Quite by accident I spotted an ad for the Ballet Central summer show at Chipping Norton theatre. Each year the graduating students from Central Ballet School do a summer tour around the UK as part of the Ballet Central touring company, so I decided it was worth checking out. I’ve not been to the ballet for some time, but I wondered how a small ballet cast would cope on the small stage.
The theatre at Chipping Norton is a really nice theatre, but it does have pillars in the stalls, so you need to sit at least 3 seats in from either side to get a full view of the stage. It’s also a warm theatre, so layers all the way.
The show was an hour long, with a 15 minute interval in the middle. I could have watched for another hour, but I like the hour long for introducing children to shows of shorter ballet pieces, especially for evening performances. It doesn’t make them too late, and the audience had a lot of young girls with mums and friends.
House of Birds
Ballet Central performed an excerpt from Kenneth MacMillan’s longer ballet House of Birds which is based on a Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale.
The bird woman witch (Nell Maude) and her enchanted boys managed to make you believe they were birds with arm and head movements symbolising it. The two lovers (Natsuho Matsumoto and Timothy Leckie) performed some lovely lift sequences in their pas de deux, and impressively fitted these in on the small stage. before she was stolen away and turned into a bird by the witch. It was amazing to see how the enchanted girls can dance with bird cages and bird masks on their heads. A sad piece, but triumphant win for the bird woman. And some precision timed group dancing by the enchanted ‘children’.
When you think of the Dying Swan, most people think of Anna Pavlova who made it famous, dancing it thousands of times. Ballet Central’s version is cleverly choreographed by Calvin Richardson for a male dancer, performed when I saw it by Callum McGregor.
Seeing a lone male dancer in white, Callum was quite mesmerising, I just couldnt stop watching. Brought up to date, the choreography felt like hip hop and street dance isolations, in slow motion, stuttery bird like movements. So much control and placement of each movement to the haunting music of Saint-Saens. A really beautiful dance, and I think it was my dance of the night.
With tribal genre music, this piece was choreographed by Natasha Chu, a former Ballet Central dancer. Iya-Ilu is a powerful ensemble piece with so much power from the female dancers as well as the men. I found it a hypnotic dance that drew you in and couldn’t stop me wanting to move to the music. With 7 on stage it was tight but it worked. The dancers are in tune and work so well together; there’s so much trust between them with lifts and knowing where each should be on stage.
Valses Nobles et Sentimentales
Ballet Central brought an excerpt of Frederick Ashton’s post World War II Valses Nobles et Sentimentales. Danced to a Ravel score, it’s classical ballet, with grace and elegance. The dancers were clean and practiced, and looked like they were really enjoying dancing it.
Christopher Marney’s choreography was inspired by the musical Carousel, as well as more recently The Greatest Showman. It tells the story of a young girl, an outsider to the circus, but meeting her true love in there, and finding their place of acceptance.
All the characters of the circus can be seen, from ring
master mistress to snake charmer, dancing girls and strong man. It’s clever how you see the dancers recreating riding the carousel itself. The dancing is wonderful – you forget these are just graduates not experienced professional dancers, and I really enjoyed Chelsea Wewege as the girl. She has a beautiful light quality to her dancing, and her love was convincing for her beau (Timothy Leckie).
The beautiful costumes worked well against a sparking backdrop and there was some great prop work alongside the sweet love story.
Overall, I found the Ballet Central summer show polished and highly professional. It was a well put together show, comprising some interesting pieces, from older to new works. It’s nice to see the dancers of the future as they embark on their new professional lives.
It was a lovely hour of dance, and worth seeing if they’re coming to a town near you.
Have you ever watched tours from graduating dance schools? Which would you recommend?