A mixed week of dance taking in Rambert's first triple bill at Sadler's Wells and BRB's Giselle at the start of their London season - their first in the newly refurbished Royal Opera House. Rambert were breaking new ground as well with the first Proms season at Sadler's in which stalls seats were removed and standing tickets sold at £4.50 each - terrific value.
The Rambert bill featured Glen Tetley's Embrace Tiger and Return to Mountain and two pieces by Christopher Bruce - Four Scenes and Ghost Dances, the latter featuring in a live transmission on BB2 last Saturday night. Hopefully everybody saw them and made recordings including the interviews (from the present day and 1980's) which explored Bruce's career and approach to work. His shyness and humanity are what came ringing through and also perhaps that he is ready to move on from Rambert?
It was nice to see some accessible dance on the Beeb as opposed to just ballet, though a shame that there was not time for the Tetley to be broadcast as well.
I missed Embrace Tiger when it was (re-)premiered at Oxford recently but Stephanie Wragg was there for us, covering Pierrot Lunaire, which Rambert dance next at Sadler's, and Ghost dances too. I found Embrace Tiger the most likeable piece of Tetley I've seen to date. Having found Le Ronde and Sphinx insistent, repetitive and remorseless on dancers and viewers alike, the more uneven pace of Embrace Tiger was welcome. And although 'just based on T'ai Chi it has a much greater variety in its movement.
Embrace Tiger is also a fascinating contrast to MacMillan's Rituals where the Oriental is much to the fore - whereas Embrace Tiger takes the movement, distills it down and plays with it. The Electronic and drum score (Morton Subotnick) fits well and works for me - but it's not everybody's cup of tea for sure. Anyway I'm glad I finally got to see it and am looking forward to seeing his Pierrot Lunaire.
While Sadler's Wells looked full to capacity, the Opera House was not so full for BRB. It was probably a combination of considerably more expensive tickets and less advertising. Sad and a little surprising given that BRB decided to open with Giselle - their new one by Galina Samsova and David Bintley. It aims to be realistic and theatrical - so we get a horse and dogs on stage for the hunting party and flying (literally) Wilis in act 2. And Berthe's mime has been chopped right back for simplicity
Most critics have had a reservation or two about the production. On this second viewing I enjoyed it rather more, but still think the stage looks bare of dancers at times - particularly in the hunting party scene. And the setting and design (in act 1 particularly) remains far too posh I think. There is though a lovely flute solo (for Giselle) that I don't think I have heard or seen elsewhere, and the lighting (Mark Jonathan) in Act 2 for the Wilis shimmers sublimely.
But a classic production, unless totally dud (and which this is not) is perhaps more wall hanging for the dancers than anything: a sweeping statement, but you know what I mean. The Wilis were rather good I thought, but the BRB boys, in act 1, seemed altogether less happy and almost self consciously camp at times. On the opening night Leticia Muller danced with Andrew Murphy - she was convincing, fragile, ailing, but Murphy seemed oddly distant and there was none of the dramatic fire we saw in Edward for example.
On Friday it was Monica Zamora and Wolfgang Stollwitzer and they proved a much more together couple. In act 2 Zamora nearly brought me to tears, such is her power. She dances from the heart and it connects at that level with the audience. The tenderness and sweetness of her love in act 2 was just extraordinary.
On both nights Nao Sakuma and Chi Cao impressed in the Harvest pas de deux. He is technically into the fireworks end of performing, most exciting to watch on his own but he urgently needs to work on his partnering. Sakuma is becoming increasingly authoritative and her extensions are beautifully high, measured and momentarily held - it reminded me of Russian soloists who, no matter what the music, won't be rushed at such a time. She had a bit of a slip on Thursday, but seems irrepressible.
Marian Tait was Berthe - a marvellous actress but too small for the role and swimming in her apron and costume - either the apron needs much adjustment or she needs to develop a massive chest! But the dogs didn't whimper this time even if the horse showed its great appreciation of Zamora and had many in the audience giggling for a while.
And it was nice to hear the Birmingham orchestra again under Barry Wordsworth. They did great service to the dancers and audience. Ideally some of the empty seats might have been filled by the ROH orchestra come to learn.
Giselle is as worth seeing by Birmingham as any. If they dropped the animals and filled out the hunting scene and made a few other minor adjustments it would be most handsome I think. But if nothing else see Zamora in it come what may.