Sunday, 15 January 2017

Ballet Theatre UK's Romeo and Juliet

Theatre Royal Wakefield
Photo Tim Green
Source Wikipedia
Creative Commons Licence

Ballet Theatre UK Romeo and Juliet Theatre Royal Wakefield, 14 Jan 2017, 19:30

I have been blogging about Ballet Theatre UK for nearly three years and have reported their performances of The Little Mermaid (see Pure Delight - BTUK's Little Mermaid in Southport 27 Apr 2014), Swan Lake (see The Bedouin of Ballet 12 Dec 2014), Aladdin (see Ballet Theatre UK's Aladdin 5 Apr 2015) and Pinnochio (see Pinnochio 6 June 2016).  It is a troupe of some 14 talented young dancers who create two full-length ballets a year which they perform in small and medium town and suburban auditoriums the length and breadth of the country. Each of those ballets is choreographed by their founder and artistic director, Christopher Moore and is either an adaptation of a well-known work such as last night's Romeo and Juliet or a folk or children's tale like last season's Pinnochio.

Through that work, Ballet Theatre UK introduces high-quality dance to audiences whose only other experience of ballet might be a show on BBC 2 or BBC 4 around Christmas or an end of term review by kids from a local ballet school. There is a complete absence of gimmickry in Moore's productions. His Romeo and Juliet, for example, is set firmly in renaissance Verona and his costume designer, Daniel Hope, has obviously spent time and trouble on researching the period in order to produce the most elaborate and what to my eyes at any rate are historically accurate representations of the elaborate headgear that might have been worn by Lady Capulet, Paris and Juliet's nurse. Phillip Moore's set consisted of a simple classical arch which, when combined with some imaginative lighting design by Russ Marquis, transported us effortlessly from the town square of Verona, to Juliet's boudoir, to her parents ballroom, to her balcony, to Friar Lawrence's chapel, the square again, the bedroom and finally to her tomb. All of those costumes and props will no doubt be dismantled and packed in the vehicle that will convey last night's show from the county town of the West Riding to Horsham in sunny Sussex.

The audience that saw last night's show got a lot for their money.  As the crowd included a fair sprinkling of children I should imagine ballet teachers and dancewear shops the length and breadth of the country owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Christopher Moore and his dancers for inspiring an endless supply of new pupils and customers all of whom will be in the market for tights, shoes and snazzy new leotards. Indeed, it may not just be children in the market for such kit as adult ballet classes are sprouting like mushrooms everywhere as I noted in Back to Class 8 Jan 2017. Those teachers, retailers, studios and theatres would probably be willing to advertise if Ballet Theatre UK would take advertising.

So Christopher Moore and his talented young dancers perform an important public service not just to dance itself but also to education, retailing and possibly even public health in getting kids and possibly some adults off their backsides and onto the barre. When the time comes for giving gongs I hope the powers that be remember him.

It is vital that this company keeps going but it is not obvious how they manage it. If they get anything from Arts Council England, which seems to have plenty of dosh for projects that seem to be much less worthy, Ballet Theatre UK don't mention it on their website or in their sumptuously designed and printed, but singularly uninformative, programmes at £5 each. They appeal for corporate giving and sponsorship on their website but if they get any they keep quiet about it. There is an acknowledgement of some 22 individual donors on the last page of the programme some of whom bear the names or at least the surnames of creatives and dancers in the company. The only advertisement in the programme is for The School of Ballet Theatre UK.

Ticket and programme sales will bring in some revenue but it can't be that much. The Theatre Royal Wakefield, which is a beautiful Victorian venue with a glorious history (see Theatre has a rich history 22 Aug 2097 Wakefield Express), seats only 499 punters. Although yesterday's turnout was not bad there was more than one empty seat.

Of the five shows by Ballet Theatre UK that I have seen since I started this blog, this was by far the best. I think it helped that I knew the story backwards.   By contrast, Aladdin and Pinnochio were not the easiest ballets to follow.

However, I think a lot of credit must go to the dancers and in particular to Isaac Peter Bowry who, like me, is a Mancunian (see Born to be a star: Wythenshawe dancer Isaac, 16, on the road to ballet success 12 Oct 2012 Manchester Evening News). Yesterday was not the first time I had seen Bowry in a major role. I mentioned him in my very first post for his performance as Drosselmeyer in Ballet West's "The Nutcracker" on 25 Feb 2013, again when he danced von Rothbart the following year (see Swan Loch - Ballet West's Swan Lake, Pitlochry 1 March 2014 3 March 2014) and Paris the year after that in Ballet West's Romeo and Juliet 1 Feb 2015. He impressed me when he was a student and again last night. I am delighted that he has found a home in Hinckley. He is a naturally talented actor as well as a strong dancer.
His glazed expression after seeing Juliet for the first time at her parents' ball was priceless.

Laia Ramon, his Juliet, also acted and danced well. Alistair Beatte handled a sword adroitly as Mercutio as did Lucien Vecchienelli who danced Tybalt. Claire Corruble, the only name I remember from the last time I saw the company, danced Lady Capulet with passion. Dominic Who portrayed her husband as not a very nice man threatening Lady Capulet as well as Juliet with a clout at one point. All danced well.

I can't tell you much about anyone in the cast except Bowry because there were no biographies in the £5 programme and the information on the dancers' page of the company's website is "coming soon" - and has been for several months. That's a pity because Gita likes to name "a man or woman of the match" but can't identify her nominee.  All she can say is that it was "that tall slender girl."

Ballet Theatre UK inspires a lot of loyalty. The mother of one of its former dancers describes the company as "fine". Another former dancer who is a Facebook friend wrote "enjoy" when I announced I was on the way to the theatre. A subscriber to Balletco Forum who identifies him or herself only as a Nottinghamshire ballet lover contributed a glowing review of the Chesterfield show to that website. As I said above, friends and family of the company, members as well as the dancers and creatives themselves have donated.  It is clearly a cause worth supporting.

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