Monday 12 February 2024

Scottish Ballet's Cinders!

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Scottish Ballet Cinders Theatre Royal Newcastle, 10 Feb 2024, 14:30

Christopher Hampson created a beautiful version of Cinderella for the Royal New Zealand Ballet in 2007 which he successfully transplanted to Scotland.  It was a profound and sensitive study of grief and recovery which I loved (see Scottish Ballet's Cinderella of 20 Dec 2015 and Hampson's Cinderella: Coming Up Roses 5 Feb 2019).  When I heard that Hampson had created a gender-reversal version of the ballet called Cinders bmy heart sank ecause I hate change for change's sake.  That's why I was less than enthusiastic about David Nixon's Swan Lake, Akram Khan's Giselle or even my beloved Scottish Ballet's Coppelia.

But sometimes a reworking of a well-known and well-loved ballet succeeds spectacularly.  David Dawson's Swan Lake is a case in point and Ted Brandsen's Coppelia is another.  I am relieved to say that Hampson has carried it off brilliantly with Cinders!.  I have to temper my enthusiasm with the caveat that I have only seen the version in which Cinders is danced by a woman, but I have sufficient confidence in Hampson's genius to look forward to the other version of his ballet when it is next on tour. 

On the train back to Huddersfield I reflected that Scottish Ballet has always innovated. It began with Mods and Rockers '63 to the Beatles' music in 1963As Scotland's classical dance company, Scottish Ballet might have been expected to include La Sylphide which is set in the Highlands into their repertoire.  And so they do in a sense though they locate it in the gents' loo of a Glasgow community centre rather than a castle and call it  (see Scottish Ballet's "Highland Fling" in Gurn and Effie Land 2 May 2018).  The company's founder, Peter Darrell is said to have inspired Sir Matthew Bourne who created Highland Fling.  Cinders! follows that tradition and I have no doubt that Darrell would have approved of Hampson's creation.

The synopsis of Cinders! is very different from that of CinderellaGone are the Fairy Godmother, mice, the pumpkin coach, dressmaker, cobbler and dancing master.  There is no wicked stepmother as such because Cinderes's father dies in a fire but there is a new owner of her father's business called Mrs Thorne who performs a similar role.  She also has two unlikeable daughters called Morag and Flossie and a son called Tarquin.  The relationship between Cinders and Mrs Thorne is not clear but it is one of subordination. The prince has two friends who are dukes, one of whom takes a shine to one of Mrs Thorne's daughters and the other to Tarquin.

The simplification of the story has made way for some spectacular choreography.  Particularly impressive were two duets between Cinders danced by Gina Scott and the Prince danced by Evan Loudon.  One takes place at the ball and the other after they eventually find each other.  In both of those duets, there are spectacular fish dives.  I first noticed Loudon when he danced the Prologue in Emergence with Sophie Martin (see Scottish Ballet - Emergence and Mc14/22 11 June 2017).  Scott, however, was new to me and when I posted a comment about her performance on Facebook I learned that both she and I have studied with the same teacher.  That teacher remarked that Scott had some special magic I knew exactly what she teacher must have meant.  Scott must have shown remarkable promise as a student.   The reason I had not noticed  Scott before is that she joined the company only last year.   I shall certainly follow her career with interest in the future.

Other dancers who impressed me were Grace Horler who danced Mrs Thorne and Thomas Edwards who danced her son, Tarquin.  I had been a fan of Horler since 2017 when I saw her in Hansel and Gretel (see Hansel and Gretel in Newcastle - a bit like falling in love 4 Feb 2017).  I first noticed Edwards for his performance as Dr Coppelius.  I should add that everybody in the show danced  well and all deserve commendation.

This company had commissioned new sets and costumes from the young Welsh designer Elin Steele. She graduated from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama only in 2018 and has already acquired an impressive portfolio.   Her costume for Cinders's entrance to the ball was dazzling.  Cinders was clad entirely in white.  She shed her veil to reveal a skirt in the colours of the prince's uniform.   The sets for the shop, ball and rose garden were ingenious and intricate.  The last scene with its Christmas tree uplifted the dancers and audience. 

I should mention Hayley Egan's video designs.  Her simulated newspaper headlines about the fire, survival of Cinders and Mrs Thorne's purchase of the haberdashery shop launched the story.  Her projections marked each change of scene,   

Credit is also due to Lawrie McLennan for his atmospheric lighting.

Cinders!  should be danced alongside Cinderella much in the way that the English National Ballet retains both Mary Skeaming; 's Giselle as well as Akram Khan's.  Both Cinders! and Cinderella have merit and each helps audiences to understand and appreciate the other.

Tuesday 23 January 2024

Dutch National Ballet's "Giselle" in the Cinema

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Dutch National Ballet Giselle UK screening 21 Jan 2024  14:00

We do not get to see enough of the Dutch National Ballet in this country which is a shame for many reasons. It is one of the world's great companies and it is the company outside the Anglosphere that is most similar to the Royal Ballet and the Birmingham Royal Ballet.  There are many links between the National Ballet and the two Royal Ballet companies  For example, Northern Ballet's new Director, Federico Bonelli, danced with the National Ballet between 1996 and 2003 and the Junior Company's Artistic Director, Ernst Meisner, trained at the Royal Ballet School and danced with the Royal Ballet for many years.  The links between the companies go back to at least 1940.  The Sadler's Wells Ballet was touring the Netherlands when it was invaded by enemy forces.

Yesterday's screening of Rachel Beaujean and Ricardo Bustamente's Giselle in the United Kingdom enabled British balletgoers who did not already know the company to see just how good it is.   The lead roles were danced by former Bolshoi principals Olga Smirnova and Jacopo Tissi, This was the first time that I had seen them.  Both impressed me considerably with their virtuosity. Smirnova's Giselle reminded me strongly of Osipova's, particularly in the scene when she is summoned from the tomb by Myrtha where she rotates with the speed and energy of a Catherine wheel.

Giorgi Potskhishvili was possibly the best Hilarion that I have ever seen.  His passion was palpable.  In this production, he pulls a knife on Albrecht which causes Albrecht to reach for where his sword should have been.  I had never seen that detail before and it explains a lot.  At a pre-performance talk when I saw the ballet in  Heerlen I put it to Beaujean that Hilarion had a rather raw deal in the story (see "Mooie!" 16 Nov 2018). "He may have been jealous, even a bit stupid," I argued, "but he was not the one to deceive two women. Did he really deserve to die?"  I don't think I would have asked that question had I seen Potskhishvili's performance then.

Myrthe was danced by Floortje Eimers whose career I have followed closely for the last 10 years.  Although it is not regarded as the leading female role I have often thought that it makes or breaks the ballet because it is Myrthe rather than Giselle who dominates the second act.  Eimers danced the role well and the second act was gripping.  Particularly the last scene before the bell struck when Tissi lay exhausted on the floor.

There were many other commendable performances but as the programme listed only the four leading roles, I can't remember exactly who danced what,  The only one I can remember is Sho Yamada in the Peasant Pas de Quatre.   The other three who danced with him merit congratulations but while I remember their faces I cannot remember their names,  Similarly, I should commend those who danced Moyna and Zulma.

One of the reasons why this production is so impressive is that the sets and costumes were designed by Toer van Schayk.  His name was not on the cinema programmes but it should have been because van Schayk is a genius.  He is as distinguished as a painter and sculptor as he is as a dancer and choreographer.  He has designed the sets for many shows of all kinds.   Often a set is lost on camera.  In this film, the high peaks and meandering valley in the first act and the mysterious and menacing forest in the second were captured faithfully,

The ballet was filmed by Pathé Live which used to present the Bolshoi.  I tended to prefer Pathé's transmissions to the Royal Opera House's largely because of the skills of its presenter, Katerina Novikova.  She could switch effortlessly from one language to another and she charmed her interviewees with her smile.  She never used an interpreter and translated their replies as soon as her interviewees stopped speaking.  Pathé did not introduce Giselle and there was no interval.   Instead, the ballet started promptly at 14:30 and continued without a break until the reverence.

That was a missed opportunity.  The company is used to giving pre-performance talks when on tour or in Amsterdam as I mentioned above.   I usually learn something new about a ballet even though the talks are given in Dutch.   The company always gives a good account of itself on World Ballet Day.   I would have enjoyed short interviews with Beaujean about the choreography, van Schayk about his designs and Smirnova, Tissi and Eimers on their characters.  

Giselle may be a very short ballet but it is too long to appreciate in one sitting.   The contrast between acts one and two also requires some time for adjustment.  In the theatre, the audience would have at least 20 minutes to grab a coffee, visit the loo, read the programme, purchase an Igone de Jongh or Michaela de Prince tee-shirt or some other merchandise and chat about the performance.  Cinema audiences need that break too especially if it is their first experience of ballet.   If the Dutch National Ballet ever contemplates another  screening I hope it will include breaks and interviews with the artists and creatives,

Wednesday 13 December 2023

Shake Your Tutu

© 2023 Mark Gowland: all rights reserved Reproduced with kind permission of the owner

Northern Dance Academy Shake Your Tutu 10 Dec 2023 19:30 Creative Centre, York St John University

Northern Dance Academy is a dance school in York.  It offers a wide range of classes in many styles of dance to both adults and children.  Its classical ballet and lyrical teacher, Christie Barnes, is a founder member of Powerhouse Ballet.  Christie introduced me to Sarah Dickinson, the Director of the Northern Dance Academy.  She invited our company to dance the extract from La Sylphide that we had performed in Dance Studio Leeds's Celebration of Dance on 25 Nov 2023 in Shake Your Tutu, Northern Dance Academy's Christmas show.

The show took place in the Creative Centre of York St John University on 10 Dec 2023.  It is a magnificent auditorium with 170 seats, a massive stage, excellent acoustics and the latest sound, lighting and projection equipment.  I attended the technical rehearsal which was an opportunity to see the capabilities of that equipment in action.

The performance began at 19:30.  It consisted of the following pieces in two acts with a 20-minute interval:

Act I:

  • Rogue Raimdrops by the NDA Adult Dance Company choreographed by Christie Barnes 
  • Snowdrops by Christie Barnes and Soraya Noumen 
  • Once Upon A December by the Adult Ballet Beginners choreographed by Esther Wilson 
  • Running with the Wolves by Anjuli Trace 
  • Inner Voice by Esther Wilson and Hortensia Szalay 
  • Underneath the Christmas Tree by the Advanced Tap Class choreographed by Stacey Young
  • L'Enfer by Vera van Cool and supporting dancers 
  • Round Round by the Junior/Youth Contemporary class choreographed by Julia Pittock 
  • Flores by the Lyrical troupe choreographed by Christie Barnes  
Act II
  • When the Land Meets the Sea a film by the NDA Adult Dance Company choreographed by Christie Barnes and filmed and edited by Mark Gowland 
  • I wish it could be Christmas Every Day by the Grade 3 Tap Class choreographed by Stacey Young
  • O Holy Night by the Advanced Pointe dancers choreographed by Christie Barnes 
  • Make Believe by Natasha Young 
  • Hallelujah by the Advanced/Intermediate Ballet class choreographed by Christie Barnes 
  • A Contemporary Christmas by the Youth Contemporary class choreographed by Julie Pittock
  • La Sylphide by Powerhouse Ballet choreographed by August Bournonville, Marius Petipa and Jane Tucker and staged by Jane Tucker 
  • Tough Lover by Amber Yeoman 
  • Runaway by Christie Barnes and Julia Pittock, and 
  • A Night at the Ball by the Adult Contemporary class choreographed by Julia Pittock.
I enjoyed all the pieces.  It was clear that a lot of work had been done for each and every one of them.  It was one of the best student shows that I have ever seen.  

However, there were some personal highlights  Snowdrops was enchanting.  Two young friends frolicked as if in a garden.  Just before the end, winter clothes appeared on stage which the dancers donned.  Their winsome wave as they left the stage was quite charming.  I liked Anjuli Trace's solo Running with the  Wolves and the duet Inner Voice Esther Wilson and Hortensia Szalay.  Anjuli and Esther are also members of Powerhouse Ballet.  The children and young women in Round Round were delightful. Especially the little boy and the girl who carried him on her back for a while.

The second act began with the film.  Christie has posted it to her Facebook feed.  It is set on one of the big wide  North Sea beaches.  It happened to be Fraisthorpe but it could have been Northumberland, Berwickshire or Fife.  Mark applied some very interesting camera techniques including mirroring. In Max Richter's In The Garden Christine chose the perfect score.  The scene was idyllic. The East Coast is not exactly known for its balmy weather.  Although probably unintended one of the artists was a black dog which made a couple of appearances.  The animal appeared to be dancing.   I was also delighted to recognize several members of Powerhouse Ballet in the film.   I hope our company can collaborate with Mark and Christie in making dance films in the future.

Although obviously not impartial I was bowled over by Powerhouse's performance of an extract of La Sylphide.  The scene was set in a forest after James has left his wedding guests to pursue a sylph who has vanished up a chimney with Effie's ring (see La Sylphide resource page).   He meets the sylphs and is quite overcome by them.  Frank Lee danced James and the syphs included several members of the Northern Dance Academy.  I had seen the company rehearse the scene many times.   Indeed, I had actually taken part in some of the rehearsals.  I had also seen their performances in Leeds.  This was by far their best yet.  They danced with energy, flair and passion.   I felt compelled to rise to my feet to bellow "bravi".   I have never been more proud of them.

I have to congratulate everyone involved in planning and participating in the show.  Particular credit belongs to Christie who directed and produced the show and choreographed and/or danced in many of the contributions.  There seems to be no end to her skills and talents.   She even found time to make sleeves and wings for our sylphs costumes.   Even attending class with her is a pleasure for she has the most infectious laugh and a very ready wit.   It has been great to work with her on La Sylphide and I look forward to doing so again very soon.

Saturday 9 December 2023

The Junior Company Ten Years On

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Just over 10 years ago I flew to Holland to watch a troupe of dancers in their late teens and early twenties called "The Junior Company" (see The Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet - Stadsshouwburg Amsterdam 24 Nov 2013 25 Nov 2013).  

I had come to see Michaela DePrince whom I had already mentioned several times in this blog. She had been born in Sierra Leone, the country of my late spouse and my former ward who is the nearest I have to a daughter.  I was amply rewarded for my journey because DePrince danced magnificently. But so did the other dancers some of whom are now principals or soloists in the Dutch National Ballet and other great companies.

That visit to Amsterdam was the start of many good things.  I met members of the company, parents and other relations of those members and fellow fans of the company from the Netherlands and elsewhere.  I made friends with many of them.   Yvonne Charlton visited Powerhouse Ballet.  She gave us some great classes in Liverpool, Leeds and Manchester and taught us some of her choreography.  In the miserable days of lockdown, Maria Chugai raised our spirits with two wonderful online classes and her appearance at "The Stage Door".   

On my visits to the Dutch National Ballet, I got to know the Netherlands, its cities and its people.   I learned about its history, its traditions and its view of the world.  Even though it has sounds that do not exist in our language, Dutch is actually a first cousin to English.  Had it not been for brexit which ended free movement it is more than likely that I would be living there now.  

To celebrate its 10th anniversary the Junior Company has just announced a tour of the Netherlands between 3 Feb and 17 March 2024 called quite simply TenIts programme will consist of George Balanchine's Valse Fantaisie and new works by Krzysztof PastorJoseph Toonga, Wubkje Kuindersma and Kirsten Wicklund. This will be the first opportunity to see some of the world's most promising young dancers many of whom could be household names in a few years from now.  Every time the Junior Company renews its membership it reinvents itself as its Artistic Coordinator Ernst Meisner remarks in Astrid van Leeuwen's article.

The Dutch National Ballet's Junior Company has been so successful that other companies, including the Birmingham Royal Ballet, have followed its example.   Earlier this year I attended the launch of BRB2 and met its Artistic Coordinator Kit Holder at Elmhurst Ballet School (see An "Evening with Ashton" and the Launch of an English Junior Company  30 Jan 2023).   I was in the audience when it visited Nottingham on 28 April 2023 and was very impressed (see BRB2 in Nottingham 29 April 2023).   I am looking forward to its next tour which will take in Poole, Canterbury and Northampton in May 2024 (see BRB2: First 2024 Tour Venues Announced 26 July 2023 Birmingham Royal Ballet website).

The idea of a junior company as a bridge between vocational school and corps de ballet is an excellent one. I shall continue to support Ernst Meisner and Kit Holder in their endeavours in any way I can. 

Wednesday 6 December 2023

Powerhouse Ballet Celebrates Dance


Powerhouse Ballet Extract from La Sylphide Chrima Q Theatre, Leeds, 25 Nov 2023 15:00 and 19:00

Every Autumn The Dance Studio Leeds presents a Celebration of Dance at the Chroma Q Theatre in Leeds. It is a gala to which the studio's students and dance groups and companies from Leeds and beyond contribute.   We took part in it for the first time last year when we danced an extract of Giselle (see A Celebration of Dance: Wilis and More 23 Nov 2022).  We were invited back this year to dance an extract from La Sylphide on 25 Nov 2023(see Powerhouse Ballet's Romantic Ballet Workshop 26 Sept 2023 Powerhouse Ballet's website).

For the first time since our formation, we staged a show with a mixed cast. We have always welcomed gentlemen to our classes but we have been unable to persuade any of them to perform in public.  This year Frank Lee danced James for us, a role that he performed with flair and gallantry.   He was supported by the ladies in the above photograph who excelled themselves.

Our performances could easily have gone wrong because two of our most talented and experienced members were indisposed through illness and injury.  I sensed a ripple of despair as the news sank in which was arrested abruptly by our wonderful choreographer, director and producer, Jane Tucker, by assuring us that our show would be wonderful.   I have to say that I thought she had her work cut out because the tech rehearsal had exposed several issues.   In a rehearsal in our dressing room which she called immediately afterwards, she adjusted the choreography and reassigned roles.  Confidence quickly returned and our cast was ready for anything.

There were two performances on 25 Nov: a matinee at 15:00 and an evening show at 19:00.  Jane and I watched the matinee and were very impressed. Many styles of dance were represented. All had been thought out well and rehearsed.  I enjoyed all the pieces but I particularly liked the Indian dancers.   I have invited their teacher to give us an exhibition class in the New Year.   Having been one of the founder members of the St Andrews Dance Club I was delighted to make contact with the director of the Leeds Union University Ballet Society.   I shall do all I can to support the Society with reviews and announcements,   Their dancers will be very welcome at all our classes and workshops.

Our dancers performed magnificently in the matinee.   I think the absence of two of our number encouraged them to dance as they had never danced before.   I have never been more proud of them.  They also danced well in the evening though I only saw them from the wings.  After the matinee the cast presented Jane and me with beautiful bouquets of roses,   I am glad to say that mine are still going strong.

The purpose of the gala is to raise money for charity.  This year the cause was bowel cancer research and relief which this publication is proud to support.  We were one of the sponsors of this year's show.  Anybody who wishes to contribute to the charity can donate to Bowel Cancer UK.

Powerhouse Ballet is now on a roll.   We have been invited to dance in Shake Your Tutu (Northern Dance Academy's Christmas show) at the Creative Centre Theatre, York, YO31 7EX on 10 Dec 2023 at 19:30. Karen Lester Sant has offered us a slot in KNT Danceworks's next show in Manchester.   Our next company class will take place on 27 Jan 2024 between 09:45 and 11:15 at Dance Studio Lees when we shall welcome back Annemarie  Donoghue of Northern Ballet Academy.   Karen will give us our next class in Manchester on 17 Feb 2024,   Anyone wishing to join any of our activities should call me on 07966 373922 or send me a message through this contact form.

Saturday 2 December 2023

Salford Pioneers

Author Philip Stevens Licence CC BY-SA 4.0 Deed Source Wikimedia
Jeremy Bentham

Ballet Black Pioneers (Then or Now and Nina: By Whatever Means) The Kowry 1 Nov 2023 20:00

Having missed the start of Then as Now in York on 13 June 2023 as a result of acute traffic congestion in that city (see Ballet Black Takes York By Storm 9 July 2023) I was determined to arrive on time for the start of Ballet Black's Pioneers double bill at the Lowry.  I arrived at the theatre car park for an 8pm curtain rise while The Archers were still on the radio.  Normally, I can park on the second or third floor of the multistorey but this time every floor was full.  I climbed and climbed until I found myself tracked in a queue of cars in front of me and at the back.  There I stayed until just after 20:00 when the queue miraculously started to flow downstairs towards the exit.   

Had I known that the Lowry would be full I would have driven straight to Media City which is a 5-minute walk from the theatre.  Plenty of spaces there and a clue as to what had happened at the theatre car. park There was a  notice addressed to football spectators about parking charges.  The Lowry is about a mile from Manchester United Football Club stadium where parking spaces are either scarce or deare.  Whatever the cause, football spectators strayed into our space on the night that beautiful Ballet Black was in town.  

Perhaps the reason I was able to park so easily in the Media City car park is that many MUFC fans have yet to discover it.  I am told that a "Welcome to Manchester" sign used to be displayed at Maine Road whenever City played United because United fans come from anywhere but Manchester.  I think there may be some truth in that story because I have noticed MUFC shops in Liverpool and Dublin airports but not in Manchester.  If I followed football (which I don't) I would support City over United as I was born in Didsbury, I understand that United were playing Newcastle and that the Magpies won.  "Serve them bloody right," I thought,

My antipathy towards United was more aesthetic than nativist.  I was reminded of Jeremy Bentham's remark in The Rationale of Reward that "the game of pushpin is of equal value with the arts and sciences of music and poetry." Total nonsense, of course, but what can you expect from someone whose glass-cased, mummified remains continue to confront visitors to the University College London nearly two centuries after his death.  I am with John Stuart Mill on this one.  Football is the modern successor to pushpin.  Folk may call it "the beautiful game" but its value does not come close to ballet. 

I arrived in the auditorium at just about the same point in Will Tuckett's Then as Now as it had reached in York when I was admitted there.  It is an extraordinarily beautiful work as can be seen from the video on the BBC iPlayer.  Unfortunately, as I have yet to see the work on stage I can't review it properly.  But readers can get a very good taste of it from the recording which I heartily commend to them.

However, I did see Nina: By Wahtever Means again and that saved the day for me.  This was danced with the same energy as in York and was received equally enthusiastically but as I knew what to expect I focused on the individual performances.  Isabela Coracy's role as Nina is pivotal.  She threw every milligram of her being into that performance.  Once again her repetition of the word "power" with clenched fists was mesmerizing. Her final cry "That's it" unleashed a tsunami of applause.  Nina was my last chance to see Sayaka Ichikawa whose departure I shall miss greatly (see Cassa Pancho's announcement on Instagram on 21 Oct 2023). She danced Nina's piano mistress.  As always she danced with flair.  She is a delightful dancer and Cassa's tribute says it all.   There were great performances by Ebony Thomas as Nina's husband, Helga Paris-Morales as the young Nina and Taraja Hudson.  It was also good to see the piece's choreographer Mthuthuzeli November take a role.

Ballet Black has recruited a lot of new dancers whom I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting.  They include Acaoã de Casto,   Megan Chiu, Bhungane Mehlomakulu, Mikayla Isaacs and Love Katiya. They have added sparkle.  Their company is a great national treasure which has come of age this year.   It will launch a whole new tour called "Heroes" from the Hackney Empire with Mthuthuzeli November's The Waiting Game and a new piece by Sophie Laplane on 22 March 2023.  Not long to wait!

Thursday 30 November 2023

Ailey II in Bradford

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Ailey 2 (Enemy in the Figure, Freedom Series, The Hunt and Revelations) Alhambra Theatre, Bradford 18 Oct2023 19:30

Aikey II is to Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre what NDT2 is to the Nederlands Dans Theater.  According to its website, Ailey 2 is "universally renowned for merging the spirit and energy of the country’s best early-career dance talent with the passion and creative vision of today’s most outstanding and emerging choreographers."  By inference, it consists of some of the best early-career dance talent in the United States.

The company has just completed a tour of England and Inverness.   I caught it at the Bradford Alhambra on 18 Oct 2023 where it performed four of its works:
The choice of works and the order in which they were presented were a reverse retrospective of the development of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and Ailey II.  Although William Forsyth is an American he made his reputation in Germany.  His works have been performed by companies all over the world including the Royal Ballet but it was through performances by Continental companies that I learned about his work.  Ailey II's artistic director Francesca Harper danced with the Frankfurt Ballet while Forsyth was the Director.  Robert Battle is the current Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and Alvin Ailey was, of course, the companies' founder.

Another way of looking at the programme was that it started with a work or at least a style that is familiar to European audiences as it is in the repertoire of many of the world's leading companies, continued with a work in the same tradition but by an American choreographer, followed with one that was quintessentially American and finished with pure African-American music and dance.  Visually my abiding memory of Freedom Series is of the illuminated white globes carried by the audience.  Aurally it is of the juxtaposition of voice against the electronic score.   Excitement mounted with the beat of Les Tambours de Bronx.  The show climaxed with Revelations bringing African-American spirituals that were familiar but sung and danced with a rawness and energy that was anything but.

Revelations was my favourite piece of the evening.   There were remarkable performances by everyone in the cast but I was particularly impressed by Spencer Everett in I Wanna Be Ready and Corinth Moultrie, Patrick Gamble and Alfred L Jordan II.  Interestingly, I heard some of the same music two weeks later in Mthuthuzeli November's Nina By Whatever Means where it was interpreted subtly differently by a South African choreographer and a Brazilian lead dancer.  

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and Ailey II are more than just performance companies. There is a vocational school in New York and classes for the general public,   I was pleased to read in the programme notes that there is a scheme for the school and companies to train promising British students known as Ailey Project UK.  Apparently, the first batch of British students is already in the USA.   The programme also states that the project has been promoted by Marcus Willis who danced with Alvin Ailey and is now the Artistic Director of Phoenix.   I met Marcus several times when he was with Ballet Cymru and was very impressed.

The last tour of the UK by Ailey II was in 2011 though we have seen the main company several times since them.   I hope that we do not have to wait another decade to see those super-talented young artists again,