wed 28/02/2024

dance

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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Morphoses prog B, Sadler's Wells

Ismene Brown

In the Ballets Russes centenary year it’s worth remembering that the iconic Diaghilev ballets were only the few lasting landmarks in a sea of constant novelties and shipwrecks. So if Christopher Wheeldon doesn’t take many great reviews back to the States after Morphoses’ third visit to London, he should be roundly applauded for being so generous to fellow-choreographers and mounting this enterprise in stark times that need initiative more than ever.

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Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company, Queen Elizabeth Hall

Ismene Brown

It was a weird experience to get home from last night’s performance by Shobana Jeyasingh’s dance company to find Nick Griffin on TV defending his view of “indigenous” Britons. There’s a vigorous stratum of British contemporary dance that could come only from today’s fecund mixing of London and the East, and it’s the faultline where the two layers don’t fuse that makes much of this work tougher and more intriguing in intention than the more “indigenous”, in Griffinese.

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Morphoses, Sadler's Wells

Ismene Brown Wheeldon's Commedia: short on ambiguous sexuality and satire of commedia dell'arte

Britain’s favourite ballet choreographer Chris Wheeldon rode into his homeland last night, bringing with his Anglo-American company Morphoses work by himself and by Britain’s second favourite ballet choreographer Alexei Ratmansky. Two favourites should be enough to guarantee the opening programme, but there are two drawbacks: the pieces filling the middle of the programme, and the limp video in which it’s all wrapped. And the whole represents a split in taste between US and British ballet...

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In the Spirit of Diaghilev, Sadler's Wells

Ismene Brown

Where to start with reviewing the "Diaghilev" evening of new choreographies at Sadler’s Wells last night? With the cool clean head of Wayne McGregor’s or the hot poxed genitals of Javier de Frutos’s? Well, as it’s a 100th birthday party for Diaghilev's iconoclastic Ballets Russes, there’s no harm in pointing out that the poxed genitals are an awful lot more amusing (with the accent on awful) than the familiar McGregorian chant of BSc theses to swot up while watching his dances.

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Mayerling, Royal Ballet

Ismene Brown

Last night was Sun night at the Royal Opera House, when the opening night of the ballet season was supposedly entirely attended by winners of The Sun’s ballet-ballot.

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Cloud Gate, Wind Shadow, Barbican Theatre

Ismene Brown

A white kite flies high in black space, trembling, eagerly poised on a wind that shushes almost inaudibly. A man wearing black enters below, and in a low scoop of light prepares slowly in t'ai chi fashion with the calm of a ritual, making great black shadows with his arms and precisely angled legs. Then a small figure sheathed in black bodysuit, faceless, depersonalised, scuttles on and glues its feet to the man’s like a second black shadow.

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Scottish Ballet, Rubies/ Workwithinwork/ In Light and Shadow, Sadler's Wells

Ismene Brown

Rubies is a ballet for a girl comfortable with her curves, who can slink her hips and tip her bottom and relish seeing the men’s eyes widen. That the said girl is a ballerina, for whom curves are usually anathema, shows the personality challenge that this snazzy, jazzy George Balanchine ballet sets to its leading lady.

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Theyam, Kerala and the Barbican

Peter Culshaw Theyam: a trance-like ritual that loses its fire when taken out of its home

4 am. Eternal. I'm at an all-night temple festival somewhere in north Kerala in southern India - not so much in the middle of nowhere as on the outskirts of nowhere. There's wild chenda drumming and a terrifying apparition of a man who has gone into a trance – the goddess Babrakali, they tell me, has possessed him. He's wearing an outrageous red costume 12ft high, and he is charging right at me. The fact that his outfit is on fire, that he's just bitten the head off a live cockerel...

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