Friday, 17 June 2016
Tell Tale Steps 2
Standard YouTube Licence
Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre, Northern Ballet, Tell Tale Steps 2, 16 June 2016
I really must congratulate the panel and choreographers on last night's Tell Tale Steps 2. As you can see from the above recording, the discussion was focused and instructive and each of the choreographers' offerings was original and interesting. As readers can see what happened for themselves I shall not describe the content. Merely my thoughts on it.
The panel discussion was chaired well and all the panellists made a valuable contribution. Though there were no opportunities for asking questions the panel did discuss the one topic I wanted to raise, namely the reinterpretation of existing ballets (see To Boldly Go - Northern Ballet's Sleeping Beauty Tale 16 July 2016). Geraldine Morris who danced with the Royal Ballet between 1963 and 1971 said that ballets evolve constantly and that there wasn't much left of Petipa or even Ivanov by the time she performed Swan Lake. I found that surprising because we all have our favourite bits which in my case are the cygnets, Legnani's 32 fouettés and the divertissements and, in particular, the Neapolitan dance but I defer to her vastly superior knowledge of the subject. Also, having looked up the history of the ballet I find that these were post Petipa. Mary Brennan gave a good example of a ballet that had changed (albeit in a different context) when she spoke about Mats Ek's Giselle the second Act of which is set in a psychiatric hospital (see Giselle - Mats Ek on YouTube).
Something new that I learned about Giselle from Dr Morris is that William Thomas Moncrieff staged a melodrama at the Theatre Royal Sadler's Wells entitled Giselle or The Phantom Night Dancers based on Gauthier's story withing weeks of the ballet's premiere in Paris. A rare example of drama taking its lead from the dance instead of the other way round.
The panel discussion was good in another way. In all the years I have been following Northern Ballet I have hardly exchanged more than 2 sentences with David Nixon. Last night I heard more of substance from him than in all the previous years put together. He spoke about his art and inspiration and, in particular, about his performance of Siegfried where Nixon portrayed the prince as a young man which was something of an innovation. I couldn't help reflecting that that is exactly what David Dawson had done in his Swan Lake for Scottish Ballet which I saw two weeks ago (see Empire Blanche: Dawson's Swan Lake 4 June 2016). I haven't liked everything that Nixon has created. I am not a big fan of his Swan Lake or his Beauty and The Beast but I really warmed to the man last night. Mary Brennan said that she would take his Midsummer Night's Dream together with Mat's Ek's Giselle to her desert island (see Realizing Another Dream 15 Sept 2013). While I am not sure I would go that far. Nixon's Midsummer Night's Dream is certainly one of my favourite works.
I enjoyed all the choreographers' works. They were asked expressly not to offer complete works for the purpose of the lab which is understandable but I do hope that they don't leave their creations in limbo for each of them deserves to be staged. The most polished and most dramatic of the works was Charlotte Edmonds's which is hardly surprising as she is already a highly respected choreographer. There was drama too in Carlos Pons Guerra's Birds and some brilliant characterisation with the avian head movements. My favourite work was Morgann Runacre-Temple's "New Coat" with some brilliant miming.
Particularly pleasing was to see the work of two of Northern Ballet's most experienced dancers, Tobias Batley and Lucia Solari. This was the first time I had seen Batley's work and I hope it won't be the last. I especially liked his first solo based, I think, on Charles Trenet's Boum Boum but his Lady Godiva was good too. Solari showed considerable promise too with her ballet based on the life of Lili Elbe, the first trans-woman to undergo a form of gender reassignment surgery. From my perspective this subject matter was a little too close to the bone for as I said when I reviewed Gwyn Emberton's Five Women Wearing the Same Dress in MurleyDance Triple Bill 2 Dec 2013 which also dealt with transsexuality, gender identity disorder is certainly not a bundle of laughs. Also, the condition is nothing like the depiction in The Danish Girl. Having said that there was some excellent choreography in which I think I detected more than a hint of influence from Demis Volpi's Little Monsters.
I was really impressed by the dancers' enthusiasm for the project. Some of the company's most experienced members, such as Martha Leebolt, Hironao Takahashi and Giuloano Cortadini, played leading roles in the various pieces and contributed greatly to their success. Last night was an altogether higher plane to last year's effort. Well done all round!