Following today’s Scottish Government announcement that there will be no further extension to current event restrictions, Scottish Ballet will be completing their tour of The Nutcracker to Inverness (Eden Court 26-29 Jan), after the Glasgow and Aberdeen runs were cancelled. The tour will then move on to Newcastle and Belfast in February. The Company of dancers have been rehearsing The Nutcracker and future productions and maintaining fitness levels at their headquarters in Glasgow during the restrictions.
Scottish Ballet present “a wee version of a big ballet”, a perfectly distilled version of their family favourite Hansel and Gretel, specifically aimed at children aged three to eight.
A dangerous (well, mildly perilous but age-appropriate) adventure into the deep dark wood with the inquisitive siblings – Wee Hansel and Gretel faithfully follows the traditional tale: there’s the worrisome witch, her mysterious raven companion, the magic forest and the enchanted gingerbread house.
The addition of a narrator (James Siggens) who presents a rhyming introduction to set the scene and explanation of the unfolding action, is a neat touch. He engages the audience from curtain up with a whole heap of audience participation, including magically controlling the lights, much to the amazement of the tiny theatre-goers.
Set to the music of Engelbert Humperdinck, recorded by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra, the production includes students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. The tutu-clad trio provide the traditional costumes expected by the mini-ballet buffs, though these three tutus on stage are vastly outnumbered by the gloriously clad audience who are decked in their best ballet finery for the occasion. In the role of Hansel, Constant Vigier is, as always, a safe pair of ballet slippers and his Gretel, Alice Kawalek is a star in waiting.
This 50-minute tiny treasure of a production is small, but absolutely perfectly formed. The run time is ideal, the storytelling judiciously edited to fit in everything it needs to shine. It captures and keeps the attention for the entirety of the performance and provides a satisfying morning’s or afternoon’s entertainment for adults and children alike. More of this please!
The tour continues until October : Glasgow tomorrow (Sunday 14 July)
Back in 2013, GTB was invited to breakfast with Scottish Ballet as they went through their morning class before the matinee and evening performances of Matthew Bourne’s innovative take on La Sylphide – Highland Fling.
Here, from the archives are some rehearsal videos and behind the scenes shots of this hard-working (6 days a week!) company. Excuse the ropey camera phone video quality. Such a fabulous show – set in Glasgow – it deserves another moment in the spotlight.
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.
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.
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 a 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-worldly, beautifully conveying this bewitching creature from another realm. Both are ably supported by an ensemble of characters instantly recognisable to any city dweller.
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.
Christopher Hampson’s production, originally created for the Royal New Zealand Ballet, finally arrived in Glasgow this month after a European premiere and a festive stint in our capital city. Set to Prokofiev’s 1945 score and on Tracy Grant Lord’s grand set, it faithfully follows Charles Perrault’s much-loved, rags to riches story as we know it.
Whilst there is much to admire here, the complex choreography will delight ballet aficionados and the dancers largely deliver their roles with aplomb, the nearly two and half hour running time and the lack of visual ‘sparkle’ leaves it lacking that certain something that makes for a truly spectacular festive ballet treat, and the tiny audience members (of whom there were many) were wriggling and restless by the end.
Bethany Kingsley-Garner as the titular heroine is a divine dancer, but her fixed expression lacks the range of emotion the character requires. Christopher Harrison, usually a sure-footed and assured performer, suffered from some serious wobbles as the Prince and again the lack of emotion left one feeling cold. Most successful are Eve Mutso and Sophie Martin as the ‘wicked’ step-sisters, the pair are an absolute delight and their acting skills admirable (the company will feel the loss of Mutso greatly as she leaves to pursue a career as a freelance dancer/choreographer after this tour). This is a company with undoubtedly talented dancers, but one can’t help feel that they are lacking somewhat in the acting/emotion department.
Richard Honner and the Scottish Ballet Orchestra are on fine form and the sound throughout is sumptuous. This is a thoroughly entertaining production, with some real highlights but one can’t help feeling it could have been so much more.
As a signal of intent, Scottish Ballet has started their new season with a bang with a world and a UK premier in one evening.
Those seeking tutus and pointe shoes may be disappointed, but this thoroughly modern trio of works is a refreshing move towards the future.
Opening with the unbilled Maze by company member Sophie Laplane, the innovative, original and hypnotic work is an intriguing exploration of the forms a body in motion can take. The male duos bristle with jagged, spiky, angular jabs, the female duos popping, fizzing and crackling with electricity. This arresting and visually compelling work looks set to assure Laplane’s career long after she’s hung up her pointe shoes.
New York choreographer Bryan Arias’ Motion of Displacement is an emotional response to the choreographer’s mother’s experience of leaving her homeland in pursuit of a better life. It is more free-form poem than linear narrative and hints at both the strength and heartbreak experienced on Senora Arias’ journey. At times, it is stunningly beautiful – the chain of dancers at the start and end delicately intertwined is stunning, but for all the glorious individual sequences there is a lack of drive and emotionally it feels very similar throughout.
As the old adage says: “save the best for last”, multi-talented (Turner Prize nominated, West End Musical choreographing, Olivier and Critics Circle Award-winning, music videos and ballet creating with the Pet Shop Boys) Javier de Frutos’ Elsa Canasta is a witty and wonderful winner.
Combining the music of the legendary Cole Porter with de Frutos’ entertaining and inventive choreography, and fairy-dusted with the glorious singing of Nick Holder, this is a crowd-pleaser from start to end. As the vocalist reminisces on the heady days of the 20s and 30s, he reflects on the experiences he has lived through, the choices made and roads not travelled. Re-worked from his original piece for Rambert, the characters have been expanded by de Frutos and the balance of genders redefined.
There is so much to see here, glorious little sequences spring up all around the stage, it is sexy, sassy and a joy to watch. Particularly effective are the poignant and powerful male-male duet between Victor Zarallo and Thomas Edwards and the all-too-familiar boyfriend/girlfriend scuffle between the always entertaining Erik Cavallari and Sophie Martin.
As an opening to the new season – a crowd-pleasing triumph that leaves you wanting more.
Image credit: Andy Ross
Nick Holder and the dancers of Scottish Ballet in Javier de Frutos’ Elsa Canasta
Scottish Ballet present their Autumn season this week, featuring work by two of the world’s most highly regarded and original choreographers.
Javier de Frutos with Company dancers in rehearsals for Elsa Canasta. Photo by Christina Riley
Elsa Canasta is a dark, funny and sexy evocation of the music of Cole Porter. With a touch of music hall magic, a singer who will share the stage and breathtaking partnering, the Scottish Ballet dancers will be having a ball. Choreographed by Javier de Frutos, a unique figure in the world of dance with a résumé that includes West End musicals, a Turner Prize nomination, Olivier and Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards, music videos and a full-length ballet in collaboration with the Pet Shop Boys.
Also on the bill will be Motion of Displacement by Bryan Arias, winner of the 6th Copenhagen International Choreography Competition in 2013. Arias is a young American choreographer at the start of an exciting career that is sure to propel him to the heights of his profession, Scottish Ballet is the first company to bring his unique blend of dance styles to the UK.
An exclusive commission from Scottish Ballet, Motion of Displacement will explore the causes and effects of storytelling, inspired by his own childhood memories of his mother’s journey from her native land in pursuit of love.
Scottish Ballet dancers in rehearsals for Javier de Frutos’ Elsa Canasta. Photo by Christina Riley.
Constant Vigier in rehearsals for Javier de Frutos’ Elsa Canasta. Photo by Christina Riley.
Eve Mutso in rehearsals for Javier de Frutos’ Elsa Canasta. Photo by Christina Riley.
Andrew Peasgood and Constant Vigier with Rehearsal Director Hope Muir in rehearsals for Javier de Frutos’ Elsa Canasta. Photo by Christina Riley.
Victor Zarallo and Thomas Edwards in rehearsals for Javier de Frutos’ Elsa Canasta. Photo by Christina Riley.
Javier de Frutos in rehearsals for Elsa Canasta. Photo by Christina Riley.
Constance Devernay with Rimbaud Patron in rehearsals for Javier de Frutos’ Elsa Canasta. Photo by Christina Riley.
Shoes in the Peter Darrell Studio. Photo by Christina Riley.
Hans Van Manen’s 1977 work 5 Tangos has been revived by Scottish Ballet for the inaugural Dance International Glasgow (DIG) festival.
Characterised by its precision and above all by its exquisite symmetry, this fusion of classical ballet technique and Argentine tango is an audience friendly crowd-pleaser from a choreographer renowned as a pioneer of ‘modern’ ballet.
Nuevo tango master Ástor Piazzolla’s score provides an atmospheric soundtrack on which the step-perfect action plays out: the dancers tracing mesmerising geometric patterns across the vast floor of Tramway. If any criticism is to be levelled at the piece it is that it robs the tango of its dangerous sexiness, this work is more playful than passionate. That said there is much here to delight the audience in this hugely entertaining work and it is delivered throughout with an impressive energy, drive and precision.
A poignant and somewhat fitting footnote to 5 Tangos is that it sees Argentinian dancer Luciana Ravizzi leave the company after 13 years, which she does with an exquisite grace in her principal role.
Reviewed on Fri 24 Apr 2015 as part of Dance International Glasgow
In this world premiere of Exalt, Marc Brew has created an exceptionally emotive, eloquently choreographed, ultimately uplifting piece of work.
Choreographed in collaboration with the dancers of Scottish Ballet and inclusive dance development company Indepen-dance who provide opportunities for people with a diverse range of abilities, this is a joyous celebration of movement: challenging our pre-conceptions about who can be labelled a ‘dancer’ and demonstrating just what those without rigorous formal training can achieve.
To a sonorous score by Nils Frahm, the two companies seamlessly blend to create an hypnotic and involving work. The solos, group and whole ensemble sequences demonstrate an inventive and original range of movement, expertly matched to the requirements of each dancer.
I defy anyone who sees this not be entranced. It is a piece that firmly cements Marc Brew’s reputation as one of the world’s finest living choreographers.
Reviewed on Fri 24 Apr 2015 as part of Dance International Glasgow festival
Returning to the stage three years after its award-winning debut, Nancy Meckler’s direction, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s choreography and Tennessee Williams’ sublime words unite once again to create a richly atmospheric, captivating, Streetcar Named Desire from Scottish Ballet.
From her first fragile appearance fluttering around a bare lightbulb as a moth to a flame, it chronologically charts the agonising demise of fragile southern belle Blanche DuBois. From Blanche’s girlish innocence shattered on her wedding day when her husband’s homosexuality is discovered to his subsequent suicide, through the loss of her family home (startlingly realised onstage), her wilderness years relying on the kindness of paying strangers in sleazy motels, to her arrival on the doorstep of her younger sister Stella and her violent and boorish husband Stanley.
What is most surprising about this masterfully executed production is the fact that in the 100 minute running time, the creative team have not only stayed faithful to the source work but managed to pack in its contents in their entirety. A series of short, sharp scenes drives the narrative at break neck speed .
This is also a ballet that borrows heavily from the conventions of musical theatre, indeed there are hints ofGuys and Dolls and West Side Story in both the staging and the choreography, but instead of diminishing its power it all serves to enhance the storytelling and the audience’s enjoyment.
The design by Niki Turner is spare but effective and there is a knock-out score from Peter Salem, evocative and transixing it transports us right to the heart of the tale.
Eve Mutso is elegant and hugely accomplished as the wide-eyed, other worldly Blanche, indeed, she possesses a natural acting ability to complement her supreme dancing skills, however she is a striking presence, one of strength and power which is at times at odds with the butterfly-like fragility that is required for Blanche. Mutso is capably supported by Sophie Martin as sister Stella and Erik Cavallari is a suitably menacing Stanley.
This is production which strikingly breathes life into William’s classic tale and one which will leave a lasting impression long after the curtain has gone down.