Saturday, 31 May 2014

May 2014 Round-up

Rambert dancer Julia Gillespie
rehearsing Rooster
This month I have written blogs on the Rambert bloggers afternoonBallet Central, the ROH Serenade triple bill, Scottish Ballet's Romeo and Juliet and Reading with Bach.

I have also discussed relevés in the latest installment of my ballet steps series. 
Other writing:

An interview with Stina Quagebeur on Londondance 
A review of Havana Rakatan on Londonist
A review of ENB's Emerging Dancer on Bachtrack
A review of ENB's Choreographics on Backtrack
A review of Northern Ballet's mixed programme on Bachtrack
A review of London Children's Ballet's Nanny McPhee (p.72) in Dancing Times, June issue
And of course, Dance UK's May e-news including features on Spanish dance and Ballet Ireland.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Ballet Steps: Relevé

Photo: Merlin Hendy
In the latest instalment of my ballet steps series, I discuss relevés. The word relevé means 'rise', but the step has a very particular technique where the knees bend to prepare and the legs suddenly straighten as the heels leave the floor and the body is lifted up. In this upward position, the body is either balanced on the balls of the feet or on pointe. The relevé action is then completed by reversing the movement to end in plié. (A different 'rise' involves the knees staying straight as the heels and legs lift up and return down.)
Relevés on two feet can be performed in lots of different  positions, but are most common in 5th position. When the relevé action takes place in 5th, the two legs should come together as the knees straighten, creating a 'crossed' pose where one leg is in front of the other (giving the appearance that the dancer has one leg with two feet!).

Releves may also be performed on one foot, such as in arabesque, or may go from two feet to one. In the latter, both feet commence on the floor, but as the knees straighten, one foot is lifted up. In relevés devant and derrière, the lifted foot comes up to touch the knee of the supporting leg, either in front or behind. In relevé passé, the lifted foot touches the knee and then changes position as it closes, moving from front to back or vice versa. These types of relevés are used in ballet pirouettes.

During the upward part of a relevé, the toes usually move towards where the heels were positioned before (ie. inwards towards the centreline of the body, assuming the legs are turned out), returning back out as the heels land on the floor to complete the action. However, when relevés are performed at a rapid pace (such as in the Act II coda of Swan Lake) or in an open position (such as 2nd position), the dancer's feet may stay in the same place on the floor.
When I teach students to relevé, I start with them facing and holding onto the barre and performing the movement in 1st and 3rd positions. I often describe the step as 'sucking the feet up the vacuum cleaner'.  This helps students to get the sharp upward action as the legs straighten.
Royal Ballet dancer Romany Pajdak demonstrates a variety of relevés in the video below:

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Serenade Triple Bill

Serenade/ Sweet Violets/ Danse à Grand Vitesse, Royal Ballet, ROH - reviewed on 26th May

Marianela Nunez in Serenade
Photo: Tristram Kenton / ROH
Sweet Violets, Liam Scarlett's exploration of prostitutes, murder and conspiracy, doesn't sit well in the Royal Ballet's latest triple bill. There are some beautiful and dramatic pas de deux, but the ballet is too long and its narrative is impossible to follow.
The other two works – George Balanchine's Serenade and Christopher Wheeldon's Danse à Grande Vitesse – delight with their exuberance. Accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s glorious music, Marianela Nuñez, Lauren Cuthbertson and Melissa Hamilton excel in the lyricism of the former. Wheeldon’s dynamic contemporary movements and Michael Nyman’s uplifting score close the evening with style.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Scottish Ballet's Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet, Scottish Ballet, Sadler's Wells - reviewed on 14th May
Scottish Ballet seldom tour to London, so it's a shame that the company's current offering to the capital city is such a disappointment.
I found Krzysztof Pastor's Romeo and Juliet to be not only narratively weak (the character of Paris is, for example, strangely absent), but with choreography that looks rushed, and a real lack of emotion. When Tybalt dies, Lord Montague's response is a camp imitation of flamenco, and the leading couple's pas de deux are more aggressive than romantic.
The mark of a good Romeo and Juliet is whether you feel moved when the title characters die at the end. And unfortunately in this case, I wasn't bothered.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Ballet Central

Toots Goes to Charleston
Photo: Bill Cooper
Mixed programme, Ballet Central, Linbury Studio Theatre @ ROH - reviewed on 11th May
In an exciting and diverse programme at the Linbury Studio Theatre, Ballet Central – a company of third year students from Central School of Ballet – was in good form.
The Corn pas de deux from Coppelia was danced with strength and charm by Saki Katoka and Peter Allen, supported by a well-rehearsed corps. Leanne King's choreography for Toots Goes to Charleston was upbeat and jazzy, giving students the chance to let their metaphorical hair down.
Completing the bill was Christopher Marney's sweet love story, Carousel Dances. Ballet Central excelled as playful carnival performers, with Emma Walker and Hugo Brown charming as the lead couple.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Rambert Bloggers Event

Rambert dancers rehearsing as Mikaela Polley observes
Rambert Revealed, Rambert building - reviewed on 7th May
Rambert opened its doors this afternoon for bloggers and tweeters, with speaking to dancers, watching rehearsals for Christopher Bruce's Rooster and drinking wine on the agenda. What more could you want?
The vibe in the studio was very different to that of ballet companies I've seen, with some dancers chatting and laughing (and not stretching silently) while others rehearsed. The company seemed on excellent form, but Mikaela Polley still offered corrections to minute details of the choreography.
Rooster has some wonderfully fun movements that show off Rambert dancers’ skills. It will be great to see the work in full at Sadler’s Wells in two weeks’ time.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Reading with Bach

Ruth Elder with dancer Fred Gehrig
Photo: Martin Collins
Reading with Bach, Lizzi Kew Ross & Co, Clapham Omnibus - reviewed on 2nd May
Steven Fry's quote, that "reading leads you everywhere", is featured on Reading with Bach's publicity materials. It is this idea – that written words can transport their readers to exciting imagined worlds – that Lizzie Kew Ross's creation attempts to explore.
Choreographically, a rather lukewarm statement is made. Three dancers walk, sit and roll, with their eyes constantly fixated on the books in front of them.
But what is impressive about Reading with Bach is Ruth Elder’s violin score inspired by and including the work of the title composer. Performed live onstage by Elder and Una Palliser, it's well worth hearing.