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002 dt february-2016

Inside this month:

Nicola Rayner interviews former Strictly pro Robin Windsor

Margaret Willis meets Ashley Shaw of New Adventures

Paul Arrowsmith investigates Frederick Ashton’s A Month in the Country

Alison Gallagher-Hughes finds out about Blackpool Dance Festival China

And much more

Dancing Times - Features

The complicated truth:

Written by Matthew Lawrence
Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Matthew Lawrence investigates eating disorders in ballet


Ballet is suffering a Black Swan hangover. Darren Aronofsky’s movie has unwittingly re-fuelled debate over the prevalence of eating disorders amongst dancers. With contradictory accounts creating a maelstrom of controversy, it once again raises the question: What is the truth?

La Bayadère

American Ballet Theatre, The Kennedy Center, Washington DC – February 3–5, 2012

Tucked away in a Saturday afternoon matinée at the centre of a weekend mini-season of Natalia Makarova’s production of La Bayadère, padded out on either side by more experienced casts, came a trio of debuts in the leading roles. This protective programming, though understandable, proved an unnecessary precaution for Vadim Muntagirov’s first outing, both with American Ballet Theatre and in this ballet. Americans might describe his guest appearance as a “try-out” but they will never need to do so again, since it was a spectacular debut in every sense, closely matched by Hee Seo’s first reading of the Temple Dancer, Nikiya.   Muntagirov is already confirmed for more performances in ABT’s New York “Met” Season, early this summer; reprising the role of Solor with Seo and partnering Irina Dvorovenko in Swan Lake. Given the lack of strength in depth within ABT’s cohort of male principals (even worse than The Royal Ballet’s current predicament in the same department), it seems that English National Ballet will now be sharing their star danseur across the Atlantic (and elsewhere) on a regular basis.

Surrounded by vertiginous rock-faces in the southeast corner of southern France, Monaco is where, at this time of the year, snow-capped Alps tumble into the Mediterranean. Like other city-states, the Principality survives by reaching out to the rest of the world, which its biennial dance event, Monaco Dance Forum, has been doing enthusiastically for the last decade.

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.
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