|"Shakespeare" possibly by John Taylor|
National Portrait Gallery
To mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth in 1964 Sir Frederick Ashton created The Dream. Antoinette Sibley was Titania and Anthony Dowell her Oberon, The Dream was one of the most beautiful ballets that Ashton ever created. Here is a snippet of the original production and another to a more recent performance by American Ballet Theatre with Alessandra Ferri and Ethan Stiefel. The ballet was part of a triple bill of works inspired by Shakespeare. The others were Kenneth MacMillan's Images of Love and Sir Robert Helpmann's Hamlet. To commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death the Birmingham Royal Ballet will revive this iconic work at the Hippodrome between the 17 and 20 Feb 2016. If you see only one ballet this year this is the one you should not miss.
This is not the only contribution of the Birmingham Royal Ballet to the anniversary commemorations. The company will dance its Romeo and Juliet the following week in Birmingham before taking it on tour to the Lowry, Sunderland, Nottingham and Plymouth. The Northern touring section of the company will take pas de deux from Romeo and Juliet, The Dream and The Taming of the Shrew together with Wink, a new work by Jessica Lang and the Moor's Pavane to Durham, York and Shrewsbury on its Shakespeare Midscale Tour.
Regular readers of this blog will know that my favourite choreographer of all time was John Cranko (see Cranko's "Taming of the Shrew": Now's our chance to see one of the Ballets everyone should see before they die 21 Sept 2013). One of the works that he created for his Stuttgart Ballet is The Taming of the Shrew for which I waited 44 years to see (see Stuttgart Ballet's "Taming of the Shrew" - well worth the Wait 26 Nov 2013). Birmingham Royal Ballet, the successor to the company in which Cranko began his career, will perform his Taming of the Shrew in Birmingham between 16 and 18 June 2016. Incidentally, the Stuttgart Ballet will dance their production of the ballet at the Stuttgart Opera House on the 21 July 2016. Whether you catch it in Brum or Stuttgart, Cranko's masterpiece is another must see show.
The Birmingham Royal Ballet's final contribution to the anniversary commemorations will be The Shakespeare Triple Bill consisting of Wink, The Moor's Pavane and David Bintley's The Shakespeare Suite at the Hippodrome between the 22 and 25 June 2016.
As Birmingham is just over 30 miles from Stratford on Avon and in the same historic country it is perhaps fitting that the Birmingham Royal Ballet should lead those commemorations but it is by no means the only company to dance works inspired by Shakespeare. The Royal Ballet will revive The Winter's Tale in Spring. The Bolshoi will bring their version of The Taming of the Shrew by Jean-Cristophe Maillot to music by Shostakovich to London in the Summer (see Bolshoi Ballet to return to the Royal Opera House in summer 2016 11 Nov 2015 on the Royal Opera House website:
Bolshoi Ballet's Taming of the Shrew,
Standard YouTube Licence
British audiences will also get a chance to see that work streamed from Moscow on 24 Jan 2016 (see Live Performances streamed from the Bolshoi and Covent Garden 20 Sept 2015). Phoenix Dance Theatre will launch Undivided Loves by Kate Flatt based on Shakespeare's Sonnets in their triple bill at the West Yorkshire Playhouse on 17 Feb 2016. I have already seen an extract of the work and I strongly recommend it (see Never attend a Ballet Class the Morning after the Night Before 21 Dec 2015).
Yesterday I chose Scottish Ballet as my company of the year (see Highlights of 2015 29 Dec 2015) and they will certainly be in contention for the 2016 title if David Dawson's Swan Lake is as good as I expect it to be. Dawson is Associate Artist to the Dutch National Ballet and was its resident choreographer between 2004 and 2012. I saw his Empire Noir in the Dutch National Ballet's Cool Britannia triple bill and was most impressed (see Going Dutch 29 June 2015 and David Dawson's Empire Noir 18 June 2015). Swan Lake will open in Glasgow on 19 April 2016 and will visit Newcastle between 11 and 14 May 2016 and Liverpool between 1 and 4 June 2016 as well as Aberdeen, Inverness and Edinburgh.
Another new work to which I look forward immensely is Akram Khan's Giselle for English National Ballet. This work will be premièred at the Palace on 27 Sept 2016 and will be the centre piece of the Manchester International Festival. Having seen Kaash at the Lowry (see Akram Khan's Kaash - contemporary meets Indian classical 7 Oct 2015) and Dust at the Palace (see Lest We Forget 25 Oct 2015) I am intrigued. After Manchester the company will take the work to Bristol, Southampton and London.
Looking across the North Sea I tip Ted Brandsen's Mata Hari for the Dutch National Ballet (see Mata Hari 30 Nov 2015) and Ballet Bubbles the new season for the Durch National Ballet's Junior Company. The programme will include new works by Ernst Meisner and Charlotte Edmonds as well as pieces by Krzysztof Pastor, David Dawson and my favourite living choreographer Hans van Manen. Sadly the company will be unable to perform at the Linbury this year because it is closed for renovation. I have tried to persuade the company to consider other theatres in the UK but I am not confident that I have been successful. Other shows I should really like to see include Hans van Manen's Gold which will tour the Netherlands and Sasha Watts's Romeo and Juliet to Berlioz;s score. Incidentally, if like me you are a van Manen fan but can't make it to the Netherlands you can see Birmingham Royal Ballet dance his Five Tangos together with Solitaire, Four Scottish Dances and Monotones II in Cheltenham, Poole or Truro. I saw Scottish Ballet's performance of Five Tangos last April and enjoyed it very much (see No Mean City - Accessible Dance and Ballet 26 April 2016),
While it may not be possible to welcome the Junior Company to England this year we can at least look forward to visits by the Australian Ballet and the Bolshoi. The Australians are bringing Graeme Murphy's Swan Lake and Alexei Ratmansky's Cinderella to the Coliseum in July. The Bolshoi are bringing Maria Alexandrova, Ekaterina Krysanova, Olga Smirnova, Svetlana Zakharova, Semyon Chudin, David Hallberg, Denis Rodkin and others to delight us and will perform Don Quixote, Swan Lake, The Flames of Paris and Le Corsaire as well as Maillot's Taming of the Shrew which I mentioned earlier.
I am aware that I have barely scratched the surface and I apologize for any omissions. On the eve of what promises to be an outstanding year for dance I wish all my readers a happy and prosperous new year.