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September '99 Newsletter from London


August Round-up

After an exceptionally busy July, London dance lovers had something of a respite in August, except for those who made their way to Edinburgh to enjoy the riches of the International Festival and the Fringe. Nevertheless, some interesting events did take place down South over the past month.

Jonathan Burrows / Molly Rabinowitz
Greenwich Dance Agency (an LDN member) is highly regarded in the professional independent dance sector as an artist-friendly rehearsal and dance class centre. This double bill was the latest in an occasional series of 'sharing' performances by artists associated with the Agency.

Burrows receives great critical acclaim in this country and perhaps even more on the Continent. In 1997 he was commissioned by William Forsythe to create a work for the renowned Ballett Frankfurt. In the intimate art-deco surroundings of Greenwich, Burrows and Lynne Bristow performed 'Singing' to some beautiful songs by Matteo Fargion, a long-time collaborator of Burrows. Moving rapidly to the slow songs, the duo performed the complex choreography with head, arm and hand movements playing as important a role as the steps. Burrows is a remarkable performer and he had strong support from Bristow in this thrilling and innovative piece.

The second half of the programme featured two solos by Molly Rabinowitz, an American who had been leading professional classes at Greenwich that week. Her first piece, 'Liquid Grip' was performed on and around a barre and made direct links to gymnastics, but it became repetitive for me in its latter stages. The second piece, 'Spiral Split Open' also featured an athletic movement vocabulary and I enjoyed the greater freedom and variety of this work, powerfully performed by Rabinowitz.

New York Ballet Stars
This is the second year that some of the top performers from New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre have visited the South Bank as a summer sabbatical. This time they graduated to the Royal Festival Hall and brought a more homogenous team of top-flight performers. They provided London audiences with an opportunity to see 3 works by Balanchine and a striking and imaginative new piece, 'Life Story', by Karole Armitage, based on a loveless one-night stand. There was also a delightful slow pdd for two men by Lar Lubovitch, but to my surprise, some found it sentimental. Throughout the evening, I enjoyed the energetic, expressive and technically impressive dancing of Albert Evans and the elegant shapes created by the young, long-legged NYCB Principal, Maria Kowroski. Debra Craine in The Timesreflected the enthusiasm of the critics.

Other Events
Blitz, the large-scale, free festival with classes, seminars and performances at the South Bank, introduced many newcomers to the joys of a variety of different dance disciplines. Long may it continue. The event that gained the most publicity was the day devoted to Ballet Negres, Britain's pioneering black dance company, which was the subject of this preview by Keith Watson in The Guardian.

Sadler's Wells and Jackson's Lane Dancebase collaborated on 'Mosaics', an annual festival of cutting edge dance and performance, now in its eighth year. 27 small-scale companies from all over the country presented new work over a 4-week period. Sadly, the shenanigans in Edinburgh meant that dance critics were very scarce in London for most of August and thus Mosaics received little coverage. Jackson's Lane continues to provide a fine outpost for contemporary dance performance in North London.

Strictly speaking, Edinburgh is not part of my brief, but the Festival has highlighted some shows that are due to come to London, including 'Gumboots' and Meg Stuart's 'Damaged Goods'. David Dougill in The Sunday Times and Jann Parry in The Observer covered many of the leading events.

September Preview

Another relatively quiet month for dance in London, but a chance to catch up on the gardening and the decorating before October brings the full force of Dance Umbrella. In September, the burden falls, not for the first time, on Sadler's Wells and The Peacock to provide us with interesting dance.

A new Flamenco star, Sara Baras brings her company to reopen Sadler's after the summer break and at the end of the month we can see the Siobhan Davies Dance Company in 'Wild Air'. This first full-length work by Davies has received rave reviews as it has toured the country, including this one from Ismene Brown in The Daily Telegraph.

For those who can only take their ballet seriously, The Peacock is a venue to be avoided in September. But for those, who like me, are entirely lacking in the finer sensibilities, the boys in tutus of Les Ballets Trockaderoes de Monte Carlo offer immense fun and subtle touches in between the pratfalls. The dancing is often good and the divas' personas are carefully preserved from piece to piece. One of the two programmes include a send-up of Merce Cunningham. Is nothing sacred? Have a good month.

Stuart Sweeney (courtesy of London Dance Network)

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