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003 dt mar-2015

Inside this month:

Paul Arrowsmith talks to David Bintley about his career as a choreographer and director

Jonathan Gray discusses new choreography for classical ballet with Michael Corder

Zoë Anderson meets contemporary choreographer Robert Cohan on the eve of his 90th birthday celebrations

Dominic Antonucci on “ballet dads”

And much more

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Dancing Times - Features

Following the success of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba’s visit to Sadler’s Wells last year, the company made a swift return visit to London in early September with a repertoire consisting of the full length Don Quixote and a mixed programme of ballet “lollipops” called Magia de la Danza. Part of the success of the Cubans’ previous visit, for me at least, was the revelation of a troupe of dancers with a uniformity of schooling and style – a style that harks back to the era of the former Ballets Russes companies with whom Alicia Alonso, the founder of the Nacional Ballet, was a celebrated ballerina. The company also employs a variety of very talented principals and soloists, who could justifiably grace the stages of any number of ballet theatres across the globe. One cannot help but appreciate the high standards of dancing that Alicia Alonso has been able to develop – she is the Cuban equivalent of Britain’s Ninette de Valois and Marie Rambert. What cannot be disguised, however, is the utter poverty of the company’s production values: threadbare backcloths and rudimentary scenery; costumes and wigs that look as if they had been made 50 years ago for a school production – they do little to enhance the quality of the dancing or the veracity of the acting. Regular Dancing Times readers will be aware of the poor state of the rehearsal studios for the company and school in Havana, and there was an extraordinary response to our request for donations of new dance shoes and practice clothes for the company last summer. One can only hope that with more regular visits to Western Europe, the Nacional Ballet’s bank balance will become healthier.

Wherever the Ascendance Rep dancers perform there is always an expectant atmosphere, indeed a collective hum of anticipation. The company delights and cheers. Its mission is to reach out and this it does, thoughtfully and entertainingly. The company has created its own audiences through performances in art galleries, museums, libraries, bookshops and even on railway station platforms. Curious people stopped, enquired as to what was happening and then they stayed around for the remainder of the performance. As a consequence the company’s theatre dates are attracting people new to theatre and new to contemporary dance in theatres. Their touring programmes are attractive to newcomers to dance and at the same time there is are intellectual and emotional depths to challenge the more experienced.

Dutch National Ballet in Jewels:

Written by Marc Haegeman
During the last ten years George Balanchine’s Jewels has gradually become one of the standards of the classical repertory to which any self-respecting troupe should aspire. More and more companies around the world acquire Balanchine’s 1967 plotless triptych and enchant new audiences with its evocation of precious stones subtly linked to the three dance cultures closest to the choreographer – French romanticism, American neoclassicism and the Imperial Russian Ballet.
Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Stravinsky programme was the unexpected hit of this Sadler’s Wells season. Triple bills are proverbially hard to sell, but ticket sales were brisk, audiences friendly. This season has brought a crop of new dancers, including the Estonian Linnar Looris, whom I saw as Balanchine’s Apollo. This was a sure, confident performance. Like the rest of his new company, Looris approaches this masterpiece with a respect that can be too polite. I’d like bolder, brighter rhythm from all the dancers. But Looris dances strongly, his steps cleanly articulated, while his gestures are lucid and well-timed. Virginia de Gersigny was a crisp Terpsichore, with Momoko Hirata and Laura Purkiss lively in the handmaidens’ dances.

The Joffrey Ballet in Cinderella:

Written by David Vaughan
One has to grab any opportunity there is nowadays to see an Ashton ballet; even The Royal Ballet, which after the centenary celebration of 2004 might be thought to have restored his works to the ascendancy in its repertory that they deserve, now appears only grudgingly to offer a few performances of Rhapsody early in 2007, and of Symphonic Variations towards the end of the season. The Joffrey Ballet, now based in Chicago, presented its own production of Cinderella early in October, and it was worth braving the vicissitudes of air travel to catch the first night. In any case, it is always a pleasure to attend a performance in the superb Auditorium Theatre, one of the city’s many architectural treasures.

Bare Bones in The 5 Man Show:

Written by Jonathan Gray
To mark the fifth anniversary of Bare Bones, the contemporary dance group based at Birmingham’s Dance Exchange, the company have been touring the country with a new triple bill of works by Arthur Pita, Liam Steel, and artistic director David Massingham under the title The 5 Man Show. I caught the company on November 7 at the new Siobhan Davies Studios in Elephant and Castle, South East London towards the end of the tour.

By Robert Penman

Founded in 1982 and now well-known and widely respected throughout Europe and North America, the appearance of San Francisco-based choreographer Alonzo King LINES Ballet at the Festival Theatre on August 26 was a Festival first for the UK. With King’s ballets already established in the repertoires of major companies on both continents, the UK has been particularly slow to come to the party (especially as the British politician Oona King is a relative).

By Gerald Dowler

For the third year running, Henry Roche, devoted company pianist for The Royal Ballet, has brought young dancing friends and musical colleagues together to raise money for a small charity, Ashanti Development, which works in Ghana to help local communities. At the Royal College of Music’s delightful Britten Theatre, he put together this year a toothsome evening of small-scale instrumental and dance works, not the least of which was a personal revival by the ballet’s owner, Jelko Yuresha, of Anton Dolin’s famous Pas de Quatre. Before that, however, were several dance vignettes, starting with a rare glimpse of the Bride’s solo from Frederick Ashton’s war-time ballet The Wise Virgins; a short excerpt focusing mainly on plastique and an almost oriental placing of hands and wrists, it was serenely danced by Romany Pajdak.

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