Artistic Director: William Glassman
Choreography: Christopher Hampson, Christopher Gable, Christopher Bruce, Kit Holder, Alexander Gorsky, Sharon Watson, Christopher Marney
Reviewer: Peter Jacobs
The 2015 tour celebrates 30 ‘sparkling’ years of Ballet Central, the touring company of Central School of Ballet.
This is a packed and diverse programme of new, classic and revived work, displaying their range of ballet, contemporary and theatre dance. Opener Four, choreographed by Scottish Ballet’s Christopher Hampson, set to music by Graham Fitkin, is bright and lively, with a decent opening solo by Ryan Brown, but is the kind of work that, slavishly responsive to the music, expresses little but classical technique.
This is followed by the Blue Ball Pas de Deux from the Christopher Gable version of Cinderella, scored by Philip Feeney. Brianna Hicke is prettily long-limbed and elegant but not helped by Andrei Teodor Iliescu’s slightly uncertain partnering. Her deep blue dress sparkles tastefully but conceals rather than reveals her leglines. Feeney’s music played live on piano is pretty, but isolated from the narrative of the ballet the duet is drained of its drama.
The next piece is a new Christopher Bruce work Morning and Moonlight, set to two movements from Benjamin Britten’s Four Sea Interludes. Evocatively dressed by Bruce, this is an atmospheric, peopled seascape with a homespun narrative of life lived from the sea: men hauling ropes and women with long, fluttering skirts evoke ordinary hard-working lives and long-legged shore birds. Bruce’s choreography is richly textured and expressive and the dancers make a real emotional connection with the material. The final duet is movingly powerful. Morning and Moonlight reveals more interesting and promising depth than the previous two show pieces.
After an interval, Hopper by Kit Holder. This offers to bring to life scenes from Edward Hopper paintings, which is a fine idea. The costumes – drawn straight from Hopper canvases – are authentic. This is in the style of American jazz ballet but somehow the ugly lighting and piano-heavy music fail to evoke much atmosphere and the Hopper character (Ryan Brown) used as a linking device doesn’t really gel. Megan Pay is striking in the Conference at Night scene and the Summer Evening 1947 sequence (Diana Patience and Guglielmo Garavini) is pleasing.
Next, more classical ballet: Excerpt from La Fille Mal Gardée. Sayaka Ishibashi is well cast, with strong technique and appealingly sweetness. Yoshimasa Ikezawa manfully steps up to the challenging choreography. This section of the programme ends with a revival of Sharon Watson’s Code. Attractively costumed by Richard Gellar, with effective lighting by Ed Railton and edgier music by Philip Feeney, Code is interestingly choreographed and well-performed with good energy and strong contemporary technique. More of this, please.
Finally, after a second interval, a revival of Scenes from a Wedding by Matthew Bourne- and Central-alumnus Christopher Marney, again set to music by Philip Feeney. Andrei Teodor Iliescu looks a lot more comfortable here as the Groom. Megan Pay is delightfully effective as the Bride and Diana Patience is charismatic as the Uncertain Bride. This tale of modern love and marriage is very much of the Matthew Bourne school, where everything is dance-acted to within an inch of its life and dance is rarely allowed to carry any of the narrative, but it is fast-paced, bright, modern, fun and ultimately quite seductive in its eagerness to please.
Ballet Central have again presented an evening designed to showcase the breadth and talent of their students and teaching. Such riches are not necessarily a good thing. This is a show of seven smallish dishes that don’t quite make a satisfying meal. Morning and Moonlight is the highlight, with Code and Scenes from a Wedding providing strong support.
It could be argued that a programme focusing on fewer, more substantial, works would give a better audience experience and provide a more realistic experience of a career in dance for these young dancers.
Reviewed on 29th June 2015 | Photo: Bill Cooper