Anastasia

Anastasia should be a one act ballet.  It started its life as a one act ballet but MacMillan added two additional acts as a prologue. He originally created Anastasia for the German Deutsche Oper Berlin in the late 1960s focusing on Anna Anderson who claimed to be daughter of the last Tsar of Russia.  When transferring the ballet to London for the Royal Ballet in the 1970s the extra two acts were added.  They are so different that it feels like you walked into a different theatre for third act.

Anastasia is on at the Royal Opera House until 12 November. Tickets available online.

Read reviews of Anastasia: Guardian, Spectator

Sarah Southern

Frankenstein

Liam Scarlett’s Frankenstein opened last night at the Royal Opera House.  A must see for all.  5 stars.

Tickets available now via Royal Opera House.

Sarah Southern

The Winter’s Tale

Have you booked tickets yet for The Winter’s Tale at the Royal Opera House?  Well, you should.  Choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon and music by Jody Talbot with Lauren Cuthbertson in the principal role and first came to stage in 2014.  It is a real delight and should not be missed – I will be seeing it at least twice in the coming month.

2016 marks the 400th celebration of Shakespeare with multiple cultural organisations marking the occasion and the Royal Opera House’s production of The Winter’s Tale is part of this celebration.

Reviews from 2014: GuardianTelegraphIndependent

Tickets can be bought from here. Remember that Royal Opera House also has about 50 days seats available on the day.

Sarah Southern 

 

Edinburgh Festival: 2Faced Dance Company

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2Faced Dance Company: Dreaming in Code

My original plan for coming to the Festival was to see as much dance as possible.  Somehow the lure of laughing detracted me and this is the first dance show I have seen here.  And what a delight it was. I cannot recommend this show enough.

2Faced Dance Company is a young dance company – still a teenager at 16 years old.  The aim of the company is to nurture young talent and it certainly seems to be succeeding.  The five males dancers in Dreaming in Code all are recently graduated from dance school or other dance training.  It is good to see talent coming from a variety of avenues.  It adds to the richness of what we then see on stage.

The performance was two separate pieces with a projection of a filmed dance piece in-between.  For the first first performance the stage opened with three tents in the dark.  The only lighting initially was from lamps held by the dancers.  It added an eerie feel to the stage as with the smoke you couldn’t quite see all the action.  I’m still not sure what these 5 young men who were camping were up to.  It felt like a coming of ages cult at times but then at others like a group of mates at Glastonbury having way too much fun.  Either what way, it did not matter.  The movement, skill and strength of the dancers was mesmerising.

For the second performance the back of the stage has five floor to ceiling silver foil drops.  They shimmered in the light and acted as slightly odd mirror at times.  The dancers were dressed in long coats that fluttered as they spun.  It seemed to be a mix of something from the Matrix and a shoalin monk.  Whatever the aim, it worked as the fabric moved with the dancers and added to the overall movement and flow of the piece.

There was an incredibly warm response from the audience with some of their feet.  This is a show that is of a high calibre of dance and incredibly enjoyable.  Get yourself tickets as it is not one you want to miss.

2Faced Dance Company’s Dreaming in Code is on at 16:00 until 30 August at Zoo Southside.  TIckets are £14.

Sarah Southern

Draft Works

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The Royal Ballet annually produce Draft Works.  It is the first showing of short pieces of choreography by both members of the Royal Ballet and choreographers.  I went in 2013 and thought it was a really great evening of dance so was delighted to be able to see it again this year.

In the Linbury Studio the dances are done without costumes and fancy lighting.  It is all quite raw.  Prior to each piece the choreographer explains the thinking behind their piece and where their inspiration came from.  They are very open and honest even admitting that it perhaps hasn’t quite worked as they had anticipated.  But that is the point of Draft Works.  It is to show work in its early stages.

Real highlights included seeing the work of Sander Blommaert, Aakash Odedra, Kenta Kura, Valentino Zucchetti and Ludovic Ondiviela.  I was especially looking forward to the piece by Kristen McNally.  In 2013 her work was extremely humorous and something my friend and I talked about for a long time afterwards.  She has a warmth to her that comes across in her work and is certainly a favourite of the audience.

If you’re wanting to introduce someone to ballet this is a great starting point.  Each piece is short, perhaps 5 to 10 minutes in length, and are all so different.  The evening is certainly more digestible for a novice than a 3 hour classic on the main stage.

Draft Works will be returning to the Royal Opera House in February.

Sarah Southern

Don Quixote

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Don Quixote opened at the Royal Opera House on Monday evening with a gala performance.  Principal Carlos Acosta produced and choreographed this superb ballet.

Don Quixote follows the tale of an old gentleman who is deluded with the idea he is the successor to the medieval knights.  He also has a vision of a beautiful lady, Dulcinea, who he must find.  Don Quixote has a funny little man servant, Sancho Panza.  Together they set off on a quest to fulfil Don Quixote’s dreams.

Meanwhile, a courtship is beginning to take place between two bright young things: Kitri and Basilio.  Alas, Kitri’s father would prefer her to marry Gamache, a very camp nobleman.  Don Quixote too is quite stuck with Kitiri believing her to to be his Dulcinea.  As with all young lover they flee to get married.  Don Quixote and Gamache follow in pursuit.

As the young lovers arrive at a gypsy camp Don Quixote catches up with them.  As they sit round the campfire and are entertained by their hosts Don Quixote hallucinates that the windmill is a monster and is after him.  As he sleeps he enters a magical world – the garden of the Dryads – where his beloved Dulcinea is.

The final acts sees the young lovers back in the town square preparing for their wedding.  Kitri’s father is still none too keen.  Basilio pretends to kill himself which leads to the match being blessed.  It’s good to end on a happy note.

This is a very colourful ballet.  The costumes, lighting and set all jump out from the stage.  The feathers in Gamache’s hat could not have been a better blue for this rather camp chap about town.  He sparkled in his gold pantaloons.  I just loved him.  The gold and the red of the matadors outfits was a pleasure to see.  The costume design really was a highlight.

As was the set.  The windmill in the beautifully lit sunset of the gypsy camp made you want to go there.  It looked so warm and comforting.  But the prop that caused a murmur from the audience as it trotted onto stage – definitely an approving (and impressed) murmur – was the mechanical horse that Don Quixote rode into town on.  Although mounted on wheels its legs still moved so realistically.

This is a really enjoyable ballet that I would urge you to go and see.  Although the newspaper critics have not rated it highly it is a stunning production that should be seen and enjoyed.  It is on at the Royal Opera House until 6 November.  Tickets can be bought online or day tickets are available from the box office on the day from 10am.

Reviews online: Guardian, Telegraph

Sarah Southern

Cedar Lake Ballet

The New York based Cedar Lake contemporary ballet are touring the UK and did two fantastic shows at Sadler’s Wells showcasing a triple bill.

If you are able to see them in Cardiff, Edinburgh or Bradford you will be in for a treat.

Reviews of Cedar Lake: GuardianTelegraph

Sarah Southern

West Side Story

West Side Story

It is 55 years since West Side Story was first performed.  This pretty much makes it a vintage musical.  Inspired by Romeo and Juliet is follows the rival gangs of the Sharks and the Jets in New York.  The Sharks are Puerto Rican whilst the Jets are Polish-American.  They’re not too keen on each other.

Like the Montague and Capulet rivalry there is a love interest in the mix.  Tony (a Jet) loves Maria (a Shark).  The rest of the clan seems none to pleased about this.  A fight is going to happen.  Tony promises he will stop it.  He goes.  Gets involved and ends up killing Maria’s brother.  Revenge is then on the cards.  You can imagine how it all ends.

As I watched West Side Story all I could think of was doing rehearsals for the battle between the Jets and the Sharks at school and trying to rack my brains as to why we never performed it publicly.  Then I began to question what kind of drama teacher would make their pupils rehearse for so long and to never allow us to show off our wares in public.  This then me sad that I was so bored I was worrying about my drama teacher from junior school.

Sadly this performance of West Side Story did not grab my attention at all.  I loved the dancing.  I think if all gang fights could be done in such a beautifully choreographed way the world really would be a better place.  I loved the set.  The stark metal stairs of a New York apartment block really worked well.  I just didn’t enjoy all the singing.  At half time my friend admitted to me she just doesn’t like musicals all that much.  I am inclined to agree with her a little.  But I don’t think of the rest of the audience at Sadler’s Wells would.  The show was sold out and has been so since it opened.  So although my friend and I would prefer a bit more dancing it is safe to say West Side Story will be selling out for the rest of its run.

To book tickets online visit Sadler’s Wells.

Read reviews of West Side Story: Telegraph, Evening Standard

Sarah Southern

Bolshoi in London

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For the summer season the Bolshoi were resident at the Royal Opera House.  The Bolshoi performed 5 ballets: Swan Lake, La Bayadere, The Sleeping Beauty, Jewels and The Flames of Paris.  It has drawn the crowds in.  For every performance there has been substantial queues for returns as all performances sold out.

Sadly the Bolshoi has been making the news and not just for its wonderful dancing.  The acid attack on artistic director Sergei Filin back in January was shocking.  As he recovers from his hideous he did make it out to London and attended a performance of Jewels.  As he was brought onto stage he received a rapturous applause from the audience.

The arts are often seen as a sophisticated arena but this attack shines the light that no matter what your industry the same disputes will exist.  The motivation of the attack on Filin is thought to be due to “a cesspool of intolerable cruelty” along with rivalry between dancers and the people who manage them.

The Bolshoi is impressive to watch.  They do put on a performance that draws you in.  But the main downfall is the obsessive bowing.  During Swan Lake it really took away from the flow of the performance with the constant pause for appraisal.  Sleeping Beauty was probably the strongest out of the four ballets I saw.  It had excessive bowing but not to the point of rolling my eyes.  And it had the story which flowed and really drew you in.  I am looking forward to seeing the interpretation of Sleeping Beauty by the Royal Ballet in the coming year.

Along with the Bolshoi there have been many great visiting companies to London this summer.  The Coliseum has played host to the Boston Ballet, the Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet, Fredrick Rydman and the Shanghai Ballet.  To have so much high quality ballet on offer has been a real treat for lovers of dance.  It is also a real treat to those of us who are new to their love of ballet.  I have been able to see so much to extend my knowledge of ballet and to experience the differing styles of various companies.

Now looking forward to a some great performance from the Royal Ballet and English National Ballet in the coming months.

Sarah Southern