REVIEW: Elite Syncopations – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

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This review was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews

Choreographer: Kenneth MacMillan

Music: Scott Joplin and others

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★☆

The second half of Scottish Ballet’s evening of contrasts is Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s much-loved Ragtime romp Elite Syncopations, the joyous celebration of the depression era dance marathon. Influenced by silent movie era slapstick and the popular dances of the era, the Charleston and Cakewalk, MacMillan’s witty choreography allows each dancer to showcase themselves at their most exuberant, expressive and eccentric, as they pose, preen and prance to the jazz time beat in front of their bitter dance rivals.

The costumes and staging are as much a character as the dancers in this work: the band clad in comedic creations and the dancers in Ian Spurling’s cheeky, lycra bodysuits perfectly enhancing the playfulness of the work. The characters are drawn large in this work and it is to Hampson’s credit that they remain sharp and retain their technique, never descending into cheap caricature.

The principals are unwaveringly excellent, in particular Eve Mutso, a dancer of supreme grace and technique, who uses her height to advantage in the always comic “Alaskan Rag” with Jamiel Laurence her rather more vertically challenged partner. The two are well cast in this hysterical show stopper. Sophie Martin’s precise technique is showcased to perfection in the “Stop Time Rag” and the always watchable Bethany Kingsley-Garner gets to show off her playful side in the effervescent “Calliope Rag”.

If any criticism is to be levelled at the work it is with the music. Whilst there is no doubt that the jazzy soundtrack has a peppy and infectious verve, it is all rather similar in tone and character, the whole enterprise becoming a tad one-note, this, in turn then carries over into the choreography. It is however redeemed by the fact that the piece is so short and so enjoyable despite its minor faults that one is ultimately left begging for more.

An effervescent, energetic, exuberant and thoroughly enjoyable evening at the ballet.

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