Autumn 2016: Drawn to Drone, Sibilo, Emergence
Glasgow, Theatre Royal
29 September 2016
Scottish Ballet’s Autumn tour kicked off last week in Glasgow and follows on from the company’s critically acclaimed performances at this year’s Edinburgh Festival – 4 and 5 star reviews nearly all the way for the company and much said about Emergence by hotter-than-hot choreographer Crystal Pite. Well the Pite piece is now touring so more can see what all the enormous fuss is about… so don’t miss it. To add diversity and crunch it’s been coupled with Sibilo – a first main-stage commission for company dancer Sophie Laplane who impressed everybody with her surprise piece (Maze) on last year’s tour. And this year there was a surprise addition as well – a short piece by Scottish freelance contemporary choreographer Jack Webb. All up, it made for a particularly diverse and sparkling night of dance – modern and deeply satisfying. It’s perhaps a term too often used, but “It doesn’t get better than this” is what came immediately to mind at the end.
Jack Webb‘s solo Drawn to Drone arose out of Scottish Ballet’s (SB’s) outreach work with local choreographers and it impressed Christopher Hampson (the SB director) so much he decided to include it on the double bill with principal Christopher Harrison doing the dancing honours. I love it that Webb teases and intrigues us at the start by having Harrison stride out and individually and carefully place two chairs before stripping down to his underpants and sitting in one. He almost imperceptibly starts to move but the piece really gets going when he rocks back, the chairs become one and he seems to be reclining in space his limbs slowly floating around as if weightless. But it’s also intensely private as Harrison luxuriates in what his body can do – it’s rather voyeuristic watching and you can imagine Robert Mapplethorpe (RIP) wanting to photograph it. Webb is intelligent enough to know that at 10 minutes he’s explored the very best of the idea and the curtain comes calmly down on proceedings. Gorgeous and not a step in it – how thoughtfully different.
Earlier we interviewed Sophie Laplane about her new work Sibilo. When it was commissioned she asked herself what did she like when seeing a show? And the answer for Sophie was: “I like to be inspired, to be moved, to be surprised, and to have fun. So I knew I wanted all those ingredients in my new piece.” And so it came to be – it’s all those things, done well too: and as with Jack Webb I like it that she thinks about pleasing an audience and what will impress them. Sibilo, for four women and four men, is about the routine of life, breaking free and showing ourselves for what we are and finding others who appreciate our quirky ways. And when I think of Laplane I think of quirky dance and how its awkwardness can be beautiful and beguiling. The subject is a nice fit to her movement style. I won’t ruin some of the surprises in the piece but there is a glorious duet for Victor Zarallo and Thomas Edwards that has them exploring the possibilities they have together using a shared jacket as a clever prop – a video of them working on it in the studio (with Laplane) was Scottish Ballet’s contribution to World Ballet Day and it’s well worth a look.
Scottish Ballet’s part of World Ballet Day 2016 – Victor Zarallo and Thomas Edwards working with Sophie Laplane on her new Sibilo. It starts approximately 79 minutes into the transmission and clicking the link should bring the section up automatically.
Sibilo means ‘whistling’ in Latin and it’s a disarming motif running through Alex Menzies’ music that mixes in more urban and punchy work. There’s a warm and homely section where 2 boys vie for the attention of a girl and one seems to be labouring under the terrible handicap of not being able to whistle… and yet it comes to be that it doesn’t really matter and he wins the girl. Sweetly done it is, as are many other cameo scenes. Indeed if Laplane can be accused of anything it’s having too many ideas to throw across the footlights. But better too many than a thinly spread too few. A good first outing for Laplane and as she hoped the audience warmed to its moving and fun take on human nature and discovering yourself.
The evening closed out with Crystal Pite’s Emergence which I reviewed earlier at the Edinburgh Festival. It’s based around hierarchy, in ballet companies and how beehives structure themselves, and seeing it for a third time just confirmed how strong and exciting it is and how crisp and together the Scottish Ballet dancers are. That’s not just a few in the company, but the entire company of 36 dancers, all acting as one at times. Breathtaking precision but Emergence is also fluidly organic in the way space is filled and then evaporates away to just one or two dancers. It all brings to mind that ballet and dance is such a false (if often pleasing) way of moving, and mimicking how other species naturally move and interact brings a wholly new perspective to the stage. Its 30 minutes flash by leaving you in awe of Pite and the company. “More, more, more” I thought, rapidly followed by “It doesn’t get better than this.”