Monday, 16 July 2018

Half a show is better than none

Stratford Circus Theatre
Author Andy Roberts
Licence Creative Commons 2.0 Generic

Ballet Central Black Swan et cetera  14 July 2018 19:30 Stratford Circus Theatre, Stratford, East London 

Ballet Central is the touring company of Central School of Ballet.  Its members are final year students on the degree course. Many of my favourite dancers and two of my favourite living British choreographers, Chris Marney and Kenneth Tindall, trained there.  Its tour of the UK during the second quarter of the year is one of the highlights of my calendar.

The lucky old South saw a lot of Ballet Central this year.  But their only appearance north of the Trent this year was in Leeds on 29 April and that was the day that Scottish Ballet danced Highland Fling in Gurn and Effie Land and the evening before I had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to attend class with Ballet West in Taynuilt and the 50th anniversary gala of the St Andrew's Dance Club which I helped to found many years ago.  I couldn't possibly miss all that even for Ballet Central.

I had hoped to see Ballet Central in London but alas alack the last train north by our wonderful, renationalized railway now leaves King's Cross at 22:00.  I tried ticking them off on twitter and you can see where it got me:

The Stratford Circus Arts Centre is a delightful theatre which reminds me of the Linbury but it is at least half an hour's trek to King's Cross whether you take HS1 from Stratford International or the tube. The tube was particularly awkward on Saturday because Bank was closed.  I looked into minicabs and black cabs but they could have been help up in traffic.   The only safe way to make the rattling Donny Choo-Choo was to
leave the Circus at 20:29 
without the chance of a shine.
Never mind!  Half a show was better than none and the but of the show that I did see was well worth the journey.

Wendy McDermott described the show in an excellent review when it visited Leeds (see Ballet Central in Leeds 31 May 2018).  I saw Jenna Lee's Black Swan and the extracts from Wayne McGregor's FAR and Kenneth MacMillan's Valley of Shadows.   I missed Christopher Gable's Cinderella which is one of my favourites in Northern Ballet's repertoire that I long to see again.  I felt so cheated as I left the theatre during the interval.   I have never walked out of a show before. Not even a bad one. To leave a good show was nothing short of heartbreaking. Although I am not a big fan of Sir Matthew Bourne's The Sleeping Beauty - the curtain climbing baby gives me the creeps - I would have loved to have seen the fairies' prologue once more.  

I comforted myself with the thought that I had at least seen Jenna Lee's Black Swan.   I like Lee's work a lot. I had enjoyed her ballroom scene from Romeo and Juliet  last year (see Triumphant 1 May 2017).  Her Black Swan combining scenes from the film and the ballet is even more ambitious.  It opened with a bad tempered ballerina banging her pointe shoes on a table thereby interrupting Philip Feeney who was at the piano playing Tchaikovsky.  The ballet continues with rehearsals and performance and ends with the removal of yesterday's black swan by her successor.   An interesting touch which might be followed in other Swan Lakes is the presentation of a white feather.  Even more dramatic perhaps than the flickering Odette in the seduction scene.

Like Wendy I saw Ayca Anil as the black swan. Wendy was impressed by Anil's technique and I agree with everything that Wendy said about that.  However I also thought she was a pretty good dance actor as was her prince, Saul Kilcullen-Jarvis.  He represented a very complex character, a bit like the prince in David Dawson's version.  The action flashed back to the ballet with clips from act 1 and act 3.  Echoes of familiar choreography and music as well as some innovation.  The entrance of the black swans with their arms in open 5th was particularly effective.  

Dante Baylor's costume designs, especially the red headdress for the women and the geometric piping of the prince's doublet were impressive.   There was a lot - probably too much - for the senses to take in on seeing this ballet for the first time.  I would love to see it again.

 In FAR - Company Wayne McGregor - 2010 - Behind the Scenes McGregor explains how he drew inspiration from Diderot's Encyclopedia and, in particular, his drawings of the human nervous system. Diderot showed how it was the brain that made the body work.  The brain is represented in McGregor's piece by an array of tiny lamps representing neurons.  Those neurons control movements of the body which are sometimes convulsive.  Ballet Central showed two scenes from an hour long work.  There was a duet by Rita Lee and Aitor Viscarolasaga Lopez and a group scene with Rishan Benjamin, Aoibh Ní Riain Broin,  Hitomi Nishizawa,  Hikari Uemura, Olivia Van Niekerk, Harris Beattie, Thomas Harden and Kevin Memeti.  Not an easy piece to dance, I should have thought, particularly with Ben Frost's multilayered score.  Again, I need to see this work again - and perhaps more than once - to appreciate and understand it fully.

The extract from Valley of Shadows was a beautiful dance for four: Mical Klara Coxill, Saul Kilcullen-Jarvis, Jamie Wallis and Scot Baldie set to Tchaikovsky's Souvenir de Florence. This scene shows the Finzi-Contini family in the seclusion of their garden before their lives are shattered by deportation to a concentration camp in Germany.  Wendy referred to sad and dark undertones and that is because we know what happened to the family.

Knowing that I would have to leave early to catch the rattling Donny choo-choo I booked a seat in the balcony which would have allowed me to slip out before the end of the performance with minimum noise and fuss.  It allowed me to spot who was in the audience and I spotted more than a few friends and acquaintances.  That made it even harder to leave the theatre.

Finally a message for Heidi Hall and Chris Marney.  There are approximately 25 million people who live north of the Trent and we can't all squeeze into the Stan and Audrey on a Sunday night.  We have some lovely theatres such as the Keys and Aldridge at the Lowry, the Atkinson at Southport, the Waterside in Sale, the Cast in Doncaster, the Library in Sheffield and indeed the Lawrence Batley here in Huddersfield.  Do stay with us a little longer when you go on tour next year.

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