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…)

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The Theatre at Chipping Norton in the heart of the leafy Cotswold countryside is a picturesque small venue, which provided the dancers of Ballet Central, the graduate performing company of Central School of Ballet, with a warmly welcoming family audience and an almost full house for their annual visit. The lopsided stage is narrow but deep, giving viewers in the side galleries problematic sightlines, but this is made up for by intimacy and potential connection between viewers and doers. The company earned my profound respect for their ability to fit energetic ensemble dancing into this space without any problems or collisions.

This year’s programme promised storytelling with iconic ballet titles such as Black Swan, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. These were not simply cut down versions of full-scale classics, but re-workings made for touring and playing to the strengths of this company of talented youngsters in an unashamedly narrative conception of ballet. All set against the neutrality of black drapes, enlivened and given a sense of place by the use of props, and designer Dante Baylor’s colourful often asymmetric costumes which brought both variety and a sense of overall stylistic unity to the evening. (more…)

Central School of Ballet’s renowned graduate performing company Ballet Central brings its annual nationwide tour to The Theatre, Chipping Norton on Saturday 2nd June at 7.45 pm. Under the artistic direction of Christopher Marney, Ballet Central’s diverse range of dance and theatre will be performed in 20 towns and cities in England and Wales across a five month period.

This season’s breadth of repertoire is testament to the distinguished choreographers that support the young dance company: Matthew Bourne of New Adventures honours Ballet Central with the Fairies Prologue from his gothic-reworking of Sleeping Beauty and, for the first time, Ballet Central will present an excerpt from FAR by multi award-winning choreographer and director Wayne McGregor.

After the success of last year’s Romeo & Juliet, choreographer Jenna Lee returns to Ballet Central with her brand new creation Black Swan, a dark twist on the iconic classic.

To celebrate the life and work of Kenneth MacMillan, Ballet Central introduces an excerpt from his rarely-seen 1983 ballet Valley of Shadows inspired by Georgio Bassani’s haunting novel The Garden of the Finzi-Continis.

And finally, to close this year’s performance, Christopher Marney will revive scenes from Christopher Gable’s Cinderella on the 25th anniversary of its creation. Set to an acclaimed score by Ballet Central’s resident composer Philip Feeney, this is a timeless version of a much-loved fairy tale.

Ballet Central is the touring company of Central School of Ballet in London, one of the leading centres for professional dance training and education. Students in the final year of their three-year BA (Hons) degree course in Professional Dance and Performance join Ballet Central to gain invaluable touring experience before graduation, enabling them to join premier dance companies.  Recent Central graduates are currently employed with Birmingham Royal Ballet, Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures Company, English National Ballet, Scottish Ballet, Ballet Ireland, National Ballet of Estonia, Ballet Black, Northern Ballet, K Ballet, Rambert Dance Company, Phoenix Dance Theatre, Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, Singapore Dance Theatre, Michael Clark Company, The Lion King, Phantom of the Opera and An American in Paris.

Performance:  Saturday 2nd June 7.45pm

Venue:  The Theatre Chipping Norton, 2 Spring Street, Chipping Norton, Oxon OX7 5NL

Tickets:  Adults £15.50, concessions £13.50

Book online here, or call the Box Office on 01608 642350

For more information visit: www.balletcentral.co.uk and www.centralschoolofballet.co.uk

Twitter: @balletcentral
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/_ballet_central_/

Woolf Works opens with a recording of Virginia Woolf herself reading from her lecture On Craftsmanship, “Words, English words, are full of echoes, memories, associations …”. If the purpose of ballet is ultimately communication, Wayne McGregor has set himself a problem: how is it possible to add to what Virginia Woolf has already said with words in the three books that inspire the ballet? The depth and density of Woolf’s writing as she moves in and out of the minds of her characters cannot be directly replicated in dance, but by taking themes in the novels as a jumping-off ground, McGregor and his dancers are able to use movement to delve into the human psyche. (more…)

A welcome opportunity to see The Royal Ballet perform Wayne McGregor‘s Woolf Works in live transmission from the Royal Opera House at Oxford’s Phoenix Picturehouse on Wednesday 8th February.

‘Life is not a series of gig-lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end… the proper stuff of fiction is a little other than custom would have us believe it.’ – Virginia Woolf, Modern Fiction

Wayne McGregor’s ballet triptych Woolf Works, inspired by the writings of Virginia Woolf, met with critical acclaim on its premiere in 2015, and went on to win McGregor the Critics’ Circle Award for Best Classical Choreography and the Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production. The Observer described it as ‘a compellingly moving experience’; for The Independent it ‘glows with ambition… a brave, thoughtful work’; The Guardian concluded that ‘it takes both McGregor – and the concept of the three-act ballet – to a brave and entirely exhilarating new place’.

Each of the three acts springs from one of Woolf’s landmark novels: Mrs Dalloway, Orlando and The Waves – but these inspirations are also enmeshed with elements from her letters, essays and diaries. Woolf Works expresses the heart of an artistic life driven to discover a freer, uniquely modern realism, and brings to life Woolf’s world of ‘granite and rainbow’, where human beings are at once both physical body and uncontained essence. Woolf Works was McGregor’s first full-length work for The Royal Ballet, and saw him reunited with regular collaborator Max Richter, who provides a commissioned score incorporating electronic and orchestral music.  This performance by the ballet’s original cast will feature the legendary and luminous Alessandra Ferri in the central role; and the transmission will be rescreened on Monday 13th February as part of the ROH Encore strand.

Date:  Wednesday 8th February, 7.15pm; Monday 13th February 12.oo midday

Venue:  Phoenix Picturehouse, 57 Walton St, Oxford OX2 6AE

Tickets:  £22 adult, £10 child, £17.50 student or retired, £64 family ticket 8th February; £17.50 adult, £10 child, £15 student or retired, £55 family ticket 13th February

Book online here

This is ‘not a conventional autobiography’ but it is a fascinating and inspiring account of 75 years of work in dance and theatre. Immensely humorous, Wright seems to have known almost everybody in the ballet world, and he conjures up vivid images of dips in the freezing January sea with Henry Danton at Eastbourne in the 1940s, Princess Margaret backstage at the Birmingham Hippodrome holding her breath to avoid the whiff from the gents’ loo, or of Michael Somes who could be ‘very difficult’, ‘particularly at full moon’.

For those of us outside the professional ballet world, the book sometimes ‘joins the dots’, and fills the gaps that other, more discreet, accounts have left in obscurity. I imagine that Wright’s colleagues and acquaintances will have looked for their names in the index with some trepidation, for he is almost as frank about the living as he is about the dead. (more…)

The Language of the Soul by photographer Rick Guest features images from his 2014 Exhibition at The Hospital Club Gallery, as well as many more in the series.  Working in collaboration with stylist Olivia Pomp, and featuring such luminary dancers as Edward Watson, Tamara Rojo, Marianela Nuñez, Steven McRae, Sarah Lamb, Sergei Polunin, Zenaida Yanowsky, Nehemiah Kish and Melissa Hamilton, it also includes portraits of Wayne McGregor, Kevin O’Hare, Liam Scarlett and Christopher Wheeldon.  With a foreword by Kevin O’Hare, Director of The Royal Ballet, this book is in a limited first run of 1000 copies, exquisitely printed by PUSH Print, and is in a large format, 300mm x 370mm.

Rick Guest writes:

“Ballet as an art form has always been a collaborative medium, whereby composers, orchestras, choreographers, dancers, artists and impresarios have come together to create something new, something greater than the individual elements. With this in mind, I have deliberately turned away from using photography to document dance as it’s staged for the audience, as important as that is. Instead, I have concentrated on the bringing together of three separate disciplines, that of photography, fashion and dance, in an attempt to create something new and singular.
Away from the constraints of stage, role and costume, the dancers are able to demonstrate their breathtaking capabilities in an uninhibited atmosphere, one that ultimately leads to a purer portrait of the dancers themselves. These images aim to illustrate the key tenets of balletic technique; balance, strength and poise. They are lit and photographed to enhance each dancers’ power and beauty, both physical and emotional, and the images are infused with a fashion edge that is at the same time evocative and playful.”

The Language of the Soul is available from the 15th December 2015 from rg-books.com

Further work can be viewed at rg-dance.com