London, July 2012: Prologue to the Olympics
As Olympic preparations reach fever pitch, dancers from the Opera House to public squares are picking up on the theme.
As part of the Cultural Olympiad the legacy of Pina Bausch is celebrated in her World Cities, the ten productions performed over several weeks. Tickets had sold out nearly a year in advance and the excitement was palpable. However, seeing so many in so short a space of time, did not show the works to best advantage and following the law of diminishing returns, the similarities rather than definition came to the fore although Viktor and Palermo retained the edge one expects from Bausch’s work.
Pablo Aran Gimeno and Ruth Amarante in Bamboo Blues. Photographer Ulli Weiss
The trademark beauty of the women in satin gowns was featured most memorably in Bamboo Blues against a setting of windswept muslin drapes as was the flowing hair swept rhythmically in unison in the bath house scene in Nefes.
These images and the dozens of extraordinary vignettes of human behaviour ensured it was a wonderful event. My unforgettable moment was in Nur Du (Los Angeles) where Dominique Mercy dons a frock and in the acerbic tones of an aging actress gives his views on tinsel town. ‘The problem with Hollywood is they shoot too many films and not enough actors.’
Dream with National Dance Company Wales. Photo Andrew Ross/Dance GB
Dance GB (Great Britain)A tent was erected in the ground of the Royal Naval College at Greenwich to house Dance GB, a programme shared by our three national dance companies. For my money it was the baby of the three, National Dance Company Wales that won gold in a delicious ballet by Christopher Bruce.
Dream is the perfect antidote to the 2012 Games. Opening on a nostalgic 40s country fete atmosphere with tug-of-war, egg-and-spoon and three-legged races it then updates. To the evocative strains of Ravel’s Bolero (with memories of the Torville and Dean skating duo) in clever dance interpretations, they tackled everything from synchronised swimming to hurdles and archery with a neat gymnastic link: all finding perfect balance between humour and technical skill.
Scottish Ballet’s offering, Run for It, by Martin Lawrance to John Adams’ music, showed just how good this company look in high power neo-classical works. It was a sophisticated piece of choreography finding its best moments in the excellent duets. English National Ballet was also looking good – what you could see of them.
Junor Souza in And the Earth Shall Bear.Photo Andrew Ross/Dance GB
Dutch-based Itzik Galili, was having a Rembrandt moment and set his new work, And the Earth Shall Bear Again, in murky gloom penetrated momentarily with shafts of light that cut through to illuminate an amazing limb or torso.
However Junor Souza with his distinctive movement style, as fluid and powerful as a big cat, was unmissable.
A short dance film ‘inspired by the ethos of Dance GB’ and titled Dancing Parallel brought together 60 teenagers from Cardiff, Aberdeen and London. Filmed with a sensitive eye for detail, it was a worthy and ambitious project but sat uneasily in the programme and would do well to look for a more suitable home.
Eri Nishibara and Takeshi Watanabe in Les Rendevous. Photo by Tim Cross
The UK’s professional dance schools are celebrating the year end with their graduation performances. The Contemporary Dance Schools, I saw Northern and London this year, always include some student work and also the works of young professional choreographers.
For Northern, Colin Poole contributed, Weak Spot, which highlighted the young dancers partnering skills and from Sonia Rodriguez, Thirteen Steps which offered both technical and expressive dance to test these very committed students.
The LCDS programme closed on two wonderfully vibrant works, a gift for the talents of the group: Rick Nodine’s Inner Orbit playing on a constantly circling theme full of interesting shape and strong performances and Janice Garrett’s gojubi, generating enough energy to run the national grid.
Elmhurst School for Dance now based in Birmingham and affiliated to Birmingham Royal Ballet has traditionally had a more inclusive curriculum including theatre and Spanish dance. The programme represented this mix, featuring students from all levels, as well as classically based works demonstrating the strong training.
Uneven Ground med Royal Ballet School. Photographer Johan Persson
The highlight this year was Frederick Ashton’s Les Rendezvous featuring Eri Nishibara. She is an absolute charmer with graceful delicate arms who captured both the style in her épaulement and the intricacy of Ashton’s footwork. Takeshi Watanabe was an able partner who came into his own in his solo which he delivered with exuberance.
The Royal Ballet School get a week of performances at the Linbury Studio Theatre where even the tiniest get a showing and climaxes in the showpiece matinee on the Opera House stage. This year the programme included Un Ballo by Jiří Kylián and John Neumeier’s Yondering. These two works, technically challenging and demanding mature artistry were an inspired choice for the graduating students who proved up to the task and were simply superb.
Grand Defilé with The Royal Ballet School. Photographer Johan Persson
Uneven Ground by Paul Boyd brought a tequila sunrise ambiance to the stage, as laidback guys punctuate their slouching gait with bursts of macho bravura. That is until Marta Navarrete Villalba removes her baseball cap, shakes out her long dark hair causing sparks to fly and testosterone levels to soar: a great piece for the young dancers.
In Alastair Marriott’s Simple Symphony Anna Rose O’Sullivan partnered by Marceline Sambé, and Yaoqian Shang with Esteban Hernandez showed technical wizardry; fast, clean and musical in the tricky choreography. I am sure these are names we will be hearing more of.
Dance Invading Trafalgar Square. Photographer Maggie Foyer
Paquita showed the quality of the female ensemble while Brazilian, Mayara Magri, in the lead proved herself a true ballerina with glorious line and technique both limpid and strong.
The Grand Défilé brings the entire student cohort onto the stage and a lump in the throat to witness the dedication and passion of these young dancers.
Then 'Big Dance Week' kicked in, with even Mayor, Boris Johnston having a go.
The weather, wet and cold, didn’t appear to dampen the spirits of a thousand enthusiastic students from 30 dance schools who flooded Trafalgar Square.
Wayne McGregor, who cut his dance teeth as an animateur, was in his element guiding the creativity of the youngsters together with his Random Dance Group.
Other events include Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker who inaugurates a new performance space under the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern and the Royal Ballet’s Metamorphosis: Titian 2012 in collaboration with the National Gallery will soon come to cinema screen.
I’m exhausted and the Olympics has barely begun!
29 July 2012