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 Post subject: Scottish Ballet - 2006 Edinburgh Festival
PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2006 6:43 pm 
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Scottish Ballet
‘Agon’, ‘Afternoon of a Faun’, ‘Two Pieces for Het’, ‘In Light and Shadow’
Friday, 18 August 2006
The Edinburgh Playhouse

In 2005, the Scottish Ballet returned to the Edinburgh International Festival. In this their second successive Festival appearance, they have brushed away any remaining questions about their talent and quality. The Festival program of ‘Agon’, ‘Afternoon of a Faun’, ‘Two Pieces for HET’ and ‘In Light and Shadow’ is a perfect match for the company, showing off a male contingent that has in the last four months improved in leaps and bounds.

Over the last two years, the Scottish Ballet has made a convincing case that they can do Balanchine, and picking “Agon” for the 2006 Edinburgh Festival program was a bold statement about the company’s increasing confidence and talent. The last direct collaboration between choreographer George Balanchine and composer Igor Stravinsky, “Agon”, with no sets or formal costumes, is stunning display of what can be accomplished with the combination of the human body and the musical note. The choreography is full of angles, sliding steps, legs thrust into high arabesque and sudden stops. Perhaps the most striking moment comes when a section ends with a ballerina leaping into the air to be caught by her partner in a slightly tilted arabesque just as last note sounds.
It is fiendishly difficult and to be effective every step must be danced on the knife-edge between comfort and disaster. Tonight, while the performance was light years ahead of anything the company could have managed even a year ago, the company still has a bit farther to go before all the dancers are comfortable enough to step all the way up on to that edge. However, given the improvement seen in other pieces from last Festival repeated in the Spring Repertory season, one looks forward to seeing an improved “Agon” in 2007.

The piece started strongly with the male quartet of Gregory Dean, Christopher Harrison, Adam Blyde and Erik Cavallari. They were soon joined by eight women, who embarked on a section full of intricate, interlacing steps in which groups of dancers twisted around and under their own linked arms. Here the female corps began to look a bit soft, with an early stumble and a fall. They were not helped by a slightly peculiar sound from the orchestra who seemed to be a bit off in a few sections.

But, if anyone in the company can bring Balanchine to life, it is Eva Mutso with her fearlessness, flexibility and sleek lines. Her pas de deux with Erik Cavallari was one of finest moments audiences have yet seen from Scottish Ballet. This was cool, effortless dancing with knife-edge precision from both dancers. Near the end, Mutso, supported by Cavallari, raised one leg slowly up to a full 180 split. There was not even a whisper of a wobble. If the rest of the company can keep up with Mutso and Cavallari, audiences are in for a treat.


Set to Debussy’s ‘Prélude á L’ápres-midi d’un faune’, Jerome Robbins’ “Afternoon of a Faun” turns the audience into the studio mirror for two young dancers intently focused on their practice. The curtain lifts on a young danseur asleep on a studio floor. As he stretches languidly, the still is broken by the silent arrival of a young ballerina. As they dance, the invisible mirror becomes a third person in their pas de deux, each paying more attention to it than each other. This intensity is only broken when the boy reaches over to place a gentle kiss on the girl’s cheek. The spell broken, she departs as silently as she arrived, leaving the boy to settle back on the floor, one leg stretching up – a metaphorical climax…perhaps – and then dropping back to the floor.

Though the ballet is about young dancers, the roles are quite often performed by older and more experienced company members. Scottish Ballet, however, placed their hopes on two young corps dancers – Christopher Harrison and Luisa Rocco. It was a gamble well worth taking. From Harrison’s indolent, arching stretches at the beginning, to the finale when Rocco raised her hand to her cheek in silent wonder at the kiss, the couple was spellbinding. Well suited to the roles and each other, they kept the dream like feeling of the ballet going, never rushing in the slow, flowing movements. One hopes that Scottish Ballet will keep this ballet in the active repertory so that these dancers can gain more experience, and improve on their impressive debut. The staging was done by Jean-Pierre Frohlich, with costumes by Irene Sharaff and sets/lighting by Jean Rosenthal.


Erik Cavallari returned in Hans Van Manen’s “Two Pieces for HET”, this time with Claire Robinson. The pieces are pas de deux, the first to music by Erkki-Sven Tüür, the second Arvo Pärt score, danced by a couple, he in black dancebelt covered by a sheer unitard, she in a short metallic camisole dress. Backed by calm, occasionally haunting music, the pas deuxs are intense and physical. The choreography is about contact – the couple hardly splits apart and there are no solos. It was a piece of unexpected beauty, heightened by the fine performances by Cavallari and Robinson. The designs were by Keso Dekker with lighting by Jan Hofstra.

The finale to evening was the company debut of Krzysztof Pastor’s “In Light and Shadow”. The ballet’s title is reflected in the striking sets (Tatyana van Walsum) and lighting (Bert Dalhuysen). The stage is framed by grey slabs that lean in towards the audience, the cracks between the pieces forming openings for stream of lighting to flow onto the stage creating a web of light and shadow.
Aria, a pas de deux for two dancers in unitards begins the piece, and was danced with fine control by Adam Blyde and Patricia Hines. As they depart, the Bach score perks up and the full cast comes out to dance the Overture. Van Walsum’s costumes are a hodge podge of color, design and length, blurring time, place and even gender. Some of the women are dresses that look almost modern; other costumes have long skirts that pick up on the time-period of Bach’s music. And then there are men in skirts and tunics. But it all blends into a dynamic confusion that gives the piece a refreshing sense of timelessness.

Pastor’s choreography is grounded in classical ballet, but has an energy that reflects the spirited, but delicate nature of Bach’s music. It’s dance for nimble feet, and the men stood out. Christopher Harrison in the third ballet of his opening night marathon was worthy of note – he’s not a dancer I’ve really paid attention to before, but tonight my eye was rarely off him. Another man who jumped into the spotlight was Luke Ahmet, who partnered Martina Fioroso in the Gavotte. But the star here was undoubtedly Paul Liburd, who, his body gleaming with sheen of sweat, leaped and twisted his way through a series of aerial barrel turns. The only lament is that Liburd moved north so late in his career.

Last summer Scottish Ballet proved they were Festival worthy, though it was not the most fascinating of programs. This summer they have come back with a fascinating quartet of ballet, performed with renewed vigor and a much-improved male presence.
I’ve had my doubts about the directions of the company, but if this is where Scottish Ballet is going, I want to come along for the ride!

[But, a plea for better scheduling. The company doesn’t venture to Edinburgh between the end of August and the beginning of January, and the January run is just one ballet, ‘Cinderella’. It’s shame that those Edinburgh ballet fans must wait more than seven months to see the company in repertory – by far it’s strength – again. Please give us more than 10-12 repertory performances a year…please! And to Festival organizers – there simply is not excuse to put ballet of this class in the Edinburgh Playhouse, a theatre totally unsuited for dance, when the city is host to the Edinburgh Festival Theatre, one of the finest dance venues in the country.]


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 19, 2006 6:06 pm 
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Location: Canada
19 August 2006

Opening night may have had a shaky start, but there no such problems when the Scottish Ballet took the stage for the second performance of their Festival run. For Saturday night, “Agon”, “Two Dances for HET” and “In Light and Shadow” were danced by the same casts, while a new pair made their debut in Robbins’ “Afternoon of a Faun”.

In the early evening “Discussions with Artists” presentation, critic Mary Brennan led Scottish Ballet artistic director Ashley Page and conductor Nicholas Kok in a lively discussion about the company, the festival repertoire and music. As Kok discussed, one of the challenges lay in the tricky and diverse scores, none of which were familiar to the Scottish Opera Orchestra. A few cracks showed on the Friday night, but a day later both musicians and dancers returned with a near flawless performance.

The ingenuity of Balanchine’s choreography is even more astonishing on second look, as is the vast improved quality of the Scottish Ballet male contingent. It was hard to believe these were the same dancers that I saw just months ago during the Spring repertory season, with Gregory Dean, Christopher Harrison and Luke Ahmet in particular demonstrating a new found poise and power.

Eve Mutso and Erik Cavallari’s sinuous pas de deux was again the centerpiece of “Agon”, Mutso unfolding into a stunning 180 penchee, supported only by one hand of Cavallari as he lay on the ground beside her. The male quartet including the above mentioned Harrison and Dean looked impressive in the trademark heel arabesques.

In the only cast change between evenings, Vassilissa Levtonova and Paul Liburd debuted in Robbins’ “Afternoon of a Faun”. While no fault could be found with their approach to the roles, the performance didn’t have the same spellbinding quality as that of Christopher Harrison and Luisa Rocco’s the previous night. Liburd’s fluid, powerful dancing would seem to be perfectly suited to the role, but while he has the needed intensity, here his chiseled muscularity was distracting, and contemporary-flavoured style were more pantherine than faun-like. Robbins’ faun requires a delicacy and classical style that are not Liburd’s forte, but he would seem a match made in heaven for Diaghilev’s original.

“Two Dances for HET” explores a more settled, matured love. Erik Cavallari starts off the first section by circling round his partner (Claire Robinson), seemingly cajoling her to join him. She relents, joining him in an intense, but understated pas de deux. We are seeing a mature couple who express their emotions in unhurried exploration and close contact. In the second section, Arvo Pärt’s delicate, almost mournful music sets the tone for a duet full of understated sensuality. Each movement considered, yet flowing. As the music fades to nothing, the couple stands side-by-side, heads dropping to each other’s shoulders.

Bach and ballet, in the guise of Krzysztof Pastor’s “In Light and Shadow”, ended the evening on a high note. Patricia Hines and Adam Blyde danced the expressive Aria on a dimly lit stage. The end of their pas de deux was heralded by the silent appearance of the 16 Overture dancers. Hines and Blyde stepped backwards through the lines of appearing dancers, sweeping an arm around their heads as if to pull a curtain closed around them. They seemed to be retreating into the shadows, leaving the light for these new dancers.

Pastor’s choreography adds unique flourishes and cheeky eroticism to classical steps. Tendus end with swiveling hips; arms go up to high fifth only to flutter in the air. And the finale ends with a quick wiggle of the hips as the music ends. It’s a perfect way to highlight the classical and contemporary talents within the company.

Here the men were the eye catchers, especially Gregory Dean and Christopher Harrison in the Air. Luke Ahmet, however, was the shining light “In Light and Shadow”. Ahmet is a blessed with a lithe, elegantly proportioned body, and his performance with pantherine flow had unexpected beauty. I look forward to see more of him in future Scottish Ballet visits to Edinburgh.

My only regret was not to have seen the newest member of the company, Aussie Tama Barry and I hope he’ll be featured in future performances


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2006 7:27 am 
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Joined: Sat Aug 23, 2003 11:01 pm
Posts: 6778
Location: Estonia
Quote:
A shaky take on Balanchine
by ZOE ANDERSON for the Independent

In Afternoon of a Faun, Jerome Robbins moves the encounter of faun and nymph to a ballet studio. Looking out into the audience, the dancers seem to watch themselves in a mirror. Luisa Rocco and Christopher Harrison suggest the youthful narcissism of Robbins's choreography.

published: August 22, 2006
more...


***

Quote:
Scottish Ballet
by DONALD HUTERA for the Times

Within a few minutes of the curtain rising on Agon, George Balanchine’s 1957 masterwork for 12 dancers, two ballerinas lost their footing. Chalk it up to first-night nerves or a slippery stage. Regardless, they recovered and the piece itself jetted onwards, fuelled by its Stravinsky score. The men’s dancing was particularly strong and sharp.

published: August 23, 2006
more...


***

Quote:
Scottish Ballet Mixed Bill
by ALICE BAIN for the Guardian

Two Pieces for HET by Hans van Manen brought the company into a 21st century field of vision. Claire Robertson and Erik Cavallari locked comfortably into each other in the evening's least compelling work.

published: August 24, 2006
more...


Last edited by kurinuku on Thu Aug 24, 2006 7:41 am, edited 1 time in total.

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