Posts with the label ballet
Showing posts with label ballet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ballet. Show all posts

Wednesday, 20 April 2022

Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker (Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review


Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker
New Victoria Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday 19th April 2022 by Angie Creagh-Brown
★★★★

The Nutcracker Suite is an old and much beloved family Christmas favourite. Matthew Bourne's version, however is a somewhat different take on the classic.

What can I say about it? Well it was just wonderful!!! The New Victoria Theatre is a large, modern and inviting building, which at this performance welcomed an audience of all ages; there were some young children (well-behaved) and the ambience was happy and inviting, a taste of the sweet treat evening to come.

Bourne takes the original story of a well to do family celebrating Christmas Eve with friends and family and turns it completely round; his version starts in an orphanage, the cast are dressed in grey, the scenery is grey - no light, no joy. The teenage children are preparing to 'enjoy' their meagre Christmas Eve and are joined by the owner, Dr Dross, danced by Danny Reubens, his wife the Matron, Daisy May Kemp, son Fritz, Dominic North and their very spoilt daughter Sugar, Ashley Shaw.

The children manage to find a Nutcracker, which had been locked away in a cupboard, and they escape to a wondrous scene of falling snow, ice-skating and snowballs. To add to their excitement the Nutcracker miraculously changes from a toy to a handsome, well-muscled and talented young man, (Harrison Dowzellto the delight of the children and the leading lady.

The ensemble dancing was lovely, there were comic moments, surprises and hints of jealousies to come. The dancers were performing with large smiles on their faces, which in turn put joy onto the faces of the audience.

Act Two opens with a kaleidoscope of colour which is The Road to Sweetieland. Clara, beautifully danced by Cordelia Braithwaite, is desperately trying to gain entrance to Sweetieland aided by the The Cupids, wonderfully portrayed by Enrique Ngbokota and Shoko Ito. She is still dressed in her undergarments and they find a pretty dress for her, but it does not compare in any way to that worn by her nemesis, Sugar.

There is a lot of humour in this act. Superbly bright costumes and a plethora of well-known sweets dancing wonderfully. It's a visual treat like no other.

The cast is very diverse, which would mirror the children in an orphanage. The story has been re-written in a modern way. This means it would possibly not be suitable for very young children on whom the innuendoes would be lost, but in terms of aesthetics it's sure to appeal to all ages.

The staging, set design, lighting and costumes all added wonderfully to the most enjoyable evening which finished with a standing ovation and joy abounded both on the stage and in the auditorium.

The Nutcracker plays at the New Victoria Theatre until 23rd April

photo credit: Johan Persson

Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker (Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review

Wednesday, 20 April 2022

Friday, 6 March 2020

Swan Lake, Royal Opera House | Review


Swan Lake
Royal Opera House
Reviewed on Thursday 5th March 2020 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★

Liam Scarlett's Swan Lake is impressively grand, impeccably danced and a joy to experience. From a dark, misty lakeside to a glittering palace, this is a ballet that balances storytelling and spectacle perfectly. The entire company dance exquisitely, with Marianela Nuñez and Vadim Muntagirov completely shining in the lead roles.

With John Macfarlane's lush designs, this is a highly confident production which keeps pace throughout and allows the dancing to shine. Based in the 1890s the sets and costumes are sumptuous and evocative. Even the park outside the palace gates feels magical. The more abstract lake is ragged and bleak but provides a perfect, (almost) blank canvas to showcase the many swans. The palace is astounding, with a sweeping staircase, marble walls, golden decoration and a crimson curtain. It's a gasp worthy set that really does stun. Macfarlane's costumes are structured but wonderfully airy. The white tutu's of the swans are delicate and almost snow-like as they pepper the stage. Alongside them, David Finn's lighting keeps everything gleaming and makes sure not a step is missed by the enraptured audience.

Scarlett has kept Petipa and Ivanov's original choreography as well as seamlessly adding his own sequences. The new Act One Waltz is divine, with Marcelino Sambé's Benno bringing excellent lighthearted and sprightly moments. Act Three features a series of national dances, with Itziar Mendizabal's sultry Spanish princess really shining. The newly updated Neapolitan Dance feels modern and uplifting thanks to the addition of tambourines which are deftly used.


The Act Four pas de deux is one of the most magical ballet moments I have ever witnessed. The gentleness with which Siegfried and Odette interact is mesmirising and crushing to watch; and the almost broken choreography from Odette is immensely effective and makes the lack of reunion at the end even more devastating.

Nuñez's dancing is as floaty and measured as you could dream of. The control with which every step is taken is a testament to the hours of work which have clearly been put into perfecting her craft. Extremely evident in the seemingly endless series of fouettés which really astound. Even in the seductive Black Swan moments, there is a delicacy to her dancing which draws you in and manages to make the vast Opera House feel intimate. Muntagirov is the prince of dreams as he combines romance and aristocratic grace. His elevations and soft as anything landings are magnificent to watch and his entire performance is a treat.

This is a hugely moving production which must be the definitive version of Swan Lake. The stellar cast and orchestra under the baton of Koen Kessels provide treats for all the senses and a truly magical night out. Everything really is beautiful at the ballet.

Swan Lake, Royal Opera House | Review

Friday, 6 March 2020

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Matthew Bourne's The Red Shoes (UK Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review


The Red Shoes (UK Tour)
New Victoria Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday 4th February 2020 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★

Originally a dark fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, The Red Shoes was adapted for the big screen by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger in 1948. It follows a dance company as they tour the world; and the story of two men's obsession with Victoria Page, a dancer who longs to be a star and becomes possessed by her red ballet shoes.

With multiple locations, sometimes indistinguishable characters and intricate meta-narratives, The Red Shoes isn't the easiest of ballets to follow, but Matthew Bourne's production somehow provides a perfect introduction to the art form and takes you on a journey that you don't want to end, as the continuous flow and incredible emotion keep you on the edge of your seat throughout.

What really elevates this show is the way the story forms a distinction between creating and performing art. We see the process of the dressers and choreographers bringing a vision to life in a structured and unified way; whilst, the performers are intensely frenzied and intense. These opposites come together to create a beautifully enchanting show. Just like the real world of theatre, what we see on stage is the graceful swan above the water, but what we miss is the underwater kicking of intense rehearsals, quick changes and personal drama. If anything, The Red Shoes is a fantastic reminder and celebration of the hard work, creativity and energy that goes into putting on a great piece of theatre.


Before the show even begins, magic is created thanks to Lez Brotherson's exceptional design. A luxe red curtain drapes the stage and reveals the varying worlds of The Red Shoes. From monochrome moments to full colour clubs and beaches, every moment feel luxurious and perfectly designed. The costumes are timely and tailored to perfection, with a divine attention to detail that is understated enough to be effective, but not in your face. When Victoria first dances in her red ballet shoes, she wears a flawless costume that highlights the red and welcomes her as a prima. During act two however, the mental and physical toils she faces are mirrored through the demise of her costume which is shredded and faded. These details are effective beyond belief and make this whole production feel superior.

Bourne's company are outstanding. Ashley Shaw is of course, technically wonderful as Victoria, but it's her steely drive and intensity to succeed that make her so enjoyable to watch; especially when contrasted so excellently against her compassion and vulnerability. As Victoria's lover/musician/muse, Harrison Dowzell is pure joy to watch. The way he flies around the stage, and shows his love for music with a genuine sense of revelry can't help but bring a smile to your face.

Victoria's dances with both men are incredibly striking and Reece Causton as Boris Lermontov is utterly shocking. His obsessive and sharp but quiet demeanour is terrifying to witness but completely absorbing.  This is a production where you often find yourself holding your breath as it rarely lets you escape from it's magical grip. The end of act one is one of the most spectacularly effective moments in theatre and really should be experienced.

The entire New Adventures company prove once again why they're so revered in this glorious looking and exceptionally assured production. The Red Shoes is a must see tale of passion, envy and tragedy.

The Red Shoes plays at the New Victoria Theatre until 8th March before continuing its tour

Matthew Bourne's The Red Shoes (UK Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Monday, 3 February 2020

Stephanie Billers on starring in Matthew Bourne's The Red Shoes

Matthew Bourne's New Adventures company continually wows audiences around the world with their intricate, unique and entertaining ballets. Currently touring the UK after a stint at Sadler's Wells is The Red Shoes. Having previously starred in Swan Lake and Cinderella for New Adventures, we sat down with Stephanie Billers a dancer from the company as she told us all about herself and her roles within the ballet. 


The Red Shoes is a tale of obsession, possession and one girl's dream to be the greatest dancer in the world. Victoria Page lives to dance but her ambitions become a battleground between the two men who inspire her passion.


Set to the achingly romantic music of golden-age Hollywood composer Bernard Herrmann, The Red Shoes is orchestrated by Terry Davis and played by the New Adventures Orchestra, with cinematic designs by Lez Brotherson, lighting by Paule Constable, sound by Paul Groothuis and projection from Duncan McLean.


Watch Stephanie discuss her characters in the ballet and get a sneak peek backstage here

Get to know more about Stephanie and her life outside of dance here

The Red Shoes next plays at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking from 4th-8th March and then continues it's tour around the UK

Stephanie Billers on starring in Matthew Bourne's The Red Shoes

Monday, 3 February 2020

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Manon, Royal Opera House | Review


Manon
Royal Opera House
Reviewed on Wednesday 2nd October 2019 by Olivia Mitchell
★★★★

The Royal Ballet's new season opens with Manon, Kenneth MacMillan's tale of doomed love and sexual exploitation. It's a ballet that puts the greed and debauchery of the 18th-century world at it's forefront whilst highlighting the company's skill at storytelling.

Formed in 1974, Manon remains one of the company's most popular works, with the title role a dream to play for many dancers. The emotional story of the heroine who falls for the young hero whilst being drawn to a life of luxury as a rich man's mistress, is moving and exquisite to see onstage.

Compared to other ballets where the leading female is a fully formed character, in Manon our leading lady is an almost ambiguous presence who floats around the stage engaging in all the action but taking on the forms of varying emotions. Almost embodying the feelings of those around her, she seems to be a passive player in a world dominated by men and money. Massenet's beautifully hypnotic music guides her around the stage and the people surrounding her lead her story.

As the somewhat aloof leading lady, Sarah Lamb is delightful. Despite at times lacking the extremes of passion or sadness, Lamb is consistently fluent and earnest. Lamb's performance as Manon is beautifully danced, highly nuanced in terms of her emotional acting, and overall is pure joy to watch.


The most intoxicating moments are seen when Lamb joins with Vadim Muntagirov as Des Grieux who is resplendent throughout. Equal measures of innocence, vulnerability and passion make every second of his stage time a delight. Together the pair bring light and darkness to the stage in a way which is devastating and stunning all at once. Melting together is moments of pure bliss and bouncing away from one another in playful affection, the two dancers really do seem like a match made in ballet heaven.

As Manon's charismatic, pimping brother Lescaut, Ryoichi Hirano excels. His drunken dance is choreographed madness as he swirls round the stage in an alcohol induced wobble, but retains poise and grace throughout. His comedic timing is second to none as is the underlying current of threat which he imbues into each moment. In the role of his mistress, Itziar Mendizabal is bold and sultry as always. Her emotional performance is striking and she really gives some of the stand out moments of the night.

This is an excellent opening to the season, filled with sharp, clean and fresh dancing which invites the audience to bask in the emotion and drama unfurling in front of them. An ideal first-time-ballet this is a must-see as well as a must-hear thanks to Martin Yates' sumptuous re-orchestrations.

photo credit: Alice Pennefather

Manon, Royal Opera House | Review

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

The Firebird / A Month in the Country / Symphony in C, Royal Opera House | Review


The Firebird / A Month in the Country / Symphony in C
Royal Opera House
Reviewed onTuesday 4th June 2019 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★

The Royal Ballet are wrapping their summer season up with a trio of delightful works by three of the greatest choreographers. Together they form a night entertainment that is full of surprise, and more importantly variety. The versatility of ballet is showcased, as are the spectacular dancers who fizzle with precision and energy at once.

The proceedings open with The Firebird which is strange but feisty. Combining Russian folklore with Stravinsky's score and classical ballet, the result is a crackling piece of theatre which is exciting and superbly easy on the eyes. The Firebird herself, Yasmine Naghdi really does flame across the stage as she vanquishes the sorcerer and creates moments of magic. Naghdi is nail bitingly sharp in every step and her technical precision screams out. Alongside her musicality, gentleness and stage presence, her interpretation is powerful and inviting.

Christina Arestis is beautiful and graceful as the Tsarevna; and alongside Edward Watson's persistent Tsarevich the pair make a lasting statement. Gary Avis is suitably gnarled as Kostcheï and brings both humour and menace to the theatrical character. 

The Royal Ballet staple, A Month in the Country is the stand out of the trio, proving what a masterful choreographer Frederick Ashton was. Marianela Nuñez is divinely light as precise as Natalia who truly is The Nutcracker's Clara, all grown up. Her delightful performance and flirtations throughout the piece are marvellous to watch and the grace she moves with is truly mesmerising. 


Matthew Ball is handsome and powerful as Beliaev the tutor who has the ladies of the house fawning after his. The pax de deux's Ball dances with both Francesca Hayward and Romany Pajdak are impeccably strong and emotive.  

Chopin's sumptuous melodies also add to the enthralling nature of this piece and one can't help but find themselves wrapped up in the sweetness and warmth of it all. 

The final treat of the series is Balanchine's Symphony in C which rattles along to close the programme on a high. Anthony Dowell's simplistic backdrop perfectly highlights the magic of ballet, with the dazzling white tutus creating a striking and magnificent contrast to the blue screen behind them. Each dance, both solo and in the corps de ballet gave stellar performances. Special mention must go to Fumi Kaneko who stepped in at the last minute to give an enchanting performance.

Together, these works create a triple bill that is a swoon worthy, explosion of exuberant dance. 

photo credit: Tristram Kenton

The Firebird / A Month in the Country / Symphony in C, Royal Opera House | Review

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake (UK Tour), New Wimbledon Theatre | Review


Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake (UK Tour)
New Wimbledon Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday 16th April 2019 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★

Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake premiered in 1995 and has since received critical and audience acclaim. Bourne's Swan Lake which replaces the female swans with an ensemble of skilled, menacing men, is one of the most groundbreaking ballet retellings and remains fresh and innovative today.

In typically Bourne fashion, the storyline is dark but with many injections of humour and fine attention to detail (the adorable Corgi which crosses the stage is just one example). The set is extravagant and luxurious enough to make you forget you're watching a touring production. Equally, Lez Brotherston has done an outstanding job with the delicately designed costumes which conjure up the atmosphere of each scene and setting wonderfully. Particularly impressive are the glamorous ballroom scenes where everything sparkles and shines; and the sinister hospital scene where masks bring a nightmarish world to life against stark white.

The entirety of this ballet is fantastically nuanced, with every emotion interpreted perfectly. The balance between dance, comedy and drama is exquisite and there are often so many brilliant things happening at once that you don't know where to look. This production is truly a feast for the eyes.

Tchaikovsky's score also provides a feast for the ears. The Swan Lake Orchestra's lush, virtuosic recording shines and soars exactly as one would wish. The recognisable music, accompanied by masculine dance has the audience transfixed from open to close. 


Max Westwell as The Swan is outstandingly multi-faceted. At times he is menacing as he rears up, but equally calm and regal as he defensively bows down. The contrast is amazing to watch as is the way the Price (Dominic North) complements him. The pair are both strong and delicate as they create a thrilling union on stage.

Nicole Kabera is suitably regal as the queen, with Freya Field a complete contrast, constantly stepping on toes and causing laughs as the Girlfriend. Both ladies are highlights of the production.

Swan Lake is a sumptuous production full of glorious moments which you'd be hard pressed not to revel in. A powerful, intricately choreographed and danced show, this is a must see for ballet regulars and newbies alike. 

Swan Lake runs at the New Wimbledon Theatre until April 20th, before continuing its tour.

photo credit: Johan Persson

Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake (UK Tour), New Wimbledon Theatre | Review

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Romeo and Juliet, Royal Opera House | Review


Romeo and Juliet
Royal Opera House 
Reviewed on Tuesday 26th March 2019 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★

Romeo and Juliet is arguably Shakespeare's most well known play and a regular feature in the Royal Opera House programming, having been performed by The Royal Ballet more than 400 times since its Covent Garden premiere in 1965. This season beautifully revives Kenneth MacMillan's dramatic monument in a smooth and moving way, with a number of Company debuts making it feel fresh even after all these years. 

In the title roles, Matthew Ball and Lauren Cuthbertson are a match made in heaven as they bounce off of one another, in their sweetly romantic choreography which showcases young love (and obsession) especially well. The tension as they build to their first kiss is palpable. Romeo lifts his Juliet onto pointe as they kiss and creates a very calm and heartwarming moment before the fast paced drama of the next two acts. Ball and Cuthbertson are masters of their craft and give performances which completely justify their successes. 

Act One drags a little but the pageantry from the offset is marvellous. The sword fights are choreographed memorably and sharply and stand out against Nicholas Georgiadis' set as they fill the vast stage. The contrast between the intimate pas de duex and large scale ensemble numbers does well to bring variety and allows moments of extreme action as opposed to storytelling alone. A particular stand out is certainly  Marcelino Sambe who leads the mandolin dance perfectly and creates a buzz as the audience are drawn in by his fantastic technique and performance skills. Itziar Mendizabal also shines as she brings brief moments of humour and light to the three harlots who appear throughout. 


The melodrama is prevalent, with Mercutio's death (Valentino Zucchetti) and Lady Capulet's break down providing emotionally impactful moments. Mime is used perfectly by the pair as well as by Cuthbertson who acts beautifully throughout. 

Brief moments where dancers fell out of time are noticeable but do little to detract from the story and flow. Whilst MacMillan's choreography does everything it should, there are times when it feels too much is being done in too little time, and there isn't a second to really appreciate the intricacies of the basics. The musicality of movements feels undervalued in comparison with storytelling.  

MacMillan's telling really puts Juliet at the heart of the story which brings a fragility and power that makes it so special. A wonderfully danced and highly luxurious production, Romeo and Juliet is sure to delight audiences.

Romeo and Juliet runs at the Royal Opera House until 11th June 2019 and will also be screened at cinemas on the 11th.

photo credit: Helen Maybanks

Romeo and Juliet, Royal Opera House | Review

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Friday, 15 February 2019

The Cunning Little Vixen/The Two Pigeons, Royal Opera House | Review


The Cunning Little Vixen/The Two Pigeons
Royal Opera House
Reviewed on Thursday 14th February 2019 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★

In a charming night of theatre, we see artist-in-residence Liam Scalett's forty minute ballet, The Cunning Little Vixen, for The Royal Ballet School; paired with Frederick Ashton's stylish piece, The Two Pigeons. The two works create a programme that evokes warmth and feels ever so magical.

Scarlett's musicality is evident in The Cunning Little Vixen as he allows Leoš Janáček's score (arranged by Peter Breiner) to guide the piece. Scarlett has also made clever use of projection (designed by Finn Ross and Ash J Woodward) in the form of a children's cartoon which embellishes the story and adds a humourous layer, but doesn't detract from the dancers. Instead it works in conjunction with them. As chickens and feathers fly on screen, they also fly on stage and create a frenetic energy amongst the cast. 

The cast of younger and older dancers join together to give a wonderfully gleeful and heartwarming show. The story is nothing groundbreaking but is a vibrant and a perfect introduction to ballet. 

Madison Bailey as Sharp-Ears The Vixen is delightful and mischievous and alongside Liam Boswell as Goldspur The Fox, the pair create some fabulously playful and enjoyable moments. The entire cast of animals are brought to life not just by their animated and spirited performances but by the bright costumes which bring childhood joy to life on stage as well as providing humour and movement on their own. From bumblebees to ladybirds and a frog, each animal is uniquely and clearly characterised and looks wonderful under Les Bone's lighting. Scarlett really has done a wonderful job on this piece.


In The Two Pigeons, the musicality and purity of Ashton's choreography, leads to the focus being solely on the dance and technique. Whilst Jacques Dupont's fantastic costumes bring life and vibrance to the stage, the core of this production is on the ballet itself. The intensely emotional choreographic style is especially moving in the final moments of the piece and the reunion pas de deux we have all been waiting for, is pulled off with delicacy and sincerity and is certainly worth the wait. 

Yuhui Choe as The Young Girl is pretty much perfect in her debut as she performs with desire and a hint of petulance. Alexander Campbell is suitably 'artistic' in his frustrations between the ballerina and the gypsy. Itziar Mendizabal is seductive and calculating and she fights and flirts in equal measure through her strong and impressive dance. 

Featuring moments which feel almost impressionistic as well as purely classical, The Two Pigeons is an entertaining and heartwarming piece. Act one tells most of the story so act two does drag a little as nothing happens to move the plot along but the energy and height with which the dancers perform, helps to keep the audience invested and enthralled. 

This is a perfect programme for a whimsical but beautifully performed evening out and is a wonderful opportunity for current students to experience the professional world. 

photo credit: Tristram Kenton

The Cunning Little Vixen/The Two Pigeons, Royal Opera House | Review

Friday, 15 February 2019