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Scottish Ballet

‘Apollo’, ‘Walking in the Heat’, ‘The Pump Room’, ‘32 Cryptograms’, ‘Rubies’

by David Mead

September 17, 2005 -- Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, England

Scottish Ballet’s programme at Stoke may have been an unusual mix, but it certainly included something for everyone. In between two seminal and well-known Balanchine works were three from Ashley Page’s own catalogue in a variety of styles.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was the three Page works that showed the company at its best. Luisa Rocco and Oliver Rydout gave a sensual performance of “Walking in the Heat”. Not overtly sexual although you got the impression it was never far away, the work perfectly captured the mood of the music and theme. “The Pump Room” is a new Page work for two couples, the choreography perfectly complimenting Aphex Twin’s throbbing music. Patricia Hines and Erik Cavallari (in jazz shoes), and Sophie Martin (on pointe) and Paul Liburd all gave an excellent showing of smooth virtuostic contemporary dance.

“32 Cryptograms” was originally produced as part of Page’s 1996 work for younger dancers at The Royal Ballet, “Two-Part Invention”. It has become something of a signature-piece for Scottish Ballet and it’s easy to see why. Reminiscent of both Page’s and Peter Martins’ “Fearful Symmetries”, the fast moving choreography has the thirteen dancers constantly swirling around and flowing on and off the stage. The partnerships seem to be forever changing and there’s always something to see in a work that really does show the company off incredibly well.

The programme opened with Balanchine’s “Apollo”, seen here in what seems to be the increasingly popular full version, complete with prologue. In a competent, if unspectacular effort, Erik Cavalliari was suitably god-like as Apollo, although one got the feeling that the dancers were just “doing the steps” without having any idea why or what anything meant. Sometimes they seemed rushed, notably at the famous “sunburst”, which was over in a split second -- almost before anyone had a chance to take it in.

“Rubies”, sadly, was not well done. It is supposed to be crisp, sharp, and exciting. Instead it was something of a damp squib with lots of soft movement and lots of almost limp, very un-Balanchine-like arms. I would not expect Scottish Ballet to produce something the same as dancers and companies schooled in Balanchine technique over many years, but I would expect better than this.

On this showing, Scottish Ballet has come a long way since its relaunch in 2003, and Ashley Page must take a great deal of the credit for that. It seems clear that the dancers are happiest in the more modern works, which is unsurprising given most of their backgrounds. However, if they are going to continue to present such as Balanchine, there is clearly still a long way to go.

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