Critical Dance

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Critical Dance Goes Backstage Ė A Daily Diary

July 3, 2002

By Sylvia

Itís a gloomy Wednesday with much rain promised. The company class is at 11am and I am told to make my way to the Ashton studio, where the company manager, Dwight Hutton, greets me enthusiastically. He tells me that Sadler's Wells was packed the night before (on opening night) and PNB were received enthusiastically with much cheering in spite of the computer crashing halfway through (thankfully with no disruptions). Inside, 40 or so dancers are warming up and preparing for class. With a week of shows, everyone is extremely busy and there is very little time to explore London. Artistic Director Kent Stowell is here to take class. Heís a quiet man, of few words, preferring to demonstrate steps rather than articulate them. Itís certainly very different from the classes Iíve seen at the Royal Ballet and fascinating to see the dancers being put through their paces. The studio isnít ideal, with few mirrors, squeaky bars and complaints about the hard, slippery floor. But by the end there are more than a few Corsaire style flourishes by the men. Iím counting on several casts for the pas de trois this week.

At 12:30, I slip into the back of the auditorium to watch the Mixed Bill rehearsal. It isnít without fits and starts and constant pleas to the conductor of the Royal Philharmonic, Allan Dameron, to slow the tempo. Admittedly, Balanchineís Divertimento No. 15 is not a favourite of mine but I canít help but admire how extraordinarily the choreography fits with Mozart. A short break and itís Nacho Duartoís Jardi Tancat. A desert bronze floor is rolled out and taped down, a cage of wooden sticks surround the floor, lights go down, lights go back up, the dancers go over bits of choreography and try to avoid the chaos. Tancat amazes me with how the dancers seem to be both free from the restrictions of ballet, and at the same time constrained as if they were in a glass bubble in their use of flexed hands and feet. Itís a lovely demonstration of the versatility of the company. Le Corsaire provides an additional treat as Iím treated to not one but three different casts in two run-throughs. The costumed dancers glitter, and are encouraged by shouts and applause from the wings. Most of them mark it through but there are still pyrotechnics to enjoy.

The the Company moves right on to Fearful Symmetries. Everyoneís tiring and again the music is too speedy but most remain good-natured and a long section that involves most of the company finishes with a cheeky grin and thumbs up from one of the principals, Paul Gibson. The magnificent playing last night by the Royal Philharmonic orchestra has not gone unnoticed by the company. Mr. Dameron is kindly acquiescent to the dancersí suggestions. To the orchestra, ďPlease everyone, when you see my karate chop then STOP!Ē I do wonder how often the Philharmonic play for ballet and what they must think of catering to the dancers! In any case Iíve had a lovely day and keenly anticipate the eveningís performance.

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