Friday, 19 July 2019

Central School of Ballet's Summer Performance

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Central School of Ballet Summer Performance 18 July 2019, 19:30 Bloomsbury Theatre & Studio

Central School of Ballet has trained some excellent dancers.  They include Sarah Kundi who stole the show as far as I was concerned with her hilarious performance as Cinderella's stepmother in the Albert Hall (see Cinders in the Round 13 June 2019).  Hannah Bateman was at Central too.  She is my favourite at Northern Ballet.  So, too, was Rachael Gillespie whom I also admire greatly.  The School trained Kenneth Tindall whom I described as "a many sided genius", and, of course, its current artistic director, Christopher Marney, who is my favourite living British choreographer.  Central was founded by Christopher Gable whom I first saw as Romeo with Lynn Seymour ar Covent Garden.  I saw him again many years later in A Simple Man and it was that performance that attracted me to Northern Ballet as it is now called.  His term as artistic director was that company's golden age.

Yesterday, I got a chance to see some of those who will follow in the footsteps of those great names in Central School of Ballet's Summer PerformanceThat is not the same as the annual tour that the performing company, Ballet Central, make each spring and summer.  The Summer Performance offers a chance to see the first and second-year students as well as those in the third year.  Though there is some overlap, the programmes are different.  Ballet Central visits about 20 theatres up and down the country between March and July,  The Summer Performance takes place only at the Bloomsbury Theatre & Studio on the 18 and 19 July.

Heidi Hall, the Director, opened the show with a talk about the School and the performance.  She reported that the £9 million appeal had been successful and that the School hoped to move into its new premises after Christmas.  Funds were still needed, she reminded us, and she invited everyone in the audience to join its "Friends" scheme.  She promised a great show and that was exactly what her young artists, the choreographers, staff and technicians delivered.

The show consisted of seven works divided into two acts:
  • Jenna Lee's Rock 'n' Roll  
  • Calvin Richardson's Dying Swan
  • Louse Bennett's Twin Figures
  • Sandrine Monin's Hidden
  • Thiago Soares's Vossa Sinfonia
  • Leanne King's All in Four, and
  • Christopher Marney's Carousel Dancers.
I liked all of the works, particularly Lee's Rock 'n' Roll, Richardson's Dying Swam, Monin's Hidden, Soares's Vossa Sinfonia, King's All in Four and Marney's Carousel Dances most of all.

I became a fan of Lee when I saw her ballroom scene from Romeo and Juliet in 2017 (see Triumphant 1 May 2017) and my admiration of her work grew still more when I saw Black Swan at Stratford last year (see Half a Show is Better than None 16 July 2018). I enjoyed her Rock 'n' Roll best of all.  Set in a 1950s US diner or maybe a high school hop, the girls wore the most gorgeous full-skirted dresses with yards of tulle petticoats while the boys wore white tops and black bottoms.  The action revolved around a jukebox that played the fifties pop of my childhood.  It was fun to watch a turns on pointe to Little Richard.  I hope and suspect that it was fun to do those turns.

Next came Richardson's Dying Swan danced by Joseph Beretta.  Like Michel Decombey's which was danced elegantly by Javier Torres in Northern Ballet's 45th-anniversary gala (see Sapphire 15 March 2015), this was a solo for a male. Pavlova died nearly 20 years before I was born so I never saw her dance Fokine's work but my mother did when she was 3 years old and it made such an impression on her that she could describe every detail of the choreography up to the day she died (see In Leeds of all Places - Pavlova, Ashton and Magic 18 Sep 2013).  I have seen it performed twice by a modern ballerina - once by Elena Glurdjidze in the Gala for Ghana and a few years earlier by Marianela Nuñez of which I have no recollection at all.  Though I like Decombey's work as performed by Torres, Richardson's work was closer in spirit to Fokine. He took no liberties with the score.  Had Fokine created a version for a man I think it would have been like Richardson's.

Twin Figures by Louise Bennett was set to Boreslav Martinu's concerto for piano and cello.  A very energetic work, it offered plenty of opportunities to the first-year students to demonstrate their virtuosity. Some 20 dancers took part.  Clad in blue and green the effect was quite mesmeric.  It was a good piece to take us through to the interview.  At that point I tweeted:
I dubbed Sandrine Monin as "Leeds's own" because I first got to know her work through Phoenix Dance Theatre for whom she created Calyx from Baudelaire's Fleurs du Mal in 2018.  Deep currents ran through Calyx as they did for Hidden which she created for the second years.  Figures move about the stage their heads slightly bowed as though they were automatons.  I got the impression that the work was inspired by Fritz Lang's Metropolis because that was the feel of the piece and the narrative that was communicated to me - but I could well be wildly wrong.  The music which was contributed by Rusconi and Martinu added to the sense of mechanistic desolation.  A very thoughtful piece that needs to be seen again and probably more than twice.

Thiago Soares's Vossa Sinfonia was delightful.  It started with Beethoven, continued with Ernesto Nazareth, then Heitor Villa Lobos and Noel Rosa and finally back to Beethoven.  Its juxtaposition of Beethoven with recent composers reminded me a little of Arthur Pita's Dream within Midsummer Night's Dream.  The piece was the nearest we got to a classical work and in that regard, it would have done credit to Balanchine.

Leanne King's All in Four for the first years was a joyous work.  The girls were barefoot.  They wore long flowing skirts their hair in ponytails. They danced to Monteverdi's Beatus Vir (which I think means "blessed man" rather than "blessed be" as stated in the programme) arranged by Philip Feeney.  Feeny actually played the piano accompaniments with a keyboard and took a bow at the end. As a work of dance, it was my favourite of the evening.

Ballet is, of course, more than just dance.  It combines dance with drama, music, costumes, sets and more.  It grabs all the senses. That is why I described Carousel Dances as the piece de resistance in my tweets.  I saw several dancers who I think will go far.  The man who played the male lead, the female lead and the mistress of ceremonies to note just three.  There were plenty of circus thrills such as snake charmers, men crashing through hoops and acrobatics all forming the background to a romance.  Choreographed to tunes by Rogers and Hammerstein that we all know, it was the perfect end to a great show.

There will be one more performance tonight at 19:30.  If you are anywhere near Bloomsbury tonight and there are any tickets to spare go see this show.  It is one of the highlights of my year so far.

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