Edinburgh Festival Theatre
April 21, 2005
The second leg of the Scottish Ballet's Spring Season tour brought the company across Scotland to the spacious stage of the Edinburgh Festival Theatre. Though opening night in Glasgow was impressive, the additional rehearsal time and performance space in Edinburgh lifted the company to new level, with the dancers sparkling in pieces by Balanchine, Page and Ashton.
Devoid of sets, storyline or costumes, George Balanchine's "The Four Temperaments" is pure dance - an exploration of movement to music. The choreography is as diverse as the temperaments it embodies - both smooth, sinuous, angular and forceful. Often it seems like Balanchine is playing with the dancer's bodies as a musician would his instrument. A ballerina is lifted upside down, her knees bent with feet together - a human pendulum; another is dragged offstage in a split. The focus is on detail - from the jutting angles of arms to the frequent, deliberate steps in which the ballerinas "stab" the ground with their pointe shoes.
And it was the Scottish Ballet ballerinas who stood out in Thursday night performances of "The Four Temperaments". While then women, for the most part, have grasped the nuances of Balanchine's choreography, the men appear less at home with the challenges of the angular choreography. Paul Liburd was again the standout, his Melancholic solo richly textured and deeply felt, though with a more contemporary than classic feel. Also impressive was Cristo Vivancos, who with his long, elegant lines and solid presence, improves with each performance.
A trio of pieces by artistic director Ashley Page: "The Pump Room", "Walking in the Heat" and "32 Cryptograms", comprise the core of the program. Diana Loosemore, Jarkko Lehmus, Sophie Martin and Paul Liburd gave the performances of the evening in Page's new "The Pump Room", oozing power and confidence in the weighty choreography. The unlikely pairing of Sophie Martin and Paul Liburd - she tiny and sleek, he big and muscular, is one of the strengths of the piece. Though dwarfed, she never seems in the least overwhelmed and the contrast makes their interaction fascinating.
Cristo Vivancos returned to partner Tatiana Loginova in the brief, but sizzling, "Walking in the Heat" She in lace ruffles, he in dark suit, the pair brought a deliberate, paced sexiness to the duet. Adam Blyde and Luke Ahmet were eye-catching in a dynamic performance of "32 Cryptograms", a piece which has come to epitomize the new, cool, powerful image of the company.
After the dark intensity of Page's choreography, the lighthearted frolic that is Frederick Ashton's "Façade" is a welcome change in mood. "Façade" has the same carefree feel as Ashton's full length ballet, "La Fille Mal Gardee", but while Fille has a story - Façade is just that - a collection of delightful variations that have no pretense but to be entertaining.
As always, the Scotch Rhapsody - kilts a swirling - is an audience favorite. The tiny Tomomi Sato delivered a punchy performance in the Polka, but was sometimes overpowered by the brass section of the orchestra. Paul Liburd's round-spectacled Foxtrotter was amusingly geeky, but most nimble footed. But it was Claire Robinson and Cristo Vivancos who brought down the house with their nuanced, comic performance as the over-the-top, and not-quite-so-nimblefooted tangoing couple. And the rip-roaring finale to William Walton's jolly score completed the evening's performance in high style.