Saturday, 16 November 2019

AMATEUR DANCE REVIEW: Ballet Russes And Beyond - The Co-op Academy Theatre, Manchester.

A new experience for me all ways round greeted me this evening. I had never had the pleasure of seeing students from The London School of Classical Ballet perform before, as they were here on their first, and hopefully not their last, visit; and I had never been to the Co-op Academy Theatre before either.

First of all I should just like to say how lovely the theatre actually is. It has been open and available to hire for outside companies for about 12 months but has remained anonymous and unknown, perhaps due to both its location and the fact that it is part of the secondary school it is housed in. However, it is excellently equipped, of a decent size, with superb facilities, in a separate building from the main school, and has its own dedicated box office and cafe bar area. - oh and the staff are rather chatty and helpful too!

However, back to the ballet! This evening saw only a small contingecy of the school perform, and the students ranged from 10 to 18 years. They receive their ballet training alongside tradition schooling and their instructors are all ex soloists with either The Bolshoi, Vaganova or similar, and so receive the highest level of training right from the start. This was evidenced by the young dancers who perfomed short excerpts in the second half. 3 young girls with the Danse Manu, and the pre-vocational ballet girls dancing, again a composition by L. Minkus, Cupid's Dream from Don Quixote. Beautiful, lively and accurate.

The first half of the evening saw the older girls along with one of the older boys (Theo Girvan) perform  'Chopiniana / Les Sylphides'  Girvan and the 4 female soloists were excellent here but what caught my attention and won my praise even more so was the Corps. 15 girls who danced with utter precision the whole time. They had a couple of chorus dances to perform which they did superbly, but it was their stillness, and their doing nothing which was impressive. M. Fokine had choreographed the corps that they made beautiful pictures around the soloists, staying completely still, waiting just for a single note in order to make the slightest of head movements or the small change of arm poisition which they all did at exactly the same time. It was simple and hugely effective, but yet was undoubtedly more difficult for the dancers to do this than it was to dance properly. The pictures and images created during this section were absolutely beautiful, just a ballet should be... graceful, elegant and eye-catching.

The second half was a hotch-potch of excerpts danced by various age groups and standards, but always executed with that style and grace which distinguishes this artform from any other. The dancers have sore and crooked toes tied up against a block of wood inside a flimsy piece of material, and are expected to leap through the air and land on the block of wood without so much as a 'by your leave'. hurts! and anyone - aboslutely anyone - brave enough to go through this for their art is either mad or passionate about their craft. I was mad.(although thankfully as a male I never had to go through with wearing pointe shoes!). and had had enough, and gave up ballet lessons just about as soon as I was able. It has however stood me in excellent stead for everything I have done theatrically ever since. The regimentation, the drilling, the discipline, the training, the flexibility, the poise, all these things have stayed with me, even if my muscles and joints won't allow me to do the splits any more!

Ballet is about beauty, artistry, spectacle, and this company had all of these. The costumes (all originals from Russia) were superb, and the discipline and talent on display was awe-inspiring. I do hope you will tour again next year to Manchester!

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 15/11/19

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