Kate Simmons Review
After a 55 hour week it takes a lot of persuasion to get me to the annual show of a Northern Ballet school especially when preceded by a one hour drive and the intelligence test of finding the theatre through Manchester’s one way system- but on this occasion it was worth it.
On with the Show- it opens with Copeland
The show opened with a contemporary ballet for 12 girls set to Copeland. The costumes were very much ‘Little House on the Prairie’ in a small muted colour palette. The piece was professional but just ever so slightly too long.
‘Class Variations ‘was Etudes with attitude’ meets ‘Who Cares’
The ‘Class Variations’ was stunning. ‘Etudes with attitude’ meets ;Who Cares. The curtain opens and there is the immediate ‘Wow’ of seeing the rainbow of costumes- and then it gets better- they start dancing. And not just a parade of precisely presented syllabus work- but a melange of exquisitely danced steps shown with panache to Gershwin.Colour coding the kids worked well,youngsters in white to seniors in burgundy gave the group changes a kaleidescope quality. It was a joy to see ten year olds with persistently pointed feet and boys who jumped into second only after showing soubresaut and impressive fouettes on pointe from girls as young as 15.Good use of boys too- they had nicely crafted work (flashy batterie and huge jumps) that emphasised their difference to the girls. Ms Simmons had got it right again-spot on casting, choreography that fitted each group like a glove and slick presentation. It ended and you wanted it back again.
‘Beauty and the Beast’
This was a tasteful interpretation of the fairy tale,Belle is a bookworm, her father an author and the Disneyesque singing teapots are replaced by graceful greek statues.
Like Macmillan, Ms Simmons used 2 very different pas de deux as significant features.She was blessed with having 2 excellent instruments (Royce Neagle – Ex NBT and 16 year old student Daniella Ferreira) to sculpt into the most exquisite shapes and seamless movement. What a difference a year has made to Daniella… ‘Can’t take your eyes of her when she is on stage’ quality has been added to the solid technique. While her Belle was bookish and innocent Royce Neagle’s Prince was tall, dark handsome and initially horrible. Luckily he was not only the partner from heaven but was aspirational to the boys- showing them exactly how it should be done on stage. The whole production worked well, it is unusual to notice the costumes as something other than part of the background but on this occasion they caught the eye. The beauty was in the detail, Coppelia Act 1 type dresses where the skirts were white and bodices dark were particularly good.
A few after thoughts…..
I must admit I always feel uplifted by the fierce parental pride at these shows- you cannot help but overhear the – ‘Thank God she did it right’ in response to holding an arabeseque without a wobble or notice the finger curled grasp of the seat when their daughter does the pose turn on pointe that they have seen hundreds of times on the laminate floor at home. Every child looked good on the day-.but sadly few of the parents will realise what an achievement this is for the teacher.Ms Simmons unlike the London vocational schools does not have first pick of the students with the perfect ballet body, huge instep and prolific natural ability. As a result she has a much more challenging job making her students look good- and she does it brilliantly and no doubt gives them confidence and a memory of ‘being on stage for real’ which they will treasure.
Big isn’t always best for training
In the long term it is difficult for a good teacher to avoid success.It will always come and it has recently- 2 contracts with European ballet and a short term job with English National Ballet.- others I’m sure follow. It is unheard of for a graduate to leave without a job.Worth bearing in mind if you are the parent of a child rejected by the main vocational establishments, small schools such as Ms Simmons where the students get individual attention are often an overlooked alternative for professional training.
For more details check out the web site http://www.katesimmons.co.uk/