2013 Tour: Signature 31/30, Fireside pas de deux from Cinderella, Love on Top, Vocalise, Mapping #3, Florestan Pas de Trois from Act 3 The Sleeping Beauty, Insinuare, anon
London, UAL Platform Theatre
7 March 2013
UAL Platform Theatre
An old friend of a show in a new venue for me – and both come out rather well in the wash.
The UAL Platform Theatre is just North of Kings Cross station in an area of urban renewal with much building still going on. We drove there and eventually found some on-street parking but the compensation was drinks well less than half the price of those in normal theatres, comfy seats in a 300-seat theatre and good views of the stage.
The Ballet Central tour is renowned for having lots of dance variety. In this show there were 8 pieces – ranging from musical theatre to ballet (old and new) to full-on contemporary. Much of the content is newly commissioned too, with a mix of younger and more experienced choreographers. It’s serendipity and I always find something that raises my spirits.
Here are my notes and thoughts as the night unfolded…
Tindall is the Northern Ballet dancer who seems to be doing more as a choreographer. Nice to see him here: he trained at Central School and did the tour he is now choreographing for. Signature 31/30 started as ‘edgy’ modern with a Thom Willems (think Forsythe)-style sound track of rolling electronic thunder (actually by Philip Feeney). Just when you are starting to wonder where it might go it morphs into a more classical pas de deux. It’s respectable movement and there were some good-looking clever plays with a line of dancers towards the end. The 3 boys looked strong in this – particularly in the first couple of minutes. It’s the second piece of Tindall that I’ve seen and he’s finding his tone – he needs lots more commissions.
Fireside Pas de Deux from Cinderella
Christopher Gable and set by Carole Gable
This has been seen a few times on Ballet Central tours and is a stern dramatic (and dance) test. It’s actually the final moments of the ballet and a complete love story in its own right as bashful love is kindled, becomes almost abandoned in its happiness and then growing contentment of the life to come – all in less than 10 minutes. My goodness, it shows the late lamented Gable as a glorious movement communicator. Rather than use Prokofiev, a custom score came from Philip Feeney and it beautifully amplifies the action and tugs the heart. Gable created his Cinderella for Northern Ballet (NB), where he was the much-loved director at the time, and it is a tragic shame that NB are planning a new version of Cinderella instead of bringing this one back. Alice Laidler proved a terrific Cinderella – one of those dancers who can stand there and tell a story with the merest flickers of movement and eyes – a real catch I fancy for a strong dramatic company. Joshua Earl, as the prince, looked heart-throb tall and princely cool – they are very different dancers. Just based on Laidler, my ballet hit of the night.
Love on Top
A West End razzmatazz-and-musicals piece to Michael Buble and Beyonce. Leggy girls in sequins ‘n’ heels, clean-cut boys in black trousers, white shirts and black ties. Great fun, great versatility and all gone in 5 minutes. I don’t know any other school that includes dance like this – and I love the reminder of a wider dance world.
Malko is a classical teacher at the school. My goodness this was strange with a straightforward classical pdd performed to some very emotional Rachmaninoff and a wailing female voice. It seemed rather incongruous to me but the dancers, Giulia Pazzaglia and Thomas Edwards, managed to deliver a performance better than the source material. I have this vague feeling I missed something!
Darshan Singh Bhuller
My dance hit of the night by some margin and really two distinct pieces. The headline choreographer of the tour and within seconds you can see it’s the work of somebody who knows what they are doing, as meaty, dynamic movement bursts fourth in inventive solos and small groups. But while the individual movement is strong it’s the spaces between the dancers and the harmony on the wider stage I also appreciated, with dancers rapidly windmilling on and off stage. It’s not filigree dance but powerful movement that demands you watch. It’s also enhanced, at times, by some random gobo side projections onto the dancers to create dazzling patterns.
If that had been it I’d have left for the interval very happy, but then the piece morphs into visual fun as the dancers become seen from the viewpoint of a camera over the stage and move on the floor so they appear on screen to be walking, balancing or running etc – it’s the world tilted through 90 degrees and gives a flickery, charming and vaguely ham-fisted movement that is irresistible watching.
Mapping #3 (the third version of an evolving work) is a hell of a find and needs a bigger life.
Florestan Pas de Trois from Act 3 The Sleeping Beauty
Petipa/Ashton staged by Carole Gable
A hard classical test and Thomas Edwards registered again as neat and fast. The girls looked a little less happy at the moment though I suspect it will bed down as the tour continues. But it’s a reminder that pure classical work remains a stern and unforgiving test.
Leanne King and Sara Matthews
A contemporary piece of free flowing work. I always look to Matthews to do something uplifting for lots of the students, making them all look good and showing us a stage full of wonderful hope. And so it was this year. The focus is on the students rather than the flowing choreography and it’s a last piece of dance proper before the headline dramatic work that closes out the show.
Sadly I have to declare that I don’t much like this at all – which is odd for a send-them-home-happy piece. Marney, like Tindall who opened, is an old boy of the school and has latterly learned his movement trade as a Matthew Bourne New Adventures associate. And from Bourne you see a telling of the story with welcome crystal clarity – in this case a bookish girl for whom the books come alive, and eventually a hero sweeps her off her feet. It’s tightly focused in it’s 20 or so minutes with much well-observed humour and great costuming. But, as with his recent War Letters for Ballet Black, I found too much of the story not told in dance and the constant slipping into a bit of dance and then stopping for mime really unsatisfying and unnecessary. To me it’s not telling a story in dance but acting a story with the addition of danced sections. But I have to say the audience seemed much happier and it’s a good dramatic test for the 11 students involved.
While I wasn’t wowed by the closer, as I left I couldn’t stop talking about the Bhuller and Gable and wishing to see major companies put them both on in full. That and the usual thought: Another year, another fine night from Ballet Central – well done all.