tue 23/07/2019

dance

Best of 2015: Dance & Ballet

Hanna Weibye

It was business as usual in the British dance world in 2015. Looking back over the year, theartsdesk's dance critics see the industry's many talented, capable people continuing to do their jobs well, but we don't recall being shaken, stirred or surprised as often as in other years, or at least not by new works: our top moments of the year are concentrated in the farewells of great dancers Sylvie Guillem and Carlos Acosta, and in classic productions of classic ballets.

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Nutcracker, English National Ballet, London Coliseum

Hanna Weibye

Christmas legends are not born; they are made. In the case of the Nutcracker, its Christmas indispensability in Britain and America stems not from the original 1892 St Petersburg production, but from 1950s reinterpretations by emigré Russians (Balanchine and Karinska in the US, Lichine and Benois in the UK). Like most other story ballets, there is no stable text - apart from the Tchaikovsy score, of course, but Balanchine was happy to cut and rearrange that too.

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The Little Match Girl, Lilian Baylis Studio Theatre

Hanna Weibye

I habitually skipped over Hans Christian Andersen's Little Match Girl in my childhood fairy tale compendium because I couldn't bear the sadness (see also: The Happy Prince *sob*).

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Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty, Sadler's Wells

Jenny Gilbert

If Matthew Bourne never made another story ballet, his company New Adventures could probably carry on touring his back catalogue till the end of time. The Sleeping Beauty is only on its second London outing, and although it lacks the emotional clout of his Swan Lake, it’s clearly set for a similarly long life as a Great British Export.

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Carlos Acosta: A Classical Selection, London Coliseum

Jenny Gilbert

“Every time I go on stage it could be the last,” Carlos Acosta warned a few years back. And now that moment has come – or very nearly. There are a scant six performances of this farewell gala at the Coliseum (largely a reprise of an Olivier-winning programme he presented in 2006). Then he picks it up again next May, with different supporting dancers, for a fleeting regional tour.

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The Nutcracker, Royal Ballet

Hanna Weibye

With its hybrid Romantic-kitschy plot, chocolate-advert Tchaikovksy tunes, and baggage of obligatory Christmas cheer, the Nutcracker is harder to get right than you might think if you've only ever seen Sir Peter Wright's Royal Ballet version, now over 30 years old and still practically perfect in every way.

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Conceal|Reveal, Sadler's Wells

Hanna Weibye

Any partnership that lasts for 20 years deserves a party, and last night at Sadler's was a celebration of the wonderfully fruitful working relationship between choreographer Russell Maliphant and lighting designer Michael Hulls.

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The Two Pigeons, Royal Ballet

Hanna Weibye

With real live birds fluttering across the stage, and a sweetly happy ending – hurrah for young love! – Frederick Ashton's 1961 The Two Pigeons can look like mere frothy fantasy, precisely the kind of trivial, uncomplicated ballet plot that the young Kenneth MacMillan was reacting against in his own work in the early 60s.

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Sacre, Sasha Waltz and Guests, Sadler's Wells

Hanna Weibye

What dancemaker wouldn't want to tackle Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) at some point? Just as the Stravinsky score changed music, the original Ballets Russes production changed dance - and was then, conveniently, so completely forgotten that no master-text exists. Everyone is free to take the Stravinsky and run.

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Love, Art and Rock 'n' Roll, Rambert, Sadler's Wells

Hanna Weibye

A good triple bill should have something for everyone, so Rambert have all bases covered with their latest: rare must be the person who likes neither love, nor art, nor rock 'n' roll. In fact, it's a safe bet that most people like all of them, and so last night's programme at Sadler's Wells was something of a crowd-pleaser – no mean feat for an evening with two new works, created for this season and here receiving their London première.

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