Artistic Director: Christopher Marney
Choreographers: Christopher Marney, Marius Petipa, Matthew Bourne, Liam Scarlett, Jenna Lee, Malgorzata Dzierzon, Christopher Bruce, Michael Pink, Christopher GableReviewer: Michael Gray
Ballet Central’s annual tours offer lovers of dance a unique opportunity to see the performers of the future, their training ended, ready to enter the world of professional work. The touring schedule, constantly expanding, brings high-quality ballet to venues where dance is rarely seen. This year sees its first visit to the Mercury.
Christopher Marney, late of Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, is their new Artistic Director, following in the dance steps of his mentor Christopher Gable. For his inaugural tour he’s put together a stunningly varied programme: a two-hour showcase for the emerging talent of the Central School of Ballet.
Thirty young dancers, seven presentations, book-ended by two fresh looks at familiar repertoire. The last, and the longest, was Matthew Bourne’s Highland Fling, first seen in 1994. It’s a typically tongue-in-cheek take on La Sylphide, keeping the gist of the original story, and the Scottish setting, but giving it a make-over for the Trainspotting generation – the props include an old armchair and some dustbins down-stage left. The love-sick Sylphs sport little angel wings, James a kilt. Bourne’s wicked imagination ensures plenty of fun in the glade, with young James eager to join the corps, until suddenly the mood changes as his beloved’s wings are clipped with shears taken from the bin. Beautifully danced, and imaginatively staged, with athletic work from Adam Davies, and a moving performance from Rowan Parker as the Lead Sylph.
Jenna Lee’s Romeo and Juliet – the Ballroom scene – uses Prokofiev’s score in an original, eloquent narrative. Amy McEntee’s Juliet – looking as young as Shakespeare intended – is shy and apprehensive with Paris (an excellent Matthew Morell) and has some lovely moments with her two friends. Alvaro Olmedo and Yusuke Kuroda do some spectacular showing-off as Mercutio and Benvolio. There is romance, of course, but frustration too, with the dancers forming barriers between Juliet and her Romeo (Ruaridh Bisset). And finally, a fleeting expression of innocent joy before the tragedy we know is to come.
A stylish glimpse of La Bayadere, with scarves, an impressive pas de deux from Adam Davies and Moeno Oba, and a traditional tableau to finish.
In more contemporary work, we see fluent avian grace, with beautiful body shapes, in Liam Scarlett’s Indigo Children, edgy urban graffiti in Sleepless, choreographed by Malgorzata Dzierzon with music by Philip Feeney, played live, and Christopher Bruce’s enigmatic Mya, a boldly innovative piece danced to Arvo Part – three cocooned figures moving in playfully witty, wistful shapes and patterns.
And a memorable look at the Castle Dracula scene from the ballet created in 1996 by Michael Pink and Christopher Gable, with an original pastiche score by Philip Feeney. Haunted by succubi, Cameron Lee-Allen’s tortured Harker has a steamy, erotically charged duet with Matthew Morrell’s magnetic, hypnotic Count.
Reviewed on 14 June 2017, then touring until 15 July 2017 | Image: Bill Cooper