My first experience of Scottish Ballet and I have to say something of a disappointment. The opening piece was an early MacMillan, 'Diversions'. As far as I could see the cast generally made heavy weather of the work, with the exception of Ari Takahashi who carried off the tricky choreography with grace and joie de vivre and her partner Oliver Rydout who also danced with verve. Towards the end, some of the corps of eight were looking very ragged.
'nIgHt LiFe', no my typing has not gone astray, was quirky and funny for about 15 minutes and clear characterisations of the six characters established. The dancers seemed to enjoy the work much more than had been the case in the MacMillan and the 'op-art box' set by Lez Brotherston was up to his usual incredibly high standards. But soon the the mix of disco and ballet wore thin for me and some editing of the 30 minute work would be valuable. Two months ago, I saw two pieces by Aletta Collins and her company, with fascinating choreography and great humour. Unfortunately, this piece by Tim Rushton didn't register in the same way at all for me.
'Rapture' by Lila York had the advantage of two movements of Prokofiev's 3rd Piano Concerto, which is one of my favourite pieces of music. York's work is certainly fast and exuberant and the SB dancers give their all. However, the choreography did not work nearly as well for me as the speedy Twyla Tharp pieces we have seen recently by BRB and Rambert and the physical demands placed on the dancers prove too much for some. The innovative parts often looked odd and detracted from some of the high-spots in the score, while the more conventional steps seemed uninspiring. The slow, second section is very odd indeed, with the stage lighting so low that, from the front row of the second circle, I could hardly see the dancers as they staggered and crawled across the stage. There was a nervous silence in the auditorium when the lights went down at the end of this sombre puzzle. Back to radiant enthusiasm for the final part, in a reprise of the style of the opening section, but give me the verve and innovation of Tharp's 'Golden Section' every time.
An admin gripe was the £3.50 programme, which seemed to have details of every work ever performed by SB, but in fact was merely all of this season's rep., when they have just the one mixed bill at SW. It was difficult finding info. about the pieces we were seeing in the long thin booklet, which looked as though it had been modelled on the shape of a letter box. Another annoyance is that for the past few performances, the programme sellers on the 1st and 2nd circle levels do not have spare cast lists. However, the friendly front of house management have said they will correct this. If nothing happens, do give them another reminder when you're there.
I've found myself makinf a lot of comparisons in this review. But with companies like Pacific Northwest as well as BRB and RB visiting Sadler's Wells, standards for ballet and indeed all forms of dance are being set at a very high level. Judged against this yardstick I have to say that, with a couple of exceptions, Scottish Ballet did not impress me, particularly regarding the depth of their talent. This is in contrast to another regional UK company, Northern Ballet Theatre, who did impress when compared with the strong competition.
Generally, it was not the best evening of my life as it started with my getting barbecue sauce on my best tie and ended with a parking ticket.