Tag Archives: Ballet

REVIEW: Hansel and Gretel – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

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Andrew Peasgood and Bethany Kingsley-Garner as Hansel & Gretel by Christina Riley. © Scottish Ballet used with permission Scottish Ballet do not copy, alter or reproduce.

In Hansel and Gretel, Christopher Hampson’s premier ballet since joining the company in 2012, Scottish Ballet has their first new work in six years. A sparkling little jewel of a show, even if it is, at times, a little too sanitized a version of the original Grimm fairy tale; there’s no wicked stepmother here, just two mischievous kids (Andrew Peasgood & Bethany Kingsley-Garner) with a sense of adventure, loved by their boozy, chain-smoking, slightly neglectful parents (the always stunning Eve Mutso and Erik Cavallari).

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Erik Cavallari and Eve Mutso as Mother and Father. Photo by Christina Reilly © Scottish Ballet used with permission Scottish Ballet do not copy, alter or reproduce.

Set in an un-named town sometime in the 50’s/60’s, there are beehives, headscarves, winged specs and even a black leather-clad biker gang The Ravens, beautifully danced with precision by Daniel Davidson, Rimbaud Patron and Thomas Edwards. There’s also a glamorous dream sequence with mother and father transformed into Grace Kelly and Cary Grant à la To Catch a Thief. The piece also abounds with wonderful witty touches like the Scottish Mother’s Pride loaf used to create the famous breadcrumb trail.

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© Scottish Ballet used with permission Scottish Ballet do not copy, alter or reproduce.

Kingsley-Garner and Peasgood achieve the not easy feat of convincingly portraying the childish pair and do so with ease. Mutso, is as usual graceful and eye-catching (in the role of mother in this cast), Luciana Ravizzi as the Witch is amusing when transformed from ethereal being to old crone but somewhat expressionless (or rather fixed faced) in the earlier sequences and Victor Zarallo is suitably sinister as the sinuous Sandman.

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Victor Zarallo as the Sandman by Christina Riley. © Scottish Ballet used with permission Scottish Ballet do not copy, alter or reproduce.

Humperdinck’s music is easy on the ear in this cut and paste version from his opera of the same name, it is mixed in with snippets from his version of Sleeping Beauty, added to retain the flow of the narrative. The sets are enchantingly designed too with some nice Tim Burton-esque details. Hampson’s choreography is varied, original and highly watchable and showcases his company well. If any criticism were to be levelled at the whole endeavor then, for a Christmas ballet, it is a little lacking in the all-out glitz ensemble pieces, usually worked in to enchant the younger members of the audience, that said, there is plenty of sparkle, a lot of laughs and there’s no more enjoyable or magical way to spend the pre-Christmas period. Beg, borrow or steal a ticket while you can.

This Wednesday (18th December) Scottish Ballet are broadcasting a live webcast.

Broadcasting live from Theatre Royal Glasgow where the dancers will be warming up on stage for a performance of Hansel & Gretel. You will be taken into the wings and behind the curtain to take a look at the extensive and eccentric props used and hear artistic director and choreographer of the work, Christopher Hampson and the dancers talk about what the creation of this world premiere has been like. 

The webcast will stream at 4.30pm on Wed 18 Dec and as always, you’ll be able to send in your questions for Christopher and the team to be answered during the webcast. Email them to christina.riley@scottishballet.co.uk or tweet them to us @scottishballet with the hashtag #SB_Webcast.

Keep updated on Facebook and Twitter and subscribe to the newsletter for more updates.

Find it here:

http://www.scottishballet.co.uk/hansel-gretel/live-webcast-hansel-a-gretel.html

Runs until 28 December at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow then touring throughout Scotland and visiting Newcastle and Belfast.

For more information on Scottish Ballet visit:

http://www.scottishballet.co.uk

*Look out for the next article featuring Scottish Ballet, The Blythswood Hotel and Spa and their wonderful Hansel and Gretel themed afternoon tea and cocktails available now.

http://www.townhousecompany.com/blythswoodsquare/

REVIEW: Scottish Ballet – Matthew Bourne’s Highland Fling

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Sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll is not the usual tag line for a Scottish Ballet production but Matthew Bourne could never be accused of being your usual choreographer and Scottish Ballet continue to cement their reputation as a company with a clear artistic vision, breaking new ground by introducing  innovative modern works alongside their vast classical repertoire.

This piece marks the first time Matthew Bourne has ever allowed another company to perform one of his works, such is his control over his artistic vision. That said, the two seemed destined to come together, Bourne’s Glasgow-set ballet finally coming home to the city and Scotland’s national ballet company.

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Inspired by the classic romantic work La Sylphide, Highland Fling  is an imaginative re-working by Bourne with his usual wry twist and trademark eye for detail.

Highland Fling follows the story of James, a restless young Glaswegian recently married to his devoted girlfriend Effie, but James’ addiction to excess and desire to break free of  the restrictions and expectations  placed on him by his environment finds him in the fateful company of a beguiling gothic fairy.  As his love for the strange and beautiful sylph becomes an obsession, he embarks on a fateful journey that takes him from the mean streets and nightclubs of Glasgow into a magical world beyond reality and reason.

Matthew Bourne's Highland Fling, performed by the Scottish Ballet

As our (anti)hero staggers on-set and slumps to the floor against a urinal in the toilet of a Glasgow nightclub we are in no doubt that this isn’t going to be your usual ballet, but what really sets it apart, along with all of Bourne’s work, is the stunning complexity and intricacy of the choreography and the sharpness and accuracy with which it is executed. Owen Thorne’s performance as James is testament to Bourne’s particular method of working: this  is a character with a history, a back-story and Thorne manages to deliver the choreography whilst perfectly conveying the conflicted Glaswegian tough-guy persona underneath. Bethany Kingsley-Garner as the sylph is utterly other-wordly, beautifully conveying this bewitching creature from another realm. Both are ably supported by an ensemble of characters instantly recognisable to any city dweller.

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Lez Brotherston’s set design is a character in itself. It has more tartan than a tin of shortbread, delivering a technicolour assault to the senses, but looking beyond the obvious, witty nods to the best and worst of Caledonia abound. Brotherston also manages to perfectly evoke the eerie world of the sylphs nestled amongst the debris and detritus of a wasteland in the shadow of the Glasgow highrises.

Part of the beauty of this cautionary tale is its brevity, at just over 95 minutes it packs a visual and emotional punch that leaves you reeling and begging for more.

This is one of Scottish Ballet’s attempts to attract a new audience through its doors – what the old guard make of it remains to be seen, but this arresting tale, beautifully told, deserves to be seen. I urge you not to miss it.

On tour:

INVERNESS
9–11 May 2013
Eden Court
Box Office 01463 234 234
Book online
Full booking details

ABERDEEN
16-18 May 2013
His Majesty’s Theatre
Box Office 01224 641122
Book online
Full booking details

EDINBURGH
22-25 May 2013
Festival Theatre
Box Office 0131 529 6000
Book online
Full booking details

Booking fees may apply

REVIEW: Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty

FA847502_942longInnovation, originality and humour characterise Matthew Bourne’s ground-breaking work and credit indeed must go to Bourne for the popularisation of ballet amongst the masses. Indeed it has been said that he is: “the most audience conscious artist”. For this production Sleeping Beauty, Bourne returns to the music of Tchaikovsky to complete his trio of the composer’s ballet masterworks that started in 1992 with Nutcracker! and, most famously, in 1995, with the international hit Swan Lake.

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Perrault’s timeless fairy tale, about a young girl cursed to sleep for one hundred years, was turned into a legendary ballet by Tchaikovsky and choreographer, Marius Petipa, in 1890. Bourne takes this date as his starting point, setting the Christening of Aurora, the story’s heroine, in the year of the ballets first performance; the height of the Fin-de-Siecle period when fairies, vampires and decadent opulence fed the gothic imagination.

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As Aurora grows into a young woman, we move forwards in time to the more rigid Edwardian era; a mythical golden age of long Summer afternoons, croquet on the lawn and new dance crazes.

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Years later, awakening from her century long slumber, Aurora finds herself in the modern day; a world more mysterious and wonderful than any fairy story.

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Bourne Sleeping Beauty, Hannah Vassallo, c Simon_Annand

This is a gothic fairy tale for all ages; the traditional tale of good versus evil and rebirth is turned upside-down, creating a supernatural love story across the decades.

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The tone is set even before the curtain rises: the rose vine covered title superimposed in the proscenium arch, takes us instantly to the pages of a Grimm fairy tale. The music starts and the legend Once upon a time… appears to chuckles of happy recognition from the audience. We are then taken on a mesmerising journey in this Gothic re-telling of the familiar tale.

sa-sleeping-beauty-company-underwear-lines_1000Visually stunning, much more so than Bourne’s previous works, this is ballet as you want it to be – the sets and costumes in themselves evoking an emotional response from the audience. The beautiful, and often familiar music of Tchaikovsky the perfect fairy tale score. The choreography too is innovative, unlike traditional ballet companies, Bourne never feels constrained to stick to one particular style, instead, each scene is imbued with its own unique character and appropriate movement vocabulary. And to Bourne’s credit there is never an indulgent moment, every step sharply drives the plot.  All this in turn captivates the onlooker and keeps their attention to such an extent that the time goes by in a flash.

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This is a picture book perfect re-telling of the tale – full of visual delights and gasp-inducing moments and each member of this company is as talented and captivating as the other. New Adventures are the best of the best and this is a production not to be missed. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

FEATURE: Royal Opera House Covent Garden Tours

 

 On the morning before coming home from one of my previous trips to London I decided that instead of wandering aimlessly around even more shops, I’d indulge in another “cultural” experience. This time it was a backstage tour of The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.  The phenomenally well informed and engaging guide started with some history of the building and its architecture followed by a tour of the glorious auditorium, most recently seen in the BBCs coverage of this year’s Olivier Awards.

By sheer chance there was a rehearsal for Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette on set beginning behind us and as we left, the opera buffs were getting excited as the calls to stage had gone out for opera super dooper star and all round nice guy Alfie Boe – they had to be forcibly removed before he appeared.

At the time of the trip, other than being aware of his name and the stir he was creating in the opera world, I didn’t really know anything about Alfie Boe. (I have subsequently seen him in the Les Miserables 25th anniversary concert, the full production of Les Mis at the Queen’s Theatre and in concert, as well as the countless appearances he has made on TV). He was apparently discovered singing on the shop floor of the TVR car factory in Blackpool, went to The D’Oyly Carte and then trained at the Royal College of Music.

 

The tour then took us backstage to the design departments to see the process of taking an opera from page to stage. The 3D models of the sets were just magical, like those wonderful, atmospheric toy theatres much beloved by the Victorians. As we passed backstage there were racks upon racks of hampers full of the most glorious, highly detailed and extravagant costumes – and all completely hand made. How some of the dancers manage to move under the weight is amazing. It was the kind of sequin filled dressing up fantasy of ever little (and this big) girl fulfilled.

The highlight of the tour was the visit to the ballet studio where most of the principal dancers were being put through their punishing paces. The most eye-opening thing I learned was that dancers start their day at 10.30 am and dance through until 5.30pm on a performance day and 6.00pm on a non-performance day and on performance day the curtain will fall at 10.30 – 10.40pm. I think they should tell this to all those little girls who dream of life as a ballerina.

Alina Cojocaru and Edward Watson

Gary Avis

Lauren Cuthbertson

Leeanne Benjamin

Steven McRae

The tour took over 2 hours and at the time the admission was £10 – a fantastic glimpse into how the magic on stage is created with blood, sweat, tears and talent by a massive army of dedicated people.

REVIEW: Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker – King’s Theatre Glasgow 25th February 2012

One of the most popular dance productions ever staged in the UK, Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker returns to celebrate its 20th anniversary. This delicious theatrical feast has family-sized helpings of Matthew Bourne’s trademark wit, pathos and magical fantasy.

Nutcracker! follows Clara’s bittersweet journey from a hilariously bleak Christmas Eve at Dr. Dross’ Orphanage, through a shimmering, ice-skating winter wonderland to the scrumptious candy kingdom of Sweetieland.

Tchaikovsky’s glorious score and Anthony Ward’s unforgettable sets and costumes combine with sizzling choreography to create a delicious theatrical feast. Hailed by The Observer as ‘the undisputed king of dance theatre’, Matthew Bourne’s company New Adventures has produced some of the most successful dance productions of the last two decades including Swan Lake, Edward Scissorhands and last year’s sell-out hit, Cinderella.

This production is truly scrumptious, it is an absolute delight for the eyes, but the very best thing about it is the fact that it whips along at warp-speed. There’s no faffing, no unnecessary padding – it is quality from start to finish. If all dance productions were like this then I guarantee more people would go.

The quality of the sets, costumes and above all the highly talented dancers is just phenomenal and I defy anyone not to go awww as the snow falls on the frozen lake at the end of act one.

This was an absolute delight – there were repeated curtain calls with much whooping and hollerings of delight from the absolutely packed house. Thankfully dance is not dead in British theatre and long may Matthew Bourne produce quality like this.

REVIEW: Swan Lake – St. Petersburg State Conservatory

I  don’t often go to the ballet but one memorable visit was a trip to Russia where I saw Swan Lake.

The performance was at The Rimsky-Korsakov St.Petersburg State Conservatory (Санкт-Петербургская государственная консерватория имени Н. А. Римского-Корсакова) which was the first public school of  music in Russia and was opened in 1862.

The “Russian Ballet Theatre” is the company based here, founded in 1990 by Boris  Bruskin a former Kirov dancer and now run by Bruskin’s wife Galina Petrovskaya  and son Alexander (both ex-Kirov as well), this small troupe, with its  dancers from all regions of Russia, tours regularly in Europe. Due to the popularity of the  classical ballet repertoire among tourists this company’s repertoire has been  solidified in recent years to focus on the essentials: “Swan Lake”, “Nutcracker”, and “Giselle”. The troupe performs these classics with frequent  guest artists from the Maryinsky (formerly Kirov) Ballet.

On the warm July evening, us  tourists and locals who filled into the Soviet-style hall of the Conservatory  were in for a treat.

At just two and a half hours,  this pared down version of the classic is meant to address tourists’ needs: but this briefer performance  nonetheless communicated the essentials, and under the baton of Ilya  Derbilov the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory orchestra played Tchaikovsky’s  unforgettable score beautifully. Russian Ballet Theatre provides an  option for those wishing to see international level soloists in a more condensed version of the classics and depending on the casting, this  could well be worth the viewer’s while.

REVIEW: Pennies From Heaven – Scottish Ballet 30th September 2011

The second half of the programme was the work that most people had come for; Pennies from Heaven, using music and costumes from 1930s Hollywood.

When the curtain rose to show a perfect art deco bar with gleaming chrome, revolving door, ruched curtains and coloured neon, I couldn’t help be reminded of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. When the Latin gigolo and white dinner jacket-clad crooner appeared, it was as if I was there with Miss Pettigrew, Delysia and Michael in Nick’s club. The costumes were breathtaking and given all the more magic being moved in so beautifully. The music was totally evocative and this half of the programme just flashed by in the blink of an eye. A visual and aural feast, proving that (in my opinion) in ballet, the music is just as important.

The ballet’s website gives some background to the music; it’s well worth a look as the composers of some of these lesser known tunes went on to write some astonishingly famous hits.

Down Sunny Side Lane

The Clouds Will Soon Roll By

Pennies From Heaven

I’ve Found the Right Girl

You’ve Got Me Crying

Serenade in the Night

Yes Yes My Baby Said Yes Yes

Riptide

Painting The Clouds with Sunshine

Roll Along Covered Wagon

March Winds and April Showers

Dreaming a Dream

My Woman

You and the Night and the Music

Back to the dancers – particularly impressive were (below from top) Remi Andreoni and Katie Webb in their two featured pieces, both had a naturalness of movement and synchronicity with one another as did Sophie Martin and Christopher Harrison. Sometimes it’s hard for ballet dancers for all their grace, talent and technique to relax into a piece like this as they seem to depend on the precise structure of ballet moves, but these four had a natural grace which was a charm to watch.

REVIEW: Kings 2 Ends – Scottish Ballet 30th September 2011

Earlier this year I went to see Scottish Opera, this time its the turn of their sister company Scottish Ballet. For the autumn season they have a double programme, Firstly – a new work by Jorma Elo – Kings 2 Ends, with music from Steve Reich and Mozart.

As with most modern ballet works there really isn’t anything particularly new. What saved this from the usual artificial posing and awkward, angular movements was a lyricism and flow to the choreography. Its relatively short length also meant that it lasted just long enough to show off the physicality of the dancers and keep the interest. It was enough but thankfully there was no more.

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