Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Northern Ballet School's Showcase of Dance

Manchester City Ballet's Giselle
Photographer Caroline Holden
(c) Northern Ballet School 2011 all rights reserved
Reproduced with the kind permission of the School

Northern Ballet School, A Showcase of Dance, The Dancehouse, Manchester 8 July 2016

Northern Ballet School is a national treasure and I say that without exaggeration for many reasons. It has talented young people of many nations some of whom will make their mark on stage in ballet or musical theatre while others who will share their gift of dance as teachers. It hosts The Dancehouse Theatre, one of the institutions of Manchester, and Manchester City Ballet, the only resident classical ballet company in our metropolis. I have particular reason to be glad of the School's existence as it trained two of my favourite teachers in Leeds as well as those in Manchester. I attend class in its studios and have performed on the Dancehouse stage.

Last week the School presented its students in A Showcase of Dance at The Dancehouse,  The show was a combination of ballet and musical theatre reflecting its twin focus on classical ballet and jazz theatre. It consisted of 20 works in three acts some of which were quite lengthy. It began at 19:30 and ended just after 22:00. Each and every performance was brilliant in its own way.  As I tweeted last night, it was not just a good students' show - it was a good show by any standards.

Act I  began with a large extract of the second act of Giselle though it had been adapted by the students' choreographer, Anton Alexandrov, for his almost entirely female cast.  Myrtha, danced by Sayaka Sugimoto, and what a friend aptly called Myrtha's sidekicks, Zulm (Meagan Hoare) and Mona (Sally Hind), had at least as much to do on stage as Giselle herself (Yukiho Kasai) and a great deal more than Albrecht danced by Carlos Felipe Oliviera. That was the cast that had performed Giselle in December (see Manchester City Ballet's Giselle 12 Dec 2015) and the the same woodland backdrop was used. As before they were all good but I was particularly impessed  by Oliveira. With his shock of heair, was one of the most noticeable dancers in the show. I was also impressed by the corps who had some tricky steps including the tricky progress across the stage in arabesque.

The next two works, Beat It, by Helen Vidotti to the music of Michael Jackson and GUY by Lee Lomas to the music of Lady Gaga, were exciting and exuberant. They were followed by Cell Block Tango, a scene from Chicago where each of prisoners explained how they had landed in gaol. More great dancing from Oliviera in Anthea Garrett's Final Dance to the music of John Kander. This time Oliveria's partner was Larissa King. Dani Winters's brilliant Diamonds to DjeeeeeKK completed the first act.

More ballet in Act II with Lisa Rowlands's Juliet - A Thousand Good Nights to the music of Abel Korzeniowski. This piece had been  created to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death. Alex Burrows who had danced the peasant pas de deux in Gisele appears to have been Romeo. I was not clear which of the girls was Juliet unless they all were which is possible as they were all good dancers. Although I enjoyed all the works in act II, two stood out for me in particular. There was the utterly charming Family Scene written and staged by Chris Helmsley where a mother (Annabelle Dawes) and father (Cameron Barclay) spoke about how they fell in love before their inquisitive children (Kezia Coulson and Emilia Miller). One of many opportunities for the students to show their ability to act with American accents which so few Brits can do well. I also loved You Gotta Get a Gimmick  by Emma Woods. The other works in act II were I've heard that Song before, Just in Time, The Secret, Sax and Gasp.

The final act opened with one of the early scenes from the musical Little Shop of Horrors which I have enjoyed ever since I first saw it at Pitlochry. Seymour was played by Joseph Foster and Audrey by Lucy Davies. Both acted, danced and sang well as did the rest of the cast. That was followed by Statera, a work created by Alexandrov to Philip Glass's music. Great dancing by the cast which included Burrows, Hird, Hoare, Kasai and Sugimoto. Nexr came Garrett's Runaround to Mopmop's music. Lonely Town, another ballet by Alexandrov to Leonard Bernstein's music mainly for the men. Darcey Ferguson danced the prostitute which was the only female role. The final piece was Times Square Ballet, a sparkling work by Lee Lomas to Bernstein. Set in Manhattan there were snatches from On the Town including New York, New York which I can never get out of my head when I visit that city. Maxwell Statham performed Gaby which was the role created by Gene Kelly, Jak Elmore Chip which was created  by Frank Sinatra and Harry Poswell as Ozzie which was created for Jules Munshin. I saw more than a little stardust in their performances.

The show ended with thunderous applause to the strains of Donna Summer as the artists took their bow. I had enjoyed last year's Showcase (see Serendipity 10 July 2015) but this was even better. The names of at least some of these performers will be up in lights in the West End.

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