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Scottish Ballet

Balanchine, Darrell, and Page Kick Off Edinburgh Season

‘The Four Temperaments,’ ‘Soft Underbelly,’ ‘Five Rückert Songs,’ ‘32 Cryptograms,’ ‘Acrid Avid Jam’

by Kate Snedeker

April 14, 2004 -- Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Scotland

Returning to the Festival Theatre for the first Edinburgh performance of 2004, the Scottish Ballet showed off its powerful, brash and talented new persona. Now under the direction of former Royal Ballet dancer, Ashley Page, the company is multicultural (20 of the 30 dancers are from outside the UK), vibrant and focused. The current mixed repertory season, which combines the edgy and the energetic, brings together works by George Balanchine, Ashley Page, and Peter Darrell.

The evening started with George Balanchine's "The Four Temperaments" set to Paul Hindemith's score and first choreographed in 1946, and reworked in 1977. "The Four Temperaments" is one of Balanchine's classic black and white ballet, with no sets or formal costumes to detract from the dancers and the steps. Coached by Balanchine Trust repetiteur, Patricia Neary, the dancers looked comfortable, if not completely at ease in the edgy, sharply angular choreography. The dancing was powerful and solid, but would have been improved by more precision and more attention by the women to arm and torso positions in the long poses, and to avoiding inappropriate facial expressions. Jose Perez, in particular, was impressive in "Phlegmatic", dancing with an unhurried flow, letting the eye appreciate the "images" that the choreography creates.

The first of the three pieces by Ashley Page on the program, "Soft Underbelly" featured Tomomi Sato, Lilian Pommier and Adam Blyde dancing to taped music by Wim Mertens. The choreography hinted at youth and romance, with Blyde and Sato often lifting Sato and balancing her between the two, she dancing occasionally with one man, but always returning to both. However, despite the impressive lifts and powerful dancing, the piece was robbed of potential impact because of the a lack of emotional connection.

It was followed by Peter Darrell's poignant "Five Rückert Songs", a series of dances that embody the feelings in Friedrich Rückert's poetry. Beautifully sung by mezzo soprano Karen Cargill, the songs are about love, loss and loneliness, and Darrell took these feelings and expressed them his elegant choreography. The women dance in soft slippers, their long skirts picking up the flowing movements, drawing them out and making each step linger for a moment. Claire Robertson was superb as the central figure, who starts out part of the group, but is left alone. Failing in her attempts to rejoin the group, she is left to dance a final, poignant solo. The male corps was especially elegant and noteworthy here, though all the dancers were excellent in the sweeping choreography. Lynda Cochrane, on the piano, played Gustav Mahler's score.

Also by Page was "32 Cryptograms", set to Robin Moran's cheery, almost show-tune like music. Despite John Morell's grey tank-top costumes, it's a lighthearted ballet, giving each of the nine dancers a chance to show off their talents. Some leap, some twist, the women spun and lifted by the men. Cristo Vivancos stood out for his powerful twisting jumps. It's a fun concept, and shows off the company, but gets a bit repetitive in the end. The often brassy score would have benefited from a fuller orchestra, as the ballet's orchestra lists only one trumpet, two trombones, two clarinets/saxophones and no French horns, oboes, bassoons or flutes.

Page's other contribution to the program, "Acrid Avid Jam", was the highlight of the evening. A sultry, powerful pas de deux to Aphex Twin's driving music, it received a sensational and intense performance from Eve Mutso and Jose Perez. This a dance of mature equals, with Mutso often dominant, standing or balanced over Perez. The dancing oozes restrained power, finally released in the end when the two leap in unison to the pounding beat. This ballet truly shows off the talent and potential in the company.

The evening was an excellent showcase of new talent brought together in a company with much potential. Once hopes the future will bring new and better choreographic opportunities for the Scottish Ballet dancers to have their talent nurtured and come together as a company.

Edited by Jeff.

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