Saturday, January 20, 2007


Cast on 16th Jan 2007
Mara Galeazzi, Marianela Nunez, Lauren Cuthbertson, Belinda Hatley, Laura Morera, Jonathan Watkins, Fernando Montano, Jose Martin, Steven Mcrae

Napoli Divertissements is part of a double bill (along with La Sylphide). Produced by Johan Kobborg, it started as a disappointment for me, as the dancing from the corp started with full level of energy, but halfway through the ensemble looked exhausted, and their lines and forms were comprimised. I think it is encouraging for the artists in the company to do more central roles in this production, however, I felt, it may be something too big to serve on their plate.
Nevertheless, some of the solos by the principals and first soloists were utterly delightful and Bournaville-esque. Mara Galeazzi, Marianela Nunez and Laura Morera's effortless dancing offered beauty in their movements and style.

Steven McRae provided his exciting beats and soared acrossed the stage with his jetes. Fernando Montano's solo was very raw, with plenty of fine-tuning to be done. An extremely hyperflexible dancer, who took too much concern to his extensions rather than the fine details of Bournaville. Lauren Cuthbertson and Belinda Hatley seemed to be underused in this production, nevertheless, they sparkled and gave a bright coloured performance.

Lauren Cuthbertson's partnership with Johannes Stepanek was a pleasure to watch. Both dancers, looked rather compatible, with good height and lines. One wish, the company would use Stepanek more than just the corp. Jose Martin seemed to struggle with the wittiness in the Bournaville footwork, but gave good flavour in his tarantella with Laura Morera.

Cast on 17th Jan 2007
Alexandra Ansanelli, Marianela Nunez, Lauren Cuthbertson, Hikaru Kobayashi, Yuhui Choe, Jonathan Watkins, Fernando Montano, Paul Kay, Steven Mcrae

This evening's performance was better than the opening night in general, well, slightly. The four leading ladies, Alexandra Ansanelli, Marianela Nunez, Lauren Cuthbertson, Hikaru Kobayashi, Yuhui Choe, seemed to struggle with keeping up with each other, and height of legs varied when they are meant to be in unison. Despite this, each gave stunning solos individually. Alexandra Ansanelli gave a delightful solo to a tricky number, Effortlessly, and a sparkling smile, she completed her solo with an American flair.

Marianela Nunez was brilliant as she always is. Divine dancer who easily make her movements on the upper body gentle and delicate (when needed), whilst her lower body are quick and nimble, and utterly musical. Yuhui Choe danced the same role as Laura Morera from the previous evening, was a gem. She sparkled ever so brightly in her yellow costumes, but the radiance that she brought out was from her stage presence. Beautiful lines and control, it is terribly difficult to not take notice of her while she is in the corp, let alone say, her solo. Fernando Montano gave a much more assured performance this evening, a cleaner finish and subtle outburst of limbs. Paul Kay proved to be a reliable understudy of Jose Martin, and gave an enjoyable performance.

Steven Mcrae did not fail at all (never once have I imagine) to steal the limelight. His elevations and landing were succelent. His solos were flawlessly executed, with the Bournaville style and charm. It was a worthwhile, and enjoyable performance.

Friday, January 12, 2007


My visit to the London Coliseum was greeted by angry anti-BNP protesters demonstrating at the entrance.

Mary Skeaping’s Giselle was led by Simone Clarke and Dmitri Gruzdyev as the ill-fated lovers. They were supported by Fabian Reimair as Hilarion, and Sarah McIlroy as Myrtha.
Act 1 greeted the audience with a sense of vintage-ness atmosphere, which was strongly contributed by David Walker’s rustic and warmth-coloured designs and Adolphe Adam’s music, under the baton of Martin West.
Skeaping’s Giselle seemed to focus more miming in the first act and more dancing in the second act. The character Hilarion, get hardly any dancing opportunities in the first act, however, it showcased Reimair’s dramatic talents. Another mime solo by Giselle’s mother, Berthe, performed by Laura Hussey, was another highlight. Hussey clearly acted out her mime scene, but I thought there was too much fuss with undoing Giselle’s hair after the latter’s collapse.
In the Peasant Pas de Deux, Maria Kochetlkova gave a bright and fluent performance; partnered by Medhi Angot, who gave an excellent solo, filled with sharp batteries and tours en l’airs. A strong air of gaiety amongst the corp de ballet in Act 1, which was a joy to watch, however some may have struggled with some of the fast footwork.
Clarke portrayed an innocent and joyous Giselle, with a strong and buoyant technique. Her effortless leaps were airy and light. Her solos were beautifully executed with a peasant-like charm. Despite disruption in the stalls by protesters, Clarke continued dancing in her role, supported by her encouraging cohorts. Her ‘mad’ scene was delivered with subtlety. Her delicate and fragile approach urged one’s sympathy rather than thinking her madness was absurd. Gruzdyev played a confidant and assured Albrecht, who seemed to look awkward in his solo in the first Act. Personally, I felt that his Albrecht started to fall deeper in love with Giselle after her ‘mad’ scene, as he reluctantly left the ‘death scene’ out of grief rather than guilt.

When the royal purple-coloured velvet curtains arose to reveal the mystical sets of Act 2, the warmth from Act 1 has instantly disappeared. Walker’s sets presented a chilling yet humble atmosphere, with the dried ice and green lighting, which enhanced the spookiness and the strobe lights, that gave a dramatic effect to this act. McIlroy’s Myrtha was assured, powerful and authoritative, and the same goes for her dancing. Her Wilis corp were on top form. Lines and togetherness were strongly emphasised. Hilarion finally danced in Act 2, Reimair’s Hilarion’s excellent solo was unfortunately short lived, and I wished there was more dancing of him.

Apart from the technical demands in her second act, which she effortlessly executed a refined Wili, Clarke approached this act with immense delicacy, care and ethereality. Gruzdyev seemed to get more into the character and dancing in the second Act. His dejected Albrecht performed all his solos flawlessly, and gave assured support to his ballerina. One of the best moments in this production that touched my heart was when Albrecht shared his last moments with Giselle at the crack of dawn. David Mohr’s splendid lighting enhanced the effect of this moment. The yellow trail of light from downstage, shining on Giselle’s effortful attempt to revive the tired Albrecht by putting his one arm over her shoulders to lift him to his feet.

The entire performance was like a visit to an old library, and opening one of the old books; dusting away the years of dust it has collected and discovering the beautiful rusticity of ballet all over again.


Herr Drosselmeyer: Christopher Saunders
Clara: Natasha Oughtred
Hans-Peter/The Nutcracker: Steven McRae
Sugar Plum Fairy: Laura Morera
The Prince: Viacheslav Samodurov

Act 1
Saunders, an experienced Herr Drosselmeyer, seemed to be rushing through his mime and brashly executed his actions. Then again, it may have been the music; conducted by Boris Gruzin, which may have speed up the score in the first act, resulting in a lot of wishy washy footwork. With the exceptionally fast music in Act 1, Oughtred’s Clara and her partner, James Wilkie, along with the white lodgers as children, struggled to keep up, and compensated with messy footwork and lines.
Act 1 Party Scene’s dazzling star belonged to Samantha Raine’s Vivandiere. Her superb performance was filled with dashing, smart and good attack. She is a dancer who have improved tremenduously this season. Sian Murphy as Columbine was very unsteady, with a few wobbles and misses. Personally I enjoyed Philip Mosley and Olivia Cowley, as the Grandparents, the most; both dancers put on a sweet and lovely act.

Curtain call: Steven McRae and Natasha Oughtred as Hans-Peter and Clara [photo by DaveM]
In the transformation scene, the short duet between Hans-Peter and Clara, McRae was gorgeous, divine even; with fluidity in his adagios and he lingers his extensions and balances till the final moment. While his jumps hovered forever in the air, those arabesques, was almost equivalent to a penchee. Oughtred gave a steadier performance as compared to the earlier scenes, one would assume that with McRae around, he might have boost her confidance a little. She blossomed much more when dancing with him, but in this case, the male dancer took the limelight.
Amidst the snow kingdom, the corp de ballet gave a brilliant performance, with Tara-Brigitte Bhavnani shining the brightest.
Act 2

Cast curtain call [photo by DaveM]
Christina Arestis, partnered by David Makhateli, Johannes Stepanek and Ernst Meisner in the Arabian Dance. Makhateli proved to be a sturdy support for his tall dancer, while Arestis gave a clean performance. Excellent dancing in the Russian Dance sequence, Zachary Faruque and Steven McRae were wonderful. Close to finishing this sequence, McRae skidded on his front on stage as the other dancers finished above him. One was worried that he may skidded into the pit. Isabel McMeekan replaced Gillian Revie as the Rose Fairy. The former gave a safe and clean performance. Amongst her escorts, Ricardo Cervera, Kenta Kura and Martin Harvey demonstrated amazing batteries and fantastic jumps.
Curtain Call from left: Natasha Oughtred, Christopher Saunders, Laura Morera and Viacheslav Samodurov [photo by Celine Tan]
In the Grand Pas de Deux, Laura Morera’s Sugar Plum Fairy was partnered by
Viacheslav Samodurov, who was in place for an injured Yohei Sasaki. Being partnered by a different partner, Samodurov played safe with the supported pirouettes, by pedaling Morera ever so slowly. For one who have seen Morera’s style of dancing, one would expect electrifying and sharp turns from this petit ballerina. Apart from the pirouettes, he gave her an assuring support throughout the pas de deux.
His solo and coda exhibited his strength and what great things he can do with his jumps and tour en l’air, however he was not on time with the music, or rather, all these over-spilling of fanciful stuff did not seemed to fit the music. It was almost putting a Don Quixote’s solo to a Giselle Act 1 solo.
Morera’s solo was clean and neat, very safe, but nothing as wonderful as her Princess Florine from The Sleeping Beauty. Her coda was clean and crisp with her sharp and definite fouettes, ending with a delightful finish.