Theatre Royal, Glasgow
April 13, 2005
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, Frederik 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
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 in it's length, which pushed beyond the
limits of the unrelenting score. Aphex Twin's music, with it's heavy
percussion, becomes 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". It is set to music by Orlando Gough, which like Aphex Twin's
score can eventually seem repetitive, but 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, managed 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.