reviews


Rick Guest’s stunningly beautiful photographs of Edward Watson vividly illustrate the impact on twenty-first century dance aesthetics of our renewed interest in the male body. On Friday night, in a conversation expertly chaired by dance critic Sarah Crompton as part of the National Portrait Gallery’s Friday Lates talks series, Guest described how he first came to photograph Watson as the result of a commission for The Economist’s Intelligent Life magazine. He was initially taken aback by how slight Watson seemed in rather flat light, then a sudden shaft illuminated Watson’s face, giving him the photograph he needed, and Watson the impetus to project his personality in response to the camera. (more…)

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This collection of essays, articles and interviews, accompanied by a DVD, is enlightening, entertaining and scholarly. Robert Helpmann joined the Vic Wells Ballet in 1933, and was a major influence in the development of ballet in England, but despite being the subject of three biographies (by Elizabeth Salter, Anna Bemrose, and Kathrine Sorley Walker), by the early years of this century his fame was fading and his choreographic work Miracle in the Gorbals (1944) was almost lost.

The story of this ballet’s miraculous recovery threads through the book, and draws together memories, commentary, film footage and analysis. (more…)

Darius James and Amy Doughty’s Cinderella for Ballet Cymru is enthralling. As the lights go down, an invisible narrator speaks an introduction in Welsh, adding an extra layer of magic and mystery to the fairy tale, before the company tells the story with wonderful clarity entirely through dance.

Every aspect of this production knits together in an artistic whole: Jack White’s musical score fits the choreographic action like a glove; Citrus Arts’ aerial effects have dancers as birds, descending from the flies on silken skeins of cloth, and the ingenious use of projection replaces the need for sets and scenery that would clutter the stage. The quality of the dancing was excellent throughout. (more…)

The star turns of Alastair Marriott’s new work The Unknown Soldier are Es Devlin’s set and Bruno Poet’s lighting design, and if this had been an installation at Tate Modern, I would have been thrilled by the iridescent colours and the use of shadow. As a multi-media ballet at the Royal Opera House, it is less effective: at times the partially lowered curtain bathed in shimmering streams of rainbow light, or the large screen that descended from above, obscured the back of the stage; even from row C of the Amphitheatre sightlines seemed perilous. Marriott aspires to tell his story from a primarily female perspective, drawing on the recorded words of Florence Billington, who is shown in archive footage projected on the front curtain, and danced by Yasmine Naghdi. The other two named roles are for men; Matthew Ball as Ted Feltham (the soldier), and Leo Dixon as the Telegraph Boy, dressed in a kinky shiny uniform with see-through effect. (more…)

Ana’s Time, a celebration in film, poetry and music of Ana Barbour’s contribution to the arts, took place at Film Oxford the day before what would have been her fifty-second birthday. The audience, which included many of her collaborators, shared laughter and tears as a showing of some her short films brought back memories of Barbour as a performer and creative artist.

Barbour’s film output demonstrates even more than her live performances her capacity to imagine and then present to others her extraordinary vision of the world. Borderlands, opens to the sound of marching feet, before fingers, and then hands, seem to tiptoe over a mossy wall. There is a troubling humour about her presentation of the human body in the landscape as apparently disembodied body parts squirm through vegetation. Footage, a film around a line-up of bare feet, and Eye-I, in which an eye watches from the side of the screen, are witty but unsettling; in Crow’s Playmates, Barbour seems to levitate above the billowing grass, while in My Time (2011) she confronts the problem of her ageing body. The irony is that Barbour did not live to grow old. (more…)

This wonderful but exasperating documentary film celebrating the art of Rudolf Nureyev almost succeeds both as a work of art in its own right, and as a discussion of the role of dance in mid-twentieth century European history. Although it suffers from too much material and too many ideas for its thematic structure to accommodate, the mode of presentation, which includes the use of dance to embody meaning, is highly original in a documentary format. Magnificent montages of archive film and newly created dance footage overlaid one upon another provide a depth of experience that is sometimes exhausting: watching Russell Maliphant’s choreography, accompanied by Alex Baranowski’s score, while listening to a Russian language interview translated by subtitles is almost overwhelming. (more…)

I made a last minute decision to go and see Watkins Dance Company. As a result I was late and missed most of the first piece but I’m glad that I went and saw the show. It was a shame that it did not appear to have been very well publicised.  The programme included three pieces by choreographer Anna Watkins; Human Animal, Mrs Oath, a film made in collaboration with Film Oxford and ACE, and Solitude. The evening had a theme about the equality and oppression of women in celebration and acknowledgement of the 100 year anniversary of women getting the vote. (more…)

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