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George Piper Dances - 'Encore'

by Ana Abad-Carles

October 4, 2006 -- Sadler's Wells, London

George Piper Dances opened their new programme, “Encore”, at Sadler’s Wells before taking it around the country. The current company presents three dancers, Michael Nunn, William Trevitt and Oxana Panchenko, and together they have put on a show that is varied, entertaining, and one that, most importantly, dares to challenge the viewer with new works of high artistic standards.

The first piece of the evening was “On Classicism” by William Tuckett. Created for William Trevitt and Darcey Bussell when they were students at the Royal Ballet, the short piece with music by Bach won the Ursula Moreton Choreographic Competition of its year and also won deserved, very warm comments by the late Dame Ninette de Valois. Though the piece does not stand as a masterpiece in its own right, it does show how talented Tuckett was as a student and makes one wonder what happened during his years at the Royal Ballet that prevented him from developing that obvious talent. While the Royal Ballet seemed to concentrate in the choreographic work of Ashley Page with annual offerings that hardly ever managed to make a lasting impression, it seems a pity to think that other choreographers were unable to make more work for the company. “On Classicism” was a student’s exploration on the classical language of dance, but with a twist. Most importantly, it was a very musical piece that managed to capture the music's nuances without trying to be clever about it. It was simple, far from pretentious, and it provided a very good opening for the evening.

Each piece was preceded by a commentary on film by the dancers. Though some people may disagree, I found the comments helpful and, most times, highly entertaining. For the second ballet of the evening, “Propeller” by Liv Lorent, the three dancers stressed the difficulty of working with the choreographer. However, the result made it obvious that sometimes artistic creation depends not a little on constant personal challenges. The duet performed by Nunn and Panchenko was simply breathtakingly beautiful. The dancers seemed to float in space and time for the duration of the piece. There was a mesmerizing quality in the dance that gave it a rare depth in its interpretation. Like in the preceding piece, though in a much more elaborate and mature way, its lack of pretentiousness in terms of vocabulary and form made it so direct and yet so remote in its meaning that it was a hypnotic experience from beginning to end.

The third piece, "Jjanke" by Charles Linehan, was based on character dance. In my opinion, this piece was the least rewarding of the whole programme. Character dance has an emphasis on dynamics and sense of momentum that this piece lacked. It just did not seem to get started and moving. The vocabulary used tended to be repetitive and without any sense of coherent form and pattern and without the crescendo dynamics that tend to distinguish character dance, it seemed to move a bit aimlessly on the stage. Both Trevitt and Nunn tried their best, and the musician on stage Bratko Bibc was wonderful. However, the piece did not manage to take off right after its opening.

The last piece of the evening was Rafael Bonachela’s “Mandox, Bandox”. The ballet was preceded by a hilarious take of both Trevitt and Nunn trying to argue the case of why dance should be properly funded by the government. It takes courage to do this in front of the audience and I think the public appreciated the humour and the truth in their comments. The ballet itself was one of the best pieces I have seen choreographed by Bonachela. It had the potent dynamics and acrobaticism that are associated with the choreographer, but, especially in the choreography for the three dancers on the stage, he managed to create some interesting patterns and to offer intelligent choreographic resolutions.

It was a very well designed programme, with varied works that managed to engage the audience from the start. And, of course, there was an encore, when the three dancers appeared on stage (is this what they meant by making dance “popular”?) to sing and play the Arctic Monkeys’s song “I bet you look good on the dance floor”. The company got a wave of ovations for this and, to be honest, it was well deserved, as it is not often that one goes to see an evening of good new choreographic work and leaves the theatre with the feeling of having been entertained too! Maybe there is food for thought in the idea of how to turn that encore into choreographic language that is popular, engaging and yet true to the spirit of the evening. But I leave that to the company.

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