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July/August 2000 Newsletter from London

 

Preview

The summer can be a quiet time for dance in London, but not this year. The main focus will be on the Royal Opera House with the final part of the 1999/2000 opening season and the return of The Kirov for the second half of their London season.

The Royal Ballet

The Royal go for the safe and sure route for the Summer season with 'Manon', 'Giselle' and a triple bill featuring some elegant work seen earlier this year - 'The Firebird', 'Marguerite and Armand' and 'The Concert'. One could complain that there is nothing we have not seen already in the past 15 months, but on the positive side the works are all interesting and the corps and the soloists will have the chance to polish their performances.

One of the treats will be seeing Sylvie Guillem and Laurent Hilaire, guesting from the Paris Opera Ballet, repeating the fine partnership that we saw first at Sadler's Wells. It will also be good to see Yoshida in 'Giselle' and 'The Firebird'.

For the latest news about the Royal, here is a short article that I posted in London Dance Network's Forum.

The Kirov

This split visit has lot of overlap, so I shall cover here both the performances to date and those to come. Overall, everyone seems to have been mightily impressed with the quality of the Principals, the Corps and the productions. I was out of London for most of the period, but was able to catch the final performance of 'Jewels', the hit of the season. I also found it a wonderful experience and thought Diana Vishneva in 'Rubies' about as good as it gets. The only programme that received less than ecstatic reviews was the Fokine programme, but even here the dancing was usually praised to the skies.

You can find extensive coverage of reviews, interviews and comments on criticaldance.com. Go to the Ballet forum and scroll down to view the various threads covering the different programmes.

When the Kirov returns in August, we can enjoy 'Swan Lake', two Fokine programmes and the first showings this year of 'Romeo and Juliet' and 'Don Quixote'. I shall be looking forward to seeing Vishneva again and the spectacular Lopatkina. Most productions are already sold out, but remember that there are seats available on the day at 10am, but get there early if you want decent sightlines.

For full listings of the Royal and Kirov seasons, look in ballet.co.uk listings.

Elsewhere

Circus Oz takes over Sadler's Wells for most of August. They come with a fine reputation as a modern circus group. We are told, 'Expect high altitude acrobatics, tightrope walking, machines on fire, flaming hula hoops, strong women, beautiful men, flying freaks and fabulous live music.' The question could be raised as to whether this is dance, but I find that modern circus has much to offer those interested in imaginative and graceful movement. The Sadler's Wells site.

As part of London's Brazilian festivities, Companhia De Danca Deborah Colker visits The Barbican with 'Mix'. Colker's spin on physical dance was very well received with her previous show 'Rota', especially the dramatic conclusion of the big wheel. Here is a link to a preview article.

Finally, the summer means that it's time for the South Bank Centre's 'Blitz'. Beginners, Intermediates and Advanced students have the chance to see and participate in a vast range of dance styles from ballroom to bharata natyam. In addition there are seminars and events especially for children. All in all a wonderful showcase for dance. Here is the Blitz website for full details.

June Review

The Mark Morris Dance Group

Apart from the Kirov, the big dance event in June was the visit of the Mark Morris Dance Group. Morris has been bringing his brilliant choreography to London since the mid-80s, but whereas he used to play in the 300-seater Place Theatre, now he fills the 2,700 seater Coliseum. Morris says that he enjoys coming here, 'In England, if you make a joke, they laugh. In America if you make a joke they think you are a joke.'

The season opened with 'L'Allego, il Penseroso ed il Moderato'. This is a stunningly successful ensemble work. I found myself transfixed by a series of exquisite and imaginative shapes, lifts and tableaux. The grace and musicality of the dancers shone throughout and the sets, lighting and English National Opera's performance combined to make a magical evening.

The other programme consisted of a double bill. The first part was a first showing of 'Four Saints in Three Acts' to music by Virgil Thomson. Morris has produced some fine new work over the past couple of years including San Francisco Ballet's 'Sandpaper Ballet', but 'Saints' left me very cold. Gertrude Stein's poem and the music did not inspire me and I found Morris' choreography repetitive and uninteresting. The couple next to me left at the interval and must have wondered what all the fuss about Morris was about.

This was a great shame, as they missed 'Dido and Aeneas', which showed the choreographer on top form. He played the roles of the noble, loving Dido and also the wicked, hilarious Sorceress, in a charismatic performance. When asked why, he responded, 'It's the best part.' As in 'L'Allegro' the ensemble choreography is sheer delight whether in two dimensional fresco-like patterns or the arrow shape as the courtiers accompany Dido to her death. These are works to be seen from the Circles not the stalls.

Here is a link to a series of reviews and articles about the season.

Round-up

The Royal Ballet went down into the bowels of the Opera House for their 'New Works' programme. Overall this short season was better received than the similar 'Dance Bites' tours of earlier years. The second programme, with new works by Christopher Wheeldon and William Tuckett had things to please most people. We also had the chance to see outstanding performances from some of the younger dancers like Alina Cojocaru and Jenny Tattersall. Here is a link to various reviews.

Birmingham Royal Ballet has a fine reputation, but their 2000 visit to the ROH met with poor reviews for 'Arthur Part I' and Bintley's new production of 'Giselle'. Nevertheless, I'm sure that the jazz triple bill pleased lots of people and critics, as it has done all over the country. Here is Lynette Halewood's review.

English National Ballet brought their latest mega-production, 'Sleeping Beauty', to The Royal Albert Hall. Sadly, this pleased hardly any of the critics, including those who have found things to admire in the previous productions like 'Swan Lake' and 'Romeo and Juliet'. Here is Debra Craine's review.

Rambert Dance Company brought two programmes to Sadler's Wells and I saw the second. The Company looked very good in Cunningham's strange but engrossing 'Beach Birds'. Conor O'Brien was brilliant in the playful and sinister 'Pierrot Lunaire' by Glen Tetley and the programme ended with Christopher Bruce's quick and elegant 'Meeting Point'.

Hope you find much dance to enjoy through the summer. Personally I'm hoping that we finally get some weather in London that is at least reminiscent of a summer.

Stuart Sweeney


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