Friday, 10 July 2015


Horace Walpole
Artist Rosalba Carriere 
Source Wikipedia

Northern Ballet School, A Showcase of Dance, The Dancehouse, Manchester 14 July 2015, 19:30

The set text of the English language "O" level paper for the Oxford and Cambridge Board in July 1965 was on the origin of the noun serendipity. It was coined by Horace Walpole to describe the fortune of three princes of Serendip who "were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of”. The word now means "fortunate happenstance" or "pleasant surprise".

A good example of serendipity occurred yesterday evening when I attended KNT Danceworks. I noticed that The Dancehouse  was busy. I asked what was going on and leaned that Northern Ballet School was presenting A Showcase of Dance in the theatre. My class ended at 19:39 so I scurried down to the box office for a ticket.  Save for the pas de trois of Le Cotsaire I think I caught the whole show.

As the programme states, Northern Ballet School in Manchester (not to be confused with Northern Ballet which started life and was based for many years in Manchester very close to where the School is now located) is "an internationally recognized centre of excellence in the training of dancers for classical and musical theatre careers". The School has a company called Manchester City Ballet in which students gain stage experience. Every year, the company stages a full length ballet.  Last year it was The Nutcracker which I reviewed in Alchemy 13 Dec 2014 and its next production will be Giselle between the 10 and 13 Dec 2015.  A Showcase of Dance displays the whole range of the School's activities starting with tutus and pointe shoes in one of Petipa's most popular ballets and ending with the razzmatazz of a West End musical.

The progranme started with Le Corsaire and I caught the pas de deux by Luca di Martino and Sayaka Sagimoto and the pas de six. These are difficult pieces and they were both executed well, This was followed by Earth Song, a contemporary piece on environmental damage and some distressing projections of deforestation and environmental destruction on stage. There was ballet again with Last Promenade to some great cello music which I could not recognize. Everybody recognized the music to Pandora's Box which was the Dance of the Knights from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet. I was reminded of Milena Siderova's Full Moon for Bart Engelen of the Dutch National Ballet (see The Dutch National Ballet Junior Company's best Performance yet 8 March 2015) except this was a fight between Alexander Smith and some shadowy caped and hooded figures over a sinister looking box, It was impressively staged and very dramatic. Eye of Horus was also mysterious but much softer with haunting Middle Eastern music. A pretty duet by Carlos Oliviera and Peri La Riche to The Sound of Music followed. Then there was Bolero which was my favourite with the girls in gorgeous long dresses engaging almost flirtatiously with the audience. Finally there was The Night Shift featuring Carlotta Tocci and Daniela Pinto,

The second act began with cats - or rather dancers dressed as cats - scurrying from the top of the auditorium hissing and spitting at the audience on the way to the stage. I hissed back at two of them. That was The Jellicle Ball from Cats which was a fun piece. It was followed by more dancing from the shows - Too Darn Hot and Sweet Charity - and contemporary pieces like Sanctuary and Slum.  I was particularly impressed by the all male cast of Slum for their energy, It had more roars and grunts than the centre court of Wimbledon, Although this was A Showcase of Dance we had a song from Charlotte Russell who has a lovely voice though one which could have benefited from more projection to where I was sitting which was the top of the gods. She gave way to Come on Everybody which was 1959s rock n' roll with the boys in tight jeans and the girls in long flowing skirts. Finally there was Something Better Than This by Gabriela Brough, Alarna Morgan and Daniela Pinto and finally the whole company in Brass Band and a glorious finale.

There is an abundance of talent in this School and as a Mancunienne I was very proud of the young artists I saw yesterday. Until the second largest conurbation of the UK gets a resident world class ballet company back again this School carries the torch for dance in Manchester and it deserves to be supported. The show continues at The Dancehouse tonight and tomorrow and I strongly recommend it,

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