LAST EDITED ON 31-03-02 AT 07:20 PM (GMT)
LAST EDITED ON 31-03-02 AT 07:19 PM (GMT)
Covering 20 venues from March to July, and presenting works with their usual variety, some classical (tutus and tiaras) and some modern, there is almost a guarantee that there will be something that you like. I caught up with them in Brecon at the Theatr Brycheiniog, the fifth performance of the tour.
The five year old theatre is tucked away on the canal basin and forms a nice backdrop to the narrow boats. From the outside, it looks a bit like a bonded warehouse, a familiar site on many parts of the canal newtwork. It has a bistro attached (very handy for the complete night out). I did wonder if such a theatre would thrive in a somewhat out of the way corner of Wales (with profound apologies to the locals). I hope that it does. I think good quality events should travel out of the main cities.
The rake in the stalls is quite shallow, but fortunately the stage is quite high. Around the back and sides are three layers of balconies. Seat is of variable configuration, and a quick count on my figures revealed a capacity of 400 tonight. It was probably about 1/3 full. This was a three part evening, consisting of seven works. The first piece was to Vivaldi's Violin Concerto 1 and danced by four ladies in tutus, grey and black bodices and black and white skirts. The program features a picture of one of the ladies in a 6 o'clock arabesque, supported by a chap, but there were no men dancing in this piece tonight. Perhaps the choreography (by ballet master Antonio Castilla) has been changed. Danced to a recorded score, this piece was filled with pirouettes, which fitted well on the small stage. There was some lovely synchronised pairs in this; occasionally all four dancers would appear together, but mostly ever changing pairs.Violin in not my favourite instrument; I have yet to here a violin concerto I like. Disliked the music but enjoyed the dancing.
The second piece "triggered" is danced to a score by Philip Fenney; he has composed scores for NBT. This was live keyboard and a recorded backing track. The three barefoot ladies, dressed in red trousers, with sky blue tops danced in a square of white light centre stage. The movements were very angular but quite unmoving. I felt that this piece went nowhere. The score is very dire. Cast your mind back to 1970's television shows like "The Mod Squad" or "Department S". Remember that very bad organ "pop" music that was played during any party scene? Well this score sounded like that, with a 160 BPM underbeat. Choreography is by Kerry Nichols.
The last piece before the first interval was "Initiation". It starts with 6 ladies in tunics (very Balanchine in look), lit in blue. The dreamy music with an obvious water sound. All 6 moved in sync, in a diamond pattern. I don't actually remember any of the steps that they did, but I do remember the overall look, which was simple, clean but not clinical. The second movement is a solo danced in long baggy trousers, which look like a skirt. This is to the trendy sound of a didgeridoo.
Trog grew up in Australia and is extremely bored with the sound of the didgeridoo. A best it is little more than a drone and it is very easy to play. Heck I used to get the same noise out of Mom's vacuum cleaner hose! This was lit with an obvious sunset. I decided it was called dusk. Wrong! It is called Earth. A lot of this solo reminded me of "Coffee" from "The Nutcracker". For the final movement (Forest) there is a vocal track in an incomprehensible language. This was very swoopy, but the movements did not fit the score. An old adage says if you are going to use a metaphor it must be recognisable. This one wasn't. Choreography is again by Antonio Castilla.
After the interval came "St Paul's Suite", choreography by Michael Corder, music by Holst. Again danced by four ladies (this time in reddish/brown knee length tutus, the jig reminded me a lot of "Four Scottish Dances" by Bintley. Perhaps there is only so much one can "do" with a jig? Anyway I liked this piece. The second slow movement featured more of the same, and looked out of place. Call me a traditionalist, but this really should have been a pdd. The third movement featured phrases of "Greensleeves" in the score and another familiar folk tune, the name of which escapes me. The synchronised movements were danced to perfection.
Next came "Three Into Two Won't Go", danced by a chap (finally!) in white and two ladies in black trousers and crop tops. Much of this was in semi-silhouette. There are lots of high-kicks and this is supposed to be very dynamic. As the music got faster, the pace of dance become slower and I found this piece very tedious. We had reached the low point of the night.
The end of part two was "Keeping Pace", to live piano and a recorded score. This was barefoot and loose outfits. This was very disjointed. It looked a lot like the steps we do when coming from the corner in the ballet class I take. The Michael Nyman score is very typical of his works; Trog is not a fan. I find him very dirge-like. I became quite bored and spent a lot of time watching the pianist, who was clearly enjoying himself grooving away. Perhaps he was listening to something different in his headphones. The second movement featured a badly distorting clarinet in the recording. In fact, the recording drowned out the piano. The pdd was nice to watch but did not fit the music. I feel it would have been better to turn off the tape. Generally this looked very much like a ballet class, except for the outfits and lack of shoes.
The night was rounded off with a one act ballet "Pride and Prejudice - First Impressions", to a score by Carl Davis (he did the score to the TV series), choreography by Cathy Marston. I have never been moved to read the book, or seen the TV series, so here was my chance to learn something of this classic work.
The score was again recorded with live piano accompaniment, and again the recording drowned out the piano. It was also distorting very badly in places. The piece opens with five ladies clearly getting ready for a ball. The don ball gowns in muted, earth colours. Strange I thought; if you are going to a ball, would you not wear something bright and dazzling? One lady is constantly reading a book. Next we are at the ball and the ladies are dancing with wine glasses. Err, where are the chaps? Enter who I guess is Mr Darcy and his pal. The dance with some of the girls, while other girls dance in pairs. This is not the usual girls dancing around their handbags while their chaps prop up the bar. It looked to me that there were supposed to be men at this ball, but the company hasn't got enough chaps on hand, so you had to pretend the men were there.
Later a chap appears in riding boots and tunic. Is this Mr Darcy? Well I couldn't follow the plot at all, so as a narrative the piece fails. (Maybe I am just too much of a thicko.) Certainly as a dance piece the costumes look good and there is some very fine footwork. The technique of these dancers is rock solid. What they lack in performance skills (very forced smiles in places) they certainly make up with in pure energy. With more exposure to live audiences, they will gain confidence and more of the personalities will be revealed. These are the stars of tomorrow. The future looks rosy, technique-wise.