Reviewer: Rich Jevons
This scintillating showcase begins with Christopher Hampson’s ‘Four’, a neoclassical ballet piece with the dancers in purple and black leotards syncopated to a ragtime jazz soundtrack. The piece is executed with great poise and grace and sets a high bar for the rest of the evening.
The live pianist performs a lush ‘Moonlight Sonata’ for the romantic duet by Bradley Shelver which exhibits contrary emotions of attraction and repulsion. At one point the male dancer lets out a piercing scream of desperate exasperation, but despite their transient separation the couple end up passionately united.
The very capable Christopher Gable’s take on the ‘Blue Ball’ pas de deux from Cinderella is an extremely formal affair with Richard Gellar’s sumptuous costumes seeing the pair in fine dresswear. It highlights the two dancers’ technical adeptness with a gentle subtlety.
Phoenix Dance’s Sharon Watson has her Code successfully revived, set to harsh electronica by Philip Feeney and Gellar’s khaki costumes hint at a war theme. The dance is quite animalistic with its flat foot approach and some of the movements are taken from the martial arts that come in patterns around the entire stage. It has an earthy wildness and makes great use of a line to create an illusionistic depth.
Kit Holder’s Hopper is named after the legendary American painter and Gellar’s costumes conjure up his era with some visually rich designs. Ryan Brown as the lean and lanky protagonist moves with real poise and perfect pace. It appears that Hopper has a rather intimate relationship with one of his sitters (not exactly a rarity) and there is a powerful scene with three tables when snippets of rapid action alternate with stillness. A really effective trick for the finale sees us looking through the frame of the artist’s easel at a group frieze.
The excerpt from La Fille Mal Gardée is another fine showcase with both dancers displaying playful agility and making full use of the space in a celebratory mood. The eagerly awaited ‘Morning and Moonlight’ by Christopher Bruce forms a seascape’s ebbs and flows set to Britten’s Peter Grimes. Gellar’s stunning costumes for the female dancers have butterfly wings and flight is implicated throughout. It includes what appears to be a mother in mourning for her son washed up on the beach, capturing the distress perfectly through Bruce’s masterful direction.
As if to save the best till last we are treated to Christopher Marney’s witty and comical Scenes from a Wedding. We see everything you can imagine associated with holy matrimony, replete with raucous hen and stag nights, flirtation, vanity and last-minute nerves.
There is some fabulous use of male dancers to invisibly provide support to their partners to give the illusion of floating impossibly around the stage. Gellar’s wedding dress is simply sublime and its trail takes part in the narrative by casting a veil around two lovers. It is a cheeky irreverent look at its subject and the brides (Megan Pay and Diana Patience) are particularly noteworthy.
A mixed programme like this is a really crucial event as it allows those new to ballet a taste of its many forms and possibilities and for the creatives a chance to try out new ideas. A wonderful evening with a great variety of approaches all met with exuberant energy by the Ballet Central performers to carry the audience along with them all the way.
Reviewed on: 2nd May
Photo Credit: Bill Cooper