November 7th 2010
Galas can be tricky. You could have presenters to introduce each piece, which the audience can tire of; you can choose standard gala fare which again, can put people off, or you can be bold and brave. Mara Galeazzi did just that when she put together a spectacular gala in aid of her charity, Dancing for the Children.
Diana Souza, a volunteer for the Honeypot charity & with a full-time job, weaved together a rich tapestry of ballet almost single-handedly. Her aim was to showcase ballets in different styles of music – Tango, Jazz & Salsa. She pulled if off in some style too, attracting an enthusiastic and supportive audience including Dame Vivienne Westwood, Clemency Burton-Hill, Monica Mason & Maina Gielgud.
The programme begins bravely, with Jeune Homme pas de deux danced strongly by Henriett Tunyogi & Christoph Böhm. The piece is full of angst, danced to Mozart’s piano concerto and choreographed by Uwe Scholz. I say bravely, because the original ballet by Roland Petit tells the story of a young man driven to suicide by his faithless lover – not the sort of ballet you’d expect to open a gala with. But it triumphs because of the evocative, secure dancing by Tunyogi and Böhm.
This is followed by In Memory of… ; a pas de deux from Requiem choreographed by Tania Matos from Ballet Riviera. This dance has particular resonance as it tells the story of a severely disabled child who died on November 7th 1993. Danced by Sakaya Ichikawa and Phillip King, it is a fluid, warm pas de deux which starts, and ends, with a lantern held aloft. At the end, the light is extinguished.
Ichikawa has a long, ethereal white dress, and an attentive partner in King. Despite the subject this was light and sensitively danced with plenty of lifts and a great connection between the couple.
Two pieces from the gala had to be cancelled – the White Swan pas de deux and the Jazzbud pas de deux, due to unavoidable circumstances, but there were several musical interludes with Henry Roche on the paino, accompanied by Sophia Tennant on violin and later, Kattrina Kangaris singing Canção de Cristal by Heitor Villa Lobos.
As a child, did you ever wonder what your toys got up to when you were asleep ? Venus Villa and Pedro Lapetra brought a new piece to British audiences with their delightful Muñecos pas de deux; it’s rarely seen here. Villa is adorable; you literally can’t take your eyes off her and in this ballet she is a beautiful rag doll. It’s funny, as warm as the Cuban sun, with great timing and choreography by Alberto Mendéz. Lapetra is a toy soldier living in a small child’s bedroom and each night when the moonlight shines through the window and touches their bodies, they come to life. After a few false starts, they fall in love…… but sadness creeps in because whenever they leave the moon’s light, they return to lifeless toys.
Did the audience love it ? You bet they did. Another great choice from Souza. Two moonbeams for sure.
The first half closes with the brilliant Red Heart pas de deux WORLD PREMIERE by Renato Paroni, danced by Celisa Diuana and Junor de Oliveira Souza.
There is no story as such, but in rehearsals I asked Diuana what she was thinking as she danced. She was caught up in the shifting sands of a relationship, with the balance of power endlessly switching between them. Sometimes she’s calling the shots (which I think she enjoyed) and at other times she was powerless. For a pas de deux which is truly together, with mostly lifts and little seperation, the dancers need to have perfect timing and balance. These two are intuitive dancers and made the difficult lifts look effortless. I’ve said before that Diuana is ready for more solo roles – she has been in the corps de ballet at The Royal Ballet for quite a while – and I hope to see more of her taking the spotlight and working it to her advantage, in her own unique way, very soon.
Diuana’s beautiful red costume was made in just 3 days, and showed off her strong port de bras to perfection. She has neat, clean feet and a light jump, and the transition steps which can so often look slightly underwhelming were properly thought through and very well danced.
The Red Heart draws you in, though this is a double-edged sword as, just as you are getting into the ballet, it stops. I hope that Paroni will have more time to add to the piece in future; it shows such great promise and was very well received.
Part two opens with a pas de deux from What’s the point of Tango, choreographed by Tania Matos and danced by Celisa Diuana and Junor de Oliveira Souza. There is some nifty hat-work, lovely Tango steps from Diuana and a lot of lifts.
Balance is important in the Tango, and Diuana and Souza work so well together that it looks easy. Effortless, even. Hats off to them !
Ballet Black are a great company, always producing sassy, individual work and this excerpt from Da Gamba is no exception. The choreography is by Henri Oguike with music by Bach.
Six dancers take the stage, Cira Robinson, Chantelle Gotobed, Damien Johnson, Jazmon Voss, Sarah Kundi and Jade Hale-Christofi, in chocolate coated costumes and bare legs. The dance is by turns touching, sexy, strong and eloquent. Gotobed is a strong dancer and Johnson a great partner. It was also lovely to see six dancers on stage, after the preceeding duo’s. Oguike has a neat way of engineering his dancers off-stage – a slinky sideways glance or interraction with the other dancers rather than just walking off.
Antonia Franceschi dances Mark Baldwin’s choreography in Threnody to the accompaniment of Bradley Creswick’s violin (on-stage) to music from Bach’s Sonata No1 in G minor.
Franceschi asked Baldwin to make something for her to remember her brother Chris by. The dance is moody, lonesome but not downbeat – in keeping with the tone of the gala it is respectful & thoughtful without being depressive.
The gala finale is the Diana and Actaeon pas de deux, but the twist here is that it’s danced by Venus Villa and Fernando Montaño. And I mean, danced.
This ballet requires attack, a sharpness of edge and yet the arms have to be soft, evoking the nature of the Goddess of the hunt – Diana, cuppping her ear for the sound of the horn. She kills Actaeon at the end of the pas de deux, which is jam packed with virtuoso moves from both dancers, and no-one is sure why she does this – it is a myth after all ! Choreographed by Agrippina Vaganova this is a sizzling firework of a ballet.
Montano has high, soft jumps and is a strong, sensitive partner. He is Columbian but trained in Cuba, where he learnt these skills. It’s a great way to close the gala and the audience – very receptive throughout – showed their appreciation. Thanks must go to the dancers who all rehearsed in their spare time, on tour or finding ways around the tube strike last week. Everyone involved with the gala has given their time for free in aid of the Honeypot charity, which is such a great cause. They help young carers – children – who have to juggle schoolwork with becoming a surrogate parent at home. The charity offers them respite care at Honeypot House where they can enjoy a holiday with other children.
If you were there, you’ve made a difference to the lives of these children already. Thank you.