'The Four Temperaments', 'The Pump Room', '32 Cryptograms', 'Facade'
by Kate Snedeker
April 13, 2005 -- Theatre Royal, Glasgow
Since taking over the Scottish Ballet three years ago, Ashley Page has guided the company to a higher standard, both by revitalizing the company with talented new dancers and also by developing a diverse and challenging repertory. This innovative repertory was reflected in the choice of ballets for the opening night performance of the 2005 Spring Season, which included works by George Balanchine, Frederick Ashton and Page himself.
The evening began with George Balanchine's classic black and white ballet, "The Four Temperaments", the four variations loosely based on the humors, melancholic, sanguinic, phlegmatic and choleric. The ballet was first brought into the company's repertory last fall and this performance revealed the dancers' increasing comfort with Balanchine's body contorting choreography. Joanne Bungay and Mark Kimmet brought youthful energy to the First Theme while Eve Mutso and Robert Doherty gave the Third Theme a more mature coolness.
However, the highlight of the ballet was Paul Liburd's solo in Melancholic. Liburd, who joined the Scottish Ballet after years with the Rambert Dance Company, may be in the twilight of his performing career, but what a sunset this is! His performance had a more contemporary edge, but equally as satisfying, though his intense muscularity can break up his line. And, possessed of a body that seems to have no joints, Liburd flowed through the choreography all the way to the final arch-backed retreat from the stage. Brian Prentice played the solo piano.
The evening continued with a trio of ballets by Ashley Page, including the world premiere of "The Pump Room". Set to Aphex Twin's throbbing, percussive score, "The Pump Room" has a powerful, earthly feel, as captured in Page's weighty, intertwining choreography. The piece seemed to travel the course of a day, or perhaps a life, the initial creepy darkness dissipating as the backdrop lifted to flood the stage with light. The light changes shades before dissolving back into darkness.
In his selection of dancers for this new piece, Page highlights two of the company's fascinating male talents, Paul Liburd and Jarkko Lehmus. Both men have a background as rich in contemporary dance as in ballet, and thrive in this offbeat, muscular, vivid ballet. Lehmus and Diana Loosemore in black complemented Liburd and Sophie Martin in deep blue.
The ballet's weakness however is its length, which pushed beyond the limits of the unrelenting score. Aphex Twin's music with its heavy percussion became tedious, drawing attention away from the choreography and the dancers. Far more successful on this account is "Walking on the Heat", originally choreographed as a part of "Touch Your Coolness to My Fevered Brow". Set to music by Orlando Gough, which like Aphex Twin's score can eventually seem repetitive, the piece is short and snappy and thus doesn't outlast the interest of the music. On this evening, the sultry, tango-esque pas de deux, came to life in the hands (and bodies) of the sleek, black-clad Soon Ja Lee and Oliver Rydout.
Page's "32 Cryptograms" closed the program last year in Edinburgh, but finds a much more suitable position as the finale for the trio of Page's works. The company clad in Jean Morrell's grey-blue vests and pants whirls and twists in a myriad of dances to "32 Cryptograms for Derek Jarman" by Robert Moran. The eye is drawn to the powerful dancing of Page's men, especially the soaring Erik Cavallari and Jarkko Lehmus and Glauco Di Lieto.
Bringing the evening to a sassy and satisfying conclusion was the company premiere of Frederick Ashton's lighthearted "Façade". Staged by former Royal Ballet dancers Margaret Barbieri and Alexander Grant, the ballet skips through a series of delightful vignettes under the blue sky and some drying laundry. Ashton's delightfully cheeky and clever choreography highlighted the technical and dramatic strengths of this revitalized company.
The rollicking William Walton score starts with a Scotch Rhapsody - much to the delight of the audience - danced with pert cheekiness by Luke Ahmet and his lasses, Louisa Hassell and Viviana Mastrella. Martina Forioso's Swiss Milkmaid, complete with Pippi Longstocking braids, manages to milk her cow, as created by the deft contortions of Robert Doherty, William Smith and Mark Kimmet. Also of note were Glauco Di Lieto and Adam Blyde as a pair of suave gentleman hoofing it in striped jackets and jaunty boaters, and Claire Robertson and Cristo Vivancos, shiveringly, sillily sexy in Tarantella Sevillana. The complete cast returned for a show-stopping, heel kicking finale, a uplifting conclusion to open what should be a terrific season.
Edited by Staff.
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