The linking title of Voices provides the theme for Bonachela’s first programme, a double bill, for his newly-formed company. He’s always liked choreographing to vocal music, whether to pop songs or, most recently in Curious Conscience for Rambert, poems set to music by Benjamin Britten. Mark Baldwin had challenged him to extend his range with the Britten score; now Bonachela is pushing himself further, taking on Luciano Berio’s Naturale for the opening piece, Ahotsak, and commissioning a score from Matthew Herbert for Set Boundaries.
John Neumeier is no stranger to the Paris Opéra Ballet, the company having already performed his versions of The Nutcracker, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Sylvia, besides the Magnificat he made for them. Now it has acquired his La Dame aux camélias, which he had originally made in 1978 for Marcia Haydée and the Stuttgart Ballet; it is currently in the repertory of the Hamburg Ballet, which he has directed for over 30 years.
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.