Sunday, 27th September 2009
The Britten Theatre, Royal College of Music
Every now and then, like-minded people collaborate and generously give their time for a good cause. Masterminded by Henry Roche and Penny David, ‘A Dream of Africa’ was born – a heady mix of ballet and music to celebrate the lives of Martin Luther King and Barack Obama, and to raise funds for Ghana charity Ashanti Development.
Presented by Stephanie Lane, there were some wonderful musical interludes, skilfully played on the cello by Adrian Bradbury, piano by Henry Roche and Oliver Davies and violin by Robert Gibbs, but as this is the place for ballet, I have omitted the details here.
Our first ballet treat, Song Without Words, choreographed by Vanessa Fenton, follows the composer Mendelssohn’s own view that the Songs should not be interpreted too literally. Leticia Stock, newly graduated to the company (last seen in the Royal Ballet School Annual Matinee performance as Mustardseed from ’The Dream’), looks entirely at home with fellow Company dancers Sergei Polunin & Xander Parish. Dressed in black they were a sharp trio. Stock in particular has an aura about her that compels you to watch her dancing.
The St Paul’s School String Quartet accompanied Coincide and Collide (2009), which showed off newly promoted & beguiling Leanne Cope, in inky black, partnered by another newcomer, Tristan Dyer (graduate of The Royal Ballet School).
Cope has exquisite fluidity of movement and the pair handled the tricky off-balance turns & lifts with finesse to spare, as though they had been dancing together for years. Samantha Raine choreographed this piece which premiered at St Pauls two days earlier.
Who wouldn’t love a purple costume ? Liam Scarlett chose well for his dancers Emma-Jane Maguire and Ryoichi Hirano, dancing to Chopin. A World Premiere, Scarlett is already well established as a choreographer of note. Nocturne is a classical piece of interlocking arms, Maguire light and flowing with twittering feet, and Hirano a strong partner in the softly enfolding lifts.
MacMillan’s Concerto pas de deux, with Mara Galeazzi and Gary Avis, in dazzling colour, is slow and sculptural.
Such movements require absolute control and Avis showed again just why he is such a highly regarded dance partner. Both were assured and serene throughout.
Our second World Premiere of the night, Dream Study, by Erico Montes, saw Romany Pajdak, Celisa Diuana and Claire Calvert bourrée backwards across the stage and dance with and away from each other, split by arabesques and beautifully shaped arms.
To close the evening, a story of young love. A young man is tempted to stray from his fiancée by a band of gypsies, but in the final pas de deux from The Two Pigeons, he realises that the grass is not always greener and is reunited with his true love.
The pigeons themselves were absent, but the title is a metaphor for the young couple in the central roles.
Leanne Cope’s characterisation of Ashton’s clever choreography references the pigeons throughout, all dreamy fluttering hands and head. Cope is admirably partnered by Paul Kay, attentive, romantic, and delightful. Perfectly matched. Perfection.