February 2000 Newsletter from London
Not a hectic month for London dance fans, but there are interesting events including the pulse-quickening rhythms of Cuba and the Argentine Tango.
The first half of February brings us the final stages of Resolution! at The Place. The importance of this festival of new dance cannot be underestimated. Young dancers and choreographers have the opportunity to perform with high standards of lighting and sound at one of Europe's most celebrated contemporary dance venues. The problem is deciding which of the 100 companies (three per night) to see. On Fridays and Saturdays there are performances featuring Continental European companies which have been vetted by an international panel and will go on to perform in a variety of festivals. Friday, 11th February is a particularly strong night with the bonus of Raphael Bonachela bringing 5 of his Rambert colleagues to dance 'Because'. And the following night, there is a work by Jan De Schynkel also of Rambert with dancers from Scottish Dance Theatre. You don't have too much to lose - tickets are £8 and, at the bar, wonderful Czech beer is £1.80 a bottle. (Box Office 020 7387 0031) Here is a link to the high quality Resolution! site.
February sees the final performances of the MacMillan Inheritance triple bill. My impression was rather like the curate's egg - good in parts. This is the third recent season in which the RB has performed 'Concerto', so many were rather surprised that it looked under-rehearsed, both for some soloists and the corps. Leanne Benjamin was superb, however, in the lyrical central pdd. The First World War inspired 'Gloria' is a work which will be around at the start of the next century, I suspect. Carlos Acosta and Sarah Wildor made the most of the sculptural choreography and the ending was moving as the lonely figure of Acosta looks down after his comrades and then disappears into oblivion. The Japanese culture based 'Rituals' is a real one-off that I need to see again before forming coherent views, but I was intrigued with the central 'puppet' section with Chloe Davies and Bruce Sansom.
We also see the first RB performances of 'Coppelia' for over 20 years. Of course ENB's version has just been in residence at the Coliseum and I do sometimes wonder whether it would be possible for the major companies to do a little joint planning to avoid such clashes. To brighten up the damp, dank February days we can enjoy the heat and passion of dance from South America and the Caribbean. Cuba has a strong a tradition of musicality and dance. To illustrate the point, Ry Cooder tells how he invited a 70-year old pianist to a hotel in Havana and as they talked he kept looking over to the piano. Eventually the pianist apologised and went over and started playing - it was a chance he couldn't ignore, as he was too poor to have his own instrument. At the end of an hour, the tourists in the bar were still talking and ignoring the music in the tradition of tourists everywhere. But the entire staff of the hotel had come down to listen in rapt awe to a marvellous musician. Donald Hutera saw Conjunto Folklorico Nacional de Cuba at Sadler's Wells (tel. 020 7863 8000) and thought the show started a little slowly, but ended in riotous exuberance.
London has a love affair with the Argentine Tango and the company Tango Por Dos return with a new show at The Peacock for most of the month. It is a technically demanding popular dance form and has come a long way from its origins with the gangsters in the bordellos of Montevideo. The performers seem to risk limbs and much else with the vicious kicks and flicks to the back, to the side and, most scarily, between their partner's legs. The dancers, both men and women, maintain high standards and a high sizzle factor.
Details of most of these events are in ballet.co listings .
Ballet dominated the London dance scene in January. Once the Nutcracker was put away for another year, The Royal Ballet and English National Ballet were able to diversify their offerings.
The highlight for me was the ENB triple bill with Glen Tetley's 'Sphinx', MacMillan's 'Rite of Spring' and Makarova's version of 'La Bayadere - Act II'. The dancing of Daria Klimentova in 'Sphinx' was a revelation. In the classical roles of 'Coppelia' and 'The Nutcracker', she brings purity of technique and grace to her interpretations. But the role of the Sphinx gave her the chance to explore a more sinuous and radical choreography and she seized the opportunity to show us how versatile she is. Klimentova does not receive as much publicity as some of her peers in the major UK companies, but she is right up there with the very best of them.
Tamara Rojo also seemed to relish the opportunity to dance The Chosen One in Macmillan's 'Rite of Spring'. It is an indication of MacMillan's greatness that this work still has a 'shock of the new' quality and I enjoyed it much more on a second viewing. The critics were very impressed with this ENB triple bill and several begged Derek Deane to do such programmes more often. Debra Craine in 'The Times' enjoyed the evening greatly. ENB's sunny version of 'Coppelia' was also well received by Debra Craine .
January saw the final performances of The Royal Ballet's 'Celebration of International Choreography'. For these latter performances, most felt that the selection of the short international pieces seemed stronger than in the initial showings. I enjoyed the evening, with 'Remanso' by Nacho Duato the high-spot . Here is my review from Here is my review on ballet.co.
As ballet has dominated the London scene at the start of the year, it is appropriate to wish Michael Kaiser well as he tries to overcome the teething problems of the complex new house. One of the key skills these days is change management and he has already done much to change the culture of the ROH. I believe that he remains the best man to tackle the well-publicised complaints of restricted view seats, large price increases on some seats, and the infamous stage mechanics. Also, we shouldn't forget that The Floral Hall is a splendid addition to the London scene and there have been unpublicised problem free evenings of high quality. So let's all make sure that there is constructive feedback, but let's hold back on the rotten eggs .
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