wed 24/07/2024

dance

Margot, BBC Four

Ismene Brown

If Margot Fonteyn and Rudy Nureyev were the most massively important people who ever existed in ballet, then the most massively important question that ever existed in ballet was, did they sleep together? Last night Margot got this over pleasingly quickly. There was the quivery BBC anno at the start that there would be scenes “of a sexual nature”, and hop-skip-jump the couple were at it like rabbits straight after their first performance together.

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The Nutcracker, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Birmingham Hippodrome

Ian Palmer

Peter Wright’s superlative production of The Nutcracker has returned to Birmingham Royal Ballet's repertory for Christmas, a production he created for the company in 1990 and to my mind superior to any other presented in the UK today. Magic, the awesomeness of the Tchaikovsky score, are realised upon the stage and shown in its dances with a childlike sense of fantasy. The Christmas tree rises, the rats play, the snow-goose flies - and the audience gasps.

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Akram Khan and Nitin Sawhney, Sadler's Wells

Ismene Brown

Akram Khan and Nitin Sawhney are too famous to need defining in terms of racial culture, and yet they make a lot of it in the spiel about their offering Confluence, closing the two-week Svapnagata festival at Sadler’s Wells this weekend.

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Akram Khan, Solos, Sadler's Wells

Ismene Brown

What do you call a dancer with a fractured shoulder and only half a show to offer, who nevertheless takes you to the outer reaches of dance nirvana? It can only be Akram Khan. Now fêted as a (reasonable) contemporary choreographer, the favourite of Kylie, Juliette Binoche, Sylvie Guillem, Khan is too little celebrated for what he does at a level beyond anything most of us are ever likely to see, which is dancing in his magnificent, complex, disturbing traditional Indian form of Kathak.

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Birmingham Royal Ballet, Cyrano, Sadler's Wells

Ismene Brown

Lush, romantic storyballets are as scarce as hens' teeth these days, despite the longing of much of the ballet audience to see them. Not because they're too elementary for today's dancemakers, I'd guess, but because to make one with lively dancing characters (male, female, young, old, good, bad, rich, poor), with a flowing story, lashings of set opportunities and an atmospheric score, takes multiple theatre skills few choreographers now develop. David Bintley's Cyrano is one of...

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Duke Bluebeard's Castle/Rite of Spring, ENO

Ismene Brown

There are horrors in the world so vile that few of us want to think about them. None more so than such cases as Josef Fritzl - or Jaycee Lee Dugard, or Arcedio Alvarez, or Raymond Gouardo, or Wolfgang Priklopil, or Marc Dutroux... but you get the picture. Cases where men abduct girls and turn them into sex slaves and father multiple children by them, often incestuously, hiding them in garages, basements, behind walls, sometimes for decades undiscovered, sometimes murdering them.

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Agon/ Sphinx/ Limen, Royal Ballet

Ismene Brown

Extraordinary lives dancers lead at Covent Garden - in a single day rushing between studios to rehearse the tortured, introspective Mayerling, the pristine classicism of The Sleeping Beauty, the off-centre acrobatics of Balanchine’s Agon and the static wriggles and hip-snaps of Wayne McGregor. All of these works are currently in Royal Ballet repertory, and you can see Ed Watson, Yuhui Choe, Johan Kobborg and an array of others on stage at the moment in all or any...

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Tread Softly/ Carnival of the Animals/ Comedy of Change, Rambert Dance, Sadler's Wells

Ismene Brown

At its best (ie when it’s not trying to be gimmicky and snare so-called “new audiences”), Rambert is unique in Britain in providing music and dance as theatre. No other company matches it in commitment to this, not even the Royal Ballet, which long ago adopted cloth ears when it comes to new ballet music.

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The Sleeping Beauty, Royal Ballet

Ismene Brown

Critics did not cover themselves with glory after the premiere of The Sleeping Beauty in St Petersburg on a snowy January night in 1890: “We cannot help regretting the means chosen by the theatre directorate in lowering the standard of artistry of our ballet,” wrote one. Another: “Such spectacles attract neither a constant public nor a circle of educated adherents.”

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Mark Morris Dance Group, Sadler's Wells & touring

Ismene Brown

I try to remember when I first saw Mark Morris’s dance company and what I thought of them. Fairly weird, I recall - like chubby church-goers, with their big bottoms, fleshy arms and homespun cheeriness, not remotely part of the sharp-boned, athletically wired contemporary dance that was all around. And they weren’t balletic either, despite their little village hall arabesques and occasional flying jetés. But by gum what they did was musical, and that smacked you straightaway.

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