|Work inspired by Giselle - Simon Garner|
I have said before that English National Ballet has a special affinity with Manchester (Manchester's Favourite Ballet Company 29 Nov 2015). The company danced its first show there and it has chosen Manchester to launch Akram Khan's Giselle). I got an opportunity to mention those thoughts to Dame Beryl Gray at the 70th anniversary celebration at the London Ballet Circle and she confirmed that they were not without justification. Quite apart from the link between the company and our city Dame Beryl expressed a personal affection for Manchester which I as a Mancunian fully reciprocate.
A practical example of the link between English National Ballet and Manchester is the brief that the company gave to a group of students of Manchester School of Art to create works of art on themes related to the ballet such as "underworld" and "dislocation". The students displayed their work at a special exhibition at London Scottish House in Manchester last weekend. One of those students is Simon Garner, a member of my adult ballet class at KNT, so I trundled down to Mount Street to take a look.
Simon had chosen "Underworld" for his theme and he had produced a mixed media work based on sound and light that conjured up the eerie world of the wilis. Visitors to this world had to enter an enclosure where they experienced quite unearthly sounds and images produced by the rustling of fabrics, the lighting and projections. There was briefly one recognizably human form which turned out to be Simon but all the other images were disembodied and ethereal.
Simon knows Giselle and the source of his inspiration was obvious. The same could not be said for most of the artists. Many of their works were interesting and some were good but the connection with story was tenuous in the extreme. One showed a lot of blood and gore which had far more in common with Liam Scarlett's Frankenstein than Giselle. I found one student who had seen a YouTube clip and another who vaguely knew the story but that was about it. Having said that, Simon told me that the students had been encouraged to think outside the box which in my humble opinion is fine just so long as the existence of the box is acknowledged.
The exhibition covered several floors of an extensive office block which had once been the head office of one of the leading law firms in Manchester. Giselle was just one of many themes and the exhibition as a whole was impressive. I particularly liked the "museum of girlhood" on the fourth floor. The Unit X website gives some idea of the range and quality of the exhibited work and this is just one discipline of one of the finest art schools in the country.