Dancing For The Children
Sadlers Wells, London
February 28th 2010
Royal Ballet Principal Mara Galeazzi is a determined lady. Actually, it should be Dame Mara, as she was awarded the Cavaliere Del Lavoro medal (a Knighthood) in her native Italy last year. Her focused vision brings together no less than FIVE World Premieres tonight, danced and choreographed by many of her Royal Ballet colleagues and raising money for her charity, Dancing For The Children. And did they dance !
Galeazzi opened the show on her own, in a piece entitled Track 12, by Kristen McNally. Showing her extraordinary dramatic ability, eyes busy with memories, Galeazzi poured feeling into every step, even when she is required to draw on her pale all-in-one costume with coloured crayons in what looked like stylised pain. McNally favours speech mixed with her music; Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela overlaid with 30 Seconds to Mars.
Marianela Nuñez and Thiago Soares danced the Act 111 Pas de Deux from Swan Lake, which is familiar, and yet strangely not, tonight. Nunez has exquisite arms and uses them to full effect, literally dripping every languorous note and making dreamily fluid shapes. I thought this already adagio pas de deux was danced even more slowly, which only served to show Nunez’ steely control through every twist and turn, and as one audience member described to me, Nunez is “perfection personified.” Soares conveyed the story clearly; not easy when the sets and the core (see what I did there) of the ballet – the swans – are missing.
Galeazzi wanted to have some fun with this evening, and so Saving My Love, choreographed by Vanessa Fenton, saw actress Ella Kenion & Edward Watson dancing a well timed tango-lite, embellishing the steps with laughter.
The central Pas de Deux from Wayne McGregor’s Limen contrasts darkness and light. Royal Ballet principal Sarah Lamb is dancing her finest pieces at the moment, and wonderfully paired with Eric Underwood they barely separate throughout this intricate pas de deux. Lamb’s flexibility is evident here, but Underwood controls this so that she is never over-contorted, and together they are both graceful and elegant.
The Balcony Scene from MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet could be considered standard fare for a Gala, but not with Galeazzi as Juliet. Again her dramatic qualities reach the back of the theatre and beyond; she can do this because the steps are second nature to her and her technical abilities are never questioned.
The Ballet Boyz were due to perform but Michael Nunn is unwell, and so their new project, aptly called TALENT, exclusively previewed ALPHA, which has its official premiere on Thursday. 8 dancers wearing baggy beige trousers rolled, twisted and eventually jumped in very innovative patterns, such as throwing one of the dancers around a group, garnering a lively response from the audience.
After the interval, Galeazzi and the magnetic Gary Avis danced to Alistair Marriott’s choreography in Lieder, with music by Brahms. The piece was in two halves; the second was incredibly beautiful, Galeazzi flowing with emotion. Avis is watchable even when he’s not moving and adds drama and depth to every nuance.
More of Galeazzi’s humour was in evidence with Four Poofs and a Piano (curiously without the piano), who said that they have “taken liberties because we can” with a Bollywood interpretation, another of which has recently been seen, also in a fund-raiser – BBC’s Let’s Dance for Comic Relief. As one audience member, Margaret, described to me, they “blew in and blew out.”
The Royal Ballet Principal Laura Morera and Ricardo Cervera have often danced together at Covent Garden, but here they have a new piece choreographed by Liam Scarlett. Dressed in purple (you might remember the costumes from last year’s Gala in aid of Ashanti Development), the colour sits well on them if not the cut. Fantasie Imprompt is exactly that – a lovely piece, danced very well. It’s interesting to see whether this works (it does), as these two will also be dancing (with others) in Scarlett’s new piece, and his first for the Covent Garden main stage, in May. On this showing, why wouldn’t you book ?
One of the reasons for buying tickets to a Gala is for the chance to see dancers away from their natural habitat. When it works, it’s magic. But sometimes you get even more. Steven McRae is a talented classical dancer but that’s not all he can do, and this evening he choreographed for himself – a tap dancing, slightly rascally spirited piece to Sing, Sing, Sing by Benny Goodman. Called Something Different, he tapped his way at a ferocious lick around the stage and found the time to include some of the virtuoso spins and turns for which he is so well known. The audience roared.
Sergei Polunin, a Prix de Lausanne winner in 2006, has been one to watch for a while, and the Pas de Deux from Le Corsaire perfectly demonstrates why. He has a long, lean physique with beautiful feet and with his incredible power he brings an unusual length to his jumps. He needs to work a little bit on his head, but he was fantastic. Yuhui Choe has enormous potential too, and together they make a dazzling pair in what is a very pretty role for the ballerina. Choe had a darling, dazzling blue tutu which twinkled every time she moved.
In a deliberate move by Galeazzi, O Magnum Mysterium, sung by Ensemble WC2E, closed the show in a sombre and moving, almost spiritual way. Galeazzi and her fellow dancers joined them on stage, with Galeazzi taking the unusual step of speaking, to thank the audience and to say how much this means to her. The good news is that with your help, enough money has been raised for a group of dancers to go to Africa next summer, where they will continue the work and financial assistance that was so appreciated in 2007.
After the show I talked to Mara and she told me that she had spent every spare minute, at lunchtimes and after shows, in the studio, preparing for this Gala which means so much to her. All the ideas for the show were hers, and she told me that she was inspired by Monica Mason (Director of The Royal Ballet), who said “try something new”. Mara hopes that this will become an annual event, and would very much like another full house.
You can see Mara dancing at the Royal Opera House tomorrow night, Tuesday and Thursday in Infra (part of the triple bill reviewed here). If you have been inspired to see more of Mara’s Juliet, she will be dancing the role on Saturday evening with Ed Watson.
If you would like to learn more about Mara’s charity, please have a look at her new website, where she has a beautiful opening sequence, and it’s where you can also make a donation if you would like to.