Sunday, 11 February 2018

Ballet West Amplified

(c) 2018 Ryan James Davies: all rights reserved
Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright owner

Ballet West  Giselle and Rossini Cocktail  10 Feb 2018, 19:30 SEC Armadillo, Glasgow

I returned to Scotland yesterday as I said I would in A Very Special Giselle 4 Feb 2018 and Fizzing! Ballet West's Rossini Cocktail 6 Feb 2018 to see Ballet West's double bill again. This time they were in the Scottish Event Campus Armadillo which is a major auditorium with 2,000 seats. That is much larger than the Bradford, Alhambra (IMHO the best theatre for dance in Yorkshire) which has 1,456 seats and it is only slightly smaller than the main stage at Covent Garden which has 2,256.

When the company announced its intention of performing in the Armadillo for the first time in 2014 I was worried (see Scottish Ballet and Ballet West 3 Oct 2014). I had seen Ballet West perform The Nutcracker and Swan Lake in Pitlochry and I knew it was good. It attracted a big enough crowd to the Pitlochry Festival Theatre in an area that may not see a lot of ballet but Glasgow is altogether different. It is one of our major conurbations and hosts one of our leading ballet companies. I feared that Ballet West would be swamped on a massive stage and that it would rattle in an empty auditorium.

Clearly that did not happen for the company has come back to the Armadillo every year since its debut on Valentine's day 2015.  For those who do not know Glasgow the Armadillo is one of several buildings on the edges of the city centre known as the Scottish Event Campus. "Campus" is the right word for the space is huge. Much bigger than G-Mex or the Leeds Arena with its own railway station and several hotels. The Armadillo is one of the most comfortable theatres I have ever visited with seats like armchairs and masses of leg room. It is also one of the least fussy allowing members of the audience to come and go more as less as they please even while artists are dancing. I have mixed opinions about that.  Ballet West did not fill the auditorium but they attracted a very respectable turnout. I saw at least as many empty seats in the Alhambra for Northern Ballet's excellent MacMillan triple bill and there are times when even the Lowry struggles to fill its seats.

More importantly the company took possession of the massive stage and commanded it effectively. I feared the Glasgow associates who began the show with the first movement of the Rossini Cocktail might be daunted by the space and lights. Not a bit of it. Those young women in blue were as confident as they had been in Greenock.  I sat next to one of their mums in the auditorium and congratulated her on her daughter's performance.  Accepting my praise she was quick to point out that all the other students had done well, particularly in view of the short amount of time they had to rehearse.

First year full time students in Daniel Job's Rossini Cocktail
(c) 2018 Ryan James Davies: all rights reserved
Reproduced with kind permission of the copyright owner
The associates were followed in the second movement of Rossini Cocktail by the first year full-time students. Now that I knew who they were I viewed their performance much more critically but I could not find fault. I was as impressed yesterday as I had been last week.   I particularly enjoyed the last bit when the dancers lean forward and advance towards the stage like a wave. From the grins on their faces they seemed to be having fun and certainly the audience did.

Giselle followed shortly afterwards with the same cast as last week.  My heart missed a beat when I heard the first few bars of the overture because it seemed to be far too fast but it had slowed down enough for the dancers by the time the curtain rose.  The backdrop, barn and Giselle's bothy that had fitted the Beacon's stage like a glove looked a little bit lost in the Armadillo but the performers seemed to enjoy the extra space for dancing.

As I noted last week it was a very dramatic production.  Hilarion (Joseph Wright) tore Giselle (Natasha Watson) and Albrecht (Dean Rushton) apart and showed her Albrecht's sword with the misplaced relish of the prosecuting attorney in Perry Mason.  This week my attention centred on Watson's reaction.
(c) 2018 Ryan James Davies: all rights reserved
Reproduced with kind permission of the copyright owner
She is a superb actor and I mean superb.  All dancers have to act a little but it is formal and often strained. Watson's is real.  Her mad scene - or distraction on learning of her betrayal and humiliation if you prefer - is chilling.  She rips Albrecht and Bathilde apart.  I shuddered as she tore the locket that Bathilde had given her from her neck and grabbed the sword by its point.  Niamh Dowling (Giselle's mother) impressed me again.  So, too, did Rahul Pradeep who danced Bathilde's dad.  Tall and slender he was every inch an aristocrat.  Congratulations to them and also to all the dancers who had impressed me last week and did again last night.

The last scene was enchanting.  Mist (dry ice) wafted across the stage.  Lights flashed.  Myrtha (Uyu Hiromoto) glided onto the stage. She was as regal last night as she had been the week before.  I have been a fan for some time and yesterday I had the chance to meet her.  It is as hard to pick stars in dance as it is winners at Aintree but occasionally a student or member of the corps seems to stand out from his or her peers.  Xander and Demelza Parish did so at the Yorkshire Ballet Summer School gala in York on 31 Dec 2007 (see "Review: A Summer Gala of Dance and Song, Grand Opera House, York"31 July 2007 The Press) . So, too, Michaela DePrice did in Amsterdam in 2013 (see The Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet - Stadsshouwburg Amsterdam 24 Nov 2013 25 Nov 2013). I saw the same signs in Hiromoto yesterday. Now I could be wrong but I was right about the Parishes (especially Xander) and I was right about DePrince though she was already in the Junior Company and on her way to great things when I first saw her.   However, Hiromoto was not the only fine dancer.  Once again I need to commend Sarah Nolan as Moyna and Storm Norris as Zulme as well as Wright, the hapless Hilarion, and all the corps of wilis.

Next year the company will tour Scotland with The Nutcracker.  I hope one year they may dip their toes into England for, as I said at the end of my very first blog post five years ago, audiences there will take them to their hearts.

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