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March 2000 Newsletter from London


March Preview

Dance in London seems to show a pattern of peaks and troughs. The topography is often different for ballet and contemporary, but this month sees a surge of activity in both fields with the opening of Spring Loaded and four different ballet programmes.

For devotees of contemporary dance, Spring Loaded means a full diary for the period for the next three months. There are 38 different shows in 3 venues around London, featuring some of the cream of the UK scene. In a welcome initiative, three of these events take place at the new Linbury Studio Theatre in the ROH, forging another link between the worlds of ballet and contemporary. Among the highlights of the first month:

  • Richard Alston gives us three London premieres. His Company has been on great form over the past few years and his flowing, elegant style makes him one of the most accessible contemporary choreographers for ballet lovers.
  • The first of the Linbury Studio presentations provides a platform for Russell Maliphant, who is highly regarded both as a choreographer and a dancer. One of the works on show, 'Two' performed by Dana Fouras, like Maliphant an ex-RB dancer, combines lighting and dance as effectively as anything I have ever seen.
  • Ludus Dance, a schools based company, bring us 'Sold', a thought provoking work about child bonded labour. Theoretically this is intended for 7-12 year olds, but this 52-year old found it stimulating.
  • V-TOL's 'Without Trace' with choreographer Mark Murphy uses multi-media to great effect and critical acclaim.
  • Another pathfinder in UK dance, Jeremy James with his Company presents 3 works blending contemporary, hip-hop and film.

Further details and the colourful programme can be obtained via The Place website.

Sadler's Wells has three interesting events this month. First up is the Canadian company La La La Human Steps with a new work 'Salt'. Their explosive style has provided short bursts of joy over the years through pop videos and TV appearances. I have to say that in their previous London visit I felt that a law of diminishing returns applied after the first 20 minutes, but if you enjoy fast, in your face, dance by strong performers, give it a try.

Next comes Northern Ballet Theatre's 'Carmen' choreographed by Rambert's Didi Veldman who will also dance the lead in two of the performances. I was one of many, who enjoyed 'Dracula' sinking his fangs into me last year, so I'm looking forward to sexier terpsichore from NBT. Finally, on 12th March there is a one night Gala for Christopher Gable who gave NBT such a distinctive style, graced both the stage and film, and made a significant contribution to dance education.

The Royal Ballet presents three programmes during the month. The generally well- received 'Coppelia' has a few more performances and MacMillan's wonderful 'Manon' begins the first few of several performances later in March. However, perhaps most interesting is the Ashton [Revisited] programme. Most critics have enthused over Sylvie Guillem and Nicholas Le Riche in 'Marguerite and Armand', and the other works have also been much appreciated, although the new costumes and designs for 'The Rendezvous' have proved a distraction. Here is Debra Craine's review.

Details of all these performances can be found on the excellent listings.


February Review

The LDN prize for stamina goes to The Place, which completed the 100 company strong 'Resolution!' season for new and relatively new talent. The Place Theatre ensures that not only are the works seen to a high standard of lighting and sound reproduction, but all are professionally videoed so that the companies and performers have a valuable resource to use with other venues and potential employers.

Inevitably standards of performance and choreography vary, but on the five evenings I saw, there was always something to enjoy. The Aerowaves stream brought us Continental European companies, which frequently impressed, even though the pieces were often extracts from longer works. Cie Willi Dorner from Austria provided distinctive choreography and high quality dancers with a pdd for two men especially satisfying. Nanine Linning from the Netherlands showed us an imaginative and amusing pdd for two women in 'Cardiac Motion', again with great dancing. Projecta Gallina from Spain gave us a speedy and exuberant work with a quirky solo at the end.

From the domestic companies, Rafael Bonachela and Dancers performed 'Because', a stretching work even for the Rambert dancers, which has a lovely final pdd. Handen Ozer's 'Dans I-Daim' has the ambitious aim of using dance to give an 'awareness of the divine within us.' This work for 12 or so dancers is a well-crafted and scrupulously rehearsed piece with a range of different paces and moods. 'His and Hers' by Emma Diamond featured a gorgeous back projection of key moments from all our favourite Hollywood films with the unfortunate result that the dance was totally upstaged.

I wonder how many people know which is the fifth largest permanent professional dance company in England and Wales. The answer is Adzido, Pan-African Dance Ensemble which brought their new production, 'Sankofa' to the Queen Elizabeth Hall. The Company showed great verve in their mastery of the range of different steps and styles from the grace of the 'Wello' from Ethiopia to the robust 'Gome' from Ghana where the women try to secure a bargain from the fish market by '…impressing the men with their artistically exaggerated bottoms.' And certainly none was more artistically exaggerated than that of Rose Tackie, the shortest and roundest of the dancers who was a delight throughout the evening.

The linking theme of the evening is the Sankofa bird embodying the idea of a return to our roots. The dialogues between the two actors developing this theme does little more than provide a breather for the dancers and a chance to change cossies. Overall the show works very well and I had a grin on my face for the whole evening.


What great news that the hot ticket in London theatreland is a fine piece of contemporary dance - AMP's 'Swan Lake'. The West End revival has received rapturous reviews from the critics and deservedly so. Here is Ismene Brown's review. It is claimed that this is the last season ever in London, so if you haven't seen it, try to get a ticket if you can.

'Una Noche de Tango' at The Peacock seems to be setting new standards for Argentine Tango productions. If you haven't tried this sensual and complex dance form, this should be a good show to see and it continues throughout March. Donald Hutera was close to moving house to Buenos Aires, if his review is anything to go by.

'Rumbadelica' at Sadler's Wells gave us a thorough grounding in Cuban popular dance, but at times in the first half the dances themselves did not inspire. However, the faster dances and the dynamic African based medley of the second half made everybody cheer up. The indefatigable Mr Hutera reviewed the show for The Times.

As this month's column shows, the 2000 London dance calendar is well into its stride. The combination of a wide range of old and new venues and the diversity and excellence of many performances makes it great to be a dance lover. Aren't we lucky!


Stuart Sweeney

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