Thursday, 31 December 2015

December Round-up

Carlos Acosta
in A Classical Selection
Photo: Johan Persson
This month there are blogs about Carlos Acosta's A Classical Selection and Nutcracker on Ice at the Royal Albert Hall.

The latest instalment of the Dance Musings ballet steps series explores balancés.

Other writing:
An interview with Royal Ballet dancer Leticia Stock on Londondance
A feature article about London Studio Centre (p.TBC) in Dancing Times, January issue

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

The Nutcracker on Ice

The Nutcracker on Ice, Imperial Ice Stars, Royal Albert Hall - reviewed on 29th December

When the Imperial Ice Stars performed The Nutcracker on Ice in 2013, they were hampered by the small size of the London Palladium stage. Now at the much larger Royal Albert Hall, I expected bigger and better tricks, but whilst Tony Mercer's choreography has several brilliant moments, much of it fails to impress.

Movements seem to bear little connection with the music, performers are out of time with each other, and - with the notable exception of Nutcracker Prince Vladislav Lysoi - there's a lack of artistry and effective conveyance of character. Tchaikovsky's gorgeous score is also completely butchered, with the ordering completely altered and various segments repeated to excess.

That said, there is plenty to enjoy in The Nutcracker on Ice's duets and solos, with tricks including lifts, jumps and numerous pirouettes. The lyrical duet between Mariia Vygaloca and Lysoi at the end of Act I is really beautiful, Diana Malygina and Mariya Kayl wow with their Arabian aerial tricks performed 10 metres off the ground.

I'd prefer a more artistic and musical Nutcracker (such as Peter Wright's ballet at the Royal Opera House) but there's still a touch of magic and plenty of festive spirit in the Imperial Ice Stars' version. Yesterday evening's audience even gave the production a standing ovation.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Carlos Acosta's A Classical Selection

A Classical Selection, Carlos Acosta and friends, London Coliseum - reviewed on 8th December

A Classical Selection is Carlos Acosta's stylish swansong before he retires from the ballet world. In a diverse array of repertoire celebrating his remarkable career, he's accompanied by eight dancers from the Royal Ballet - including both well-known principals such as Zenaida Yanowsky and younger, rising corps de ballet members.

Marianela Nunez and Carlos Acosta 
in Diana and Actaeon pas de deux
Photo: Johan Persson
At 42, Acosta freely admits that he's "not doing the steps as brilliantly" as when he was younger. But he excels in the evening's bravura tricks, pirouetting and leaping spectacularly in a thoroughly sparkling Diana and Actaeon pas de deux alongside (an equally radiant) Marianela Nuñez. He also perfectly demonstrates what he describes as being "in a different artistic league" to his younger self. Ben Van Cauwenbergh's Les Bourgeois solo is a gala staple with its humorous drunkeness and dynamic jumps, but Acosta takes it to another level with crisp gestures conveying the choreography's narrative with real clarity.

Acosta's other performances are less memorable. An extract from George Balanchine's Agon is technically pleasing but doesn't inspire, and in the evening's finale - Georges Garcia's Majisimo - the eight-strong cast lacks synchronicity.

Repertoire by Acosta's Royal Ballet co-stars is generally strong, but it's Yuhui Choe who shines brightest. She's charming and delicate in the title role of La Sylphide (Act II pas de deux) and contrastingly striking and powerful in Van Cauwenbergh's Je ne regrette rien.

What is most interesting in A Classical Selection, however, is Acosta's inclusion of a dancer rest area - consisting of two sofas and a barre - at the back of the stage. Hidden by a curtain during performances, the area comes into view between repertoire and at the end of the show. We see dancers stretching, adjusting their costumes, changing shoes and drinking water in an intimate portrayal of life backstage.

It's as if Acosta wants to show the joy he experiences not only when performing but also in these quieter moments with his ballet dancing family. As he moves onto pastures new, it's clear that he'll be very much missed by both his colleagues and audiences alike.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Ballet Steps: Balancés

The latest instalment of the Dance Musings ballet steps series explores balancés.

Balancés are small ‘waltzing’ movements that involve three steps of the feet. In a balancé de côté (sideways), one leg steps out to the side – as widely as possible – onto a flat foot, with the other foot following with a step behind on demi-pointe (the ball of the foot). Staying on the spot, the movement is completed with a final flat-footed step on the front foot. All steps are en fondu (with bent knees). 

As well as sideways, balancés can be performed en avant (to the front) or en arrière (to the back). Regardless of the direction of the first step, the second foot always steps behind the front foot, although sometimes the step is taken on pointe rather than demi-pointe. A similar movement – the pas de valse or waltz step – is identical to a balancé except that the second leg steps in front of the first. Both balancés and waltz steps are usually performed in sequence – going side to side or backwards and forwards – and can also travel, typically backwards or en tournant (turning).

There are a wide variety of arm lines for balancés. When taken sideways, the arms are often placed in either 3rd or 4th, with the same arm as front leg out to the side (changing each time the balancé changes side). Alternatively, one hand may be placed on the hip with the other moving between demi-bras and 1st position. For balancés forward, arms are often in 1st arabesque, whilst for balancés backward, 3rd position is common.

Balancés and waltz steps are found in many classical ballets, such as The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker and Coppelia. Here’s the Friends dance from Sleeping Beauty, which includes balancés at 1.15: