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May/June 2000 Newsletter from London


June Preview

June is one of those months when ballet lovers either rejoice that there is so much to see or despair at how to fit in all the treats.

  • Birmingham Royal Ballet takes up residence in the Royal Opera House with three interesting programmes. Perhaps the one that promises most is David Bintley's Jazz Triple Bill, especially the 'Shakespeare Suite', which has won much applause around the country and has its first outing in London. We also see 'Arthur Part I', which has much drama, but not enough dance for some and a new production of the timeless and exquisite 'Giselle'.
  • Following hard on the heels of BRB comes the Kirov, with probably the highest reputation in the dance world, despite the financial problems of the new order or disorder in Russia. No one could criticise the Kirov for lack of ambition - they present separate programmes devoted to Balanchine and Fokine, as well as the classics 'Sleeping Beauty' and 'La Bayadere'. The latter is a real treat if the reviews from the recent performances in Edinburgh are anything to go by.
  • English National Ballet's mega-production of 'Sleeping Beauty' comes to The Royal Albert Hall. Opinions vary as to the merit of this concept, but huge numbers pay good money to see Derek Deane's BIG shows. In addition, Zurich Ballet brings Heinz Spoerli's 'Mozartina' to Sadler's Wells with the London Mozart Players accompanying the proceedings.

Despite Spring Loaded drawing to a close, there is still a fair ration of contemporary dance:

  • Seven Sisters Group, who were so impressive last year with the extraordinary site-specific work 'Salome', have been allowed into The Place for the first time with 'On Stage'. Many interactions with the audience are promised, so expect the unexpected.
  • Carol Brown does her bit for site-specific work this year with 'Shelf Life' in St Pancras Church and Charles Linehan brings his cool, elegant choreography to The Place with a triple bill.
  • An event I almost over-looked at the QEH is a collaboration between dancers from the Ballett Frankfurt and Needcompany from Belgium.
  • One of the bonuses with the new Sadler's Wells is the regular visits from Rambert Dance Company. This time we get two mixed bills, featuring revivals of two important works by Glen Tetley, a work by Merce Cunningham which is new for Rambert and three works by the Artistic Director, Christopher Bruce.

Here is the link to the Spring Loaded site.

For more details about most of the events, go to listings.

And all I can say is - if there's nothing there that suits you, take up another interest!

February Review

A very busy period for dance fans in London especially for those who ventured further afield to see some of the foremost companies in the world. Given the riches we usually enjoy we can't really complain that Paris Opera Ballet were in Salford and the Kirov were in Edinburgh.

Spring Loaded

This major contemporary dance festival continued to produce much exciting dance:

  • The Cholmondeleys and the Featherstonehaughs brought 'Smithereens' to The Place and great fun it was too, with imaginative choreography in a nightmare cabaret setting and fine music. In fact, if I have more fun at a dance event this year, I'll be very lucky.
  • Ricochet Dance Company was at The QEH with a series of solo pieces for their dances that some liked, but many did not. The second half, featuring a new work by Russell Maliphant, was much stronger.
  • Shobana Jeyasingh brought a double bill to the QEH - the revival of 'Palimpsest was well received, but feelings about the new work, 'Surface Tension' were mixed. Here is Judith Mackrell's review.
  • Spring Fling was a Gala showcase for The Place with much wonderful dance on show. My own favourites were Akram Khan, the delightful 'Spitfire' by AMP and various groups of student dancers from 6 up. Judith Mackrell enjoyed the evening.

The Royal Ballet

A varied series of programmes from the Royal:

  • Perhaps the saddest dance event of April was the performance of Viviana Durante in 'Manon'. This very fine dancer says that she has no plans to dance with the Royal in the near future. So her last outing in this season's 'Manon' may have been her last ever at the ROH. I revised my plans in order to see this performance and Irek Mukhamedev threw off an injury, with a couple of choreographic adjustments, to celebrate this remarkable partnership. At the end of a superb evening - they received a standing ovation, a rare event in the usually restrained Royal Opera House.
  • 'The New World' programme was well received apart from the new William Tuckett work, 'The Crucible'. I seem to be the only person who enjoyed it, while acknowledging that a couple of things could be tightened. Most disapproval was directed at the expressionistic designs by Gerald Scarfe. However, Balanchine's 'Serenade' and Robbins' 'The Concert' pleased nearly everyone. Debra Craine reviewed the performance for The Times.
  • 'The Diaghilev Legacy' contained much to admire. Perhaps most intriguing was the 'recreation' of Nijinsky's 'Jeux' by Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer from photos, contemporary descriptions and the memories of those who saw the original. The question none of us can answer is how much it is like the original. Judged on its own merits it fitted into the programme well, but while choreographic ideas were interesting, it seemed a bit stretched at 18 minutes. 'Les Biches' was enjoyable with Jonathan Cope making much more of his muscleman role than Inaki Urlezaga or Nigel Burley. Mara Galeazzi impressed with her Girl in Blue.


Sadler's Wells had three shows during this period:

  • NDT II must be one of the sought-after companies in the world for young dancers and it showed in their brief visit to London. In particular, Mario Zambrano blew my socks off with the fluency of his spins and jumps. I was a bit surprised that we saw 3 quirky, humorous pieces, one can't help thinking that a more mixed programme would have had even more impact. In any case, Ohad Naharin's 'Minus 16' lifted the spirits, especially when audience members were taken on stage - my ex-Royal Ballet companion refused.
  • 'The King' by Peter Schaufuss Ballet had much publicised copyright problems and had to be virtually rewritten two weeks before the London opening. In the event, the final result seemed rather pallid to dance lovers, but some Elvis fans I know did enjoy it.
  • Flamenco is big in London and the weeklong visit by Joachim Cortez was a sell-out. The London critics were not impressed, however, and Donald Hutera seemed about to explode in his condemnation of an ego trip.

The first visit of Paris Opera Ballet to the UK for 16 years took place in the spectacular Lowry complex in Salford. Despite the 10 hours of travel I was pleased that I saw their spectacular production of 'La Bayadere' with Manuel Legris and the corps de ballet very impressive indeed. Here is my review. Scroll down until you come to the photo of the Lowry complex.

Have fun in June, dance-lovers.


Stuart Sweeney

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