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008 dt august-2014

Inside this month:

Graham Watts discovers the rigours of dancing on the end of a pier

Laura Dodge pays a visit to Urdang Academy

Zoë Anderson previews INALA at the Edinburgh International Festival

Paul Arrowsmith explores how dancers' knowledge is recycled

And much more

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Dancing Times - Features

The Sleeping Beauty in Oslo:

Written by Brenda Last

This was my second visit to the wonderful new Opera House in Oslo. My first was to attend the opening of the National Ballet season in May when the company presented an all Kylián programme and I now wanted to see them perform a classical work. The Sleeping Beauty is a challenge for any ensemble and was not part of the repertoire when I directed the company in the late 1970s.

I do wonder what they did to the peacock. In Kinkan Shonen, a 1978 work by Japanese butoh group Sankai Juku, a man dances with a live bird tucked under his arm. It seems to be in a trance. Even when he lets go of its neck, it sways its head from side to side, but doesn’t peck or struggle, let alone scream. For a peacock, that’s not natural.
Since January 2006 the Prague Ballet Gala has become one of the most respected dance events in the Czech Republic. Hosted by the Prague International Ballet and its stimulating artistic director, Jana Kurova, the gala unites each year on the stage of the Prague State Opera dancers of various ensembles from around the world. Kurova, a former principal ballerina with the Prague National Theatre, considers it an ideal channel to make a strong case for classical ballet – which is very much in decline in her country – stimulating public interest and finding sponsors to give it a proper chance again. For the fourth edition of the gala she allowed the audience to further discover and compare different schools and styles, represented by some of their finest exponents. The programme was attractively balanced between the purely classical and contemporary, and, for the initiated, between the usual suspects and some lesser-known novelties. With artistic levels pleasingly high, the evening couldn’t possibly have missed its goal.
Performances of Frederick Ashton’s ballets are few and far between these days – though in New York we do have Sylvia to look forward to in American Ballet Theatre’s summer season – so when I heard that the Sarasota Ballet was bringing back The Two Pigeons, which it first presented a year ago, together with Les Patineurs, which has also become a rarity, I decided a trip to Florida was called for. It proved to be well worthwhile. Iain Webb, who became artistic director of the company 17 months ago, has ambitious plans, coupled with a sense of history. Not only has he presented ballets that you might see anywhere, such as Balanchine’s Divertimento No. 15 and Allegro brillante, and Tudor’s Lilac Garden, but he has a particular interest in Ashton’s work – Alexander Grant staged Façade in January 2008 – and in Sadler’s Wells repertory too. One might even say Vic-Wells, because he has also brought in Ninette de Valois’s The Rake’s Progress and Checkmate (the first US company to do so, I believe). It helps too that Webb is married to Margaret Barbieri, who shares his experience of dancing these ballets and can be relied on for authentic staging, as here.
It was hard to convince oneself that Unleashed, the new show by Spanish dance heartthrob and media celebrity Joaquín Cortés, was a dance recital rather than a pop concert. Held for just two nights at Camden’s The Roundhouse (not a particularly good venue for dance on this viewing), the arena area around the centrally placed stage platform was packed with standing figures supping pints or attempting to capture the performance on their mobile phones. The atmosphere was hot, sweaty, noisy, and heavy with anticipation whilst an onstage flamenco band wailed, stamped and clapped their way through a musical introduction.
For all its popularity Swan Lake remains one of the most challenging of the great classics – to stage as well as to perform. One only has to remember the crackpot version created by Jan Fabre for the Royal Ballet of Flanders in 2002 to realise how treacherous the pond can be. It’s all the more heartening, therefore, that seven years later, Kathryn Bennetts, artistic director of the Flanders company, has commissioned a brand new Swan Lake. Premiered on January 24, the new production can be saluted as a magnificent achievement on two counts – as a staging and as a performance.
Uprising,

In Your Rooms

None of the usual theatrical warnings about switching off your mobiles tonight. Camera phones were sparking all over the place at the Roundhouse in north London, where Hofesh Shechter was storming though a double bill that was more rock gig than dancehouse offering.

Shortly after an evening out with The Kosh I spent an evening in with Alfred Hitchcock.  The evening out at The Storeroom was advertised as “A Magical Cabaret”, and the evening in with BBC 4 announced a documentary feature titled “Paul Merton Looks at Alfred Hitchcock”. Yet what emerged from this seemingly unrelated juxtaposition was a vision – shared both by the great cinematic choreographer and by the two choreographers of the UK’s longest lasting multi-media dance theatre company – of just what is needed to keep an audience on the edge of their seats.
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