Tag Archives: John B. Read

REVIEW: The Rite of Spring – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

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Choreographer: Christopher Hampson

Music: Igor Stravinsky

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★½☆

An evening of stark contrast marks the start of Scottish Ballet’s Autumn/Winter season. Opening the bill The Rite of Spring, Christopher Hampton’s attempt to breathe new life into the now infamous ballet set to Igor Stravinsky’s ground-breaking score. Vaslav Nijinsky and Stravinsky’s work, now regarded as one of the most important works in the history of ballet, was a revolutionary work created in a revolutionary artistic time. Its tale of ritual sacrifice met with a critical mauling resulting in the now legendary ‘Riot at The Rite’ at its notorious premier in Paris 100 years ago.

Hampson pares the work down to just three dancers, two male and one female. The curtain opening on stark, white, high-sided, semi-circular walls, which claustrophobically enclose the dancers, we then bear witness to scenes of ritual violence, dominance and devotion played out between two brothers (Christopher Harrison and Constant Vigier) culminating in the curtain falling on the younger sibling broken, both physically and mentally, crumpled on the floor.

The curtain rises again as the elder brother enters, clad in army fatigues, clutching the tools of interrogation, a stool and a black hood. The white walls now most definitely the walls of a prison cell, the domination begins again, this time more intense, more brutal. The female dancer, in the first half a taunting presence, appears more menacing in the second, offering the younger brother his only escape from this unbearable torment – death. Vigier dances exhileratingly with power and passion bringing this short, sharp work to it’s savage and shocking end.

Though still gripping and intense and retaining some of the primal energy of the original, it is hard to say whether time or this particular staging have robbed the piece of its brutal power. The quality of the dancers is in no doubt, particularly Vigier and Harrison, and Hampson is a choreographer of sublime quality, the audience too remain intrigued throughout, but the decision to set the piece in no particular time or specific location somehow robs the narrative of clarity and one can’t help feeling that it is not the dance but Stravinsky’s exhilarating score that has always been the real star of The Rite of Spring.

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.