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Tag: ballet review

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Beauty & the Beast Review

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Beauty & the Beast Review

Forget the story you think you know of Beauty and the Beast, and be transported back into a world of folklore and enchantment with the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s retelling of this classic fairytale.

From the moment the curtain rises, you’re thrust into a magical medieval relm and back to your childhood. The swish of a cloak turns a bright eyed bushy tailed fox into a fiery red headed girl almost instantly. Furniture that serve unexpected guests of their own free will. Seeing is most definitely believing, and you’re not even wondering about the how, because it’s all too captivating.

Yvette knight was innocent and unassuming as Belle. Perfect for “a girl with her nose ways stuck in a book” Her stature and pose gave her dancing an etherial quality.40182381283_cf236822a6_o

The Beast was danced by Brandon Lawrence. He performed with great power and intensity, an angered and ferocious wild animal. His leaps and jumps are gravity defying.40182381453_bc023aedfe_z

Beatrice Parma as Vixen was my personal favorite. With a twinkle in her eye and a spring in her step, she was every inch the sprightly fox maiden. Her dancing was effortless and the height of her leg extensions were breathtaking!40182381063_cee32c0db8_z

The setting and lighting designs seemed to have been lifted straight from pages of a fairy story. Grandeur book cases filled with leather bound, gilded books, castle ruins suffocating in vines and roses, not forgetting an enchanting ball room, complete with candles and chandeliers. Artifical smoke played a huge role in creating atmosphere, with beams of light breaking through to create light and hope, and dim underlighting when a more ominous feel was needed.46233108045_929f0ea552_z

There were surprising comedy elements included, particularly in Act 2, involving Belle’s 2 sisters (Laura Purkiss and Samara Downs) fighting over a portly suiter Monsieur Cochon (James Barton) and a pompus court dance!

The costumes really were exquisite! With luxury silks, heavy velour and plenty of embroidery and brocading, it was clear no expense was spared. The Beast’s and other animal’s fur ‘skin’ was very cleaverly achieved with catsuits covered in textured tufts, and their masks were immediately identifiable as to the animal they were. I, along with everyone I’m sure, were waiting to see Belle’s trademark yellow princess gown and how that could possibly be danced in. When she finally emerged, there were gasps from the audience. A very extravagant yet practical conpromise had been made, that still created all the drama and opulence you’d expect! Stunning!47147351751_c21d0690bb_z

2 scenes stood out for me in particular. The first, when Belle is transported to the Beast’s castle by a flock of birds. There were so many dancers on stage, all intertwining in different directions, just like a group of starlings dance in the sky. Mesmerising and distracting and suddenly Belle is flying above them. The second, when Belle and the Beast dance in the ballroom with all the other enchanted animals. They waltzed and turned, reminding me of the scene from the film ‘Labyrinth’ where Sarah is dancing with Jareth at a masquerade ball and the other gueats are all wearing animal like masks.

 

This production would make a wonderful family treat. The BRB have a programme called ‘First Steps’ – shortened, more easy to follow story lines for a younger audience – however this production was so filled with magic and wonder, it’s an ideal first full length production for children or ballet new comers. It also has a happy ending unlike the majority of ballet tales, so no awkwardness to explain away!

Beauty and the Beast is showing at The Lowry untill Saturday 23rd March, before it heads on to Sunderland and concludes in Bristol,so don’t miss out on your chance to see this gorgoeus production! Ticket info can be found on the website https://www.brb.org.uk/whats-on/event/beauty-and-the-beast-2019

Unitll the last petal falls…….

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Matthew Bourne’s New Adventure SWAN LAKE Review

Matthew Bourne’s New Adventure SWAN LAKE Review

Matthew Bourne has an incredible talent for turning an age old and traditional story, such as Swan Lake, and thrusting it beak first into the 21st century. His take on the classic tale, with his company New Adventures is far more menacing and somber than the original. Its one of inner turmoil and depravity, provocation and lust, entrapment and finally freedom.

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The show opens with the young Prince in bed, being awoken by the hum drum of palace life. The mixed corps de ballet of butlers and maids all hurry with military precision. , using angular arm and head movements, swift changes of direction and robotic stature. With it, we sense the beginning of the Prince (played by Dominic North) is unhappy with his regimented and stifling life.

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The Queen, was played by Katrina Lyndon. She bought a regal and sophisticated edge to her character. Her dancing was elegant and had wonderful poise, using her upper body well, and great strength and control with her legs, to effortlessly glide across the floor. Katrina used her facial expressions well, an eye roll here, a displeasing look there, which were discreet yet added to the story perfectly. My favourite scene of hers was at the Black Ball, held at the Palace. Everyone wearing black, yet she appears in a stunning red dress. She dances with The Stranger in a immensely provocative routine. She echoes perfectly the traditional role of the black swan, the seductive temptress, bold and confident in her approach, with burning eye contact. This is possibly why she is wearing red, as, did you know, Odile didn’t wear black until the early 1940’s, the original productions instead choosing bright and bold colours.

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Dominic North’s performance as the Prince is a harrowing one. He starts off frantic in his movements, to shoe his resentment to his life, changing to being light and free when he has the love and affection from The Swan, will well elevated and athletic allegro, finally lashing out in desperation at the end. His pas de deux with his mother is particularly upsetting. You see his need for love from his mother, begging her to hold him, literally clinging onto her. You see her rejecting him to conform to standards. As an audience member, you almost plead with her to relent and just give him a hug. Dominic’s performance is powerful and emotive.

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The girlfriend character (Carrie Willis) is a brash character adding a layer of humour to the production. Everything from her costume to her demeanour and actions provoke laughs from the audience. She perfectly captures the stereotypical air headed bimbo character and certainly puts her gazelle like legs to good use.

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The Swan and The Stranger are played by the same dancer, just as Odette and Odile are also danced by the same ballerina. Will Bozier did an incredible job of acting within his dancing, being so convincing as 2 separate characters, you’d be forgiven in thinking they were not the same people. As the swan, he is coy at first, unwilling to interact with the Prince. His movements are large and strong, imitating a real swan when it is threatened, protecting itself. Then he softens, when he and the prince dance their pas de deux, becoming the protector role, lifting the Prince, nuzzling and nurturing him. As The Stranger, not only does his appearance change, so does his dancing and with it his character. With his leather trousers, he is immediately portrayed as a bad boy role. His lusty looks and bold swagger transform him to represent power and danger. He dances with every woman in the ballroom. The dance is reminiscent of an Argentine tango, full of passion, bodies always close, legs frantically working. He ends as the swan again in the scenes. The Princes protector once again,from the other swans who have turned on them both. Will uses his body language and facial expressions so well, that even if he were not in specific costumes, you’d instantly identify the character he would be portraying.

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The final scenes are danced with an all male ensemble, the traditional corps de ballet being replaced by a male corps. Included are some sequences from the more traditional productions, including ‘entrance of the swans’ and ‘dance of the cygnets’ but of course with an altogether more robust and rugged feel, with far more jumps, syncopation and unique poses, now synomymus with his version. The swans take on the role of an angry mob. Their muscular and athletic physiques perfectly embody than of a swan, beautiful to look at yet strong and powerful, a force to be reckoned with. They act and think as ‘one’ ultimately seizing control of the situation, strength in numbers. The use of the resistance in their arms and hisses audible to the audience create an imposing and sinister feel from the very beginning.

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Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake has been performed for over 20 years now, premiering back in 1995. He uses concepts and ideas from the more traditional versions yet adds a more contemporary and modern feel, adding highlights paying homage to other great choreographers such as Bob Fosse. In 2018, the production underwent some revising to the set, lighting and choreography to keep it just as fresh as its ever been. It deals with relevant topics in todays society of sexual preferences, acceptance, temptation, and the basic human need for love. And boy did the audience love it on opening night at The Lowry Manchester, with a staggering 4 minute standing ovation. That alone is testament to the talent of the cast, and Matthew Bourne’s success in creating a production that’s become a traditional one in its own right.

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Don’t just take our word on how mind blowing it is! Read more about the production, the company members and tour life, in our interview with cast member Andrew Ashton https://danceniche.com/2018/11/29/qa-with-andrew-ashton-new-adventures-company-member/

New Adventure’s Swan Lake is currently showing at The Lowry Manchester until 1st Dec. Ticket prices start at £28.50 and can be purchased via their website here TheLowry.com Further information about the tour’s upcoming dates and locations can be found on the New Adventures website MB’S New Adventures

*Special thanks to The Lowry Manchester and photographer Johan Persson, using photographs from the production at the Royal Theatre Plymouth*

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Review – La Fille Mal Gardeé | Birmingham Royal Ballet

Review – La Fille Mal Gardeé | Birmingham Royal Ballet

On approach to The Lowry Theatre Salford Quays, the exterior neon blue lights make it hard to miss. The bright colours continue inside with a modern, almost industrial feel. So it’s fitting that a non traditional ballet production such as Birmingham Royal ballet’s La Fille Mal Gardeé (or La Fille for short) would be showing there.

If you’re not familiar with the story, here are the cliff notes. La Fille Mal Gardeé roughly translates as ‘the wayward daughter’ and is set amongst the rolling hills of the countryside. A rule breaking daughter and overly controlling mother are at the centre of the story, including a handsome lover and a particulalry awkward suiter.44331935275_7f78d0ead4_k

Lise, the daughter is played by Miki Mizutani, the most dainty, music box perfect ballerina I’ve had the pleasure of watching. Her breezy, carefree demeanour was endearing, but boy can she pout when she doesn’t get her own way! There were a couple of hair raising moments with entangled ribbons and pointe shoes, but Miki had the quick thinking skills to breeze through them too, picking the choreography back up almost seamlessly – sign of a true pro! Her highlight for me, was a balance in attitude en pointe, whilst holding a bunch of ribbons above her head, and being turned on the spot by the dancers at the opposite ends of the ribbons!44331934325_4c646a21f2_k

Lise’s mother, Widow Simone, keeps an eagle eye on her daughter to prevent her getting up to mischief. Played by the larger than life Rory Mackay. With his genius comedic timing and over the top facial expressions, he easily makes the widow one of the most well loved characters in the story. Despite sporting some major padding and numerous layers of peticoats, he managed to execute a perfectly timed clog dance, which even that wasn’t without some comedy highlights!44331936345_e5b8c6da72_k

Alain is the son of a prosperous vineyard owner, played by Kit Holder, and whom the Widow has chosen to marry her daughter off to. At first, the proposed nuptials between him and Lise, makes you resent him a little, however being teased by the villagers and having his hopes of finding a beautiful bride dashed, you certainly warm to him. The way Kit plays Alain is a cross somewhere between Worsel Gummage and Franck Spencer, and his ability to dance without an inch of style or technique despite his high calibre training and skill, is an art in itself, and he easily steals the funniest character crown!44331937085_afdabb5c5c_k

The star of the show however comes as somewhat as a surprise, one which I’m not going to spoil for you. You’ll have to watch the production for yourself to find out, just get ready for the ‘awwwww’ factor!

No story is complete without a hunky love interest, and Lachlan Monahan fits this role like a glove. He plays Calas, a young farmer in love with Lise. His busrts of energy and athletic jumps during the allegro defy gravity, his tour en l’air and pirouettes a la seconde are sturdy and precise! Not to forget the way he partners Miki with a nurturing quality and genuine affection.30303623857_0347facea1_k

La Fille Mal Gardeé is a ballet that has it all – intricate choreography, pas de deux, comedy, folk dance, a maypole and more comedy. Did I mention it has comedy in it?! There are so many tongue in cheek, slap stick moments, it’s reminiscent of a classic pantomime, complete with its own widow! In fact, it should be reclassified from a ballet, to ‘pa-llet’ or ‘ball-to’ maybe even ‘balle-tomime’ – you get the picture.30303624647_e226e69ae9_k

The uplifting music and joyful colours of the cotumes really cement La Fille as a ballet for all, young or old, first time watching a ballet or seasoned pro. Birmingham Royal Ballet have a programme called First Steps, specially tailored to better suit the needs of children, however La Fille is such a gleeful delight, I’d have no issues taking my 2 young daughters to see this version. It would serve as a perfect way to introduce children to a full length production.44331936005_f014b018f6_k

Birmingham Royal Ballet are currently performing La Fille Mal Gardeé at The Lowry Manchester until 27th October 2018, where they move on to Salder’s Wells Theatre 1st-3rd Nov and finally The Grand Opera House Belfast 7-9th Nov. Tickets and more information on dates and locations can be found here https://www.brb.org.uk/whats-on/event/la-fille-mal-gardee

La Fille Mal Gardeé is certainly not one to be missed, my cheeks are still aching from smiling the whole way through, and if laughter is good for the soul, then watching la Fille should be prescribed as therapy!

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English National Ballet’s MANON Review

English National Ballet’s MANON Review

Arriving at the beautiful Opera House in Manchester, you can’t help but notice that the Grade II listed building is perfect for hosting such an opulent and decadent production such as Manon, with it’s hunters green upholstery and gold brocade accents. It truely sets the scene for the ensuing scenes of early 18th century France.

Kenneth MacMillan’s production premiered in 1974 and uses scores by Jules Massenet, although not from his Opera, rather using his other well know works. Manon is based on the novel, Manon Lescaut, by Abbe Prevost. The novel was actually banned in France at the time due to its scandalous, controversial and explicit details! It did however prove to be incredibly popular, with pirate copies being widely distributed. I wonder what they would have thought to 50 Shades?!

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English National Ballet Manon – Laurent Liotardo

The curtain rises on ACT 1 to unveil a scene at The Courtyard at the Inn. We are immediately drawn to the differences in the classes. The present folk are disheveled and dirty, dressed in rags, with their hearty and robust allegro and vigorous, almost out of control pirouettes. They convey a light hearted, fun filled demeanour. This is in stark contrast to the gentry and aristocrats who also visit the Inn. Their costumes of rich, heavy embroidered velvets, corsets, frills and pleats, adds to their grandeur presence. Such restrictive clothing exaggerates their straight, nose in the air posture. Their choreography was bold and regal, proudly displaying like peacocks but always maintaining absolute control and pose. We are introduced to Lescaut  who is awaiting the arrival of his sister Manon, before her departure to a convent. Lescaut – played by Jefferey Ciriotis with his good friend Des Grieux – Joseph Caley , a penniless student. Manon’s arrival attracts the attention of everyone, including that of weathly Monsieur GM – James Streeter

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Jeffrey Cirio in Manon – Laurent Liotardo

Manon – Alina Cjocaru – and Des Grieux  have a chance meeting and it’s love at first sight. At first Manon is coy but relents to her feelings. The pas de deux has a beautiful quality to it. The choreography is light and fluid with seemingly gravity defying lifts, echoing those wonderful feelings of walking on air and butterflies experienced with a new relationship. They hatch a plan to run away to Paris together. Whilst Des Grieux goes to post a letter to his uncle, Lescaut arrives with Monsieur, who has promised Manon to him for a tidy sum. Initially Manon  resists Monsieur’s advances but she is easily swayed by gifts or fur coats and diamonds. The pas de trois between these 3 characters is wonderfully creative. Manon is passed between the 2 men, like a toy. She snakes her way around Monsieur with imaginative lifts. It is clear that Monsieur sees her as a trophy, something to be glorified and lusted over. he displays infatuation more than love and Manon enjoys the power she yeilds over him, using it to her advantage. Lescaut is compliant and convinces his sister to leave with Monsieur. She looks back one last time before being escorted away.

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Alina Cojocaru and Joseph Caley in Manon (c) Laurent Liotardo

ACT 2 opens on a a party held at a house of ill repute (where prostitutes can be found if you’re unaware of that term). The music is playful and energetic which mirrors the suggestive and coquettish nature of the ‘ladies’ dancing for the highest bidder. We see Manon, draped in more finery, and Monsieur. This scene includes surprising comedic antics, the audience actually laughing out loud at points. The skill and strength displayed by Jeffrey Cirio is astonishing! To be able to dance as if under the influence of alcohol, stumbling and swaying, whilst still maintaining enough control to be able to lift your partner above your head is highly commendable! Love striken Des Grieux arrives, distraught by the betrayal. Manon is dancing for Monsieur. She sees Des Grieux, but refuses to make eye contact with him, denying her true feelings, but love creeps in, and she begins to flirt and dance for Des Grieux when Monsieur isn’t looking. She’s tempted by more gifts of diamonds but ultimately choses love over money and runs to Des Grieux. A fight breaks out. Swords are brandished. The scene is beautifully lit, casting the shadows off the dual on the backdrop. The lovers flee and plan to leave for Paris. They argue over taking the diamond braclet Monsieur gave, but agree to leave it behind. Monsieur tracks them down and has Manon arrested and kills Lescaut in front of her.

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Joseph Caley and James Streeter in Manon (c) Laurent Liotardo

ACT 3 begins in the dockyard of New Orleans, where Manon and all the other prostitutes have been shipped to. Des Grieux has followed under the premise that he is her husband. The music has a naval theme which turns into the progressive like motion of the waves of the sea. The ladies are all clearly distressed and almost unable to stand. The Gaoler turns his attention to Manon. He thinks she can be bought and offers her diamonds, but she has changed her way and refuses. He forces himself upon her in what is a particularly distressing scene to watch. Des Grieux bursts in and kills the Gaoler. The couple flee into the swamps but the effects of the long journey, assault and heat prove too much for Manon. She has bursts of life, repeating similar steps to the previous pas de duex but shaky and unsteady, then suddenly becoming limp. Her life and recent events flash before her and she gives up. Des Grieux is inconsolable.

Alina Cojucaru plays Manon beautifully. The way she was able to portray feelings with a simple glance and gesture of a hand was exquisite. Her playful and light mood when dancing with Des Grieux resonates to the audience. The greed in her eyes when she is bestowed with gifts and her enjoyment at being objectified make you despise her. And in the last dance with Des Grieux, her weak, lifeless and limp body whilst she is moved around like a rag doll, makes it evident that this is her swan song, and you pity her. Alina is able to shine on stage without the presence of heavily embellished attire and diamonds.

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English National Ballet in Manon (c) Laurent Liotardo

Joseph Caley perfectly captures the essence of a young man in love, full of exuberance and vigour. The way he looks at Manon is reminiscent of a puppy dog. Her betrayal leave him completely distraught and his dancing becomes slightly on the border of uncontrollable, lashing out just as one would. When Manon dies in his arms, you can hear his cry without him making a sound, it comes from his soul.

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Joseph Caley in Manon (c) Laurent Liotardo

You can also read insights of performing with the English National Ballet with other lead principals Jurgita Dronina and Isaac Hernandez along with their take on Manon, just following this link ENB Q&A With Isaac Hernández and Jurgita Dronina

Kenneth MacMillan’s production of Manon is an emotional rollercoaster of love, greed and despair. Never have I ever watched a production that has left me so tense and brought tears to my eyes. Unlike the other tragic love stories like Swan Lake or Giselle, Manon is infinitely raw because it could be real. The story is one of life, the dilemmas  presented, the decisions made and the life altering consequences. I defy you to leave the theatre without it having a profound effect on you.

 

Manon is showing at the Opera House Manchester until Saturday 20th October before it moves onto Milton Keynes Theatre 24-27th October and finally at The Mayflower Southampton 31 oct – 3rd Nov. Tickets can be booked through AGT website here. AGT TICKETS

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