Monday, 31 October 2016

The Good Nutcracker Guide

Standard YouTube Licence

Those who like The Nutcracker have a choice of three versions this year since all three of our flagship companies are staging the ballet this Christmas. The Royal Ballet and the Birmingham Royal Ballet offer their own versions of Sir Peter Wright's production in London and Birmingham respectively while English National will tour with Wayne Eagling's.

My first choice is the Royal Ballet's. I prefer the story where the fight between the mice and toy soldiers is confined to a dream in Act I and Act II is one great divertissement.  In Wayne Eagling's the battle is central to the story and continues into Act II as the mouse king follows Clara and Drosselmeyer by grasping the gondola of their balloon. In the Dutch National Ballet's version, which is also by Eagling and most recently performed last year, the work is actually called The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.   I suppose it becomes a sort of metaphor for the struggle between good and evil.  Another big difference between Wright's versions and Eagling's is that Clara morphs into the Sugar Plum in the latter.

There are some differences between the Birmingham and London versions of Wright's ballet. The Royal Ballet's designs are by Julia Trevelyan Oman whereas BRB's are by John Macfarlane. There are also differences between Eagling's versions for the Dutch and English National Ballets in that ENB's designs are by Peter Farmer whereas Het's are  by Toer van Schayk. However, van Schayk influences the choreography of the English version.

Audiences who want to see the Royal Ballet can catch it at Covent Garden between the 23 Nov and 12 Jan 2017. It will also be streamed to cinemas throughout the UK and the rest of the world on 8 Dec 2016. BRB's will run from 25 Nov 2016 to 13 Dec 2015 at the Birmingham Hippodrome. English National's will start in Milton Keynes between 23 and 26 Nov 2016, proceed to the Liverpool Empire between 29 Nov and 3 Dec 2016, and finish its run at the Coliseum between 14 Dec and 7 Jan 2017. It will also be performed in Southampton between 29 Nov and 2 Dec 2017.

It has been some time since I last saw either of Sir Peter's versions because I could find no reviews in the archives of my blog but I can offer you a review of Eagling's for ENB from three years ago (see Cracking 14 Dec 2013). I remember that performance particularly because it was almost the last time that I saw Vadim Muntagirov and Daria Klimentova dance together. I have seen and reviewed several other versions since including the revival of Peter Darrell's for Scottish Ballet (see Like meeting an old friend after so many years 4 Jan 2015) and David Nixon's for Northern (see Northern Nutcracker 19 Dec 2015) but neither of those companies is running a version of The Nutcracker this year. There is also some background information on The Nutcracker on my resource page for the ballet which I really should update.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Sugar Plum for an Hour

Standard YouTube Licence

In  our most ambitious intensive yet, we were guests of Mr and Mrs Stahlbaum at their Christmas party. We were also allowed to be the Sugar Plum Fairy and her prince for an hour or so. I am talking, of course, about Jane Tucker's workshop on The Nutcracker for KNT Danceworks which took place yesterday in the Dancehouse Theatre's studios at Northern Ballet School's premises on Oxford Road in Manchester.

The day began with floor exercises on Pilates mats as it had with Jane's previous workshops for Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet and La Bayadere. We then had a 90 minutes class which was very similar to Jane's Wednesday evening classes at Northern Ballet Academy in Leeds. A brisk warm-up starting with a walk, then a run with a sudden change of direction about 30 seconds in, skipping facing in, then facing out, jumping Jacks and running on the spot, tendus facing the barre, pliés at the barre, tendus, glissés, ronds de jambe, cloches, grands battements and stretches, centre exercises (pirouette turns, port de bras and various types of jumps) for 90 minutes. Very much like every other instructor's class you might think. Well, no, because Jane challenges each and every one of us to our limits. She expects and gets maximum effort.

After a swig of water, we started with our rehearsals. Jane taught us three dances: a bit of the prince's solo from Act II, the Sugar Plum fairy's dance and, finally, the party scene just before Drosselmeyer calls with his prezzies for the kiddies.

The first two roles are danced by principals and require enormous strength and precision. The prince demands a tour en l'air from a standing start followed by three changements, more tours en l'air and more changements, a quick succession of arabesques and jetés culminating in pirouettes. Sugar Plum requires rapid and dainty footwork much of it on demi-pointe which I find taxing. Gallantly Simon played our Muntagirov for the day while the rest of us struggled to imitate Nuñez. We rehearsed each of those dances a couple of times before breaking for lunch at 13:45.

On the way back to the workshop we spotted some young dancers of South Asian heritage learning what seemed to be an Indian classical dance in the studio next to us. We peered in through the window for a few seconds. Noticing our curiosity the teacher came to the door and explained that her class was part of the Centre for Advance Training in Dance programme (see The Lowry CAT 27 May 2016). Leeds has a CAT too and I had seen the high standard achieved by those young dancers in their summer show (see Small Steps and other Pieces - Leeds CAT End of Term Show 2 July 2016). I am delighted that students in Manchester have opportunities to experience some of the dance traditions of the rest of the world and not just European genres. Particularly apt as yesterday was the day before Diwali.

In the last 90 minutes we learned the party scene which was easier to remember but required some teamwork. We were split into two groups which filed in from stage left and stage right respectively. The first part was easy enough - three steps and then  a tendu. The pace changed to a gallop and we met the other group offering each other out left or right hands alternatively. I was reminded of the eightsome reels of my days at St Andrews. Once we had completed the gallop we formed into four lines. More memories of my student days. Each line faced the other and set. We curtseyed to the opposite line, again as in Scotland. Finally, we lined the walls of the studio facing our imaginary audience.

After another rehearsal of each dance from the top our adult dance class principal Karen arrived and filmed our efforts in our end of the day show. We performed the prince and Sugar Plum in three groups and Karen clapped each group generously. I have no idea what I looked like on film but I shall probably learn at our chambers party when the smartphones come out after everyone has had the odd glass or more of Christmas cheer. Finally, we danced the party scene together to more applause from Karen.

We had a great day yesterday. In my view the best intensive ever. Possibly because it is traditionally performed around Christmas, there's something about The Nutcracker that makes us all feel good notwithstanding its alleged dark side (see A Dark Side to The Nutcracker 24 Oct 2016). A huge thank you to Jane for teaching it, Karen for arranging it, Josh for assisting with it and each and every one of my fellow participants for making the day so special.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Follow the Fidler

Matrafisc Dance Company, Soul's Paths, The Wonder Inn, 28 Oct 2016, 19:00

It is not every day that I am in on the birth of a new company or even at a premiere of a new work but that is precisely what happened last night when I attended the first performance of Soul's Path by the Matrafisc Dance Company and the Vonnegut Collective.

Despite my preview, Soul's Paths (27 Oct 2016), I had no idea what to expect.  The venue, The Wonder Inn, which is almost next door to the Shude Hill bus station in Manchester,  is indeed an inn or at least has a bar serving alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and some rather tempting cakes. I arrived at 18:30 and sat at one of the tables with a cup of coffee waiting for something to happen.

Shortly after 19:00 a trumpeter (Gary Farr) raised his instrument to his lips and started to play. He began near the entrance and made his way slowly past the tables to the far end of the bar.  I noticed members of the audience were following him so I got up and joined them. I glimpsed two of the women dancers (one of whom was my ballet teacher Carlotta Tocci) dancing on the counter.  The sound of the trumpet ebbed away and a violinist in a black top hat (Gemma Bass) began to play. Was she the pied piper mentioned in the preview? Apparently so!  Everybody followed her.

We were led through a series of rooms first on the ground floor and then upstairs in which different dancers performed solos or duets. Each of the rooms was decorated and dimly lit.  In one of the rooms, strings of bird shapes traversed the room.  In a rather lovely gesture, Ina Colizza pinned a card to one of the strings after she had completed her dance.

The tour of the building ended in a large room where chairs and cushions had been arranged along one wall for the audience. The violinist sat in the middle of that space. The percussionist, Harry Percy, sat with his instrument opposite her.  At one end of the room stood Norman Skip with his keyboard of electronic wizardry.  At the other stood the trumpeter.  The whole company appeared for the final dance in the centre which was thrilling for its exuberance and energy.

The production was unusual, imaginative and innovative. The dancers complemented the musicians beautifully. I was rather apprehensive about the Vonnegut Collective having played some of the recordings. The music they played for us last night was delightful.

After the artists had taken their bow Ina told us that we had just seen the first performance of the Matrafisc Dance Company. I think Manchester will take them to their hearts. And not just Manchester but audiences everywhere.

Friday, 28 October 2016

"Quite simply the most exciting dancer I have seen for quite a while"

Michaela DePrince in Tarantella Pas de Deux
Photo Altin Kaftira
(c) 2016 Dutch National Ballet: all rights reserved
Licensed by kind permission of the company

Dutch National Ballet, Tarantella Pas de Deux, Stopera, 7 Sept 2016

When I first saw Michaela DePrince on stage at the Stadsshouwburg in Amsterdam I wrote:
"I had seen something of DePrince's virtuosity in her YouTube videos but she is even more impressive in real life. She is quite simply the most exciting dancer I have seen for quite a while"
(see The Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet - Stadsshouwburg Amsterdam 24 Nov 2013 25 Nov 2915). I have, of course, seen DePrince dance several times since then and indeed I have seen her in class (see Double Dutch Delights 17 Feb 2016) and even met her briefly on one occasion (see The best evening I have ever spent at the ballet 13 Sept 2015) but I experienced the same excitement when I saw her in Balanchine's Tarantella Pas de Deux with Remi Wörtmeyer.

Remi Wortmeyer
Photo Altin Kaftira
(c) 2016 Dutch National Ballet: all rights reserved
Licensed by kind permission of the company
First performed by Patricia McBride and Edward Villella of New York City Ballet in 1964 to the music of Louis Moreau Gottschalk, it is one of the most thrilling dances I know. It demands great virtuosity from both dancers. Dazzling footwork particularly from the woman and athletic jumps from the man.

This work was the last offering of the evening before Balanchine's Theme and Variations which wound up the show. It warmed the audience up  beautifully for the finale.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Soul's Paths

Manchester 1650
Source: Wikipedia

In the historic heart of Manchester not far from the Shambles and the cathedral off Shudehill there is a "creative wellness centre" known as "The Wonder Inn" whose focus is "to raise the vibrations of [the] community and the planet through the celebration of art." Classes and performances take place at The Wonder Inn from time to time,

One of those performances will be Soul's Paths in which my ballet teacher, Carlotta Tocci will dance. Carlotta is a very good teacher as I noted on Facebook when she first taught me:
"An excellent class at KNT in Manchester yesterday. A new teacher stood in for Ailsa. I didn't catch her name but she was very good and I do hope to attend another of her classes one day. She had a slight continental accent (though not sufficiently distinct to identify a country of origin) which suggests that she may have trained abroad. She was very friendly and had an encouraging smile."
She is also a very good dancer. I saw her in Northern Ballet School's summer show A Showcase of Dance  on 9 July 2015 in The Night Shift and singled her out for special mention (see my review of the performance (see Serendipity 15 July 2015).

Soul's Paths is described on the Wonder Inn's website as
"a result of a collaboration between Matrafisc Dance Company and Vonnegut Collective we present "Soul's paths", a site specific performance, grown around the idea of an inner journey that gradually goes deeper while experiencing the key themes of friendship, love, fraternal bond and sexuality. The journey itself starts the exact moment you step in."
There is not much on Matrafisc Dance Company's website right now but Vonnegut Collective's tells us that it is
"a Manchester-based chamber ensemble making new music relevant and accessible through improvisation and innovative collaborations."
Some of the ensemble's recordings can be played on the site. The music is certainly innovative; at least some of it appears to be improvised;  and it may well be relevant; but I am not sure about its accessibility as it may not appeal to everyone.

According to the Wonder Inn the show was:
"Born from a deep interest in life stories and what makes us humans, Soul’s Paths is a metaphor of our society. Sometimes we are just too busy to enjoy the little experiences of the life... With this performance they reflect on life’s complexity.
Follow Pied Piper (the violinist), through the building, from room to room, from scene to scene and explore in depth the challenges we all share."
The show has been choreographed by Ina Colizza and Antonello Apicella who will also dance with  Paula de la Puente, Giorgio De Carolis, Mariateresa Molino and, of course, Carlotta.

There will  be performances at 19:00 and 21:00 on 28 Oct 2016 and tickets cost £8.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Last Chance to see Ballet Black in the North

South Yorkshire
Crown Copyright
Creative Commons Licence
Source Wikipedia

Ballet Black are coming towards the end of their national tour with the triple bill that David Murley saw at the Barbican (see Ballet Black at the Barbican 22 March 2016) and I saw at the Lowry and Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre (see Ballet Black made my Manchester Day 20 June 2016 and Never Better: Ballet Black in Leeds 18 Oct 2016). The company usually makes an appearance in Leeds but this year they have spoilt their fans in the North with performances of Dogs Don't Do Ballet in Sale (see As Fresh as Ever: Ballet Black's Dogs Don't Do Ballet in Sale 7 May 2016 and I never tire of Dogs Don't Do Ballet 8 May 2016) as well as those I have already mentioned and their forthcoming visit to the CAST theatre in Doncaster on 2 Nov 2016.

As I mentioned in my review of Northern Ballet's Madame Butterfly (Nixon's Masterpiece) on 22 May 2015 CAST is  "a £22 million municipal theatre that opened in 2013 (Ian Youngs £22m Cast theatre opens in Doncaster 6 Sept 2013 BBC website)" and is one of the plushest performing spaces I know. It has attracted not just Northern Ballet but also Wayne McGregor and other dance companies. This will be Ballet Black's debut in Doncaster and tickets seem to be selling well (see the "Book Tickets" page on the theatre's website).

In my humble opinion, this year's programme is the company's best ever with works by three of my favourite choreographers including Christopher Marney (artistic director of Ballet Central) whose work reminds me so much of John Cranko and Christopher Hampson of Scottish Ballet who was my joint choreographer of the year for 2015 (see Highlights of 2015  29 Dec 2015). All the works in this year's programme are sombre. Storyville which charts the destruction of a beautiful young woman is particularly sad. But they are also very beautiful.  Ballet Black is a company that delivers the sort of works that Luke Jennings seemed to be calling for on Front Row  on Monday which I discussed in Of Bikes and Buses 25 Oct 2016. I can't imagine why nobody on the programme mentioned that.

Ballet Black's remaining performances of the triple bill will be in Exeter, Watford, Harlow and Lichfield. Soon they will begin work on a new programme which will open at the Barbican on 2 March 2017. I gleaned the following details from the Barbican's website:
"A four-hander characterised by intricate detail and propulsive energy, Captured ebbs and flows to the fiery emotion of Martin Lawrance’s edgy choreography, set to a Shostakovich string quartet.
Celebrated British choreographer Michael Corder, whose glittering versions of Cinderellaand The Snow Queen have been seen across Europe, creates the evening’s second abstract piece for four dancers.
South Bank Sky Arts Award-winner Annabelle Lopez Ochoa turns a popular fairy tale on its head, as she gives her short narrative ballet a surprising twist. This time, the Wolf will regret ever meeting Red Riding Hood."
Those who like Ballet Black may wish to consider the company's Friends scheme. Membership does not cost much and it provides opportunities to get to know the company better.  Friends receive an occasional newsletter and invitations to attend events like the rehearsal of Marney's To Begin, Begin at the Barbican (see Ballet Black's First Friends' Event: A Rehearsal with Chris Marney 14 July 2016).

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Of Bikes and Busses

Bicycles in Buenos Ares
Photo Lars Curls
Source Wikipedia
Creative Commons 

On 23 Oct 2016 Chris Marney tweeted:
"Thinking of Christopher today 18 yrs on and proud to continue his work everyday #GableLegacy."
The "Christopher" Marney had in mind was, of course. Christopher Gable. He founded the Central School of Ballet which has a performing company called Ballet Central of which Marney is artistic director. I admire Marney's work very much so I tweeted
"And Gable's work could not be in better hands @chrismarney. Missing him too."
Christopher Gable became artistic director of Northern Ballet in 1987 which was just after I returned to the North of England to practise at the Manchester bar. He held that appointment until his death on 23 Oct 1998 (see Christopher Gable on Northern Ballet's website). it was during his directorship that my late spouse and I started to follow that company. In that time Gable created or commissioned some of my favourite works for that company.

Photo dave_7
Creative Commons Licence
Gable's successor as artistic director of Northern Ballet is David Nixon and I have asked myself whether I could say the same about Nixon as I had tweeted about Marney.  I think I can safely say that I can. I admire much of Nixon's work - though not everything. I am not, for example, the biggest fan of his version of Swan Lake with its bikes in the opening scene (see Don't Expect Petipa 5 Jan 2016 and Up the Swannee 17 Mar 2016) and I can't say that his Beauty and the Beast is my favourite ballet with its old bus (see Jane Lambert Ballet and Intellectual Property - my Excuse for reviewing "Beauty and the Beast" 31 Dec 2011 IP Yorkshire). But Nixon has created some fine work for the company such as A Midsummer Night's Dream (see Realizing Another Dream 15 Sept 2013), Cinderella (see Northern Ballet's Cinderella - a Triumph! 27 Dec 2013) and The Great Gatsby (Life follows Art: the Great Gatsby 8 Mar 2011) and has commissioned more such as Cathy Marston's Jane Eyre (see Northern Ballet's Jane Eyre: the best new Ballet from the Company in 20 Years 2 June 2016).

According to Northern Ballet's website, Nixon is working on a new ballet called The Little Mermaid which is inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale and the company has commissioned Casanova from Kenneth Tindall and The Boy in Striped Pyjamas from Daniel de Andrade. I hope to learn more about those works when Nixon appears at the London Ballet Circle on 28 Nov 2016 to talk to Esme Chandler (see the Events page of the Circle's website). This is quite a challenging time for the company as two of its "premier" (that is to say, principal) dancers are developing careers elsewhere. I shall be interested to hear what, if anything, Nixon has to say about that as well.

Those who want to hear Nixon speak should make their way to the Civil Service Club on Great Scotland Street off Northumberland Avenue next to the Nigerian embassy before 19:30. The meeting will be open to the public at a charge of £5 for members of the Circle and £8 for everybody else. The meeting will take place on the 1st floor and there is a bar downstairs which serves hot meals to those attending the Circle's meetings. Very handy for those like me who have a train to catch from King's Cross and I particularly recommend the fish and chips. The nearest underground stations are Charing Cross and the Embankment.

As the Circle has set out Nixon's career in some detail I shall not embarrass him or weary my readers by repeating it beyond noting that he has achieved much on both sides of the Atlantic and that he enjoys a formidable reputation as a choreographer. director and dancer. I would have attended Nixon's talk anyway but my resolve has been reinforced by his remarks on Front Row (BBC Radio 4) last night. He was interviewed by John Wilson with Luke Jennings of The Guardian in a short section about 15 minutes into the programme entitled New, but always old, ballet. 

Wilson began by playing a recording in which Tamara Rojo had opined that dance needed to change in order to survive in a digital age in the context of Akram Khan's Giselle, remarks which were vaguely endorsed but not developed by Jennings. He then turned to Nixon and suggested that he was "playing safe" reminding the audience that Northern Ballet was dancing Beauty and the Beast in Norwich. Nixon replied with the entirely reasonable point that ballet needs an audience to survive. In answer to Jennings's contention that ballet needs to be relevant to its age and Wilson's remark that Beauty "was not breaking any moulds" he made another equally valid point that Beauty and the Beast appeared just after the credit crunch and contained plenty of allusions to austerity that were raw in his audience's experiences in 2011. He added that ballet is a language that takes dancers 8 years to learn which can be used to tell any story and express any emotion and that there was still room for classics as well as new work.

Jennings, whose review of Mary Skeaping's Giselle had been headlined A Giselle to cry for 14 Jan 2007 (see English National Ballet's other Giselle 22 Oct 2016), seemed to argue that works like Akram Khan's Giselle with its elements of Kathak and contemporary would attract whole new audiences. With all due respect I just don't see it. It may be innovative but not in the way that Nijinsky's L'Après-midi d'un faune and Le Sacre du Printemps were over 100 years ago. If audiences want experimentation they will go to NDT or Rambert or, on another plane, Sir Matthew Bourne. If they want cultural interaction they will go to Alvin Ailey or indeed Phoenix in the same building as Northern Ballet who do it so much better. Akram Khan's Giselle is interesting, it is not without merit and is certainly worth seeing but let's get a sense of proportion. It is not the choreographer's or the company's best work and it is nowhere near the best Giselle.

Classical companies like Northern should stick to what they do best which is to present fine theatrical experiences following a 400 year classical tradition that are nevertheless still relevant to modern audiences. That does not preclude classical companies from creating abstract masterpieces such as Chroma or Angels in the Architecture but there must be balance by which I mean there must always be room for Petipa and Ashton. Having heard Nixon yesterday, I think he understands that. It is for that reason that I say that Gable's Northern Ballet (like Ballet Central) is in very good hands.

Monday, 24 October 2016

A Dark Side to The Nutcracker?

Ivan Vsevolozhsky's original costume sketch for The Nutcracker
Source Wikipediadia

The dark side of Giselle is obvious with its ghosts of jilted girls or laid-off garment workers. Christopher Hampson's Hansel and Gretel is a bit gruesome with the witch being tumbled into a furnace. Even Swan Lake is a bit dodgy with Siegfried's jumping into the lake. But The Nutcracker is alright surely with its divertissements, Sugar Plum Fairy and girls singing "La, la, la, la, la" in the Snowflakes scene.

Well maybe not if Margaret Fleming-Makarian is correct. She  has written and published a 161-page treatise called The Original Nutcracker Ballet - A Hidden Allegory in which she argues that there are hidden meanings in the work. According to John Riley who has reviewed her work in the summer 2015 Digest of the Society for Cooperation in Russian and Soviet Studies
"These include postEnlightenment ‘rationalisations’ of the human body as automata, early attempts at dream interpretation and comparative religion’s analysis of pagan, Christian and occult symbolism."
He continues:
"the major theme is early nineteenth-century Napoleonic expansionism, and the resultant pan-European upheavals and changes in society and geopolitical power, particularly the German–French–Russian relationship."
Now this may not be so strange as it seems as Russia was undergoing a period of rapid economic and social change at the end of the 19th century with the emergence of a new class of manufacturers and merchants. That phenomenon was a theme of many English and French novels of the time and it would not be unreasonable to expect it in some other art form elsewhere in Europe. It is certainly the case that Drosselmeyer like Rothbart and Carabosse are outsiders. Rothbart disguises himself as a wealthy merchant when he presents Odile to the princely court. Are the magician and witch in The Nutcracker and The Sleeping Beauty code for the manufacturers who disrupted the existing order with their factories and technologies based on steam and steel?

Well, perhaps, and then again perhaps not but there will be an opportunity to hear Ms Fleming-Makarian and to explore and test her arguments on the 25 Nov at 19:00 when she will discuss The Hidden Allegory of Tchaikovsky's 'The Nutcracker' in a talk to the Society for Co-operation in Russian and Soviet Studies at 320 Brixton Road, London, SW9 6AB. The venue is served by the 3, 59, 133, 159 and 415 bus routes and the nearest underground stations are Brixton and the Oval.

According to the Society's website:
"Margaret Fleming-Markarian spent her professional life teaching dance. Now retired, she researches the classic ballets, drawing upon her practical experience, as well as early training at the Benesh Institute of Choreology, and academic education in European and Art History at the University of Edinburgh. Centring her research on the Sergeev choreographic scores in the Harvard Theatre Collection and the Royal Academy of Dance Library in London, she seeks to build a meaningful visual context for the original classic choreographies through their original designs and sets preserved in St Petersburg."
For those who want simply to dance The Nutcracker  Jane Tucker of Northern Ballet Academy will teach an intensive workshop for KNT in the studios of the Northern Ballet School in Manchester on 28 and 29 Oct 2016 (see A Unique Opportunity to learn a Bit of The Nutcracker 12 Oct 2016). The last I heard was that the Saturday class for beginners is full though there may be vacancies through cancellations and there is still room in the advanced class on Friday.

If you just want to see The Nutcracker, the Royal Ballet will dance it at Covent Garden between 23 Nov 2016 and 12 Jan 2017 (see Royal Opera House's website), the English National Ballet at Milton Keynes, Liverpool and London between the 23 Nov 2016 and 7 Jan 2017 (see English National Ballet's website), Birmingham Royal Ballet in Birmingham between the 25 Nov and the 13 Dec 2016 (see Birmingham Royal Ballet's website) and the Ballet Ireland are taking it on tour to Coleraine, Newtonabbey, Cookstown and Enniskillen as well as many venues in the Republic of Ireland between 5 Nov  and 23 Dec 2016 (see the company's website). There is also a students' production of Act II by pupils of the Danceworks International Ballet Academy in London on 12 and 13 Dec 2016.

For background information and links to other resources on The Nutcracker visit my page on the ballet.

PS. I am very grateful to Colman Reilly for tweetng that the Irish National Youth Ballet will dance The Nutcracker at the Pavilion Theatre in Dun Laoghaire, between the 9 and 11 Dec 2016. That is the handiest possible venue for visitors from Liverpool and North Wales and it is not too far from any part of Northern Ireland.

Sunday, 23 October 2016


A Pride of Lions
Author Benh Lieu Song
Source Wikipedia
Creative commons licence

The Dancehouse evening class students. Move It!, 22 Oct 2016 The Dancehouse, 19:00

I had promised a good show in Want to see a good show in Manchester this Saturday? 19 Oct 2016 but I never imagined in a million years that a member of my family would help to deliver it. But that is exactly what happened when Danny Henry of Rhythms 2 Dance invited members of the audience to join him on stage and my niece, Shola, responded. She mounted the stage to a massive cheer and picked up the steps and rhythm as though she had rehearsed it for ages. I must be one of the proudest people on the planet. Proud of my teachers and fellow students at KNT and the other dance classes at the Dancehouse, of course, but also proud of Shola.

As in the previous Move It! shows (see Better than Eurovision 24 May 2015 and One of my proudest moments - Dancing in Move It! 31 Jan 2016) the entertainment was provided by the students who attend evening and weekend dance classes at the Dancehouse theatre in Manchester. As I have said several times before, I am one of those students and I would have put myself forward for the show if I could have attended rehearsals. The show that we saw last night was to have been performed on 18 June 2016 but had to be postponed because of emergency repairs to the ceiling of the auditorium (see It could easily have gone pear-shaped ............ 19 June 2016).

Again as in previous shows the evening was compered by Tracey Gibbs of a Taste of Cairo. I have seen Tracey dance and know that she is a fine dancer but I imagine that she is also an excellent teacher for she is a great master of ceremonies. She has the audience eating out of the palm of her hand with her warmth and jokes and general good humour. "You're all here because you know someone in the show, right?" she asked. A mutter of ascent. "A son or daughter, husband, wife, brother or sister?" Applause. Tracey reminded the audience that the dancers give up their evenings and weekends to attend class and that for some of them it would be their first time on stage. She rehearsed us in whooping and clapping for them.

The show commenced with Josh Moss's Wednesday evening repertoire class dancing the Snowflakes Waltz from The Nutcracker. You know. The bit with the female voices singing "La, la, la, la, la". Here's a YouTube video of The Royal Ballet doing it to get the general idea. It was performed beautifully by my friends. Maybe not quite as polished as Meaghan Grace Hinkis as Clara, Ricardo Cervera and the artists of the Royal Ballet in the clip but when all things are considered they did pretty well. The crowd loved them and they gave the evening a flying start.

The lighting changed, A blast of what sounded to me like a didgeridoo. Ring of Fire from the contemporary class performed with energy and expression. I cannot quite remember whether they were Ailsa Baker's students or Carlotta Tocci's but whoever taught them is to be congratulated.

More congratulations to Karen Sant and the pointe class for what must have been a gruelling few minutes. Plenty of  échappés sur les pointes. I know from personal experience that it is bad enough doing that exercise on demi-pointe while facing the barre. It must be murder going all the way in pointe shoes while finding and maintaining one's balance at the same time. There are some seriously talented young women in that class.

Danny appeared next in the Brazilian football team's colours dancing a duet to what I believe to be samba but as I am unfamiliar with the genre I am probably miles off the mark. He and his partner were joined in the next dance by another two dancing to an infectious rhythm.

More ballet next and I recognized members of my Tuesday class including Simon Garner, one of the few gents in our group. They danced well and deserved a standing ovation so I gave them one.

At this point I ran out of paper for note taking so I have probably missed some of the performers for which I apologize. I remember Paint it Black performed with the same energy as Rambert do in Rooster albeit to somewhat different choreography. I also remember more of my ballet class members dancing Shostakovich's Waltz Number 2 well and prompting me to rise to my feet again but I can't for the life of me remember their place in the programme.

We had a short interval after which Tracey introduced the artists for the second half.

One of the highlights of my evening was the entry into the kingdom of the shades from La Bayadere by Josh's repertoire class. I don't know why but that dance always moves me. As I said in La Bayadere Intensive Day 3: No Snakes 17 Aug 2016 I have had a bash at dancing that piece. It looks easy enough - a tendu with arms in 5th inclining slightly towards the audience and then an arabesque but, believe me, it isn't. Watching the dancers emerge in height order is mesmeric. Being one of those dancers requires enormous concentration. Led across the stage by Yoshie Kimura, they were all impressive.

After the show, I spotted Jane Tucker, the inspiring teacher from Northern Ballet Academy who taught me the shades' entry in Manchester as well as so much more about ballet in  her Wednesday evening classes in Leeds over the last year or so. She will be teaching us repertoire from The Nutcracker next Saturday (see A Unique Opportunity to learn a Bit of The Nutcracker 12 Oct 2016) and I made an educated guess that we would be learning the snowflakes' waltz. She assured me that she had not yet decided what to teach us in that intensive. All I know is that it will be fun.

After La Bayadere there was some great tap dancing with the performers in sailor suits. Memories of Gene Kelly and On the Town. 

Then the gorgeous Peacock Dance from Susie Lu's Chinse dancers in their beautiful costumes. "Ooh" whispered Shola. "I'd love to wear one of those dresses, wouldn't you?"

Next, Danny appeared in a West African shirt to an infectious drum beat. The audience started clapping in time. Danny invited folk to join him on stage and a few responded.  "I want to join them" said Shola. She is my goddaughter as well as my niece and I have known her nearly all her life but I never knew that she could dance. Not only can she dance but she can also hold an audience. "Where did she get this from?" I asked myself. When she was a little girl my late spouse and I had taken her to see The Nutcracker by English National Ballet. As she seemed to like that we took her and her little cousin to see the Royal Ballet's Cinderella at Covent Garden. I remember her doing Fiona Noonan's ballercise class on her last visit to Holmfirth a few years ago. After the performance Danny invited her tp take his class. "If only," she replied, "but I am only here for the weekend and I live in London." Right now I am scouring the internet for classes like Danny's in the capital. "We are all good at something," I told her on the drive home, "and you seem to be good at dancing. Talent like your's needs developing."

The evening concluded with Saint-Saens Danse Macabre danced magnificently by the advanced class. They were the piece de resistance, the frosting on the cake, the bees' knees - any epithet for quality you care to dream up. Dressed in maroon they executed complicated and some very difficult steps with precision and poise. Yet another performance that hoisted me to my feet.

When Gita reviews a ballet she likes to make "a man (or woman) of the watch" award. Denis Rodkin and Isaac Lee-Baker have been previous winners. Had she been there I have no doubt she would have given it to Katie. She seemed to be in everything. "Was that 7 dances or 8  that I counted you in?" I asked her in the bar after the show. "Only 6 in the end" she replied. "Only!" That lady is full of energy as well as grace. Proud to know her and to have danced with her. Yet another source of pride.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Another Beautiful Giselle

Standard YouTube Licence

A delightful extract from Act II of Giselle danced in everyday clothes (and shoes) to Adolphe Adam's score by artists of the Dutch National Ballet in a Beijing shopping centre. Adam's score and Coralli and Perrot's choreography can still touch the spirit even in everyday settings.

And here is a trailer for that beautiful ballet which the Dutch National Ballet performed at the Stopera last year:

Standard YouTube Licence

English National Ballet's other Giselle

Standard YouTube Licence

While I acknowledge the merit of Akram Khan's Giselle I am very glad that English National Ballet has revived Mary Skeaping's. Skeaping was the preeminent dance historian of her day, particularly on the early and romantic eras of ballet. I remember her recreations of The Return of Springtime and The Loves of Mars and Venus for the Royal Ballet's former outreach company, Ballet for All. Skeaping's Giselle was, as Luke Jennings noted in his review A Giselle to cry for (The Guardian, 14 Jan 2007)  "the product of several years of research." It is regarded as a particularly pure and authentic production of the ballet.

Skeaping created her version in 1971 and the English National Ballet has re staged it several times since. This production has therefore already stood the test of time and I am confident that it will be re-staged many times over the next 45 years and beyond. One reason for my confidence is that it has a strong, dramatic story in which the tension builds up steadily and relentlessly with its own logic, albeit premised on the strange belief system on which the romantic literature of the early 19th century was based. Another is that it retains Adam's hauntingly beautiful score that have been translated into the most beautiful movements with exquisite designs by David Walker and lighting by David Mohr as Patrick Baldwin's photos on the company's website show. It is easy to understand the critical press acclaim quoted on the trailer.

Would Skeaping's Giselle (or Sir Peter Wright's Rachel Beaujean and Ricardo Bustamante's or Yuri Grigorovich's for that matter) have stagnated or become a museum piece had it not been "re-imagined" by a leading contemporary choreographer for our times? I don't think so. As the website of the Dutch National Ballet notes:
"Giselle has no sell-by date. It’s timeless, just like the Night Watch’."
 A few sentences earlier the same web page explained the reason for the ballet's timelessness:
"Giselle is one of the most romantic works of the classical repertoire, but also one of the most challenging when it comes to dancers’ dramatic and emotional empathy. Its lively, colourful first act with the moving mad scene, and the ensuing unearthly, pure ‘white’ act, are still danced all over the world today. It is not without reason that Giselle is known as the ‘Hamlet of dance’."
Now just as there have been many versions of Hamlet over the years, new versions of Giselle are to be encouraged, and where they have merit, welcomed. I mentioned Mats Ek's and Dance Theatre of Harlem's Creole Giselle in Akram Khan's Giselle 28 Sept 2016 but I do not think that any of those interesting re-imaginings will ever divert the stream.

Those like me who have seen Akram Khan's Giselle on tour and yearn for Skeaping's have to make our way to London to see it. I shall be watching it with a friend from my adult ballet class in Manchester. It will be performed at the Coliseum between the 11 and 22 Jan 2017 and tickets are available from the box office and online. I shall review it after the 22.


Possibly not for purists but interesting all the same:

Friday, 21 October 2016

Manchester City Ballet's Coppelia

Standard YouTube Licence

Manchester City Ballet is the performing company of the Northern Ballet School. Two of my favourite teachers, Cara O'Shea and Jane Tucker, danced with that company. It is for the time being our metropolis's only resident ballet company and thus an institution to be treasured.

Just before Christmas, the company performs a full-length classical ballet. Last year it was Giselle which I reviewed in Manchester City Ballet's Giselle 12 Dec 2015. The year before it was The Nutcracker which I reviewed in Alchemy 13 Dec 2014. This year it will be Coppélia which the company will perform at The Dancehouse on Oxford Road between the 8 and 10 Dec 2016. Manchester City Ballet last performed that ballet in 2012, when they were reviewed very favourably by Ian Palmer of Dancing Times and Mike Dixon of Dance Europe (see Coppelia 2012 Reviews).

Tickets are now on sale from the Dancehouse's box office on 0161 237 9753 or 0161 237 1413 or on-line at £12 (£10 concessions).

The Northern Ballet School has recently announced a series of auditions between 7 Nov 2016 and 13 Feb 2017. Further information on admissions is available on the Application Details page. Best wishes to anyone thinking of applying.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

The National Ballet of China is coming to the Lowry

Lowry Centre
Source Wikipedia
Creative Commons Licence

In Al Jazeera features the Ballet Class in the Nairobi Slums 19 Oct 2016 I referred to the comments on Al-Jazeera's Facebook page about a remarkable ballet class in one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Nairobi. While most of the comments were favourable there was one that was not:
"Ballerina? Very good dream but it must be stopped! Kenya is an ancient land with a rich and colourful past, there are many aspects of Kenyan culture that can be embraced by Kenyan youths. Why are Africans still living like colonial subjects? Helping sustain European language, religion, culture, economy at the expense of Africa and African culture! Stop."
Well, Kenya is indeed "an ancient land with a rich and colourful past" but then so is China.  No one would dispute that "there are many aspects of Kenyan culture that can be embraced by Kenyan youths" and I hope that many of them, including, perhaps, some of the kids in the ballet class in Kibera as well as other students around the world, will do just that. But embracing and contributing to an art form that began in the courts of renaissance Italy and has now spread across the world is not a rejection of any other art from any other culture. Indeed, there are instances where the confluence of two cultures influences both for the better.

A good example of such confluence and mutual influence appears to be The National Ballet of China which describes itself on the "About Us" page of its website as follows:
"The National Ballet of China was founded in December of 1959. All of The National Ballet of China’s outstanding artists come from professional academies. During decades of care and support from the government and friends from all social sectors, the company has never ceased enriching its solid Russian foundations with works of different schools and styles. The company’s repertoire includes classics like Swan Lake, Don Quixote, Giselle, Carmen, Onegin, and The Little Mermaid, as well as original creations like The Red Detachment of Women, The New Year Sacrifice, Yellow River, Raise the Red Lantern, The Peony Pavilion, and The Chinese New Year. By both performing Western ballets and creating works of its own with distinct national characteristics, the company has found a successful path for the development of Chinese ballet. It is fusing the classical and the modern, and cultures from all over the world."
Now with all due respect to the critic of the ballet class in Kibera, the artists of one of the world's most powerful nations and one of its oldest and most brilliant civilizations do not live like colonial subjects. They are creating something magnificent which may use the vocabulary of classical ballet but remains authentically Chinese.

The National Ballet of China will bring one of those Chinese creations to The Lowry when it performs The Peony Pavillion between the 22 and 26 Nov 2016. The ballet is described on The Lowry's website as
"one of the most enduring love stories in Chinese literature. Adapted from Tang Xianzu’s play of the same name, The Peony Pavilion is a ballet telling a 16th-century story of passion pitted against impossible odds, an Eastern contemporary of Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet'."
Further information on the ballet and the play appears on Wikipedia:
"In May 2008, the National Ballet of China premièred a two-scene ballet adaptation of The Peony Pavilion in Beijing. For this adaptation, the play was rewritten by the opera's director Li Liuyi; the ballet was choreographed by Fei Bo, and the music was composed by Guo Wenjing. The adaptation had its European premiere at the Edinburgh International Festival in August 2011."
The Wikipedia description may be a little inaccurate in that it refers to "two scenes". I think the author must have meant to say "two acts". The Lowry describes it as "A Ballet in Two Acts and Six Scenes (Adapted from Tang Xianzu’s play of the same name)" on its website and I have to say that that seems rather more likely.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Want to see a good show in Manchester this Saturday?

Standard YouTube Licence

Closer to home than Kibera is The Dancehouse Theatre at Northern Ballet School in Manchester. That is where KNT Danceworks and other teachers offer a whole range of classes in many styles of dance in the evenings (see the Classes page on the theatre's website). I am proud to say that I am one of KNT's students (or perhaps "family member" as Karen Sant, our principal, so sweetly puts it).

Last June KNT were due to stage Move It!, its summer show, at The Dancehouse but a problem with the ceiling forced its postponement.  The ceiling has now been repaired and the show will tale place on Saturday, the 22 Oct 2016. As the Move It! web page indicates the show will showcase everything from ballet to flamenco including some styles such as Chinese folk dancing that are not often performed in this country.

I had a chance to see KNT's contribution in one of the studios on the day it should have taken place. As the title to my review indicates It could easily have gone pear shaped ........... 19 June 2016 ".... but instead it was a howling success." The show that we shall see on Saturday will be slightly different because Mark Hindle, who danced the pas de deux with Karen, is performing in The Lion King at the AFAS Circustheater in the Hague (see Hindle at The Hague 25 June 2016) but I am told to expect the entry into the kingdom of the shades from La Bayadere which will help to make up for Mark's absence.

I took part in the winter show on 30 Jan 2016 which was One of my proudest moments (see 31 Jan 2016). It included the scene from Swan Lake that appears in the video above. Now we are not quite up to the Royal Ballet's standards just yet but remember that we all have day jobs or are reading for degrees and that we have only the evenings and weekends after a heavy working day or week to study ballet and rehearse. With those caveats I think the achievement of my classmates and our teachers is remarkable.

The show will begin at 19:00 sharp this Saturday. Tickets are on sale for only £5 from the box office on 0161 237 9753 or 0161 237 1413 or you can order them on-line from Ticketline. The theatre has a bar (as well as double rail barres) and is surrounded by restaurants including Casa Pancho (I know, the name made Mel and me smile too) which serves the best burritos this side of Tijuana. I defy anyone to propose a better night out than ballet, beer and burritos for so little expenditure in the entire Northern Powerhouse.

Al Jazeera features the Ballet Class in the Nairobi Slums

Kibera, Nairobi
Author Shreibkraft
Source Wikipedia
Creative Commons Licence

One of the first posts that I published was What can be achieved by a good teacher 3 March 2013. At the time it was my most popular article clocking up 434 hits almost overnight. It featured a remarkable ballet class in Kibera, a district of Nairobi described by Wikipedia as "the largest slum in Nairobi, and the largest urban slum in Africa," taught by a remarkable teacher, Mike Wamaya.

As I think that Africans will make an enormous contribution to ballet (and indeed all the performing arts as well as the humanities, sciences and civilisation generally) I have revisited the topic several times (see Back to Africa 7 Jan 2015 and Revisiting Kenya with Obama 25 July 2015 and Ballet in Sub-Saharan Africa 30 April 2016). I am glad to see that the Qatari news broadcaster Al-Jazeera has also taken an interest in that class. It posted a video entitled Ballet in Kenya is a beautiful thing to its Facebook page on 15 Oct 2016 which has already attracted nearly a million hits, 12,000 "loves" or "likes" and over 16,000 shares.

Al-Jazeera has also published an article by Fredrik Lerneryd entitled Kenyan children learn ballet at Kibera slum 14 Sep 2016 Al-Jazeera. It contains pictures of Mr. Wamaya's class in Kibera and also at a school in Karen, a rather more affluent neighbourhood, where some of Mr. Wamaya's older students take lessons. In the article Mr Lerneryd refers to Cooper Rust, a US dancer who is artistic director of Dance Centre Kenya. She says that the children from Kibera prove to be just as good as those from Karen despite their lack of resources and facilities.

Most of the comments on Al-Jazeera's Facebook page are favourable but there are exceptions. One lady asks:
"To what use exactly? The charity should instead teach them practical skills that will be useful later in life"
A  gentleman opines:
"Ballerina? Very good dream but it must be stopped! Kenya is an ancient land with a rich and colourful past, there are many aspects of Kenyan culture that can be embraced by Kenyan youths. Why are Africans still living like colonial subjects? Helping sustain European language, religion, culture, economy at the expense of Africa and African culture! Stop"
Try telling a boy or girl from any country or social background who feels compelled to dance to stop? Fat chance! The Kenyan TV station K24TV has a posted the video Ballet dance slowly gaining popularity among children in Kenya which shows that ballet is beginning to gain traction at all levels of Kenyan society. Another station KTN News shows Kenyan students training in Norway.

Ballet is no longer European. Look at the dancers from South America, East Asia and, increasingly, from South Africa in the companies of the world. Kenyans will soon be as proud of their dancers as they are of their long distance runners.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016


Matthew Golding and Anna Tsygankova in Sinatra Suite
Photo Altin Kaftira
(c) 2016 Dutch National Ballet: all rights reserved
Reproduced with kind permission of the company

Dutch National Ballet, Sinatra Suite, Stopera, Amsterdam 7 Sept 2016

One of the highlights of the Dutch National Ballet's opening night gala on the 7 Sept 2016 was Twyla Tharp's Sinatra Suite. American Ballet Theatre commissioned this duet for Mikhail Baryshnikov and Elaine Kudo who performed it for the first time at the Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts in Washington DC on 6 Dec 1983.

Photo Altin Kaftira
(c) 2016 Dutch National Ballet: all rights reserved
Reproduced by kind permission of the company
The choreographer created  dances for the following Sinatra songs:
I. Strangers in the Night
II. All the Way

III. That’s Life

IV. My Way

V. One for My Baby (and One More for the Road).

The beautiful costumes were designed by Oscar de la Renta. Lighting was by Jennifer Tipton.

Photo Altin Kaftira
(c) 2016 Dutch National Ballet: all rights reserved
Reproduced by kind permission of the company

The Dutch National Ballet revived the work for Matthew Golding and Anna Tsygankova.

This virtuoso act opened the second part of the gala immediately after the interval.

A final glimpse of those beautiful dancers.

Photo Altin Kaftira
(c) 2016 Dutch National Ballet: all rights reserved
Reproduced by kind permission of the company

Monday, 17 October 2016

The Golden Age

Standard YouTube Licence

Bolshoi Ballet The Golden Age, streamed from the Bolshoi Theatre, 16 Oct 2016, 16:00

The history of The Golden Age is almost as fascinating as the ballet itself and could easily be the plot of a ballet in its own right.  As Katerina Novikova told cinema audiences briefly in the interval, this ballet was originally about football. It was originally a three act ballet which was choreographed by Vasili VainonenLeonid Jacobson and V. Chesnakov and first performed in Leningrad (St Petersburg) at the Kirov (Mariinsky) Theatre on 26 Oct 1930.

Wikipedia gives the following information on the plot:
"The ballet is a satirical take on the political and cultural change in 1920s' Europe. It follows a Soviet football team in a Western city where they come into contact with many politically incorrect bad characters such as the Diva, the Fascist, the Agent Provocateur, the Negro and others. The team fall victim to match rigging, police harassment, and unjust imprisonment by the evil bourgeoisie. The team are freed from jail when the local workers overthrow their capitalist overlords and the ballet ends with a dance of solidarity between the workers and the football team."
The score was composed by Dmitri Shostakovich when he was only 24. He wrote a profusion of danceable music as  Jean-Christophe Maillot has shown with his masterly The Taming of the Shrew (see Bolshoi's Triumph - The Taming of the Shrew 4 Aug 2016). Even I have danced to one of his works, namely Shostakovich's Waltz for Flute, Clarinet and Piano "The Return of Maxim"1937 Op 45 (see The Time of My Life 28 June 2014 which Mel reviewed very generously in The Dance DID go on - Northern Ballet Academy Show 2014 28 June 2014). Apart from being a great composer, Shostakovich was something of a football fan describing the so called "beautiful game" as the "ballet of the masses". Rather more flattering than John Osborne's description of ballet as "poofs' football" (see page 387 of John Heilpern's John Osborne: A Patriot for Us Google Books).

Apparently the original ballet was performed 18 times before it was pulled by the Soviet authorities and never staged again. Shostakovich's beautiful score remained forgotten for many years like The Sleeping Beauty until it was revived in 1982 by Yuri Grigorovich and Isaak Glikman. They produced a new libretto based on the rivalry between Boris, a young fisherman, and the criminal, Yashka, for the heart of Rita, a cabaret dancer which is complicated by the jealousy of Yashka's moll, Lyuska, who competes with Rita for Yashka's attention. The synopsis is set out in some detail on the Bolshhoi's website.

The fascinating part of Grigorovich's plot is that it is set in 1923 immediately after the civil war when Lenin revoked some of the controls of war communism to incentivize agricultural and industrial production in order to feed the Soviet who were suffering a catastrophic famine. That relaxation was known as the New Economic Policy ("NEP"). It achieved its economic objectives very quickly but led to all sorts of inequalities and imbalances and ultimately crime which are the backdrop to the ballet. The NEP was reversed in 1928 after Joseph Stalin came to power and many of those who responded to the incentives provided by the policy were destroyed over the next few years in Stalin's purges.

In their version of The Golden Age, Grigorovich and Glikman created powerful roles for the protagonists, Boris, Rita, Yashka and Lyuska, as well as some great character roles and some spectacular dances for the corps. Simon Virsaladze created some gorgeous sets and costumes for the 1982 production. I caught the tail end of Ms Novikova's conversation with a wardrobe mistress who described how those costumes had been lovingly preserved all those years in the hope of a revival. Audiences were given a glimpse of the workmanship in close ups of the dancers while waiting to take their curtain calls at the end of the show. Grigoroivch appears to have borrowed some of Shostakovich's music from other shows - or perhaps the other way round - for I recognized Tea for Two which ends The Taming of the Shrew at the start of Act II of The Golden Age.

Boris was danced by Ruslan Skvortsov whom I had last seen as "the prince" (otherwise known as Siegfried) in Swan Lake in London (see Grigorovich's Swan Lake in Covent Garden 31 July 2016). Nina Kaptsova danced Rita. I think yesterday was the first time I had seen her but I hope it will not be the last. More familiar was Mikhail Lobukhin who danced Yashka.  I had seen him before at least in HDTV transmissions.  Another face that I think I recognized was Ekaterina Krysanova who was Lyushka.

The choreography had so many breathtaking lifts and jumps not to mention spectacular fouettes, grands jetes en tournant and other virtuosity not only for the principals and soloists but also for the corps that it is hard to single anything out for special attention. However, I loved the first pas de deux between Boris and Rita in Act I where they fell in love and was riveted by Lyushka's passion at the end of Act II where she throws herself at Yashka and is stabbed for her pains. We are used to praising the Bolshoi's dancers for their technique but the four principals are also superb dance actors.

The ballet appeared to receive a rapturous curtain call in Moscow which must have been echoes in cinemas around the world. There was clapping even at the National Media Museum in Bradford, hundreds of miles from Moscow, even though it could not possibly have been heard on the Bolshoi's stage. Our Yorkshire audience floated out of the Cubby Broccoli on a cloud as elated as if we had been there. A wonderful compliment to the engineers of Pathe-Live as well as the magnificent artists in Moscow who brought us that great spectacle.