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 Post subject: English National Ballet's Tour de Force 2003
PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2003 2:58 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Tour de Force
By Judith Mackrell for The Guardian

Nothing could be more expressive of English National Ballet's determination to shake up its image than Agnes Oaks and Thomas Edur in Wayne McGregor's duet, 2 Human. With their hair gelled and spiked, Oakes in a camouflage-print tutu and Edur with "live fast" scrawled on his tee shirt, the couple could hardly deviate more from their usual classical image. Yet McGregor's choreography takes them even further off base. Set to Bach's Violin Partita No 2, the piece alternates between a combative duelling of wills and restless bouts of junkie ennui. The dancers' rigid, angry limbs slice each others air space, their wilful gestures strafe the music's rhythms.

Yet McGregor, inspired by Oaks's extravagantly supple body and Edur's clever compact strength, makes this encounter much more than a study of aggressive attitude. The dancers twist the seemingly predictable lines of their fast-slamming moves into images of sudden beauty and emotion; their fiercely animated bodies seem to be engaged in a huge, even heroic argument.

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*********************************

Yet another unpleasant evening for Mr Crisp - this time with English National Ballet:

April is the cruellest month
By Clement Crisp for The Financial Times


Tour de Force, proclaims English National Ballet of its programme of novelties this week at Sadler's Wells. "Forced to tour!" was Hermione Gingold's comment on the phrase some years ago, and she knew whereof she spoke. The troupe is taking a collection of short ballets by new-ish choreographers (plus MacMillan's jokey Sideshow and the Paquita Grand Pas) on a regional visit. It makes a change from its Nutcracker,I suppose - but then, so would an outbreak of dengue - and for this Wells' visit, there are four ill-assorted and spirit-lowering items. Of course a ballet company must experiment, must find new work, new audiences, but I thought Tuesday night's bill a text-book example of How Not To Do It.

The opening Trape`ze brings the supposed rescue of a "lost" score by Prokofiev that has not been heard in the theatre since 1926. It is workaday stuff (with hints towards the end of the classical symphony's baroquerie) and has been set by Christopher Hampson as a bloodless sequence of trottings and swingings (there is a trapeze on stage: ah, originality!) between two men and four women.

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 Post subject: Re: English National Ballet's Tour de Force 2003
PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2003 3:05 am 
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Tour de Force
By Debra Caine for The Times


IT’S been 15 years since English National Ballet last danced at Sadler’s Wells, so the company’s return this week was long overdue. This season marks a new association that should see Britain’s second biggest ballet company making regular appearances at the Wells, where it can showcase its more adventurous repertoire.

This is to be found in Tour de Force, which brings new ballets to venues around the country each spring. For London on Tuesday night, it produced two world premieres, both with unique selling points.

In the case of Trapèze, it’s the resurrection of Prokofiev’s “lost” ballet from 1925, which was recently reconstructed by Noëlle Mann, curator of the Prokofiev archive, and rechoreographed by Christopher Hampson. The original was a circus ballet with a detailed narrative; Hampson’s is an abstract ballet for six.

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Suspended animation
Zoe Anderson for The Daily Telegraph reviews Tour de Force at Sadler's Wells

Of several new works commissioned by English National Ballet for its current tour of smaller cities, the most eagerly awaited was Christopher Hampson's Trapeze. It's set to a Prokofiev score that hasn't been danced since 1926. Lost movements have been found, a new edition prepared and published with some fanfare.

As a preview at Sadler's Wells revealed, it was worth rediscovering: melodic and astringent, getting sharper as it goes.Hampson abandons the original circus scenario, though not the trapeze, which sits intrusively centre stage. Sarah McIlroy and Jan-Erik Wikström dance on it, but they're stronger on the ground: the transition between circus skills and dancing is too visible. Otherwise, this is the kind of abstract ballet that has a plot. Wikström leads Amy Hollins away from her partner, then leaves her to McIlroy while he pursues the boyfriend, Francisco Bosch.

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<small>[ 10 April 2003, 05:05 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: English National Ballet's Tour de Force 2003
PostPosted: Tue Apr 15, 2003 1:37 am 
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Tour de Force
By Jann Parry for The Observer.


Wayne McGregor's duet, 2 Human , for Agnes Oaks and Thomas Edur, is not so much a circus turn as a major marital spat. There's a wild beauty in their wranglings, with love the glue that holds them together.

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 Post subject: Re: English National Ballet's Tour de Force 2003
PostPosted: Wed Apr 16, 2003 1:33 am 
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Daring young choreographers
By Nadine Meisner for The Independent

Tour de Force is a wonderfully catchy, confident name, but the reality hasn't always justified the confidence. It has, though, a worthy purpose: every year to bring English National Ballet to smaller theatres by splitting the company into two. In so doing, it brings relief from ENB's normal timorous enslavement to large-scale box-office demands with a menu that under Matz Skoog's directorship has become even bolder. Tour de Force now looks suspiciously like an ambitious showcase for young choreographers, rather like the Royal Ballet's defunct Dance Bites.

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 Post subject: Re: English National Ballet's Tour de Force 2003
PostPosted: Wed Apr 16, 2003 6:43 pm 
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English National Ballet – Tour de Force
Hollywood Smash and Grab/2 Human/Side Show/Manoeuvre
Brighton Theatre Royal

The central section of the ENB’s programme in Brighton consists of two pas de deux. Both, incidentally, are danced by real life couples. These stripped down pieces are by far the most enjoyable and effective performances of the evening, showing off the company’s best dancers without any need for gimmicks or flashy staging.

One dancer who gets a real work out is Cuban-born Yat-Sen Chang, appearing in three of the four works. He’s a strong, solid technician with seemingly endless energy but in Kenneth MacMillan’s ‘Side Show’ Chang reveals his comic talents too. The words ‘comic’ and ‘ballet’ are often an odd couple but this one genuinely has the audience roaring with laughter.

An affectionate nod to the caricatures of Victorian music hall, Chang hams it up as a hapless circus strongman with jutting jaw, handlebar moustache and bulging thighs, comically out of step with his pretty, prissy showgirl sidekick, Simone Clark. Their timing is spot on and the routine is more than just slapstick, in fact it’s completely delightful. Side Show was originally created for Rudolf Nureyev and Lynne Seymour, two hard acts to follow, but Chang and Clarke really make it their own.

The Estonian couple Thomas Edur and Agnes Oaks are a complete contrast. Oaks cuts a glacial figure, intense and aloof with lean long limbs, more stork than swan. In ‘2 Human’ she dominates Wayne McGregor’s choreography with her jack-knife extensions and precision poise, ruling the partnership with Edur – lifting like a feather one moment, a dead weight the next.

Edur is more erratic. One of his solo passages verges on the insane, jerking in straightjacketed jumps he could be pogoing at a punk gig. Appropriately, the costumes could be Vivienne Westwood circa 1979, but while McGregor adds his anarchist edge to this evening’s programme thankfully he achieves more than empty sloganeering. Setting the piece to Bach’s Partita in D minor for violin is an inspired choice. Note to choreographers: dance to Bach and you’ll never go wrong.

Unfortunately, the rest of the programme is less exciting. The opener, ‘Hollywood Smash and Grab’, is made up of a series of unrelated sections that don’t seem to add up to a whole. There are interesting elements – a mechanical chorus line, a human timebomb, a theatrical starlet, a section combining pounding dancefloor music with elegant dancers en pointe – basically too many ideas, none of which have a chance to make their point.

Regardless of the material, the dancing itself is good. There’s no questioning technique, especially in ‘Manoeuvre’, a showcase for the company’s male dancers. A combination of ballet and circus moves, this should be a non-stop barrage of big thrills and crowd pleasers. But the tone seems muted somehow. There’s none of the audience involvement or awestruck spectacle of the real circus, nor the narrative, lyricism or direction of ballet. Despite plentiful grand jetes, fouettes, big gestures and bravura, ‘Manoeuvre’ just doesn’t take off until the driving finale. Yat-Sen Chang (yes, it’s him again) dishes out his last bout of physical fireworks for the evening but I'm afraid to say, it’s not the greatest show on earth.


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 Post subject: Re: English National Ballet's Tour de Force 2003
PostPosted: Fri Apr 18, 2003 9:52 am 
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A short review from The Stage:

Tour de Force
By Gavin Roebuck for The Stage

After a 15-year absence English National Ballet returns to Sadler's Wells with its Tour de Force programme of four works created by British choreographers in the 21st century. Opening with the world premiere of Trapeze to a rediscoved score of Prokofiev, Christopher Hampson's well-performed, neo-classical choreography for six dancers with partner-swapping moments is fluent and innovative, exploring the use of height as well as depth with some of the dancers high above the stage on a trapeze.

In its first London performance, though not fitting the circus theme, was Cathy Marston's piece Facing Viv. With dull lighting, drab costumes and crouching bodies, it was a depressing study of the complex relationship of the poet TS Eliot and his wife Viv.

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 Post subject: Re: English National Ballet's Tour de Force 2003
PostPosted: Fri Apr 18, 2003 10:21 am 
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Thanks a lot Lyndsey. The Sadler's programme included Cathy Marston's "Facing Viv", a fine work with innovative shapes as the dancers perform extensions from bent or twisted positions, illustrating the tensions and problems they face. However, a read of the programme to understand the significance of the three couples playing Tom and Viv is essential and one frind of mine was totally confused. Some like Gavin Roebuck above seem to think that sadness and despair have no place on the ballet stage, but this is clearly a limitation that would exclude "Anna Karenina", "Hamlet" and many other master works from the Arts canon. I look forward to seeing this moving work again.

I will also look forward to another viewing of "2 Human" by Wayne McGregor. Agnes Oakes steals the show with her explosive, punk portrayal on pointe. It takes almost the entire work to recover from the shock of the normally demure Oakes as a feisty combatant and looking back, Edur's role is perhaps not strong enough to make it a great duet, but there is plenty to enjoy and I suspect that audiences around the world will be seeing this at Galas for years to come and thinking themselves lucky.

The combination of these two pieces in the middle of the programme made for an excellent double, but the start and end were less satisfactory. Christopher Hampson's "Trapeze" didn't work at all to my thinking. The trapeze moves don't stand comparison with the grace and wonder of groups like Cirque Eloize and what happened at floor level was forgettable. Prokofiev is one of my favorite compoers, but this must be one of his dullest pieces and perhaps that is one of the reasons why this piece never comes to life.

To include a second circus piece, "Manouevre" by Patrick Lewis, in the same programme seemed a mistake to me and there was a lot of running on and running off to little effect. Wikstrom and Ramos did bring their conventional steps to life, but I felt short-changed. Still overall well worth seeing for the Marston and McGregor.

<small>[ 19 April 2003, 08:53 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: English National Ballet's Tour de Force 2003
PostPosted: Sat Apr 19, 2003 1:18 am 
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review from the times.

Quote:
AS PART of English National Ballet’s spring tour, Crawley, Blackpool and Poole are in line for a triple bill featuring pieces by Christopher Hampson and Cathy Marston. This other programme, seen in Brighton, will visit Barnstaple, Malvern and ####.
Unfortunately, apart from Wayne McGregor’s 2 Human, this bill contains largely insubstantial fare. Cued to Bach’s Violin Partita No 2 and tailored to the artistry of ENB’s star couple Agnes Oaks and Thomas Edur, McGregor’s short, sinewy duet exerts a kinetic and emotional fascination with its spiderishly precise choreography.

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 Post subject: Re: English National Ballet's Tour de Force 2003
PostPosted: Thu Apr 24, 2003 6:04 am 
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ENB Tour De Force, Theatre Royal, Brighton, ***
By John Percival
The Independent


Quote:
Two further premieres entered English National Ballet's small-scale spring tour at Brighton, following the host of novelties given at Sadler's Wells. I am not sure that exhuming Kenneth MacMillan's Side Show is going to do a lot for the choreographer's reputation. It also makes a dubious tribute to Rudolf Nureyev, since the original production in 1972 (premiered on All Fools' Day) gave lousy roles to him and Lynn Seymour, playing a pair of no-good would-be star dancers. Even with them the duet flopped.
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 Post subject: Re: English National Ballet's Tour de Force 2003
PostPosted: Fri Apr 25, 2003 3:09 am 
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“..Gavin Roebuck above seem to think that sadness and despair have no place on the ballet stage, but this is clearly a limitation ….”


Well my career as a dancer would have certainly been different if I thought that! For the record I have never expressed that view.


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 Post subject: Re: English National Ballet's Tour de Force 2003
PostPosted: Sat Apr 26, 2003 5:05 am 
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Oks ja Edur jahmatasid Londoni publikut
By Stuart Sweeney, Londoni tantsuajakirjanik, Postimees

Age Oksa ja Toomas Eduri graatsia ja tehnika, ennekõike aga ideaalne partnerlus on jätnud inglise balletile muljetavaldava jälje. Isiklikult pean nende etteastet Derek Deane’i «Luikede järves» üheks selle balleti põnevamaks rollitõlgenduseks üleüldse.

Oksa ja Eduri koostöö on leidnud tunnustust ka mitme preemia näol - viimati jaanuaris, kui Londoni kriitikud (Cri- tics’ Circle) neid rahvuslike tantsuauhindade jagamisel parima paari eriauhinna ja Toomas Edurit parima meestantsija auhinnaga pärgasid.

vaata siit

For those of you whose Estonian is a little rusty, here is the English original of the article, which is a background and overview piece rather than a review. The article was translated by Tiit Tuumalu, who writes about dance for Postimees and whose work appears on CriticalDance translated into English:

******************************

Age Oks and Toomas Edur have made a great impact on UK ballet with their grace, their technique and above all the skill of their partnering, built up over years of dancing the classics together. For example, their performance in Derek Deane's "Swan Lake" remains one of my favorite interpretations of this work. In recognition of their popularity they have won many awards including a double success at the Critics' Circle Awards earlier this year.

Wayne McGregor has also enjoyed success with his innovative choreography for his Random Dance Company. He is also an award winner, including a prize from "Time Out" magazine for "Symbiont(s)", created for some adventurous dancers of the Royal Ballet in their free time. However, when we heard that Oks and Edur would perform his off-balance modern dance steps, some of us were surprised at this juxtaposition. Indeed, before they started work on the new commission, Age Oks told me that she was nervous at the prospect of the challenge ahead. However, after seeing the first few seconds of the new dance it was clear that there was nothing to fear, as Oks's long legs sliced through the air in complete confidence.

The premiere of "2 human" took place in early April when English National Ballet presented a mixed bill at London's Sadler's Wells theatre. McGregor has a reputation for working in an interactive way with his dancers and at her request incorporated much pointe work for Oks, while Edur's movement is more recognisibly in the choreographer's style of jagged undulations. For characterisation, McGregor decided to cast this affable couple against type. The costumes are punk inspired with Oks in a tiny black tutu and Edur in a tee-shirt and shorts. Their spikey hair and fury left many in the audience aghast at their transformation from classical elegance.

I found myself completely bowled over by "2 human" as the couple fight it out in a series of duets and solos to Bach's Violin Partita No. 2. The choreography for Oks dominates the piece from beginning to end with high octane spins and extensions and flouncing walks. Edur partners the complex, twisting moves with the care and sixth sense we have come to expect. The work is hugely enjoyable and following Cathy Marston's sad and beautiful "Tom and Viv" the two pieces form an excellent combination.

Although the shock was too great for some, several of the London critics were also impressed by "2 human". In The Guardian Judith Mackrell wrote, "The dancers twist the seemingly predictable lines of their fast-slamming moves into images of sudden beauty and emotion." For The Independent, Nadine Meisner was less convinced, "By halfway, the shapes begin to pall, suffering from a sameness of pace and texture." However, Donald Hutera in The Times commented, "....tailored to the artistry of ENB's star couple Agnes Oaks and Thomas Edur, McGregor's short, sinewy duet exerts a kinetic and emotional fascination with its spiderishly precise choreography."

Given the loud applause at Sadler's Wells, it seems likely that Oks and Edur will enjoy further success with audiences in the UK and overseas with "2 human". I hope ballet lovers in Tallinn get a chance to see this exhilerating work before too long.

<small>[ 27 August 2003, 03:35 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: English National Ballet's Tour de Force 2003
PostPosted: Sun Apr 27, 2003 2:22 am 
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Review from The Sunday Times.

Quote:
English National Ballet’s annual split tour of smaller theatres, Tour de Force, has generally proved successful in its formula of programming new and familiar work together for audiences out of reach of large-scale ballet. The new work, of course, can be risky, and this year is not one of the best. Brighton’s Theatre Royal saw the premiere of Hollywood Smash & Grab, the first creation for ENB by one of its former dancers, Noel Wallace. This turns out to be a mind-boggling dud that it would have been wise to pull the plug on at rehearsal stage and replace with something of reliable quality from stock.
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 Post subject: Re: English National Ballet's Tour de Force 2003
PostPosted: Mon Apr 28, 2003 5:15 am 
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Thanks for the Estonian review, Stuart. A small country with an extraordinary participation in the world! Do Oaks and Edur perform at all in Estonia?


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 Post subject: Re: English National Ballet's Tour de Force 2003
PostPosted: Tue Apr 29, 2003 2:59 am 
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Yes, they do from time to time and are keen to do more. They hope to appear in a Gala later this year. They continue to take a very active interest in dance in Estonia and love to return to their home country.


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