2018 marks the bicentenary of the birth of Marius Petipa, ballet’s greatest choreographer. Ever since the 19th-century, choreographers have been inspired by his work: his formal patterns, corps de ballet and pas de deux. For classical ballets that have been performed hundreds of times, the stakes are high for new, quality-made productions. Today’s choreographers have to think of innovative ways to retain Petipa’s classical techniques whilst, somehow, reinvent them. On the other hand, conductors and orchestras have to perform Tchaikovsky’s intricate score dramatically and poignantly, just as the composer would have wanted. For the English National Ballet’s (ENB) 2018 opening of Kenneth MacMillan’s The Sleeping Beauty, many of its lead performers managed to sweep the audience off their feet. (Indeed, I was one of them.)
Do you like contemporary dance? How about an adaptation of a classic ballet revamped to the 21st century with a brand new score and an entirely different dance choreography? Would that be of interest to you? Then say no more. Akram Kham has provided the solution with his collaborative work with the English National Ballet’s (ENB) artistic director Tamara Rojo.
With the upcoming production of Constella OperaBallet‘s award-winning production Sideshows – which is showing at Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells – I managed to get a few words from the composer and conductor behind the work.
Where did the inspiration behind Sideshows come from?
One of my favourite books is Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, and this is probably the same for you and millions of other readers. Written as a children’s novel, its wit, imaginative creations and bizarre ideas has struck our mind like a thunderbolt and never left. The story of Alice has been transformed on stage, film and, as of 2011, The Royal Ballet introduced their own ballet with choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, music composer Joby Talbot and designer Bob Crowley.
Last Monday was the international cinema screening of the three-act ballet and by the end of it, I was beating myself over how long I had left it to see this wonderful show. It’s hard to pinpoint a favourite scene as there are so many. From the music, dance sequences to set designs, there are many things going on and clearly a large effort from all involved at the Covent Garden’s Royal Ballet company.
[Video by Gary Tanner]
In Shobana Jeyasingh’s Bayadère – The Ninth Life there’s always something new to see with every show. Constantly reinventing her work, she follows what is trending at the time. Back in 2015, she translated her own gaze of Marius Petipa’s 1877 ballet La Bayadère with a young man tapping away on his blog about the story of an Indian female temple dancer trapped in a love triangle between her true love Solor and her rival Gamzatti. Now – 2017 – from Manchester’s Lowry to last night’s premiere performance at the Sadler’s Wells, the opening scene has moved on with a young man texting his London based friend from a hotel room in Hyderabad – he updates him on the ballet his girlfriend made him see, which so happened to be La Bayadère.
Bharatanatyam dancer and contemporary choreographer Jeyasingh has conceived an original and thought-provoking vision of Petipa’s classic ballet, which was once performed regularly in the Soviet Union throughout the 20th century. The performance itself is a fusion of new elements of dancing that I have never seen before; a harmonious balance of traditional ballet, modern contemporary moves and a fascinating Asian dance style called Bharatanatyam.
The clever work of a technical and creative team, including video design and production manager Sander Loonen, lighting designer Fabiana Piccioli and set and costume designer Tom Piper, manage to project text conversations and almost hologramesque dancers onto the stage walls. The luminous staging of carefully coordinated lights (hues of dusk red, ice blue and snake-like green), the integration of intriguing jewel light installations and golden mobile frames are another breakthrough – it keeps the notion of the Bayadère new, fresh and unpredictable.
Love. We have all felt it; sweetened by its euphoria and embittered when it truly hurts us. This powerful emotion is carefully dissected by Candoco performers Joel Brown and Laura Patay in an inspiring 15-minute choreography in collaboration with award-winning director and choreographer Arlene Philips.
She describes love and the performance You and I Know as ‘an emotion we can all identify with and in this duet we will be inviting the audience to explore its complexities and how our daily routines can shape our relationships.’
Forget everything you know about acrobatics for a moment and picture this: a male performer and a female performer, dressed in casual t-shirts and jeans, carrying each other and balancing their weight on the other person’s stomach, hands and head. There are no strings attached to support them and none of the formal bows or gestures you would expect to see at a circus show.
Akademi tantalised Hounslow’s local community last Saturday with their multifaceted exploration of Dante’s Paradiso: Man’s Enduring Search for Perfection at Bell Square London, a free festival packed with dance and physical theatre performances. Paradiso is a poignant and highly moving piece of choreography. Following the inspirational conceptualisation of Akademi’s director Mira Kaushik OBE and choreographer Jose Agudo, Akademi instills Dante’s final stage of his narrative poem, written in1308-1321, The Divine Comedy, through a wide-range of contemporary and traditional Indian dance styles.
Summer warmth and longer days have finally arrived in London. This is the time to set up your calendar for an eventful summer filled with outdoor events. If you live in the Hounslow area, known for its all-week diverse and multicultural market stalls, why not take a seat at Bell Square (Hounslow High Street) for FREE to see amazing dance, theatre, acrobatic and circus-inspired performances?
Bell Square London launched in 2014 in the heart of Hounslow to bring performance art to the local community. Residents of Hounslow have returned each year to see exciting, international world-class acts which have toured at prime theatre venues. All first-timers to Bell Square London are welcome, and there is no age restriction. Whether you are a two-year-old or a ninety-year-old, there’s something for all audiences to enjoy!
Woolf Works, a brand new production conceived out of the works of 20thcentury novelist Virginia Woolf, received an outstanding roar of applause and standing ovations at its premier last night. The Royal Ballet’s own resident contemporary choreographer, Wayne McGregor was inspired to fulfil Woolf’s dream of combining her stylistic prose which defied the writing rules of her era with the transformative and emotional powers of dance. McGregor worked tirelessly with Uzma Hameed as the production’s dramaturg to unravel ‘the luminosity, sonorousness and poignancy of [Woolf’s] world.’
With an array of the best principal dancers from the Royal Ballet including Natalia Osipova, Federico Bonelli, Edward Watson and former ballet principal Alessandra Ferri (now aged 52, can you believe?), Woolf Works brings together the flair and multiple perspectives of the author’s non-linear writing through three of her best loved novels – Mrs Dalloway, Orlando and The Waves.
Impressed by the 22 year old Francesca Hayward‘s impish bird dance at the Royal Ballet’s earlier production of Sleeping Beauty, I was naturally curious to see her perform again but as a lead in a tragic tale. This season of the Royal Ballet introduced the loving and disturbing tale of Manon, a ingénue whose struggle for love and material greed lead to her inevitable demise.
Its music is written by Jules Massenet, which recounts the sensualness and naivety of Manon’s flawed character, which has been produced into various historical operas and plays from the original 1731 novel by Abbé Prévost. Created by Kenneth MacMillan in 1974, the English ballet was a delight to watch in its efforts to portray a never-ending spiral bridging two lovers, Manon and Des Grieux, that are tangled in forces beyond their control; finance, feelings and, life and death situations. Yet I have to admit, that I have seen fancier and riskier ballets that show more flair and technique, than this one. There was unmistakably a lot of talent, much leaping, lifts and beautiful movement that ingratiated the stage, as designed by Nicholas Georgiadis, and without putting down the strength and physical prowess of its dancers, I felt, the ballet’s choreography, as a whole, was a level below from the, more, grander and, more, popular ballets.
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