LAST EDITED ON 15-05-01 AT 01:23 PM (GMT)
First Drafts at the Clore Studio on Monday night (May 14th) was a programme of choreographic sketches and work in progress by members of the Royal Ballet. Eight pieces were shown in all, some inevitably more fluent than others. While few of the ballets will ever leave the experimental space, all were worth seeing. At least one piece suggested that it might translate to a larger stage.
A month ago William Tuckett had a success when he showed his 'Mr Bear-squash-you-all-flat', a ballet based on a Russian fairy story, at the ROH’s Constant Lambert evening. Last night he showed two new pieces. Tuckett himself performed with Luke Heydon in 'Chairs I-IV', a mime based choreographic dialogue for two querulous friends (and two chairs). The piece was accessible, funny and considerably more successful than his later ‘Solo’ for Zenaida Yanowsky, which seemed oddly motiveless. On this evidence Tuckett seems happiest when he has a story to tell. He has a feeling for narrative and an instinct for the comic. This is his metier and if he seeks to develop a distinctive voice, it is from this he should build.
Ashley Page’s ‘Acrid Avid Jam’, a duet for Laura Morera and Jarkko Lehmus, has already had two performances. Its dispassion was a useful contrast to the motif of love and loss that coloured several of last night’s other pieces. It was fluent, intensely physical and had an attractive musicality. It was the choreographic equivalent of a very stylish jazz riff, with ideas being constantly spun from each other.
‘Eternal Presence’ by Nicole Ransley depicted a girl’s struggle with her father’s early death, and her subsequent passage from mourning to eventual inner calm. The girl was danced by Helen Crawford with David Drew as her father. Ransley is still coming to terms with her craft, but her piece had a distinctive signature with some interesting ideas, and it went down well with the audience in the Clore.
Alastair Marriott’s 'Night Falls Fast' was his first choreographic piece since he joined the Royal Ballet, and it suggested a real talent. To a score by Alfred Schnittke, it depicted the tensions which envelop two friends (Sian Murphy, replacing Tamara Rojo, and Mara Galeazzi) as they vie for a man’s affections (Martin Harvey), the disintegration of their friendship and the loser’s ensuing desolation. Marriott was wonderfully served by his cast. But the piece came at the end of the very episodic first half of the programme and I would like to have seen it with fresher eyes.
‘Frozen’ is described by its choreographer Vanessa Fenton as an unfinished pencil drawing to which she hopes in time to have the opportunity to add colour. Nonetheless it was the hit of the night, a proper ballet in the making, and exciting to watch despite its loose threads. Fenton’s choreography suggested a joyous equanimity in the face of the passing of time, love and life. It is a piece for two couples, Martin Harvey and Chloe Davies, Bennet Gartside and Marianela Nunez and a chorus of three graces (three minxes more like!), Naomi Reynolds, Samantha Raine and Natasha Oughtred. Fenton’s use of her forces in duos, trios and ensemble was impressively fluent. Of the several attractive duets, the one that most strongly caught my eye was that for her two men, Harvey and Gartside.
Her use of songs by Purcell inevitably invited comparisons with Mark Morris. Fenton has a similar musicality and instinct for gaiety, but ‘Frozen’ has distinctive symmetries perhaps because its language is more conventionally balletic, and Fenton’s dancers more conventionally scaled than those in Morris’s company.
Most of last night’s pieces will remain in the half-life of the studio. But despite the programme’s unevenness, it made for a satisfying night. It was dedicated appropriately to the memory of Leslie Edwards, who in his lifetime had done so much to support emerging choreographers within the Royal Ballet. ‘First Drafts’ would have pleased him.