Sadlers Wells, London
Sunday 3rd April 2011
From the age of 8, Royal Ballet Principal Mara Galeazzi wanted to help children in Africa to develop their souls. With the universal language of dance now at her disposal and a huge dose of goodwill from her friends, Galeazzi has imaginatively produced two charity galas in consecutive years which demonstrate her flair and ingenuity. One thing sets these galas apart – Galeazzi knows how to draw people in. The photographs accompanying my review are by Bex Singleton and please note : they are rehearsal images.
This year Galeazzi invited Great Ormond Street Hospital, a world leader in paediatric medicine, to benefit from the gala in addition to her own charity, Dancing for the Children. Housed in an old building unsuited to their needs, the hospital aims to raise enough funds to redevelop two thirds of the site with a new children’s centre of neurosciences.
GALA 2011 was charmingly opened by Thomas Round, performing the role of the injured boy in ‘Critical Eye’, a short film directed by Dan Nathan. Galeazzi’s ability to programme the unusual is what makes her galas a sell-out, must-see event, and the mixture of short films, singing (The Morley Chamber Choir), musicians (Stephanie Childress, violin & Kumi Matsuo, piano, to Gypsy Airs), Thomas Harris, the Ballet Boyz’ contemporary dance group Talent, Zenaida Yanowsky’s Nisi Dominus, and tap dancing (Alec Mann) cooks up a real treat. And of course, there was ballet.
World Premiere followed World Premiere as Galeazzi & Gary Avis took to the stage in It Takes Two, a piece choreographed by them to ‘Libertango’ by Astor Piazzolla. Galeazzi recently collaborated with fashion designer Estrella Archs and tonight the favour is returned as she designs Galeazzi’s costume. It’s a fun piece, sharp and sazzy. I’ve always thought that Tango suits pointe work; the shoes somehow emphasising the fleet footwork and sharp angles of the Tango.
Edward Watson’s elongated torso twists and stretches in Anger Fix, another World Premiere by Jonathan Watkins. The music is Michael Nyman’s ‘Tango’ and suits Watson’s anguished frame, punishingly relentless and fraught.
4 Poofs and a Piano, minus the piano, made good fun of Swan Lake, in Bourne Free, something of a recurring theme in this gala. They are good fun, surprisingly nimble, and give the stage hands a lot of work with their rogue feathers (another recurring theme) !
Galeazzi’s animalistic solo from Inala, a Zula Ballet, sees her collaborating for the first time with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Sisters Grimm, Ella Spira and Jonathan Watkins. The dance conjures images of dusty hot plains and skittish Impala surrounded by the beauty that is Africa, with serene Galeazzi at its centre.
Yuhui Choe & Nehemiah Kish tackle the Black Swan Pas de Deux from Act 111 of Swan Lake; Choe’s fouettés and her devil-may-care attitude leave Kish well and truly deceived.
Galeazzi clearly relishes a challenge. Franca Roberto taught her to dance Sevillanas for this gala, giving us another World Premiere as Galeazzi takes on Flamenco with Valentino Zucchetti. Two Italians mastering the Spanish steps – and they did very, very well. It takes more than 3 weeks to master this art but it just goes to show what you can accomplish if you set your mind to it!
Another surprise of the night en travesti with Raffaele Morra dancing the Dying Swan with much finesse. Fair play to him – on pointe almost the entire time – and though you see here his rehearsal attire; in performance he wore a white tutu that continually lost feathers until the stage was carpeted in white.
Liam Scarlett’s hit Asphodel Meadows makes a welcome return with an extract by Laura Morera and Bennet Gartside. It’s an introspective piece; you feel as though you’re slightly intruding. Polunec’s music carries them and us through fluid lifts, solo side by side steps and a soaring partnership.
The gala ends on a high with Alastair Marriott’s Look West, another World Premiere, for Galeazzi and Avis. Truly, they moved as one to Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade for Solo violin, Strings, Harp and Percussion. It’s a piece that does exactly what I described Galeazzi is so good at from the start – drawing you in.
Much cheering and clapping by the end, and brave Galeazzi took to the stage to speak of her passion for her charity, and that it’s not a case of ‘wanting’ to put on a gala for the children; it’s a case of ‘having’ to, such is her determination to help. With your help, Galeazzi is making dreams come true here and in Africa.
If you weren’t able to attend the gala you can still donate by visiting Mara Galeazzi’s website, Dancing for the Children, where you will find a charming introductory dance which became Galeazzi’s leitmotif at the start of the gala. I recommend you watch it ! Roll on 2012.