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Ballet Central

Mixed programme

by David Mead

May 5, 2011 -- Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, London, UK

As impressive as they were earlier in their tour at Chipping Norton, it was no surprise that the Ballet Central dancers looked much more comfortable on the larger Linbury stage.

In Christopher Hampson’s “Capriol Suite”, set to Peter Warlock’s score of the same name, the young dancers showed plenty of courtliness and elegance without ever largely coming to grips with the emotion in the music. The exception was Zoe Arshamian and Dominic Harrison, who were most impressive in the main pas de deux.

Like most pas de deux from ballets where the dance is truly integral to the story, unlike in the classics where it really is there largely to show off technique, the Blue Ball pas de deux from Christopher Gable’s “Cinderella” does not translate entirely satisfactorily when performed on its own. That’s a great shame because it is one of two exceptional duets from what is a wonderful ballet. Matters were not helped by Philip Feeney’s piano reduction of the score, which rather loses much of the tenderness inherent in the orchestral version. Despite that, and some ill-fitting costumes, Maria Grozova, so impressive a month earlier, once again looked a name to note for the future. I couldn’t stop my memory flying back to the whole work, or a lump from appearing in my throat.

Several of the works had larger casts than in Chipping Norton. Although that improved both Kenrick Sandy’s “Groove of the Metropolitan”, and especially Darshan Singh Buller’s “Doubting Thomas”, these remained the weakest parts of the show. “Groove” still lacked much of the crisp sharpness one felt should be there, while “Doubting Thomas” was still searching for a purpose. Christopher Bruce’s “Für Alina” also included more dancers. Despite another impressive performance, Arshamian in particular showing she is a very good contemporary dancer too, this did not have as much impact on the larger stage. In the previous small space one’s attention was really focused on the internal feelings and the hidden narrative of the nameless characters. Here it was all somehow dissipated.

The only new work from the Oxfordshire programme was Christopher Marney’s “Scenes from a Wedding.” In style it has similarities to a number of Matthew Bourne’s works, hardly surprising given that Marney has danced principal roles in many of his productions, and is presently rehearsal director for his “Cinderella.” The work is full of rather obvious unsubtle acting and humour and would benefit hugely from some changes of tone and a little more subtlety in places. The most impressive aspect of the piece is Philip Feeney’s wonderful score that includes many natural sounds such as the sea and birds. Part recorded but with the piano sections played live by Feeney himself it is full of the wonderful melodies for which he so well known. Despite my reservations, the audience loved it. And the cast certainly gave it their all, led by Arshamian as the Uncertain Bride, James Waddell as The Groom and Nicole Craddock as the Bride.

Other items danced were the pas de six from Helgi Tomasson’s “The Sleeping Beauty”, in which Grozova and Harrison again stood out; Philip Aiden’s jolly and upbeat “Swing Time” in which the dancers really let their hair down; and the pas de trois from Nellie Happee’s “Simple Symphony” in which the petite Kozue Mikami shone. Showing outstandingly crisp footwork, her opening solo was the classical highlight of the evening.

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