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South of the Border

In Mexico, Anna Pavlova danced in a bullring. Serge Diaghilev arranged Ballets Russes performances in Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina in 1913 and 1917. De Basil’s Original Ballet Russe appeared in Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Venezuela. Can you point to these countries on a map, or is the entire continent beneath your […]

Plain and Fancy

When George Balanchine choreographed Chaconne in 1976, he chose Suzanne Farrell and Peter Martins for the principal roles. They were the leading lights of New York City Ballet at the time, and people naturally wanted to see them in anything they might dance. The Balanchine historian Nancy Reynolds has described Chaconne as “a series of […]

Hands, Eyes, Mind, Emotion

How often do you want to see a performance repeated right away, immediately, from start to finish? That’s what I longed for at the end of Shane Shambhu’s Confessions of a Cockney Temple Dancer, a solo brimming with more subtle invention and detailed information than I could absorb in one viewing. Speaking, dancing and miming […]

Shooting Stars

Rudolf Nureyev’s passion for challenge has rarely been equalled. After his defection to the west in 1961, he repeatedly claimed he wanted to explore as many different ways of dancing as possible. Having conquered the classical repertoire and created roles at The Royal Ballet for Frederick Ashton, Kenneth MacMillan, Roland Petit, Rudi van Dantzig and […]

Organic gardening

The word “organic” isn’t often associated with musicals, but it exactly describes the history and content of Little Shop of Horrors, which runs until September 22 at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. Created for a tiny off-Broadway stage in 1982, this show has roots in the science fiction tales of the 1930s and 1950s […]

The Sunny Side of the Street

Only Alan Bennett could set a play in the geriatric ward of an all-purpose community hospital and pack 900 seats with people dying to laugh about people dying. During the initial scenes of Allelujah!, his first play in six years, now installed at the Bridge Theatre, nearly every line drew immediate laughter. Two and a […]

How to Skin a Cat

People have been saying “There’s more than one way to skin a cat” since about 1840 but probably not in terms of making dances. Yet as Örjan Andersson’s Goldberg Variations unfolded at the Barbican several weeks ago, only that phrase allowed me to control my irritation and hang onto my objectivity. It wasn’t easy. Andersson […]

Built to Last by Barbara Newman

Why does Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room always bring the house down? Why does William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated ignite cheers every time it’s performed? Neither ballet has a set or a story, which, we’re constantly informed, ballet audiences in the UK prefer to anything else. Neither comes attached to lengthy notes […]

Art and Entertainment

One way to distinguish art from entertainment is to ask yourself, Do my imagination and brain respond to this, or only my eyes and ears? If you leave a theatre happy and satisfied, you’ve been well entertained. If you go home with questions in your mind or with various interpretations of the performance competing for […]

Lost Illusions by Barbara Newman

The Royal Ballet and the Maly Drama Theatre make an unlikely couple. One concerns itself with dance, the other with theatre. At capacity, the Royal Opera House accommodates 2,256 people, and the Maly’s home – “maly” means small in Russian – seats only 400, which means the buildings themselves impose different demands on performers. Liam […]

Recording History by Barbara Newman

In 1979, the Danish Broadcasting Corporation and the Dance Film Archive of the University of Rochester in New York restored 15 minutes of silent film shot between 1902 and 1906 and featuring the leading artists of the Royal Danish Ballet. Nine tiny ballet excerpts sprang to life, with added piano accompaniment matching the appropriate music […]

Risks Worth Taking by Barbara Newman

In 1921 when Serge Diaghilev produced The Sleeping Princess (commonly called The Sleeping Beauty) in London, he had trouble selling it. Accustomed to an assortment of styles, subjects, music and design in every programme, the public was disappointed by the endless string of classical ensembles and variations, and the production closed halfway through its intended […]

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