|Reproduced with kind permission of the Dancehouse Theatre|
Manchester City Ballet Christmas at the Dancehouse 7 Dec 2918, 19:30, The Dancehouse, Manchester
Whenever I can I take the train to Oxford Road on a Tuesday or drive to Leeds on a Wednesday for a 90-minute ballet class. I can't really keep up with students decades younger even though I do my level best but I am made to feel welcome at both classes and I always have fun. When, by some enormous fluke, something does go right the smile on the face of the teacher is palpable.
The teachers of both classes and many of their colleagues whom I also revere were trained at the Northern Ballet School in Manchester. They are all great human beings as well as fine teachers and accomplished dancers and the institution that produced them deserves support. So, every December (when I can get a ticket) I attend the annual performance of the School's classical ballet company, Manchester City Ballet, and every Spring I attend the showcase of Jazzgalore, its jazz and musical theatre company.
In all the previous years that I have been following the company, Manchester City Ballet has staged a full-length classical work at The Dancehouse theatre. I have seen and reviewed some excellent productions of The Nutcracker, Giselle and Coppelia (see Alchemy 13 Dec 2014, Manchester City Ballet's Giselle 12 Dec 2015 and Manchester City Ballet's Coppelia 10 Dec 2016). This year they did something different with their Christmas at The Dancehouse. They gave us Act II of The Nutcracker for the second part of the evening showing that they can do Spanish, Arabian, Chinese and Sugar Plum as well as anybody when they choose to do so, but they presented their own choreography using their singers as well as kids from McLaren Dance Company in Winter Wonderland for the first.
I must admit that I read the webpage advertising the show with some apprehension but the combination worked, It gave a fuller picture of the school whose students elect a classical or jazz and musical theatre focus. It showed, for instance, that some of its students can sing as well as dance. Francesca Thompson, for example, sang a contemporary version of Silent Night and danced the Rose Fairy.
There were some hilarious pieces such as Four Tramps where four strong men (Daniel Gooddy, James Hanna, Lucas Holden and Thomas Yeomans) entered with hands linked cygnets style actually dancing a few steps of that dance. I know of one choreographer and a ballet mistress who would have kittens had they been in the theatre last night, but why not? They were representing drunks and they gave a whole new meaning to pas de bourrée (for those who have forgotten their French "bourrer" means "to stuff" and to be bourré means to have had a skinful). Another bit which worked better than one would think was a czardas to traditional Christmas carols. Finally, the Winter Wonderland was linked to The Kingdom of the Sweets when Father Christmas gave Clara (Ruby Nuttall) a nutcracker.
All credit to the choreographer, Lisa Rowlands, the ballet mistress Amanda Gilliland and the technical manager and lighting designer, Gary Whittaker. I really liked the sets, lighting and projections, particularly of falling snow. Whoever thought of the idea deserves congratulations for her or his daring because it has paid off.
The second part included the best bits of Act II of The Nutcracker. All danced well but I particularly liked Irene Ganau as chocolate (or the Spanish dance), Ioanna-Maria Antoniou and Elisa D'Acciavo as tea (the Chinese dance) and three of the four drunkards from the first part (Gooddy, Hanna and Yeomans) transformed into Russians. The fourth of their number, Holden, danced the Sugar Plum's cavalier and although I admired his jumps and turns I had an anxious moment when he lifted Airi Aoki, especially in the final fish dive. I thought perhaps they needed more time together.
Altogether I found it a very good show and anybody who can get to Manchester for this afternoon's matinee or this evening's show is in for a treat. I thanks all the students who took part for entertaining us and wish them well for the remainder of their studies and their future careers.