Profile

Cover photo
Hoverfly: a life on the edge of the seat
37 followers|79,531 views
AboutPostsPhotosVideos

Stream

 
Royal Ballet, Double bill of Ashton works, Thursday 28th January 2016 7.30pm, Royal Opera House Main Stage
Amphitheatre Right, Seat B79, £16 (restricted view) - not too far back and not too far to the side, a good seat at a good price though I did have to ask someone in front of me not to lean forward, which I hate doing
Rhapsody
This is a wonderful piece, but it relies so much on the lead couple and these two just don't quite have the connection or the charisma for it. Zucchetti has his moments, but essentially he just does not have the ballon or the quickness of turns and feet to suit the Ashtonian demand. It is lovely to see Choe taking the limelight once again - quite back to her usual form, she has a particularly nice sense of timing and musicality, with lightning quick batterie that is just right for this. With a partner who actually looked her in the eye, she might really have been something memorable. Ultimately, they just seemed to be concentrating too much, not having yet found that abandon of going above and beyond technique that the fun cheekiness of this piece requires.
As for the rest of the piece's elements, the music is lovely and the costumes were nice enough, but the sets were terrible! It looked as if someone had forgotten to do them until the last minute and then run out of money and ideas.
The Two Pigeons
I love this piece. It is amusing and touching by itself, but tonight it did make me realise, again, that it is the charisma of the dancers that can make it go above and beyond and these two don't quite have it yet. Takada's technique is just beautiful, and Hay was so close to being a wonderful actor (his technique was still a little overly careful and yet rather rushed at the same time, though his quickness of foot is sometimes lovely). They are both sweet dancers and one can see them trying hard in just the right way that may mean they are truly wonderful some day, though I am not sure that they will ever be so together - they didn't quite click. Again, more real fun could have been had with this fun piece, it's a performance, not an exercise.
Magri was absolutely brilliant in this splendid role. Her gypsy men, though, could have had more pizazz - if this is Covent Garden's answer to ENB's corsairs, then they have quite a way still to go.
The music is sublime, the set is beautiful, only the costumes of the friends in Act I were in a rather garish colour scheme.
I think the final pas de deux was lovely, but the misbehaving pigeon was really so terribly distracting!
Ultimately, tonight showed promise, and some lovely choreography, but it also showed that a truly great night is only through truly great dancers (and also that I shall be booking again to see the superb Yudes at the earliest opportunity).
1
Add a comment...
 
Le Corsaire, English National Ballet, Wednesday 20th January 2016 7.30pm, London Coliseum
Balcony Centre, Seat A24, £14 - one of the best seats in the house (very centre of the front row), with no obstruction by the railing. I love this theatre!
Once again, I was privileged to see a production that is essentially so good I could hardly stop myself from leaping up to join in! The music is marvellously rousing, the choreography virtuosic in the extreme, the sets and costumes lavish enough to compete with the Covent Garden rivals. I did feel this time around that the company could have given it all a little more energy and feeling though- even Rojo looked tired at moments, though her stunning control will always carry her through.
It is a difficult ballet not just technically but emotionally too, because, in a way, it is a sort of tragic pantomime. I did nearly laugh aloud from sheer glee at Rojo's irritated expression, rather than the GPF (Generally Pained Face) on which so many dancers rely, when she was torn from her beloved yet again, but for the most part I did not really believe there was any love in this story. Tonight's viewing was thrilling and great fun, but not hugely moving, as this ballet can be.
 There were some nice virtuosic moments from Hernández, though little charisma, and Kase also did a good job of the surprisingly nuanced role of Gulnare. Acosta pleased as always, Souza too was suitably impressive (the men in this company really have risen so dramatically in the last few years) and Coleman and Rodríguez were clearly having great fun. I was also more impressed by the Tring students than I have been in the past - much neater. A well-recovered slip by one of the odalisques was counterbalanced by some stunning pirouettes, and the highlight - perhaps surprisingly - of the first act was actually the wonderfully exhilarating villagers/pirates character dance. However, it was Gouneo's Ali that stole the show, performing variations so electrifying that I shall be booking specifically to see him in the future.
In all, a production that remains a must-see, even when this now superb company is not quite as brilliant as we have discovered they can be. Yet again, it is evident that Rojo has done more for this company than any director has done for any company in an exceedingly long time. Directorially and literally, she can't put a foot wrong.
1
Add a comment...
 
The Nutcracker, Royal Ballet, Tuesday 8th December 2015 7.30pm, Royal Opera House Main Stage
Stalls Circle Right, C93, £35 - my favourite seat for a ballet I know, it's magical to be so close. I just wish I could have seen the Christmas tree growing!

There is nothing more perfectly full of festivity and magic than this company's Nutcracker. The music alone moves me to tears, but it is the sumptuosity of the set and costumes and the clever linking method of Drosselmeyer which sets this production high above all others. Wonderfully professional, no one was fazed even momentarily by a dropped mirliton, or a wobbling staircase.
Avis' Drosselmeyer is the star of the show, enchanting and unsettling by degrees, and yet intensely human. Cambell, though very nice and - as my loyal readers will know - a personal favourite, paled in comparison to the endlessly sensitive Hayward, whose own technique looked stellar even beside the experienced Naghdi. Cambell, I feel now, shines in a role full of turns and jumps, but he has not the physical flexibility for something subtler. The dolls of Act 1 were very slick, Kaneko especially exhibiting her quick precision. The whole company, right down to the tiny White Lodgers, are slickly professional and engaging (though the young soldiers' marching needed some work!).
Steven McRae was tantalisingly flawless in his brief appearance, reminding me that the mark of a good dancer is not necessarily to jump the highest, but to land the neatest. Salenko, however, made me wonder a little - she looked a little uncertain, slow, and I was torn between feeling refreshed to see a dancer prioritising subtlety of feeling over high legs, and feeling that she was playing it far too safe, that she had far more in her.
It is difficult to find anything new to say after so many years of loving this show. It does not get old. From the falling snow to the scattered glitter, every moment charms. This is surely the definitive Nutcracker, even if that Chinese dance still needs serious consideration. It is really very uncomfortable now.
1
Add a comment...
 
Chéri, Wednesday 30th September 2015 7.45pm, Royal Opera House Linbury Studio Theatre
Arena Left, A9, £24 (student, possible restricted view) - there were moments when performers were hidden behind the table but mostly it was just incredible to see things from this close, an amazing value ticket, as almost always in the Linbury. Everywhere should do student prices!
Colette, the author of the novel from which this story is taken, said "no narration". And yet, this is exactly what the ballet has done, by putting a speaking actress into the piece. The choreography itself was visceral and immediate, the kind of thing one can imagine being 'real' if we truly all communicated in ballet alone. I particularly loved the powerful moments of breakdown, such as Ferri's soft fists beating against the wall. But the speech ruined it as a piece. Next to such expressive dance, it seems clumsy, silly. Annis' accent was laughably embarrassing (though her acting itself was good for what she was given) and her speeches broke up the performance into a series of set pieces rather than a flowing and cohesive whole.
Each of her monologues could have been effectively replaced with dance, perhaps adding some cast members if the principals need breathing time, which would also have allowed the ballet to coherently grow in energy rather than skip and jump between emotions, reaching a more emotional and movingly tragic climax and conclusion.
Ballet sidesteps the question of whether to do accents, allowing dancers to inhabit wherever they wish, but the style of this brought back the issue. It also meant that the piece had one foot still in this world, instead of in the other world of dance, and so it is not so easy to suspend disbelief, to forget the pretence. With just this one, incongruous character breaking the fourth wall, the genre became questionable, and felt clumsier than it ought.
Ferri was absolutely stunning, her every breath a whole conversation of meaning. Cornejo too was brilliantly cast, and it was lovely to have the piano onstage. Also striking was to see the versatile Linbury with a set like this, though I think - with the speeches replaced - it would actually be a better Main Stage piece. Extra dance pieces could even expand it into a full evening length ballet.
The evening was pulsating with a powerful potential, the realisation of which Ferri and Cornejo were prevented slightly from achieving simply because of the speech. It was, however, an evening of superb talent and exhilarating possibility, that could, with revision, become groundbreaking.
1
Add a comment...
 
Dutch National Ballet Junior Company, Friday 5th June 2015 7.45pm, Royal Opera House Linbury Studio Centre
Upper Gallery Right, U8, £7 (standing place) - painful without a railing but a great view, good value and worth it
I felt as if the company looked a little more obviously young this year and yet they are still splendid performers and dancers. It is the former of those that really stands out, however, to eyes used to seeing graduates of the Royal Ballet School. These dancers can jump and have the precise footwork of the Bournonville school, and they have a musicality and a joy in their dancing that makes them equally a joy to watch. They look healthy, happy and individual - we could take a leaf out of the book of Dutch training.
As for the choreography, it was a good mix. Lovely to see proper Bournonville, Full Moon was extremely witty, though Visions Fugitives did not work as a piece and the dancers seemed to struggle a little with the unusual complexity of Surfacing.
The music lost a little from being blared through speakers, but the video was far better than last year, now that the speeches have been replaced by rehearsal footage alone.
Overall a clearly young but very, very strong company, with extremely promising futures ahead of them. I love the vision of this company - not only does it function as a great 'springboard' for young dancers, but it is also a wonderful advertisement for the main company.
1
Add a comment...
 
Woolf Works, Royal Ballet, Wednesday 13th May 2015 7.30pm, Royal Opera House Main Stage
Amphitheatre Left, B36, £6 - student price and one of the best value tickets I have ever bought
I now, I then
I was entirely taken aback by the sheer power of this piece. Simple but exceptionally effective, there were, admittedly, moments when I wondered whether it was a clichéd portrayal of Mrs Dalloway and yet could not accept this when it was just so moving. It spoke - and therein lies true value. To have Ferri, the same age as the character, starring here was rather a beautiful move, and imbued her role with a different sort of fragility than could have been achieved by a younger dancer. Ferri no longer looks like the dancer she once was, but her quality is unmistakeable. It was Dyer and Watson who finally brought me to tears with their pas de deux, the most heartbreaking moment being as Dyer ran offstage and Watson followed only to turn a different way and run forward as the lights became sunny - though not at all cheerful. I have never seen a more eloquent depiction of a lost soul, searching for something that is never to be reached. I don't even think one needed to know the plot of the novel to be deeply affected by this ultimately extraordinarily effective piece of dance.
Becomings
This was one of those pieces which only came together towards the end. Throughout most of it I was only disappointed by the predictability of the angry extreme flexibility on which McGregor always seems to rely, and the lack of imagination in choosing lasers to represent time travel, and cross dressing to show androgyny. But then, somehow, the finale turned into something amazingly stirring, the culmination of the costume changes being the beautiful genderless anonymity of the whole cast. Unlike the other pieces, this relied on knowledge of the story and also made the stars stand out a little more, even if the gelled back hair meant that they were recognisable only by the individual motions of their bodies.
Tuesday
Simply very, very sad. A fittingly emotional conclusion to a very moving and sensitive evening. Even if the choreography itself was not hugely groundbreaking, the complete artistic vision of the design (especially the set of the opening piece), dance and particularly exquisite music and fitting audio proved that McGregor apparently does have more to offer here after all. It is interesting that his first 'full length' still took the form of several short pieces, linked as they were by the figure of Ferri as, arguably, Woolf herself.
1
Add a comment...
 
La Fille Mal Gardée, Royal Ballet, Tuesday 5th May 2015 7.15pm, live broadcast seen from Arts Picturehouse Cambridge
Student standby, two tickets for £10
Such a prop-filled ballet is always going to be nervewracking in a live broadcast. Some slight ribbon issues initially, a little holding back from Mosley in the clog dance and a little - ahem - horseplay, but overall it went swimmingly. Widow Simone even made her lift at the end! McRae and Osipova make a perfectly characterful pair for this ballet, their fleet feet, lightning turns and easy jumps perfect for the Ashton, but all the acting was delightful really, with those little touches which the Royal do so well, and which are such a joy to see close like this. Sometimes it seems there is a benefit to the big screen (other than accessibility of course).
The big question, of course, was whether Osipova could do Ashton and I think she can - although she is clearly not Ashton-trained and needs to work on the nuance of the upper body. However, her quick footwork and springy jump made some of the coda work look nicer - less laboured - than many of those dancers who have been brought up on it. She has a way to go, and it is debatable that she will manage it without the years of training, but she's a joy to watch and she does her best in such a way that I found more than satisfactory. This came as a reminder that the influx of foreign dancers such as her will not sacrifice the company's style - it's almost a relief to see something she doesn't do perfectly! But, in my roundabout way, I am trying to say that she was a success. A joy to watch, so that I couldn't stop smiling. And, really, what else is this ballet for?
1
Add a comment...
Have them in circles
37 people
David Wilson's profile photo
Shulamit Morris-Evans's profile photo
Dancing in the Street's profile photo
Arizona Classical Ballet's profile photo
Northern Ballet's profile photo
Fran Blewitt's profile photo
The Wonderful World of Dance's profile photo
Ann Sugaya's profile photo
none's profile photo
 
Today I am thinking about Darcey Bussell's comments that boys are now taking over from girls in ballet. Unfortunately, much as I love our Darcey, she was not made to be a speaker. Her comments are confusing and misleading, and the actual article, even if it is in the Telegraph (boo hiss spit), is quite good, as it counters Bussell's slight misinterpretation of the facts she has been told by those in the know at the country's ballet schools. It is obviously wonderful that more boys are drawn to ballet since the 'Billy Elliot phenomenon'; equal numbers of girls and boys, as ENBS say they are now usually getting, is obviously the ideal. Bussell is wrong in saying that we are not producing enough women - a great number of wonderful ballerinas graduate in the UK every year, and far more girls do so than boys as soon as you go slightly further down the list of schools.
The real issue here is that we are not producing the right kind of ballerina. Girls develop knowing that competition is fierce. They know they must fit the mould to enter the corps, they know they must not be a diva with whom no one wants to work, they know that their technique must be perfect if they are to have even a chance of shining amongst the hordes of well-trained women. Boys, on the other hand, for so long a rare species in ballet and so delighting everyone when they do turn up, are far more likely to be told that they are good, told that they are special. They watch people such as Acosta and know that, ultimately, it is charisma that makes a truly great dancer. Boys are encouraged to have personality, as girls are not. Arguably, this is not restricted to the world of dance.
Therefore, graduating male dancers usually know how to move an audience even when their technique is - yes, I will say it - usually not quite as flawless as their female counterparts, since they have not had competition in quite the same way. And what happens? They become the star, far more often than the graduate ballerina. Muntagirov, Polunin, Xander Parish - all were young British-trained dancers who took the ballet world by storm. We can even see it happening again here now with Matthew Ball; everywhere, men with charisma are being fast-tracked. I would argue, though I am a fan of Ball and believe he has potential, that he is moving too fast for the rate at which his technique is developing. This would never happen to a girl.
The women don't have that charisma or confidence. It has been trained out of them. If fewer girls are now applying to the Royal Ballet School, I bet you anything it has more than a little to do with the thought that they aren't good enough, that they have no chance of being accepted.
What we really need an article on is how to give back confidence and individuality to women, till they believe in themselves, till they believe that style is as important as technicality. Then, we might have more than just the one Frankie Hayward.
1
Add a comment...
 
Royal Ballet, Friday November 27th 2015 7.30pm, Royal Opera House Main Stage
Balcony Right, C65, £10 (standing) - very good, not too far to the side to affect the view much
Monotones
I just always find Monotones, well, monotonous. The costumes are ugly, the mood never develops, there are some intriguing movements and lines but it seems to me more like a study than something to be performed. Lacking meaning and interest, it is a technically demanding piece, the difficulty of which the dancers are unable to hide. Arestis needs to be careful with over-fishing her foot; from above, it does not even seem pointed.
Ashton's works remain innovative even when performed today, but we ought to be careful we are not simply performing them because of the fetishisation of his name.
The Two Pigeons
It's about time this came back into the repertoire! Sweet and funny, it has the Ashtonian pantomime without going over the top, and is actually quite a nice little depiction of relationships. The music is gorgeous, the sets are wonderful, McRae was predictably stunning and Salenko was charming - but the real revelation was Kaneko. A true Ashton dancer as Salenko is not, she was a brilliant match for McRae. A truly rousing and moving piece, I loved it, and would see it again straightaway.
The live pigeons were delightful, and my only concern was the rather absurd fight scene with the rope and cloaks. This piece deserves to be performed over and over - I hope it stays in the company's repertoire for many years now.
1
Add a comment...
 
Royal Ballet, Romeo and Juliet, Saturday 19th September 2015 7pm, Royal Opera House Main Stage
Amphitheatre Right, B81, £16 (restricted view) - great value seat, very much worth buying again
When I first saw Sarah Lamb, many years ago now, I thought she was technically brilliant, but coldly expressionless. Since then, I have watched her mature as a dancer, performing with an endearing quality I once thought she would never have. However, it is just not yet quite enough for MacMillan's Juliet. She is so consciously careful with each step; she needs to trust her technique more so that she can let go, for she only ever really throws herself into the acting when there are no steps about which to worry. It is also difficult being a tall Juliet, and her huge and unnecessary arch enhancers do not help.
Steven McRae was playing a Romeo unlike one I have ever seen - oddly laid-back, but I think I liked it. He, especially, was having fun with it tonight, which was a joy to see, although he needs more with which to work in a Juliet. His first solo, at the ball, was spectacularly precise - just mesmerising.
The supporting cast was strong - particularly from the brilliant Campbell, and McGorian - but there was a strange lack of cohesion tonight, even in the orchestra. The company had that odd cautiousness of feeling either over-rehearsed, or as if they had only just realised they didn't quite know the ballet quite as well as they had thought they did. Gartside's Escalus, for example, looked uncertain, and there were some dodgy moments in the strings (though the brass section was superb).
James Hay performed the wedding solo far better than the last version I saw, though I still think the whole wedding is an absurd and unneeded section. Sometimes the quest for supposed authenticity can go too far. Apart from that, the whole thing feels tremendously faithful to Shakespeare, right down to the playful moments between Romeo and his friends (which I would argue are the best moments in the whole piece). I even felt the girls' dancing in Juliet's bedroom felt far more seamless this time. It is wonderful to be able to match specific lines of the play to moments of the dance, though I do think a trick was missed in not at least allowing Romeo to die by making Juliet's limp hand hold the poison.
As always with MacMillan, the nuances of relationships and characters, the position of women and expectations of society, are so skilfully handled (though perhaps with a little too much glamourisation of prostitution...?) The music itself, especially the rousing marketplace scenes, is sublime. Overall, I was less blown away than I expected to be, but the production should warm up; it is far too strong a piece to ever stop short of being genuinely moving.
1
Add a comment...
 
Royal Ballet, Thursday 4th June 2015 7.30pm, Royal Opera House Main Stage
Balcony Right, B71, £4 (standing place, restricted view) - terrible ticket, almost ruined the night, definitely won't book this again, just is not worth it for the corner of visible stage
Afternoon of a Faun
This piece stays so central that I could hardly see any of it but the impression I got was that it was very tame considering the reputation and legacy of the original.
In the Night
I love everything about the aesthetic of this piece, right down the simple elegance of the design. A wonderful cast tonight too - Nuñez and Soares delightfully, thrillingly, almost recklessly confident with one another, Yanowsky and Kish reassuringly refined (though there seemed to be a couple of wobbles when lifting, he isn't quite tall enough for her) and I was so pleased to see Campbell and Maguire given these roles. Both are dancers I have long been calling to see more of - both are ripe for promotion. Then again, perhaps a lot of the impression this piece gave me was only in my memory, because so much of the stage was obscured anyway.
Song of the Earth
Unique and powerful, yet in a surprisingly subtle way for such a giant of the repertoire. Particularly struck by Choe tonight, though the whole cast seem really to 'get' this piece (apart, perhaps, from Hirano, who appeared just a little awkward despite his lovely technique). I felt as if I could see the potential for great power and moment, which would have been realised had I been able to actually see the whole of the stage.
Overall, not the strongest bill I have ever seen but quite strong enough. It was really the ticket which ruined the evening.
1
Add a comment...
 
Northern Ballet, Tuesday 12th May 2015 7.45pm, Royal Opera House Linbury Studio Theatre
Upper Gallery Left, U4, £8 (standing place) - good view but painful to stand without a rail to lean on, and a little awkward when you are just hovering over the people in front
Angels in the Architecture
From the title, I was expecting some kind of feminist approach to 'the angel in the house' but what I got was...well, I hardly know. It was strange, and dull, and very, very long and I didn't feel I was getting anything from it at all. I couldn't even tell if the odd moments of kinkiness were supposed to be so, or not at all.
Perpetuum Mobile
This was very nice, but somehow immature. I liked its spontaneity but it looked rather like a school recital, and no one is really standing out tonight.
Little Monsters
Clever, interesting - I did really like this, but it is slightly a throwaway piece and so cannot by itself make this shaky programme.
A Northern Trilogy
These little pieces were similarly clever and amusing, but too trivial to pull the evening together. Nothing so far had meant anything and there has to be at least one that really triggers the emotions.
The Architect
This got interesting once the apples appeared - and then very suddenly became quite extraordinary. That first faster section of violent sexuality was extremely powerful - it is interesting that Northern Ballet are arguably the company least afraid to do things like this, but also the company that dances on CBeebies. Perhaps a nice comment on the versatility of dance. This piece certainly picked things up, though not quite enough to make me forget what I had already seen.

Overall, it was a surprisingly weak programme from Northern Ballet, but certainly not one that ought to make us write off the company as not worth the trip.
1
Northern Ballet's profile photo
 
Sorry you didn't enjoy it, but glad it hasn't put you off us permanently!
Add a comment...
People
Have them in circles
37 people
David Wilson's profile photo
Shulamit Morris-Evans's profile photo
Dancing in the Street's profile photo
Arizona Classical Ballet's profile photo
Northern Ballet's profile photo
Fran Blewitt's profile photo
The Wonderful World of Dance's profile photo
Ann Sugaya's profile photo
none's profile photo
Story
Tagline
Young Londoner reviewing the best ballets from the cheapest seats
Introduction
Reclaiming and reinvigorating ballet for our generation: no, it doesn't have to cost the Earth; yes, it is fresh, still relevant and evolving; and yes, it is for everyone.