LAST EDITED ON 15-07-01 AT 09:16 AM (GMT)
Images of Dance this year featured works by three people I admire greatly - Cathy Marston, Christopher Hampson and Wayne Sleep. I suppose itís not often you can say that two of the choreographers on display do diaries for you and that the third was a bloody good interview (even if through the haze of much white wine). But more - I have also admired Margaret Barbieri, Images Director, for her programming which often seems less school and more grown-up than many.
I saw the show earlier in the tour at High Wycombe, which was sadly not particularly full, and last Sunday at the Peacock where many of the ballet 'in-crowd' were out to see the schoolís students and all the new choreography.
Hampson's 'Song Without Words'
Christopher Hampson is a ballet man through and through - which makes him a little odd because so few young choreographers are wedded to a century and half's worth of tradition which the public so enjoys. What he knows how to do is reel out apparently effortless and harmonious movement: pointe shoeíd movement - yes please.
I find myself reaching for the same words I now use about Mark Morris and I see resonances in the way they trickle dancers out before us and across the stage, oh so pleasingly, happily and imaginatively and the looseness on display. Hampson respects balletís traditions and you need to be good to do what he asks but his is a choreography of touch and feel rather than steely magnificence. Itís dress-down-Friday ballet and you suddenly realise that the way you carry on the other 4 days is actually pretty stiff and starchy most of the time.
To Mendelssohn's piano piece of the same name, this was a good length and the young dancers were obviously enjoying it.
Cathy Marston's 'Rosemary for Remembrance'
A piece dominated by women and with the most impressive and striking start I've seen in ages. At curtain up 8 girls are scattered about the stage, longing and posing, bathed in pools of light and in flowing Romanesque dresses. Itís a mysterious start and reminded me of an Alma-Tadema painting, one of those which feature classical views of women in the most graceful of poses, wrapped in thought or expectation.
As the piece gets into its stride more girls come and go, the dresses turn into pants and action breaks out all over. Marston often has lots going on - too much to see in one sitting and itís all a way away from ballet (fine by me) with much use of the floor as an almost vital ingredient. Into all this enter some tall men (in way too short supply for all the girls) and things kick up a level with more tension and passion in 5 duets. The piece ends in a pose similar to the beginning except with the men included, but somehow nothing seems to have changed.
Afterwards I read the short note that says the piece is inspired by the relationship between Ophelia and Hamlet and Faureís Violin Sonata. Marston continues to produce good, thought-provoking work with strong dramatics echoing through.
Both the Hampson and Marston works were grown up pieces which stretched the young dancers but not impossibly so. But they would also look good I think if performed by mainstream companies.
Sleep's 'Scenes from the Wizard of Oz'
I struggled with Wayne Sleep's piece and my eyes glazed over after about 5 minutes - it had been a long day, I said at the time. Unfortunately this happened the second time I saw it as well!
You could have knocked me down with a feather if I'd thought a piece of Sleep would do that to me. Itís hard to think of a greater dance showman but this piece appeared incredibly flat. The story is pretty well known from the film but these are "scenes from..." and that's what you got, little snatches, with lots of scene changes and no joined-up narrative to be bound up in.
Everybody has a less than fertile day and this seemed Wayne's. A great shame because Sleep has such tremendous power and showmanship and, used effectively, he really can introduce new audiences to new things.
All up they were enjoyable nights and full marks to Barbieri and Images for going for new work - a good decision and more please.