November '99 Newsletter from London
After an extremely hectic and heady October for London dance buffs, November continues at a more sedate pace, but still has a fair helping of goodies. Dance Umbrella concludes with some more exciting work from around the world:
Elsewhere ballet fans have two short seasons to help stave off the withdrawal symptoms, before the re-opening of the ROH in December. City of London Ballet is at The Peacock in the second week of November with a show based on Latin rhythms. I have always had a soft spot for this company as they take dance to places that other companies don't reach. Currently they have a good crop of dancers and works by North, von Manen and Hampson, together with a couple of classical pdds, have pleased audiences members as it has toured the land. For a change, here are the comments of a dedicated dance fan, Bruce Marriott, on his own wonderful site, ballet.co.uk.
More difficult to assess is Norwegian National Ballet's version of 'Romeo and Juliet' by Michael Corder. I have to confess I do have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to Mr. Corder's work, but maybe this one will convince me. Details are in London Dance Net's Calendar.
Wayne MacGregor's Random Dance perform 'Sulphur 16' at the Battersea Arts Centre on the 8-9th. The show has received much critical praise and this could be the last time to see it in London for a while.
Finally, at the end of the month, Rambert return to Sadler's Wells with Christopher Bruce's new full-length work, 'God's Plenty'. The critics have expressed mixed views at the early performances on tour, but I have spoken to people who loved it. I guess we now have the chance to make up our own minds. However, no doubts have been expressed over 'Ghost Dances', which is revived in the second week of the London season. One of Bruce's most successful works, it strikes great resonance for many of us at a time when Pinochet is under house arrest to answer to charges that were part of the inspiration for the work. I interviewed Bruce on the theme of Dance and Human Rights for The Amnesty International Newsletter. Details of performances are in London Dance Net's Calendar.
San Francisco Ballet
What were my main impressions? In The Gala, the men made a big impact with David Palmer in Tomasson's 'Two Bits' giving a powerful, fluent performance in this fast, sexy pdd and Guennadi Nedviguine spinning like a top and enjoying every minute of van Manen's 'Solo'.
If the Gala served some delightful canapés, the Mixed Bill of Balanchine, Robbins and Morris offered us more substantial fare. Robbins 'Cage' gave Lucia Lacarra a role full of quick and pliant movements, as a man-devouring insect, instructed by the vicious Queen of Muriel Maffre. As one company member said to me, 'It's as if this 1951 work had been made on her.' The programme ended with 'Sandpaper Ballet' by Mark Morris and it was a sheer delight for us and also for the massed ranks of SFB dancers, who revelled in the witty use of geometry and varied dance forms that Morris has brought to the jolly tunes of Leroy Anderson.
The week closed with Tomasson's 'Swan Lake' with four different Odette/Odiles. I agree with those who thought that Tomasson's choreography worked well at times, but was put in the shade by the original Petipa/Ivanov sections that remained. Act IV especially seemed not to be firing on all cylinders. However, both Joanna Berman and Lacarra were heart-breakingly touching as the tragic Odette and wickedly enticing as Odile, in contrasted, technically assured interpretations.
This was such an important first London visit that I have placed a number of the various press reviews in our Forum section. The Company have set a high standard to match when they next visit, but under Tomasson's fine leadership, I'm confident they will continue to delight us.
Aletta Collins brought two solos and 'Alice is back in Wonderland' to The Place. The quartet, 'Alice' is rich in choreographic invention and good humour and is a beautifully crafted, accessible work. Collins and her three collaborators danced with great skill and elan. In a post performance talk, Collins was asked about the humour in the work and she told us that she likes to have a good time in the rehearsal studio. Long may it continue.
Richard Move's homage to Martha Graham was also good fun, as well as being a sincere tribute to the gifted pioneer. The Graham trained trio of women dancers gave powerful interpretations of excepts from key works with Reid Hitchins (you know - Playgirl Magazine's 25th Anniversary centrefold) playing the scantily dressed male roles. In one of the solo spots, Tom Sapsford mimed deliciously to one of Judy Garland's monologues and then gave us his own exhilarating dance to one of her songs. In another, Wayne McGregor showed us why he has such a reputation for theatrical innovation and dynamic movement.
Finally we had the pleasure of Irek Mukhamedev and Company. Of the two solos for Irek and Altynai Asylmuratova, I thought that Roland Petit's Bolero was exquisitely danced tosh. However, William Tuckett's 'Louis Armstrong ( when angels fly )' was a delightful, romantic piece set to some of the great man's songs. In Ashley Page's 'Quartet' Mara Galeazzi and Yohei Sasaki danced with grace and precision. Here are Debra Craine's views in The Times.
Thus ends a remarkable month of dance in London. At the outset, I had been worried about the onset of indigestion. As it turned out, I was still going back for seconds and thirds as October drew to a close. Have fun in November.
Stuart Sweeney (courtesy of London Dance Network)
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