BRB began its February/March tour in Bradford last week with seven performances of La Fille mal gardee. It has been a few years since the company last performed that ballet and three of the four Lises and three of the four Colases had never danced those roles before. I think that many of the corps had never danced in Fille either. But none of this was apparent last week and it certainly didnít look like the first set of performances in a run. The ballet staff responsible for the rehearsals and coaching had done an excellent job and everyone on stage looked completely comfortable with their roles. Everyone looked very happy too, as they should in that particular ballet. And that goes for the audience as well. After some very sparse audiences in recent BRB seasons in Bradford, it was nice to see many more people watching last week and the theatre looked almost full at both Saturday performances. It was very clear that those that came thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
Anyone who did watch both Saturday performances had a real treat. At the matinee, Chi Cao and Nao Sakuma were Colas and Lise. Everyone knows that Chi and Nao are fine classical dancers with excellent techniques so that the actual steps, which look so easy but in reality are so difficult, and the fearsome pas de deux caused them very few problems. But for a fine performance of Fille you need more than just the steps and what was so impressive on Saturday was the way they used their dancing to act out the characters. For me, Nao was the star of the week; she looks like being the definitive Lise of her generation. She fully brought out the mischievous side of Lise but made it clear that she was madly in love with Colas. I liked, also, the way she interacted with Simone (Michael OíHare on Thursday and David Morse on Saturday). Each of them matched his performance to hers and there was never any doubt that mother and daughter loved each other.
After the matinee, I wondered if the evening would be a let down but, in the event, I enjoyed it just as much. Dorcas Walters was Lise and, from previous experience, she knew how to get through the technically difficult bits and how to bring out the comedy. She also managed to show the loveable side of Lise as well as the impish. Nobody will be surprised to hear that her partner, Robert Parker, was a superb Colas. He has the right build and style of dancing for the part and, as we know, he is a good actor and can play comedy. In his interpretation, while there was no doubt that Colas was a thoroughly nice boy who was a good match for Lise, there was no question of Lise dominating him as can sometimes happen when a weaker personality takes the role.
Earlier in the week the other pairings in the leads were Molly Smolen/Tiit Helimets and Carol-Anne Millar/Sergiu Pobereznic. The former couple are very fine classical dancers who impressed in the Ashton programmes last Autumn. As Lise, Molly never put a foot wrong as far as I could see and, because Tiit is such a good partner for her, their pas de deux work was quite outstanding.
I suppose people first began to notice Carol-Anne as a very, very funny Kate in Shakespeare Suite. Since then she has danced a number of prominent roles but not leading roles. So it must have been quite daunting to be thrown in at the deep end, as it were, as Lise. I canít pretend her performance was perfect, that could hardly have been expected, but she did more than enough to show why the company is pushing her. Actually I was delighted with what she did and she certainly seems a fine prospect. The fact that she is very pretty isnít going to hurt either. As Lise she had the advantage of the very experienced Sergui Probereznic as her Colas. I admired very much the way he helped her through the difficult passages in their pas de deux.
It remains only to say that Michael OíHare and David Morse were, in their different ways, better than ever as Simone and that each of the Alains (Timothy Cross, Christopher Larsen, James Grundy, Toby Norman-Wright) was excellent.
On a different topic, I canít remember if anyone has posted the news that Kevin OíHare has rejoined BRB but not as a dancer. He will be on the management side as Company Manager.