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A Dream of Africa at the Britten Theatre

Posted on September 19, 2010

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.



Ernst Meisner created a gentle pas de deux that highlighted the burgeoning talents of Leticia Stock and David Trzensimiech, and Erico Montes created a coolly efficient duo, showcasing Kevin Emerton and the beautiful arms and placement of Yasmin Naghdi. Of greater choreographic interest was Vanessa Fenton’s quirky and jokey male pas de trois to Liszt’s Au bord d’une Source, ably danced by Michael Stojko, Valentino Zucchetti (a welcome recruit to The Royal Ballet), and the ever eye-catching James Hay, reminiscent in presence and silhouette of the young Bruce Sansom. Fate ruled that the promised pas de deux from Ashton’s Birthday Offering was not danced, but the piano trio of Oliver Davies, Adrian Bradbury and Royal Ballet Sinfonia leader Robert Gibbs did Glazunov’s evocative score proud.

Balletically, the interest lay in the Pas de Quatre, performed with good period style and subtle characterisation by the young Royal Ballet quartet of Lara Turk’s arch Marie Taglioni, Sabina Westcombe’s quicksilver Fanny Cerrito, Romany Pajdak’s playful Carlotta Grisi and Leticia Stock’s fresh, spry Lucile Grahn. The small stage ensured legs were kept low and the sprightly rhythms from a suitably 19th century-sounding trio (Henry Roche this time at the piano) made footwork both rapid and delicate. The Pas de Quatre could be cast well if The Royal Ballet ever saw fit to acquire it. A small-scale evening, perhaps, but one that provided much enjoyment and an opportunity to see works sadly unperformed elsewhere.

Gerald Dowler writes for the Financial Times, Ballet 2000 and several dance publications and websites. His articles have included appreciations of both Bronislava Nijinska and Antony Tudor and he has interviewed extensively for Dancing Times. He teaches at the City of London School.

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