BalletDanceNorth East & YorkshireReview

Ballet Central 2016 Tour – Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre, Leeds

Director: Sara Matthews

Choreography: Christopher Gable CBE, Leanne King, Sharon Watson, Sara Matthews, Marius Petipa, Christopher Marney

Reviewer: Beverley Haigh

Ballet Central’s tour for final year students at the Central School of Ballet provides a showcase for the trainee dancers’ talents, offering the experience of working in theatres with full-scale costumes and lighting in a professional capacity. As the only classical vocational school to offer such an opportunity, the tour is an insight into the next generation of dance.

The programme combines traditional ballet with contemporary dance to allow the aspiring performers to demonstrate strengths within a range of styles, opening with Celebration, choreographed by company founder Christopher Gable. The piece is a nod towards very conventional ballet: plenty of pas de deux and an abundance of pointe work that would satisfy even the most hardened traditionalist. It is delicately performed, allowing the dancers to work together in various ensembles before moving onto more exciting and challenging works.

In contrast, Insinuare (‘to wind, to bend, to curve’) is much darker and edgier. Originally created as a group piece by Leanne King and Sara Matthews it is seen here as a duet and is possibly the strongest performance of the evening. It allows both dancers (Elizabeth Meadway and Joseph Vaughan) to shine and demonstrate strong contemporary skill and expressive emotion.

Sharon Watson’s influence in Repetition (2) Change is unmistakable. As artistic director for Phoenix Dance, in her capacity as Artistic Advisor for Ballet Central, Watson has choreographed this short piece to explore the intricate world of DNA. Unravelling the complexities of our genetic code through fast-paced and evocative, yet at times, sensual dance, the piece draws inevitable comparisons with the work of Phoenix Dance. Their inimitable style shines through and the dancers execute it perfectly, also using costume to great effect, where it becomes part of the dance itself; an extension of the dancers’ bodies. Alongside upturned feet and performed to the soundtrack of a live pianist, there is a tangible urgency to the piece that is captivating to watch.

Superstruct and Pas de Trois from Paquita return the programme back to ballet roots. Superstruct is a quick burst of high-energy modern ballet performed en pointe but very much updated in style. In complete contrast, the Pas de Trois is definitively traditional and sees Kanami Sano in her element. The young dancer demonstrates incredible skill and ability as she holds elevations and relevés for incredible lengths of time.

Finally, War Letters is the only narrative led piece within the programme and is a very befitting way to conclude. Opening with voice-over narrating a wartime letter it draws the audience into a bygone era that is enhanced by authentic costumes and played out beautifully by the dancers. Heart-warming and at times funny as constantly rebuffed Mia Labuschagne is unable to find a soldier to dance with before eventually sealing a kiss; War Letters is a very well-conceived idea from choreographer Christopher Marney. The talents of all the dancers shine through, well and truly securing their places as the future of dance.

Touring nationwide | Image: Bill Cooper

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