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Tag Archive | "Dance"

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Review: Rodin, The Coliseum

Posted on 19 April 2014 by Amelia Forsbrook

Rodin

There’s something so antithetical about dance and sculpture. One is an exercise in the static, an artform that strives to communicate as much as possible through a singular snapshot; the other, intrinsically less restricted in time and space, aims to deliver meaning through motion.

In Rodin, Eifman Ballet Saint Petersburg tries, brutishly, to unite the two. The show takes the form of a loose biography of Auguste Rodin, the French sculptor, and his model and lover, Camille Claudel. The pair had a charged and turbulent relationship, with Claudel playing a key part in her partner’s commissions and shaping his artwork in a way that made her far more than a passive model. Playing the parts of lover, advisor and muse, Camille’s influence on the renowned artist was varied and multifaceted.

Yet, despite this complexity, it seems choreographer Boris Eifman has no such difficulty setting his female lead in stone. Animated by the implausible contortions of soloist Aigerim Beketayeva, Claudel, like all the female characters in this piece, is granted very little in the way of autonomy. Indeed, Beketayeva’s elaborate twists can be enough to inspire the jaw to drop, but her graceful elasticity communicates none of the wrought tensions and organic drives that are evident Rodin’s work  and does little to sculpt an impression of Claudel as an artist in her own right.

The attempts at comedy also fail to provide that necessary human touch. Set within a mental clinic populated with ruffled sleeping cap-wearing patients, the chorus scenes show as much sensitivity towards mental health as your average Victorian shrink. Springing from West Side Story-inspired silhouettes, the male company sport neckerchiefs, artists’ mallets, Cockney walks and  radically  smiles. Unfortunately, riddled with slapstick silliness, they too miss the humorous by a long stretch.

The choreography here plays too much on the malleability of Claudel, romanticising the position of muse in a way that should frustrate all feminists. Eifman has given an all too literal reading of his subject matter, teasing the flawed relationship between the media of dance and sculpture. Dmitry Fisher’s Rodin pulls tangled masses of bodies into shape and spins his various muses on a potter’s wheel. A model, posed by Rodin, struggles to untangle her limbs. Claudel is manipulated by a chorus of men but her feet remain latched onto a block, and Rodin chips away at the same old jokes.

The comedic elements of this show also sit uncomfortably with the music, a tired megamix of classics that definitely hasn’t tangled its tongue within its cheek. As familiar pieces by Camille Saint-Saëns and Maurice Ravel earnestly accompany gimmicky portrayals of romance and art, Disney’s Fantasia is brought to mind. The relentless nature of the swooping violins highlights the work’s laughable melodrama. Thankfully, Leonid Eremin’s sound production is a little more fitting. As Beketayeva mimes a raw, existential scream under two accusatory spotlights, digital beeps sprinkled with orchestral flourishes map a nightmarish soundscape that subtly undermines Eifman’s psychological ambitions.

Through Eifman’s work Rodin has been translated into a muse, but his artistry and command retain their influence. Frustratingly – although a sculptor in her own right – when given this stab at immortalisation, delicate Claudel remains the muse in the most traditional sense and, despite being portrayed by the most engaging dancer of the company, her character remains shamefully underdeveloped. Reduced to flavourng Rodin’s storyline, Claudel is a sweet light thing that turns sour, desperate for her lover’s attentions. True, Eifman attempts to portray a psychological interpretation and his metaphorical insights into sculpture are clear to see; ultimately, though, little attention is payed to the biographical reality of the lovers. The muse never tips into reality, and the production forgets that there’s more to humans than psychologies.

Rodin is playing at the Coliseum until 19 April. For more information and tickets, see the English National Opera website.

Amelia Forsbrook

Formerly one of the Wales Arts International critics, Amelia moved to London in early 2012 with two big aims: to continue working as an arts writer, and to discover whether it's ever possible to pull off both telephones and flying in theatre. With particular interests in regional arts, South Asian performance and twentieth century European theatre, Amelia writes for a number of other publications, as well as being an Off West End Assessor.

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Review: The Rite of Spring/Petrushka, Sadler’s Wells

Posted on 13 April 2014 by Laura Peatman

Rite of Spring

Commissioned by Sadler’s Wells as part of 2013’s ‘String of Rites’ series, celebrating the centenary of the premiere of Stravinsky’s original, Michael Keegan-Dolan’s The Rite of Spring returns to Sadler’s Wells in a double bill with Petrushka before embarking on a UK tour. Having been reworked since last year, the production celebrates the edge and the energy in Stravinsky’s scores, yet at times it is that music rather than the choreography that seems to be doing most of the work.

In Act I, The Rite of Spring, Keegan-Dolan attempts to recreate the shock and urgency of Stravinsky’s original through violent movement and striking divergences. Beginning with unexpected lyrical song from an Irish storyteller, the action quickly gains both pace and mystery. The stark contrast between light delicacy and animalistic violence, between floral patterning and industrial neutrality, shape the talented ensemble into waves of violent energy. The animal masks donned at various points by many of the ensemble are comical at first but swiftly cross the line between cartoonish and sinister as the darkness of the piece becomes apparent.

Yet it is the music rather than movement that remains the driving force behind this depiction of rites and tribal energy. The excellent ensemble work in perfect unity, and Keegan-Dolan is skilled at shaping rhythmic, throbbing passages of dance. However, the piece doesn’t quite achieve the climactic heights it needs on stage; that comes from Stravinsky’s electrifying score, a classic now after being so experimental for its time, but still sounding vibrant and modern and wonderfully performed by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia.

Act II brings a shift in tone and atmosphere as the stage becomes startlingly clean and white for Petrushka. Keegan-Dolan’s take on Stravinsky’s tale of a Russian puppet who comes to life is more enjoyable that his Rite as it achieves more clarity in story-telling and more lyricism, even in its drama.

The ensemble create some beautiful shapes as, at first, the scene is joyful and light, with the dancers enjoying the freedom of movement. Yet this piece is all about puppetry and power struggles, and the ‘puppet master’ is always present; towering high above the ensemble, her eerie black garb is a rather predictable yet undeniably effective contrast to the whiteness of all others. Evoking Petrushka himself, the central role is danced with wonderful fluidity that evokes a marionette, but does so with subtlety rather than overt characterisation. Ensemble passages are beautifully clean and unified, conjuring both strength and grace; each dancer reacts to subtleties within the score with alterations in their movement that are delicate, yet readjust the emotional core of the piece.

The orchestra are once again on top form. As their chords spiral downwards, this fluidity shifts into a loss of control as the evocation of Petrushka – a mere echo of Stravinsky’s original in this abstract reimagining – struggles against the ensemble, never escaping the spotlight of the puppet master overhead. The white curtains, which at one point are bathed in beautiful golden light as they billow, are torn down: against the blackness, the ensemble’s white costumes and faces lose their purity and lightness and become eerie and ghost-like.

As Rachel Poirier climbs the daringly high ladder out of sight at Petrushka’s climax, the earthy animalism of The Rite of Spring seems far away, and Keegan-Dolan has achieved something more ethereal and poignant in which music and movement are now in conversation, not fight.

The Rite of Spring & Petrushka is playing at Sadlers Wells until 12 April, before embarking on a UK tour. For tickets and more information, see the Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre website.

Laura Peatman

Laura Peatman

Laura is an English graduate, tea drinker and blogger. After spending three years studying and reviewing theatre at Cambridge University, she now runs marketing for an HE dance college and spends as much time as humanly possible at the theatre.

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Review: My First Ballet: Coppelia, Peacock Theatre

Posted on 10 April 2014 by Samuel Sims

Coppelia

Coppelia is a comic ballet first performed in Paris in 1870, enjoying great success until the run was interrupted by the Franco-Prussian War and siege of Paris, which ultimately led to the tragic death of the show’s star, 17-year-old Giuseppina Bozzacchi. Eventually though, it was to become a huge triumph and has since been performed all over the world.

The My First Ballet series, created by the English National Ballet and performed by its school for children, has already produced versions of Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. These are two of the most popular stories ever told so how well does a lesser known tale about a mechanical doll and an eccentric toymaker fare?

A graduate of the ENB School himself, director and choreographer George Williamson has done a tremendous job at producing a child friendly version of Ronald Hynd’s original production. The dancers are almost as professional as if they were on the stage at the Royal Opera House or Coliseum – with a few mild but forgettable wobbles, and the interaction with the audience, which is arguably the most important factor here, is really great to see.

Michael Coleman’s Narrator and Dr Coppelius leads us through the story and ensures the audience (some of whom were very young) are constantly stimulated and aware of more than just the pretty dresses. The young principals glide beautifully across the stage but Swanilda goes above and beyond to create a fully well-rounded and impressive character.

Most wonderful is the set design by Louie Whitemore who has worked on numerous professional productions. The two set changes are perhaps not particularly effortless but what she has achieved in terms of grandeur and breathtaking beauty is very impressive. Coppelius’s toy room mixes gothic terror with other-world wonder without being too much for the kiddies.

There were some technical glitches that could have been easily avoided, but overall the concluding part to the My First Ballet series is a beautiful one. I’m much older than the target audience and yet I very much enjoyed and can appreciate that this would be great to watch for anyone seeing their first ballet.

My First Ballet: Coppelia is playing at the Peacock theatre until 19 April before touring the UK. For more information and tickets, see the Sadler’s Wells Theatre website.

Samuel Sims

Sam is Reviews Co-ordinator for A Younger Theatre as well as a freelance writer and editor who hails from Hull, though he has been in London for roughly 300 years. He enjoys multi-coloured socks, eating sausage rolls and seeing as much theatre as humanly possible.

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Review: Lest We Forget, Barbican Centre

Posted on 08 April 2014 by Vikki Jane Vile

Les We Forget

There are few evenings of dance that leave me still unable to think of anything else the morning after, but now 12 hours since viewing Tamara Rojo’s most ambitious commission as artistic director to date,  I am still marvelling and processing the emotional impact Lest We Forget had on me.

This brave programme, which includes three new works from young choreographers Liam Scarlett, Russell Maliphant and world-famous contemporary choreographer Akram Khan, focuses on the gritty intensity of the Great War, with two of the works homing in on the role of women during this time.

Pleasingly, for a ballet purist who feels a lot more comfortable around tutus and tiaras, the evening opened with Scarlett’s No Man’s Land, a piece inspired by the separation endured between men and women and that has its roots firmly in the classical vocabulary. The piece begins with the women preparing for the departure of their loved ones. There is a powerful image of the women standing behind the men with their arms folded up in front of the men’s chests representing the straps of their backpacks as they prepare to trudge off to war. What follows is a series of visually beautiful pas de deux, climaxing in the moment where one of the women finds no-one returning for her and she shares one last duet with her partner. My first ever live viewing of lead principal Alina Cojocaru (on this occasion partnered by Zdenek Konvalina) was truly mesmeric with its acrobatic lifts and her fairy-like touch making for a heart-breakingly beautiful denouement.

Although widely criticised for its inclusion in the programme was George Williamson’s Firebird. I’d argue the piece provides some colourful light relief after being so emotionally spent during the last piece. It’s still a mythical treat for the eyes with its colourful costuming and the title role is played superbly by Ksenia Ovsyanick showcasing her athleticism and flexibility.

Russell Maliphant’s Second Breath left me a little cold; it is by far the most stark and simplistic of the pieces, set against a totally bare set. The piece doesn’t take any narrative shape and the subtleties were lost on me. It includes another pas de deux featuring Alina Cojocaru; however, nothing as powerful as that seen in No Man’s Land.

The evening concludes with impact in the much-anticipated new work from Akram Khan, Dust. It is another piece that focuses on the role of women, this time portraying them as a powerful workforce with repetitive pumping movements to the pulsating rhythm of the beat. The men leave them, clambering over into no man’s land to experience life in the trenches. The final duet features Rojo herself in another repetitive series of stomping movements that peters out into floating waltz steps as she is finally left twirling by herself, as if under a trance.

Lest We Forget is a highly original night in the English National Ballet’s history and might just be remembered as the time when this company, used to touring the classics such as The Nutcracker and Swan Lake, really re-invented itself.

Lest We Forget is playing at the Barbican Centre until 12 April. For more information and tickets, see the English National Ballet’s website. Photo by ASH.

Vikki Jane Vile

Vikki Jane Vile

Vikki Jane Vile is a theatre lover and freelance writer specialising in dance, regularly writing for Dance Today magazine and LondonDance.com. In 2010 she won Dancing Times Young Writer competition. Her career since has included work for London Children’s Ballet and South East Dance in administration and marketing capacities. Next year she is looking forward to attending the UK’s biggest dance event, Move It as an official blogger and reporter.

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