept 2013). He had just flown in from Moscow and had a taxi waiting outside the theatre to rush him back to Heathrow where he hoped to catch his flight home.

He has changed ballet companies quite a lot over the years which does not endear him to everybody but his formidable talent is undeniable as I noted in Sergei Polunin 3 March 2017 when I reviewed his film Dancer and his video Take me to Church.

If you miss Polunin's you can still attend a masterclass with Nathalie Harrison, Melissa Hamilton or Ivan Putrov later in July and they are also special.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

New Moves 2017

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Dutch National Ballet New Moves Music Theatre, Amsterdam, 26 June 2017 20:15

I have been following the Dutch National Ballet for several years now and have seen some great shows such as Ted Brandsen's Mata Hari and Coppelia (see Brandsen's Masterpiece 14 Feb 2016 and Brandsen's Coppelia  12 Dec 2016) and Natalia Makarova's La Bayadère (see Dutch National Ballet's La Bayadere 14 Nov 2016), but never have I admired that company more than I did last night. New Moves is a gala of work by some of the company's most talented young choreographers.  All of those pieces were good and several were outstanding.  I cannot think of any other company that stages galas like New Moves every year and I struggle to think of another that would be capable of doing so.

New Moves is intended to close the Amsterdam ballet season just as the gala in September, which I attended in 2015 and 2016, opens it (see The best evening I have ever spent at the ballet 13 Sept 2015 and Dutch National Ballet's Opening Night Gala - Improving on Excellence 6 Sept 2016). As on opening night, there was "a swinging afterparty in the foyers of the theatre" where it would have been possible to meet the choreographers and dancers.

The programme began with Clotilde Tran-Phat's In Limbo.  This was a work for 8 dancers choreographed to a score by Nicholas Robert Thayer. The title and programme notes suggest that the choreographer was inspired by the following words of Dante:
"Heaven, to keep its beauty, cast them out, but even Hell itself would not receive them for fear the damned might glory over them" (The Divine Comedy, Hell Canto 8).
All but one of the dancers appeared in what seemed to be surgical gowns. That other dancer was in a tight fitting skin coloured costume.  It ended with all the dancers in similar costumes and some words spoken in English which I believe to be those of John E Visitc. Having read the programme notes after seeing the piece and having once read Dante I guess the white gowns perhaps represented spirits trapped in a region from which they could not escape. It complemented the last work of the evening which was also about a sort of limbo.

Chanquito van Hoewe was the only choreographer with two works in the show.  He is a talented singer-songwriter as well as an accomplished dancer and choreographer and he took to the stage with a guitar in his second piece.  A woman just behind me in the auditorium whooped with a piercing ululation the moment he picked up the instrument.  The first of his works was a solo for Daniel Robert Silva whom readers will remember was my outstanding young male dancer for 2016 (see The Terpsichore Titles: Outstanding Young Dancers of 2016 28 Dec 2016). It was called Echoes Through Time and the programme notes indicate why:
"As we all take our journey on this planet of life
Life will always seem to change
Life will always die
Life will always be born
Life shall always seem to be cruel
Life shall always and forever be beautiful
As life travels through the echoes of time in our own minds."
It was danced beautifully by Silva. As he took his applause he appeared at one point quite overawed by the audience's response. He thrust his head no his hands as though he was about to burst into tears.

Bruno da Rocha-Pereira, who, like Silva, is from Brazil danced Pages without End (which he had created in collaboration with Robin van Zutphen) with yet another compatriot. Priscylla Gallo. This was a beautiful duet to the music of Max Richter When she came back. Gallo is one of several hugely talented artists who began their careers in the Junior Company and whom I follow closely. It was one of my favourite performances of the evening.

The only ballet to require a dramaturge was Bastiaan Stoop's Brighter than Gold.  It was also one of the few works for which the choreographer had commissioned costumes from a designer rather than relying on the company's wardrobe. Thr dramaturge, in this case, was Fabienne de Vegt and the designer Dieter de Cock. The work was a solo for Nathan Chaney dressed in a hoodie. Above him was a single light bulb which was explained as follows in the programme notes:
"In an abandoned window
Light vs darkness and vice versa a never ending battle.
Like the endless times she told me to leave, knowing I would stay. Left alone, the same own non-goodbye ...... Choosing between nothing and emptiness, either way, just me. My energy and my prode hoping that door will one day open once again."
The music, Jon Hopkins's atmospheric Abandon Window, seems to have been the inspiration for the work.

Van Hoeve's second work, Hopeless Romantics, was a solo for the talented Canadian dancer Theo Duff Grant whom I first saw in Ballet Bubbles last year.  Van Hoeve sang his own composition Shame on Me.  In the programme notes, van Hoeve stated that he had created a new wave ballet for the "hopeless romantics" such as the characters in Swan Lake and Tristan and Isolde and perhaps even members of the audience. It was a very popular piece and earned deafening applause.

The first half was rounded off with Christopher Pawlicki-Sinclair Voyagers which drew its inspiration from the NASA probes through interstellar space carrying images of life on earth. This was an upbeat piece for eight dancers to Peter Gregson's Held and Time.  The audience loved it and so did I.

During the interval, I met Remco van Grevenstein who had very kindly reviewed the company's Onegin for me earlier this year (see (see Onegin 2 April 2017) and another of my Dutch Facebook friends who teaches ballet in IJsselstein some 30 miles south of Amsterdam. My teacher friend was accompanied by two of her students.  I asked whether I could attend one of their adult ballet classes next time I am in the Netherlands and was told that I could.  I warned my friend that I was hopeless at pirouettes but I enjoy jumping to which one of the students offered to jump with me. One of my teachers refers to her teachers and students as a "family". I think that is right but I would go so far as to say that there is such a thing as a "worldwide adult ballet family".

Sebastian Galtier had created Step Addition to the music of René Aubry's Steppe for the Noverre workshop in Stuttgart some tears ago and had brought it back to Amsterdam to see how a Dutch audience would take to it. Danced beautifully by Daniel Carmargo, one of the company's principals, and  Nancy Burer, one of my favourite young dancers, it went down a treat with the crowd.  He said in the programme notes that he hoped that the audience reaction would give him inspiration to do some more.  He should now have all the inspiration that he needs so we can look forward to more work from him.

As well as coordinating the whole event (see Principato moves to a Bigger Stage 30 May 2017), Cristiano Principato created, and danced in, my favourite work of the evening.  He based his work on the music of Herny Purcell, our first great composer. This was a work for four dancers and his casting was impeccable.  He chose Silva to accompany him in the first and last movements and Khayla Fitzpatrick and Fabio Rinieri to dance the others.  Della Lo' Milano dressed Principato and Silva in 18th-century century wigs and jackets. They turned and travelled in complete unison.  Fitzpatrick appeared in a mask which Rinieri lifted. In his programme notes Principato remarked:
"this ballet wants to explore the essence of being an artist and performer. It shows how we 'wear' a different identity on stage and how demanding it is to completely become another character and forget whatever has been going on in our personal life, the moment we take out mask off."
I was reminded of the scene in Kenneth Tindall's Casanova where Casanova meets Bellino. The removal of the masks charts the development of trust as I described in Casanova Unmasked on 16 Feb 2017. Like Tindall, Principato shows what some critics call musicality. I prefer to use the term "sensitivity to music". Principato's teacher Ernst Meisner shows that quality in all his work as does Tindall.  It is odd that Purcell's work is not used more often as it works well in ballet. José Limón used Purcell's music in The Moor's Pavane which Birmingham Royal Ballet dance so well (see Birmingham Royal Ballet brings Shakespeare to York 18 May 2016).

The most dramatic work of the evening was Thomas van Damme's Convergence which he created for Skyler Martin and Clara Superfine to music by Gorecki. Superfine is yet another dancer whose career I follow closely (see Thank You Ernst 17 March 2016). Through superb use of lighting reminiscent of cinema, he seemed to force the dancers together. They seemed to approach each other but not as lovers, more like predator and prey. It seemed like a gripping narrative though the programme notes suggest something gentler:
"1. Independent development of similar characters often associate with similarity of habits or environment.
2. Moving toward union or uniformity."
As he has mastered the technique of building suspense, I look forward to seeing whether van Damme will use that technique in his future work.

Passing Shadows by the company's principal, Remi Wörtmeyer, was another gripping work though more for the choreography than the staging. There was an explosion of applause before the curtain began to fall as Wörtmeyer spun his fellow Australian Juliet Burnett of the Flanders Ballet inches from the floor. This was a work for four dancers to Rachmaninov's Cello Somata in G Minor Op 19 Slow. This was a work for four dancers the other two being Jingjing Mao and Clemens Fröhlich. Wörtmeyer is credited with painting the sets and designing the costumes though they were sourced from the company's wardrobe and props departments.

The finale was Milena Siderova's Withdrawn.  Siderova had created Full Moon for Bart Engelen who is now with the Norwegian Ballet. In that work, Engelen struggled with a pillow to the Dance of the Knights from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet which impressed me greatly when I first saw it (see The Dutch National Ballet Junior Company's best Performance yet 8 Feb 2015). I expected much from her next work and I think that we got it. Withdrawn was a work for 10 dancers to the music of Emilie Satt's Butterfly. It appears to have been inspired by a passage from Carol Becker's essay Thinking in Place, Art, Action and Cultural Protection of a dystopian future in which human social interaction is replaced by the interaction of electronic devices. Each of the dancers carried a torch which I guess was reminiscent of the screen of a mobile phone. They seemed to wander in a sort of limber rather like the lost souls in surgical gowns in Tran-Phat's In Limbo that launched the show.

The audience rose as one as soon as the curtain rose and we stayed on our feet through all the curtain calls. There were bouquets for all the dancers, the men as well as the women. And such original bouquets too. They seemed to be arranged around gladioli. We clapped until our palms were sore and cheered until we became hoarse and rightly so for we had seen something wonderful.

I would dearly have loved to have congratulated Principato and his team of dancers and choreographers in person at the party that followed the show. I know from the opening night galas of 2015 and 2016 that the company knows how to celebrate and the company had given me a voucher for the bar. But I had a plane to catch in the morning and it was already late. In order to be sure that I would make my flight, I had booked into an hotel near the airport.  I found to my cost after last September's opening night gala that the underground and suburban railway services in Amsterdam close down very much earlier than those in London and that taxis fleece their fares mercilessly at night. Even Uber is expensive after dark. I could not afford to be caught out a second time.

Throwing a party for the audience on special occasions is a lovely idea for it cements the relationship between the company and its patrons. The Dutch National Ballet seems to cherish its patrons and they, in turn, support the company.  Too often in England, I often get the feeling that the audience is almost an irrelevance.  I suspect that may be because companies here rely so much on Arts Council England for their funding. It is different in Wales, or at least in Newport, where I detect a similar bond between Ballet Cymru and its audience to the one that subsists between the Dutch public and their National Ballet. That may be one of the reasons why I warm so much to the national ballet companies west of Offa's Dyke and east of the North Sea.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Top Cats: the NSCD and Northern Ballet Academy End of Year Show

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Leeds CAT End of Year Show, 24 June 2017, 15:00 Riley Theatre, Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Leeds

In The Lowry CAT 27 May 2016 I wrote:
"There are in England nine Centres for Advanced Training in Dance ("CAT") which identify children and young people with exceptional talent for dance and develop them through contact with leading dancers, teachers and choreographers."
According to the What are CATS? page of the Dance CATs website, there are now 12 and two of them are in Leeds, namely the Academy of Northern Ballet and the Northern School of Contemporary Dance ("NSCD"). Yesterday the Academy and NSCD held end of year shows at the NSCD's Riley Theatre. As I am a Friend of the Academy as well as the company, I support it in every way I can. Thus, I found myself at the matinee performance at 15:00.

Yesterday's visit was my first to the NSCD and, consequently, I did not know the layout of the theatre when I booked my ticket over the internet.  I had selected D7 in the stalls thinking that it would give me a good view as it was pretty close to the stage. It turned out to be a restricted view because the audience is seated in a semicircle in very solid upright, wooden chairs that are more like church pews than seats in an auditorium. As a result, I had a grandstand view of the wings at stage right but I could see hardly anything of stage left. That was only a problem in the last piece, Echo by Matthew Slater, because the work opens with several dancers' supporting another standing upright. It was a very impressive sight which must have required a lot of practice by the dancers and their choreographer.

The programme consisted of 10 works half of which were presented by the Academy and the other half by the NSCD.  The show opened with Greeting which had been created by Yoko Ichino, Cara O'Shea and Siobhan Camkin for all the Academy's students to music by Ottorino Respighi from La Boutique Fantasque. It introduced the Academy and was the first opportunity for the audience to see the capabilities and discipline of those talented young people. Next came Headspace by the NSCD students who were equally impressive in their genre. The work was choreographed by Krista Vuori of Frantic Assembly and was described as "An exploration into the questions we ask ourselves and thoughts that randomly enter into our mind everyday." There was some speech some of which was inaudible but that did not matter too much because it was a dance piece and the sentiments were clear enough from the dancers' movements. The rest of the show alternated between ballet and contemporary dance and ended with Slater's Echo.

All the contributions were good and I enjoyed them all but there were three works that stood out for me particularly.  One of these was Headspace which I have described above.   Another was The Reel scene from La Sylphide which Cara O'Shea had adapted skilfully. It was pretty faithful to Bournonville's choreography but, whenever I see dancers with folded arms, I ask myself whether that great choreographer had ever actually seen Highland or even Scottish country dancing. Not once since I was dragooned into making up the numbers for a Dashing White Sergeant at the Celtic Society's bejants' ceilidh have I ever seen anyone in Scotland dance like that but I think only someone as august as Bourne (Sir Matthew that is) dare contradict Bournonville (see Sir Matthew Bourne's Highland Fling Montage on YouTube). The last that stood out was Echo which was a perfect way to end the show.

One of the functions of the CATs is to prepare their students for vocational training. The programme listed the destinations of this year's final year students and they are very impressive. Two are off to Northern Ballet School in Manchester which celebrates its 40th anniversary today. Congratulations! Many of my favourite teachers at both KNT and the Academy trained there. Others are going to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, The Hammond School, Trinity Laban, Urdang Academy and many other famous institutions. And to remind us that dance provides great mental, as well as physical, training, one of the students is on her way to med school at Cambridge (Caius I presume). I wish each and every one of those students well in his or her career and look forward to seeing at least some of them on stage again.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Northern Ballet says Goodbye to Takahashi, Solari and Curnier

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I am very sorry to say goodbye to Jeremy Curnier and Lucia Solari who are on their way to Germany's northern ballet at Kiel which is a few miles from the Danish border. I wish them well in their new company. Kiel is a very pleasant little town about the size of Hull. I went there once after driving all the way from Copenhagen to Esbjerg and finding that my hotel restaurant (and all the other restaurants in Esbjerg) were closed at not much later than afternoon teatime. Even though it was an extra hour's drive to Kiel everything was open. There is a history of the ballet company on the Kiel Theatre's website which starts off with the words: "Tanz hat in Kiel lange Tradition" ("There is a long tradition of dance in Kiel") though "long" in this context seems to be over 25 years. They seem to do Swan Lake and The Nutcracker regularly as well as a sprinkling of new work and there is a season for new choreographers.

I am also sorry that I will no longer be able to see Hironao Takahashi though he at least is remaining in the company with a new job as "Assistant Rehearsal Director & Assistant Artistic Director of Short Ballets for Small People". Now he really does have a lange Tradition in dance. I wish him every success in his new role too.

Also leaving are Naomi Bottomer, Isabelle Clough, Jenny Hackwell and Luke Francis. They will be missed too. I can't tell you where they are going or what they are doing but I am sure all my readers will join me in wishing them well in whatever they do and wherever they go.

Happily, Northern Ballet is recruiting new dancers.   They include
  • Ailen Ramos Betancourt who was a guest artist in Casanova and joins as a Soloist; 
  • Eneko Amorós Zaragoza (Estonian National Ballet); Thomas Holdsworth (English National Ballet School); Ommaira Kanga Perez (Escuela de Ballet Carmina Ocaña y Pablo Savoye); Heather Lehan (Canada’s National Ballet School) will join the corps; and 
  • Andrew Tomlinson, Archie James, Carlotta Pini and Mathilde Lambert (no relation) join as apprentices.
Welcome to each and every one of them.

Finally, I am delighted to see that Victoria Sibson is now a First Soloist, Mlindi Kulashe, Ayami Miyata, Kevin Poeung and Abigail Prudames are now Soloists, Sean Bates, Matthew Koon and Matthew Topliss Junior Soloists and Sarah Chun, Riku Ito and Jonathan Hanks are Coryphée.  Well done folks!

Friday, 23 June 2017

All Hail to the Lone Star Dancer

Texas is often called the "Lone Star State" because of the design of its state flag which harks back to the days when a number of English-speaking settlers adopted a flag that consisted of a single star for an insurrection that resulted in Texas's secession from Mexico in 1836 and its eventual absorption into the United States in 1846. Sadly when it joined the Union it did so as a slave state which prolonged one of the most egregious outrages of human history that ended only after a particularly tragic civil war and was followed by the systematic oppression and marginalization of former victims of that outrage and their descendants that have continued until our own times.

However, that is only part of the picture for that state of nearly 28 million people has contributed much to humanity in the arts, science, technology, government, industry and commerce. One of the more illustrious of those 28 million is the dancer Damien Johnson who celebrated his 10th anniversary with Ballet Black at the Nottingham Playhouse last night. We were alerted to the celebration by the cast sheet that urged the audience to
"celebrate our Senior Artist, Damien Johnson's 10-year anniversary with Ballet Black at the final curtain call after Red Riding Hood." 
We did indeed celebrate with a standing ovation for that fine dancer when the company's founder, Cassa Pancho, entered the stage and presented Damien with a massive bouquet of flowers. It was the first time in over 50 years of ballet going that I have seen such recognition for a premier danseur noble as opposed to a ballerina in this country (though it is often done in Russia and other countries) and, as a feminist, I hope it will not be the last.

Yesterday's performance was memorable for me not just for Damien's celebration or even the company's performance but because Cassa introduced me to Anabelle Lopez Ochoa as we were taking our seats for Little Red Riding Hood.  Annabelle had created that ballet for Ballet Black but she has also choreographed A Streetcar Named Desire for Scottish Ballet (see Scottish Ballet's Streetcar 2 April 2015), Reversible for Danza Contemporanea de Cuba (see Danza Contemporanea de Cuba at the Lowry 19 Feb 2017) and many other works. Earlier this year, she held a workshop at the Barbican in February which I was actually invited to attend and I was very tempted to do so. Had I been a stronger and more skilful dancer I would have accepted readily but I really did not feel up to the challenge. I am very grateful to David Murley for attending the event and reporting back to us in Red Riding Hood Workshop at the Barbican with Annabelle Lopez-Ochoa and Ballet Black.

As Is often the case, I enjoyed Ballet Black's mixed bill the second time even more than I did when I first saw the show (see Ballet Black Triumphant 7 March 2017). I think that is because I noticed details that I had missed before such as the humour in the show like the mewing of the wolf cubs as they harass Grandma, the swooning of the she-wolves as they encounter the Big Bad Wolf's, BBW's gestures such as the swinging of his pyjama string tail and Grandma's battering of BBW with the flowers that he had just given her, I also appreciated the other two works more, particularly Corder's House of Dreams as his Baiser de la Fée which I had seen in Birmingham the night before was still fresh in my memory (see Birmingham Royal Ballet's Three Short Ballets: Le Baiser de la fée, Pineapple Poll and Arcadia 22 June 2017). Indeed, I was going to compare and contrast the two works had it not been for Damien's celebration. I had even toyed with "Cordered" as a headline for today's post.

I look forward to seeing Ballet Black again in November when they will venture out of the Beautiful South for a night in Derby on the 15 and two in Leeds on the 17 and 18 where we shall ply them with Taddy Ales, Bradford naans (not all that different from Yorkshire puddings) and parkin. They won't get any of that in their other venues.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Birmingham Royal Ballet's Three Short Ballets: Le Baiser de la fée, Pineapple Poll and Arcadia

Celine Gittens and Brandon Lawrence in Ruth Brill's Arcadia
Photo Ty Singleton
© 2017  Birmingham Royal Ballet: all rights reserved
Reproduced with the kind permission of the company

Birmingham Royal Ballet Le Baiser de la fée, Pineapple Poll and Arcadia, Birmingham Hippodrome, 21 June 2017, 19:30

The strength of the Birmingham Royal Ballet was on display last night with important works from three generations of choreographers:
  • John Cranko's Pineapple Poll from the company's early days;
  • Michael Corder's Le Baiser de la fée from its recent past; and
  • Ruth Brill's Arcadia which may be a glimpse of its future.
The ballets were presented in reverse order.

By any measure, Arcadia is an important ballet and there are two reasons for its importance. 

First, its artistic quality with a powerful score by saxophonist John Harle, striking designs by Atena Ameri, ingenious lighting by Peter Teigen and of course inspired choreography by Ruth Brill beautifully executed by Brandon LawrenceCéline Gittens as the moon goddess Selene, Brooke RayYijing Zhang and Delia Mathews as the nymphs Pitys, Syrinx and Echo and a chorus that consisted of Laura Day, Karla Doorbar, Reina Fuchigami, Miki Mizutani, Anna Monleon, Alexander Bird, Feargus Campbell, Max Maslen, Lachlan Monaghan and Lewis Turner. 

Secondly, its timing. In the programme, Ruth Brill writes:
"The ballet opens as Pan watches over the nymphs Pitys, Syrinx and Echo from the shadows, In Pan's paradise he is worshipped by his subjects, the chorus. As night falls, Pan is left alone. Selene, the beautiful goddess of the moon appears. Through their interaction, Pan is transformed. Selene uplifts him to become both a better man and a better leader. Finally, we see an Arcadia, now harmonious, after Pan learns that to connect with his people he must respect them. The change in Pan is reflected by the emergence of a more loving and united society."
Now what could be apter than those sentiments after a bruising referendum and general election, the tragedy of Grenfell Tower and the outrages at Finsbury Park, Borough Market, Westminster Bridge and Manchester?

In my preview, Ruth Brill's Arcadia, 16 Dec 2016 I tipped Arcadia as "one of the works to look out for in the coming year".  Having seen Matryoshka two years ago (see Birmingham Royal Ballet in High Wycombe 31 May 2015) I expected Arcadia to be good but my expectations were exceeded greatly. Arcadia was of quite a different order to Matryoshka. In the medieval guilds, the apprentice craftsman proved his readiness to join the masters with a masterpiece and that is exactly what Brill has done with Arcadia. It is no longer appropriate to refer to her as a "promising" or "up and coming" choreographer. With this work, she is undeniably an established choreographer and, in my humble opinion, she is likely to become a great one.

Jenna Roberts  and artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet in
Le Baiser de la fée

Photo Bill Cooper
© 2017  Birmingham Royal Ballet: all rights reserved
Reproduced with the kind permission of the company

Michael Corder's Le Baiser de la fée is based on Hans Christian Andersen's Ice Maiden.  I watched this ballet with Gita who had previously seen Ratmansky's version for Miami City Ballet (see Gita Mistry Attending the Ballet in Florida: Miami City Ballet's Program Three 6 March 2017) and I had seen Donald MacLeary's reconstruction of part of Kenneth MacMillan's version with James Hay in Pavlova's sitting room (see A Minor Miracle - Bringing Le Baiser de la fée back to Life 2 June 2014). The synopsis of Corder's ballet is very much the same as Ratmansky's and he also uses Stravinsky's score. The ballet contains one strong male role (the young man) for Joseph Caley and three strong female ones for the young man's mother (Daria Stanciulescu), his fiancée  (Momoko Hirata) and the fairy who had selected him for her own (Jenna Roberts).

In the interval, I asked Gita which of the two versions of the ballet that she had seen recently she preferred. She replied that she enjoyed them both. Perhaps because this year is the 25th since his death I had driven to Birmingham expecting MacMillan. I found Corder instead but was not in the least disappointed. I am a big fan of Caley, Roberts and Hirata. I loved the sets and costumes. With Sir Matthew Bourne's The Red Shoes, David Nixon's The Little Mermaid and Paul Chantry's The Sandman we shall see quite a lot of ballets based on Hans Christian Andersen this year. Last night's performance has whetted my appetite.

Pineapple Poll
Photo Roy Smiljanic
© 2017  Birmingham Royal Ballet: all rights reserved
Reproduced with the kind permission of the company


The evening ended with a favourite work by my all-time favourite choreographer which has a personal as well as balletic significance for me as I explained in Doing the Splits 8 May 2016.  Since writing that preview I have seen the work performed by the company at York which I reviewed in Birmingham Royal Ballet's Northern Tour 2017 13 May 2017:
"Pineapple Poll with its synopsis based on W S Gilbert's ballad The Bumboat's Woman's Story, Charles Mackerras's arrangement of a selection of Gilbert and Sullivan's favourite tunes and Osbert Lancaster's intricate designs was a wonderful way to round off a wonderful evening. Yesterday it occurred to me that this work may well have inspired Ashton to create Fille and Balanchine to create Union Jack. There is certainly a link in Osbert Lancaster in that he created the designs for both Poll and Fille and the exuberance of Mackerras's arrangement finds resonance in Hershey Kay, Maybe my imagination but why not. Matthias Dingman was the gallant Captain (later Admiral) Belaye. Easy to see why the girls' hearts were aflutter. Laura Day (who had earlier delighted the audience as a playmate in Solitaire) danced his sweetheart Blanche. Laura Purkiss was her interfering aunt, Mrs Dimple, who doubles as Britania at the end. Nao Sakuma danced Blanche's rival, Pineapple Poll. Kit Holder was the hero of the piece rising from pot boy to naval officer and Poll's husband without even having time to remove his apron."
It was almost the same cast and an equally glorious ending to another great evening of ballet last night. I think the only important substitution was Daria Stanciulescu for Lau Purkis as Mrs Dimple. I believe there may have been some extra bits of choreography and a bit more scenery in Birmingham but maybe I just didn't take it all in last time.

After being reassured by Birmingham resident, Sarah Lambert, in a comment to my review of Coppelia that flowers are presented and even cut flowers thrown at the Hippodrome I had expected the stage to be ankle if not knee deep. It was a premiere of an important new work after all.  Yet another flower free reverence. My only disappoinment of the evening.  So here are digital blooms. First a van load of the choicest roses for Ruth Brill for Arcadia. She did get tumultuous applause when she stepped on stage for her curtain call and I was able to catch her in the bar to tell her in person how much I loved her show but I wish I could have given her flowers. Enormous bouquets also to Brill's leading ladies, Gittens, Ray, Zhang and Matthews, to Roberts and Hirata for their performances in Fée and a whole greenhouse full for the delightful Nao Sakuma for being such a spirited, comical and quite enchanting Poll.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017


Standard YouTube Licence

"Mesmerizing!" Not my adjective but that of Leon London, a member of the audience who watched Giovanni Princic and Melissa Chapski dance at the Natalia Kremen Foundation gala on Sunday night and kindly commented on my preview of that event.  Ernst Meisner's Embers is one of my favourite ballets and if you watch the film you will see why. Short ballets can be as great as full-length ones (viz Fokine's Dying Swan per Wikipedia) and I think this masterpiece by one of the best choreographers I know will become a classic too. The dancers in the film are the ones who danced on Sunday night.

Another work that impressed Leon was the British premiere of a duet from La Scala Ballet's Progetto Handel which was performed for the first time in Milan on 20 May 2017. As you can see from La Scala's website this is a full-length work created by Mauro Bigonzetti to some beautiful music by George Frederick Handel. The website contains a detailed description of the ballet if you click on the "Synopsis" tab.

Leon thought that the gala was "superbly produced" with grand imperial showpieces interspersed with contemporary and some brilliant performances by the students of Natalia Kremen Ballet School.  Having seen some pictures that have been posted to Facebook by Graham Watts, I think one of those grand imperial pieces must have been the pas de deux from The Nutcracker danced by Yorkshire's very own Brandon Lawrence and Delia Mathews of the Birmingham Royal Ballet.

Leon described the ballet as "a gem" but lamented that it was not fully attended with some 75% of the seats sold.  I feared that might happen which is why I did my best to promote the event on Sunday. Had I learned of it sooner I would have been there for a start and so might a lot of my readers. I only found out about it when I did because I follow Giovanni and Melissa on Facebook and Melissa posted a note about the show to her timeline.  If those in charge of the school ever contemplate a similar gala, I invite them to notify me well in advance so that I can drum up some support. Dance education is very dear to my heart.

Possibly because we are lucky enough to have as our capital one of the world's two ᾁ++ Weldstädte (see the table in Weltstadt in Wikipedia) those who live in that city tend to forget that there is culture outside. As I gently reminded dear, dear Cassa yesterday in Ballet Black's Tour 20 June 2017 conurbations like Greater Manchester, the West Midlands. West Yorkshire, Greater Glasgow, the Bristol-Cardiff corridor and Merseyside are as populous and as economically significant as most of the EU's capitals. Some of the institutions of those city regions, such as the Birmingham Royal Ballet, Scottish Ballet and the Halle Orchestra, are world class. We travel to London for shows like this one that are worth seeing and causes like Ms Kremen's ballet school that are worth supporting.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Ballet Black's Tour

Last year we were lucky enough to see Ballet Black for two days in Sale, one at the Lowry appropriately on Manchester Day, two days in Leeds and again in Doncaster. They also performed in Glasgow where they were much appreciated.

This year they have a particularly good programme which Joanna and I reviewed very favourably (see Joanna Goodman Sexy wolf stole the show 5 March 2017 and Jane Lambert Ballet Black Triumphant 7 March 2017). David Murley also covered Annabelle Lopez-Ochoa's workshop at the Barbican on 25 Feb 2017.

We shall see very much less of Ballet Black in the North this year. Nothing at all in the North West, a region of over 7 million people and only two days in Leeds on 17 and 18 Nov for the whole of Yorkshire and the North East with a combined population of over 8 million. However, Ballet Black are visiting Oxford, Enfield, Harlow, Canterbury, Watford, Stratford East and Pompey and they started their tour at the Barbican in London.

Save for their visit to the Stanley and Audrey Burton in November, the nearest they come to us will be the Nottingham Playhouse on 22 June 2017 and Derby on 15 Nov 2017. Ballet Black occupies a particularly warm spot in my affection but Heaven know's how I am going to make it to Nottingham on Thursday evening when I shall be at the Birmingham Royal Ballet's press night at the Hippodrome tomorrow and a breakfast meeting at Daresbury near Runcorn at 08:00 on Friday morning.

Ballet Black, you have a lot of fans in the Northern Powerhouse. Do come and see us a little more often.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Sage Dance Company

Yesterday @SageDanceCo1 started to follow me on Twitter so I looked them up. I found that they are  "a community dance company for people aged 55 years and over" with a mandate continually to "create new work for performance and improve the members’ technique and further their skills through the rehearsal and performing process" which "has led to increased abilities in learning skills and memory capacities as well as maintaining both the health and fitness of the dancers." The company is based in London and has performed at festivals in Barnes and Richmond and various other venues around the capital.

When I joined Northern Ballet's Over 55 class in Leeds, it was one of the few classes for dancers in my age group anywhere n the country (see Realizing a Dream 12 Sept 2013). Now there are loads such as Rambert's Mercury Movers in London, Scottish Ballet's Regenerate in Glasgow and Dance City's in Newcastle, Also, the Royal Academy of Dance plans to roll out its Silver Swans programme throughout the UK and USA.

Class is all very well but ballet is intended for the theatre. There is nothing like a performance in front of a living, breathing and paying audience to get the adrenalin running as I discovered when I stepped on to the stage of the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre in Leeds for the first time (see The Time of My Life 28 June 2014). Timetabling constraints prevent the Northern Ballet from running shows for the Over 55 class but I have been able to perform at the Dancehouse in Manchester (see Show 14 May 2017 and "Show!" The Video 10 June 2017).

Sage Dance Company offers an opportunity for dancers of my age group in London to perform in public at an even higher level.  The company was founded in 2010 by Simon Rice of the Royal Ballet. It is a classical company and the standard appears to be very high. According to the company's home page there are in the repertoire:
"three classical works: a thirteen minute work to the music of Brahms, a sixteen minute work to Telemann and a twenty minute work to the music of Schumann, all choreographed by Simon Rice. Additionally they perform a ten minute Merce Cunningham style work choreographed by former Cunningham dancer Fionuala Power."
Richard Taylor made a delightful film about this company on YouTube which covers their classes, rehearsals and drinks in the pub afterwards. Just look at the expressions on the dancers' faces. Just like us in Leeds. Dance is a wonderful thing is it not.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Giovanni and Melissa to dance van Manen's Trois Gnossiennes

Melissa Chapski and Giovanni Princic
Photo Michel Schnater
Copyright 2016 Dutch National Ballet, All rights reserved
Reproduction licensed by kind permission of the company

I have just found out that the piece that Giovanni Princic and Melissa Chapski will dance at the Cadogan Hall tonight is Hans van Manen's Trois Gnosiennes (see Natalia Kremen Ballet Foundation Gala "I Have a Dream" 18 June 2017). They danced that work in Ballet Bubbles at the Meervaart Theatre in Amsterdam on 14 Feb 2016 which I reviewed on 8 March 2016 in Trois Gnossiennes.  This is what I wrote in 2016:

"No performance by the Junior Company would be complete without a work by van Manen. In previous years the great man has come on stage to take a bow and the applause has exploded. Trois Gnossiennes with music by Erik Satie is of particular interest to British balletomanes because of its similarity to Ashton's Monotones. The music is sublime and so is van Manen's choreography executed sensitively by Chapski and Princic."
Since I found out about tonight's show in the early hours of this morning I have been consulting railway timetables to London but Sunday is the worst day of the week for a quick dash to London. I am trying to clear my desk in order to fly out to Amsterdam for Cristiano Principato's New Moves next week (see Principato moves to a Bigger Stage 30 May 2017).

For those who can make tonight's show, Princic and Chapski are two of the most promising young dancers I have ever seen. Van Manen is one of the world's greatest choreographers.  You are in for a treat.

Natalia Kremen Ballet Foundation Gala "I Have a Dream"

Giovanni Princic in Ballet 101
Photo Michel Schnater
Copyright 2016 Dutch National Ballet
All rights reserved
Reproduced with kind permission of the company

In you are in, or can get to. London this evening, you may wish to see two fine young dancers. Giovanni Princic and Melissa Chapski of the Dutch National Ballet. They are taking part in the Natalia Kremen Ballet Foundation Gala, I Have a Dream at the Cadogan Hall at 19:00 this evening. I am a big fan of Giovanni and Melissa. I know it is short notice but I have only just learned about this gala from Facebook.  Had I known of it sooner I would have contrived to be there or would have arranged for someone to attend and review the show for this blog at the very least.

I googled "Natalia", "Kremen", "Ballet" and "Foundation" and found this page on the NK Ballet School website.  The author, whom I assume to be Ms Kremen, writes:
"NK Foundation is a non-profit organisation that provides financial support to ballet students of exceptional talent but limited means. 
The principal goals of NK Foundation are:
  •  to assist children and young peopled with a talent for classical ballet and dance in their technical, artistic and creative development in the UK and abroad;
  • to preserve and develop cultural values and traditions of classical ballet, including through providing financial support to students with a potential for excelling in this art form.
Our scholarships and bursaries give students a chance to attend ballet classes as well as to perform in stage productions, participate in examinations, attend numerous ballet events organised by Natalia Kremen Ballet School (NKBS) and cover expenses for ballet uniforms and equipment."
The website lists the trustees one of whom is Ms Kremen who danced with the English National Ballet after several years with the Stanislavsky Ballet in Moscow while another describes herself as the co-founder of BalletCo Forum.

Giovanni and Melissa will appear with two more of my other favourite dancers, Brandon Lawrence from Bradford and Delia Mathews of the Birmingham Royal Ballet. Other performers include Kristina KretovaMarianna Ryzhkina and  Andrei Merkuriev from the Bolshoi and Igor Kolb and Andrei Batalov of the Mariinsky and there will also be artists from the Vienna State Ballet, the Berlin City Ballet, the Paris Opera Ballet, La Scala and  Kyiv Modern Ballet.

Ticket prices range from £15 to £70. If you think £70 is a bit steep for a Sunday night performance in a concert hall, please remember that the object of the exercise is to raise money to enable talented kids of limited means to learn ballet.

I wish Giovanni, Melissa, Brandon, Delia and all the other artists toi-toi and chookas for this evening. I also wish Ms Kremen and her staff and students well with their school and foundation. If anyone who attends tonight's show would like to review it for me, I shall be pleased to consider his or her review for publication.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Dame Beryl Grey

Insignia of the Companions of Honour
Author Robert Prummel
Creative Commons
Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 licence  

This blog tries to avoid obsequiousness (though we may not always succeed) but we happily make an exception for Dame Beryl Grey. Today the Prime Minister announced Dame Beryl's admission into the Order of the Companions of Honour of which there are only 65 members. Other members include Stephen Hawking, Janet Baker, David Hockney, Harrison Birtwistle, Judi Dench, Peter Higgs and Lord Woolf.

Dame Beryl is the President of the English National Ballet and was artistic director of the company when between 1968 and 1979 when I first took an interest in ballet. I had the good fortune to meet her at the 70th anniversary celebrations of the London Ballet Circle (see 70 Years of the London Ballet Circle 10 May 2016). I add my congratulations on Dame Beryl's latest honour to the many others that she will already have received or can expect in the next few days.

Other persons to have been honoured this year for services to dance include:
  • Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp, former chief executive of The Place
  • Romayne Grigorova
  • Alexandra Clarke, and
  • Deborah Ann Holme.
Congratulations to them too.

Even more Sensational - Peter Wright's Coppelia

Nao Sakuma as Swanilda
Author Bill Cooper
© 2017 Birmingham Royal Ballet: all rights reserved
 Reproduced with kind permission of the company

Birmingham Royal Ballet. Coppelia, Hippodrome, 16 June 2017, 19:30

When I last reviewed a performance by the Birmingham Royal Ballet of Sir Peter Wright's Coppelia, I described it as "sensational" (see Sensational 6 March 2015). Having seen the ballet again on the company's home turf the only way I can describe the performance is "even more sensational." Maybe that should not be surprising for who better to perform one of Sir Peter's greatest productions than Sir Peter's company.

I made up my mind to attend the ballet last night at the very last moment after a pig of a journey home. I had driven to London the night before to take delivery of a massive set of instructions that could not be carried on the train. While down there, I attended a chambers' garden party that continued until after midnight and two conferences, one of which began with a volley of emails between 05:00 and 06:00 and a phone call shortly before 07:00. I left Plumstead where I had parked my car and cleared the river after an epochal wait for the Woolwich ferry.  There was heavy traffic on the North Circ and the M11. Congestion outside Cambridge on the A14.  As the A14 leads eventually to the M6 the idea of breaking my journey in Birmingham occurred to me. I called the Hippodrome on the off-chance that they might still have space and was told that they had one isolated seat in the centre of the rear stalls.  I grabbed it.  After battling with more traffic all the way into Birmingham, I rolled up at the theatre hot, bothered and exhausted with 15 minutes to spare.

Dropping by the Hippodrome was one of the best calls I have ever made. The performance was magic. It was just what I needed.  I had not had time to study the cast list but I knew we were in for a treat when I glimpsed the unmistakeable hair of Koen Kessels. He had conducted the orchestra of the Dutch National Ballet in Ted Brandsen's Coppelia last December. Nobody seems to understand Delibes's score better than Maestro Kessels. The curtain rose to Peter Farmer's village somewhere in Mitteleuropa. Nao Sakuma appeared.  I started to clap but nobody followed. Nor did anyone clap Joseph Caley when he entered the stage. Clearly, the balletic tradition of welcoming the male and female leads with a brief burst of applause that happens in almost every other theatre in the world is not followed in Birmingham. That is surprising because all of Birmingham Royal Ballet's principals are good.

Sakuma was a gorgeous Swanilda. I loved the way she threw her book at Caley after catching him making eyes at the humanoid on the balcony across the square. "Sukkel" hissed Swanilde in Het's animation. How she gave him the hardest of hard times when the ear of wheat did not appear to rattle. How she led her pals into Dr Coppelius's workshop while he was in the pub recovering from his mugging. How she dared the faintest of faint hearts to approach Coppelia.  How she coaxed the deluded doctor into believing his spell had worked as she sought to rescue her dopey (even at the best of times) boyfriend. And above all, I loved the final pas de deux in "Peace" which ends the ballet on a high. Whenever I see Coppelia I always wonder how long that marriage will last. Surely, such a brave, resourceful, spirited girl could surely have done so much better.

Of course, she falls for Franz because he is a hunk. The handsomest lad in a very small village in the middle of nowhere. Girls find him attractive and doesn't he just know it. After blowing kisses at a robot, he flirts with the leader of the czardas. Caley, whom I am sure is nothing like Franz in real life, fills the role perfectly. Even after nearly losing Swanilda he is silly enough to break into Coppelius's workshop. Good job there was no copper around (see R v Collins [1972] 2 All ER 1105, [1973] 3 WLR 243, [1972] EWCA Crim 1, 136 JP 605, 56 Cr App Rep 554, [1973] QB 100, a case that has entertained every law student in England for nearly 50 years). The silly twit deserved everything that happened to him. But Franz can dance. And how he can dance. All those great tours en l'air and entrechats and the final lift that left Swanilda dangling across his back in a curious sort of fish dive.

Dr Coppelius is a juicy character role and it was performed exquisitely by Michael O'Hare last night. Scorned as slightly screwy by the Burgermeister (Jonathan Payn) and the villagers when loud bangs and smoke erupt from his laboratory, he is surely more sinned against than sinning. Does he really deserve to be roughed up by the louts or have his home ransacked by girls on a hen night? I can quite see why he sought compensation from Swanilda's dowry.

We had a stellar cast last night. Many of my favourite dancers came on stage: Delia Mathews as Prayer and also one of Swanilda's friends along with Arancha Baselga, Karla Doorbar, Reina Fuchigami, Alys Shee and Yaoqian Shang; Rory Mackay as the publican and Old Father Time; Ruth Brill with Lewis Turner in Betrothal and earlier in the mazurka and czardas; William Bracewell in the call to arms with yet another favourite Brandon Lawrence from Bradford. Everyone in the cast was good and I congratulate them all whether I have mentioned them or not.

There was loud applause at the reverence but, sadly, no flowers. In another auditorium and perhaps at a different time the stage would have been ankle deep in cut flowers throw after a show like that.  A massive bouquet of my county's reddest roses, then, to Sakuma.  Flowers, too, for each and every lady soloist. Indeed, each and every lady who appeared on stage. And a resounding cheer for each and every one of the men who partnered them so gallantly. "You are so lucky to have this company in your city," I said to a lady who was at the ballet for the first time. "The Birmingham Royal Ballet is one of the great companies of the world." How I wish it could have made its home in Manchester instead. 

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Bring on the Bollywood

Standard YouTube Licence

Gita Mistry

Phizzical Bring on the Bollywood, CAST in Doncaster, 2 June 2017, 19:30

"On 2 and 3 June 2017, I attended the Southbank Centre's Alchemy Doncaster South Asian Arts Festival at the CAST in Doncaster Theatre. A splendid venue only 4 years old.  I was there primarily for the musical, Bring on the Bollywood, but there were two other events associated with the show:
which took place on Friday afternoon. I opted for the dance workshop.

At the workshop, I introduced Jane to Bollywood. She said she enjoyed the experience even more than ballet and found everyone extremely friendly. I have to say I was pleasantly impressed with what we accomplished in the short time especially as we had missed the start owing to of an accident on the motorway. Happily, we had not missed much of the session itself. This was very engaging with good instruction and explanation- coaching with a clear definition of movement and meaning of mudras (hand gestures which are used to depict narrative in Indian storytelling influenced by the Kathak style of dance). We learnt rhythm and timing to moves and beats so that by the end of the 90 mins learnt a full routine. Hats off to the lead's facilitation skills and those of the other cast members as we were exposed to many moves to follow and copy. There was a range of age groups from 5 through to 70 with various abilities and backgrounds - some who had never done Bollywood dance and others who were returning after years of doing Indian dance. It was rather fun.

The play that we saw in the evening was directed by Sâmir Bhamra in association with Belgrade Theatre Coventry.  Bhamra was the creative director of the London Asian Film Festival and has been a mentor to emerging artists. He was the executive producer of an international dance festival and delivered three large-scale events during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games including a carnival procession across the East Midlands alongside the Olympic Torch Relay. He developed his skills at the National Theatre and was seconded to Royal Shakespeare Company where he worked on the World Shakespeare Festival under Deborah Shaw. 

Set in India but with plenty of references to London, the show had all the mix of a good Bollywood spectacular -  great dance and music, superb costumes with plenty of changes and good comedy too.  Fun, lively, colourful, family drama, romance, comedy - the cast engaged superbly well and were very in tune with each other.  Quite a feat to hold the audience's attention for some 90 minutes in the first act and another 60 in the second.

Turning to the dancing, there was a lot of traditional Indian styles including Kathak and Bharatanatyam as well as folk dances like Bhangra. We were reminded at the workshop that Bollywood is a fusion of many styles including Western ones."

Jane Lambert adds:

"The Hindi cinema, popularly known as “Bollywood”, is the biggest film industry in the world in terms of ticket sales and one of the biggest on every other measure. It is extraordinarily popular - not just in India and other countries where there is a big Hindi speaking population - but even in countries where Hindi is not spoken.

Sadly, even though there is a big audience for Hindi films in this country, very few folk of non-South Asian heritage take the trouble to see them. That is probably unfortunate because I suspect that we are missing out on a lot of fun. Phizzical Productions Ltd, which is touring the United Kingdom with a stage musical called Bring on the Bollywood, aspires to give those of us who do not speak Hindi a taste of that fun. Speaking as a complete ingenue in this genre I can certainly say that it was fun. However, I leave it to Gita, who knows a lot about South Asian art, to opine whether it was at all authentic.

The plot was a little convoluted. An “overworked, underpaid NHS doctor” flew home to India for her brother’s wedding. Her father is a retired army officer and her mother a lady of leisure. Neither her brother nor his intended bride is looking forward to their wedding. They were promised to each other by their parents but they really can’t stand to each other.

On the plane, the doctor sits opposite a handsome but rather mournful young man carrying an urn. The reason for his unhappiness was that he was jilted at the alter. The contents of the urn are ashes of photos and love letters but for the time being were led to believe that they are the ashes of his dead wife. The young man is on the way to meet his friend who is love with the woman who is engaged to the doctor’s brother.

The young man and his friend find themselves stranded in the middle of nowhere. The brother offers to put them up at his parents’ home but only at an inflated price. On arrival, the young man meets the doctor with whom he had travelled on the plane. “Of the billion people in India how come I meet you?” He says. But they are attracted to each other and the attraction grows when the brother and sister, his intended bride, her lover and the young man take a hike in the idyllic Valley of the Flowers.
In the valley the last character turns up, namely the woman who had left the young man standing at the altar. She tries to win him back but he wants none of it. He sends her on her on her way. After a lot of parental resistance the young man married the doctor, his friend marries his love and the doctor’s brother joins the army much to his father’s delight.

This was quite a long play. The first act was 80 minutes long and the second 60. But for me, it passed very quickly largely because of some lusty singing and vivacious dancing. Most of the songs where in Hindi but the signature tune “Bring on the Bollywood” was in English. In the workshop which I described in Bollywood Beginner 3 June 2017, we tried the routine of one of the songs. According to Wikipedia
“the dancing in Bollywood films, especially older ones, is primarily modelled on Indian dance: classical dance styles, dances of historic northern Indian courtesans (tawaif), or folk dances. In modern films, Indian dance elements often blend with Western dance styles (as seen on MTV or in Broadway musicals), though it is usual to see Western pop and pure classical dance numbers side by side in the same film.”
In our workshop, we were taught the importance of hand movements and the symbolism of some of the gestures such as the drawing of a bow. At various points of the show Gita whispered some of the cultural allusions which would otherwise have been lost on me.

There were many strong character roles in the play and the actors performed them well. I particularly liked Rohit Gokani who played the retired colonel, Anthony Sahota his spoilt and somewhat wastrel son, Nisha Aaliya, the doctor and Sophie Kangola the intended fiancée who showed enormous patience to me in the workshop, but perhaps it is unfair to single any of them our for special praise because they were all good.

The show is in Hornchurch until the 17 and then Poole, London, York, Oldham, Truro, Oxford and Peterborough. If you live anywhere near those towns I unhesitatingly recommend it."