Having regretted getting to their very last performance last year I was determined to see British Gas Ballet Central (BGBC) early this time... and hopefully encourage more of you to go and see them. I guess I also wanted to see what the students who write our diary were like on stage too - natural nosiness! Curiosity aside, it's important to say that there are some 12 dancers/students in Ballet Central's final year tour and it's the totality of them that makes for a good night's entertainment.
As last year there are many pieces, nine in all, stretching from modern bare foot to 19th century Romantic. The pieces come thick and fast and only once did I feel something might be dragging a little. With 2 short 15 minute intervals - a bit too short for a proper drink - the evening lasted 2 hours 15 minutes and was good value.
At the classical end there was the Grand Pas Classique from Raymonda and Bournonville's Flower Festival in Genzano. There is no getting around the fact that the classics are a real test of technique - while much of the modern work looked to be excellently danced, the classics pushed the students further and harder. There was the odd wobble and hesitancy, but you'd be mad to expect anything else and I'm so glad such pieces were included - as were the rest of the audience.
In the Bournonville, Martin Collyer danced with Eriko Maezuka. Eriko was not so comfortable at first but as the piece went on she visibly loosened up and became much more confident - a charming, neat and mannered dancer. Martin was clearly at home from the start and danced very strongly... will he end up in a ballet company perhaps?
In general the evening was light on more dramatic works - trying to find short narrative dances isn't so easy. On the other hand the public like them and they help break up the pure dance items. Dog Suite (choreographed by Michael Keegan-Dolan) went down well with the audience, if not the dancers, some of whom have to dress as dogs and caper around on all fours with their tongues out for much of the time. Greg Horsman, the Artistic Director of BGBC (and ex ENB Principal dancer) choreographed Pas de 3, which had a story, though one tended to look at it more as an abstract piece of ballet for 2 boys and a girl. After BRB's Arthur my current mantra is that dramatic works can't be too simple or too obvious.
Laura Caldow, another diarist for us also had a piece on display but I'm going to review that later when they perform in the Linbury. Laura herself danced little and Pia Driver, another diarist, was not appearing in Reading.
Aside from the Bournonville I also particularly liked Dinaresade by Christopher Hampson. I missed this when City Ballet of London premiered it, but the BGBC version has apparently been reworked. It has a very middle European, Turkish feel with much twirling and weaving for 3 girls and 2 boys. There are many entrances and exits and as usual with Hampson the pressure of the piece doesn't seem to let up at all. Highly watchable and I particularly liked watching Risa Taeishi - she is very statuesque with the most lovely flowing arms.
A hero of the night was Benjamin Whitson - another diarist for us - who seemed to crop up in so many pieces. Not sure on his classical abilities but he chucked himself into everything and smiled regardless of how exhausted he must have been at the end.
A nice night and it's good to see talented students learning more about performing while taking great dance and ballet to such far flung communities. Hope you can go.
Ballet Central Students Diary:
BGBC at the Linbury