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Houston Ballet

Ben Stevenson's "Cleopatra," Trey McIntyre's "Second Before the Ground," Natalie Weir's "In a Whisper," Petipa's "Diana and Actaeon" Pas de Deux, and Stanton Welch's "Bruiser"

Sadler's Wells, London, UK

April 7, 2001
By Emma Pegler


Like everyone else, I was disappointed with Cleopatra. It is very much in the vein of Petipa but with none of the substance or finish of his ballets – it just didn’t have any bite. The opening scene sets a bad tone – the dancers of the corps are performing Egyptian dances, but we all know that they aren’t really – nobody would be convinced that that is how Egyptians danced. Lauren Anderson was, however, as convincing a Cleopatra as the choreography permitted and I enjoyed her performance, particularly her intricate dance with Caesar in the bedchamber at the end of Act I. I was convinced that Cleopatra would dance like that with Caesar. I was also convinced of Anderson’s star quality and I was looking forward to seeing her in the following day’s mixed programme to determine whether she would still shine amongst the other principal dancers.

I can confirm the Houston Chronicle article that there was a statue of Caesar standing outside “in the evening drizzle”. When I wandered out of the theatre during the interval, I came across this statue on Rosebery Avenue and it made me smile. I am not in a position to comment on the lack of backstage storage at Sadler’s Wells which the article identified, but I did think the stage was rather crowded and that the dancers seemed to be balancing near the front edge. I concluded there was too much scenery and that an attempt should have been made to lose some of the unnecessary pieces.

Sacred before the Ground followed a regular pattern of innocent and then brooding, emotional couplings as the music becomes more dramatic, but it worked and I thought Trey McIntyre’s choreography was imaginative and expressive against the African songs. The dancers appeared strong and elegant and I enjoyed Dawn Scannell’s energy expressed with control and poise. In a Whisper choreographed by Natalie Weir to Schubert gave some wonderful individual moments of drama and emotion and the costumes worked well. It sounds an odd thing to record but so many of the costumes of the female dancers designed for modern pieces seem to stick to the dancer and not fall back into place after the dancer has been lifted by her partner. These dresses moved with the dancers and contributed to the overall emotional effect.

Carlos Acosta excelled once again in Diana and Actaeon’s pas de deux (I had seen him perform this in St Petersburg in February as part of the First International Festival of Ballet). This piece allows him to show off what he can do with jumps (i.e., jump high, jump long and jump a lot, all with an engaging smile that suggests he is expending absolutely no energy whatsoever) and the audience loves it. There was a distinctly louder hubbub in the bar during the next interval as people discussed animatedly what they thought of Acosta’s achievement. The piece suited Lauren Anderson less and I was disappointed that I would not see her in something distinctly modern where I thought she might excel.

The closing piece, Bruiser by Stanton Welch featured a lot of lead up but leading to nothing in particular. My friend remarked that it was a poor imitation of a scene from West Side Story as groups moved energetically, boxing their way around the stage and coming into contact and conflict and then exiting stage to reappear in another group. Less Bruiser, more cheer leader. But I have to hand it to Houston – I enjoyed the second evening and I walked out of the theatre uplifted.

 

Please join a discussion of this performance in our forum.

Edited by Marie.

 


 

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