Inala, Alhambra, Bradford, 26 June 2015
On 29 Sept 2013 dancers from most of the major companies of the United Kingdom performed in a gala at Sadler's Wells for Yorkshire Ballet Summer School (see More Things I do for my Art - Autumn Gala of Dance and Song 30 Sept 2013). Rambert's contribution was Inala danced by Dane Hurst to the music of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. On that occasion Hurst performed to a recording of the ensemble's music. I remember that it was one of the highlifghts of the show. Less than a year later Hurst and other dancers from his company and elsewhere together with Ladysmith Black Mambazo itself and accompanying musicians appeared at the Edinburgh Festival in a full length performance of song and dance also called Inala.
The full length work was received very well. The artists were invited to the Royal Variety Performance on 13 Nov 2014. They also performed to full houses at Sadler's Wells and other venues in the UK (see About the Show on the Inala website), Earlier this month they performed in Moscow and they are now on the second leg of another UK tour which started in Oxford on 23 June 2015 (see "Tickets and Tour"). Last night I was them at the Bradford Alhambra. I hope to catch them again at Sadler's Wells on the 10 July 2015.
They certainly seem to be very popular. On Tuesday I caught a feature on Inala: Combining music from Ladysmith Black Mambazo and contemporary dance on Radio 4's Front Row in which Albert Mazibuko said that the company received standing ovations "most of the time." In the same interview Pietra Mello-Pitman, the show's executive producer who had danced in the Royal Ballet said that was something she had never received in The Sleeping Beauty no matter how beautiful.
So, what is this show like? You can get some idea from the YouTube trailer and a little more insight from Introducing INALA - A Zulu Ballet. Singers, musicians and dancers share the same stage. There is a very simple backdrop of a wide sky against a parched landscape with three clouds that reminded me of aircraft vapour trails. The costumes are also simple. The singers appear in long shirts or tunics with geometric dancers. The male dancers are in black. The women are in black tops with different coloured skirts. There were changes of head dress. There were feathers in the head gear that seemed to indicate different types of fowl. The backdrop changes were generated by the lighting and I have to single out Ben Cracknell for praise for some impressive lighting design.
I can't tell you much about the story because there were no programmes and hence no cast sheets. In an effort to find out why and how I could get one I introduced myself as a blogger to a chap with a North American accent who was selling DVDs in a concession booth. He told me that the programmes had been sent to Oxford. "Well Oxford, Bradford, what's the difference?" remarked my companion ironically, "They are both 'fords'." So far as I could see the show charted a day in rural South Africa with a trip to the city for there was a scene with car horns and searchlights. It ended with a sort of lullaby as the lights dimmed with the singers waving to the audience followed by a final few minutes when each of the dancers did a turn.
I have the same problem in telling you who took part in last night's show though I think I recognized Dane Hurst and some other dancers from Rambert. The best I can do in that regard is to refer you to the "Cast and Creatives" page of the show's website. I hope that the company recover their programmes from Oxford by the time I see the show again in London. I have to say that had I not seen the Yorkshire Ballet Summer School gala or heard Front Row I would have been able to say very little about this show.
The show is advertised as a "Zulu ballet" and there are indeed some balletic jumps and pas de deux but there seemed to me to be rather more contemporary dance than ballet. There was, for example, no pointe work. That is of course what I would have expected from a show that was choreographed by Mark Baldwin, Rambert's artistic director. Some of the biggest "oohs" and "ahs" from the audience were for jumps and lifts which you see in almost any ballet. They were well executed but not exactly out of the ordinary.
As had happened the previous night in Sheffield for The Car Man (see Motoring 25 June 2015) there was a standing ovation and a lot of whooping and cheering with which I did not join in. I thought it was good but not all that good. The idea of combining singing and dancing is not new. Bintley's Carmina Burana last Saturday - which I have still to review - was miles better in that regard (see In Praise of Bintley 21 June 2015). Neither is putting the musicians on stage. MacMillan did it more elegantly with Elite Syncopations. I think that this was the first time many members of the audience had seen grands jetés and tours en l'air and ballet could generate that sort of enthusiasm with the public if it were better marketed.
The element of the show that I most enjoyed was the singing which was magnificent. I recommend the show for that alone. There were also touches of humour. There was a sequence when the dancers attempted a jump. One pretended to clutch his thigh in agony. Another just gesticulated his refusal to try something so unwise. It was good entertainment and I shall report on the show again after I see it in London next month.