Saturday, 5 May 2018

St Andrews University Dance Club's 50th Anniversary Gala

St Salvator's College, St Andrews 30 April 2018
© 2018 Jane Elizabeth Lambert
All rights reserved

St Andrews University Dance Club 50th Anniversary gala 30 April 2018, 19:30 Byre Theatre, St Andrews

I wrote about how the St Andrews Dance Society was formed in Ballet at University 27 Feb 2017. Last Monday I attended the 50th anniversary gala at the Byre although I think the celebration is slightly premature as I did not go up to university until October 1968.  I think we set up Dance Soc in 1970 or 1969 at the earliest. I say that because our first outing was to see Scottish Theatre Ballet perform Peter Darrell's Beauty and the Beast  at the King's Theatre in Edinburgh and that was not staged until 1969 according to the Peter Darrell Trust.

Never mind! It was still a long time ago and the 50th anniversary (more or less) provides a good excuse for a celebration. And what a celebration it was with a programme comprising nearly 30 different pieces in dance styles ranging from ballet to Highland fusion.  When Sally Marshall (our founding chair) and I were about to graduate we discussed the future of the Society. "Oh it'll just pack up after we leave" suggested Sally.  Sadly I had to agree. Well it didn't. Congratulations to the present members and all the other generations of students for keeping the Club and dance alive in St Andrews over all those years.

The Byre Theatre
© 2018 Jane Elizabeth Lambert
All rights reserved

The Byre Theatre was packed to the gunwales.  Many of those present were students but by no means all.  There was at least one contemporary of mine in the audience who is now a distinguished Scottish lawyer. Although I don't think she was ever a member of the Dance Society she certainly remembered it.  She has seen a lot of dance over the years and her opinion counts. When we met for drinks in the interval we were both greatly impressed by the quality of the work that we had seen so far.  We were unable to compare notes at the end because we lost each other in the crush but my admiration grew right up to the last piece.

On entering the auditorium the stage was lit with a soft purple glow.  Purple and gold appear to be the colours of the Club because many members of the audience wore purple tee-shirts and hoodies with the words "Dance Club 50th Anniversary" in gold characters. About an hour before the show I met several students wearing those garments in South Street on the way to the theatre. I introduced myself to Katie who now does the job I used to do as Club Secretary. "Oh are you Jane?" she asked.  I was flattered to find that at least somebody in my alma mater reads Terppsichore.  Not only that but I was acknowledged by the Club president at the start of the show and thanked for helping to set up the Club.

I admired all the works.  I have no particular favourites.   I commend all the choreographers, dancers, set and costume designers and makers, lighting designers and other technical and support staff equally. However, a review has to be selective and in singling out particular pieces I intend no slight to those I do not mention.

I was very impressed by the pointe work in Jessica Linde's Nouvelle Liberté which she described as "choreographed predominately in the Balanchine style of ballet." In the programme notes she explains that Balanchine had brought an angularity and looseness to ballet allowing his dancers to be more expressive. I had always thought of Balanchine as being a pretty strict and demanding choreographer but after considering some of his early works such as Serenade I think I know exactly what Jessica means and I agree with her.  I should add that I loved all the ballets and, in particular. Ailsa Robertson's setting of Colour of Love to the Bollywood film song Gerua.  It was an ingenious juxtaposition of two art very different art forms that worked brilliantly.  I also cheered and shouted "Brave!" for Catherine Mitzen's Sospiri by the beginners' class.  That was my class when I was at St Andrews though I never reached the high standard I saw on Monday night.  I was hoping to rejoin that class briefly on Sunday for the first time in nearly 50 years but time constraints made it impossible. However, I did get a class at Ballet West which I mentioned in Visiting Taynuilt 3 May 2018.

One genre of dancing that was new to me was Highland fusion  I loved the choice of music and the multicoloured costumes in Holly Alexander's From Here On.  When I was at St Andrews Highland dancing was largely the preserve of the Celtic Society and the OTC and performed to bagpipes. It has moved on. Holly wrote in the programme notes:
"Highland dancing s no longer just about old tradition. It is no longer about sticking to strict rules and regulations. It is no longer just about the sole dancer competing alone. It is no longer solely danced in Scotland. Highland dancing is now about modernizing old traditions."
Holly's was the furthest departure from my perception of  Highland dancing but all the pieces in that genre were innovative and interesting.

Dance is now a competitive sport and the University dance team, the Blue Angels, have distinguished themselves at the Loughborough University Dance Competition before Steven McRae. Members of the team presented different genres all of which I enjoyed tremendously, Stuart McQuarrie's Minions impressed me with its wit, Clair Davison's Mamba with its sense of fun and Charmaine Hillier's The Tide Can Hold You Out with its polish.

All the jazz, tap and contemporary pieces were danced with energy and passion, the Irish with precision and the theatre and lyrical with flair. In the finale wave after wave of members came on stage. They were magnificent.  I am so proud of them.

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