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Sir Fred and Mr B


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#1 Alymer

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Posted 13 March 2004 - 03:12 PM

I'm not usually fond of galas. These days they're all too often pieces from the current rep plus a(n often dubious) new creation, or standard rep plus a few standard pas de deux, some extra flowers around the house and very high prices.
Birmingham Royal Ballet's Sir Fred and Mr B was something different though, and I thought that as the company will be part of the Ashton celebration in New York this summer, people might like to hear something about it.

BRB has always had rather more Balanchine ballets in its repertoire than the Covent Garden company, and has given them considerably more performances. However Tarantella which kicked off the evening was new. It was danced by Italian-born Ambra Vallo and Chi Cao, who as you might guess is Chinese. Richard Tanner mounted it for them.

Generally the first item in this kind of evening is politely received, but this brought cheers and numerous curtain calls. All well deserved I would say. Vallo was charming; quick, bright, clean dancing. Cao is someone to watch out for. He was trained in Beijing and then at the Royal Ballet School. In his first year at BRB Farrell picked him for Mozartiana. A couple of years later, still in the corps, he won a gold medal at Varna. He's now a principal but was given time to grow and IMHO the result is something special; very classical, very masculine, beautiful line (although he's not very tall), lovely feet, a good jump and a complete, but never flashy, technique.

Next up came Monotones II danced by Valerie Robin, Samuel Pergande and Matthew Roy from Joffrey. I liked Robin particularly, but the performance as a whole was fine - more "dancey" perhaps than a home team would be, but it's a very valid take.

Last movement of Concerto Barocco was given by BRB dancers - one principal from Texas the other born in Philadelphia! Then extracts from Les Patineurs nicely danced by Royal Ballet School students.

Zenaida Yanowsky came from Covent Garden to dance the pas de deux from Agon, which she did with great power and authority. Federico Bonelli (also Covent Garden) was less impressive partnering her. At times he looked like nothing so much as her little lap dog.

The first half ended with the Clog dance from Fille Mal Gardee and Artistic Director David Bintley, who was a really great Widow Simone, put his clogs on again for the occasion. I suspect it was the last time as when he came back after the interval to present the second half he was still out of breath and suggested that any member of the audience who worked out at a gym should take up clog dancing instead. "Two minutes and the pounds drop off".

the first half of the programme had been presented by former principal, now ballet mistress, Marion Tate and assistant director Desmond Kelly. Kelly rembered being coached by Mr B in Prodigal Son. "He wouldn't let me do much of the partnering. He obviously wanted to get his hands all over her body". I don't know who "she" was, but it might have been Deanne Bergsma - a lovely dancer and a great beauty.

Second half started with Molly Smolen in the Five Brhams Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan. She's not Lynn Seymour perhaps, but she's very, very good,
Then more Balanchine. Monica Zamora came back to her old company (she joined with George Piper Dances after marrying last summer) to dance the pas de deux from Slaughter on Tenth Avenue. She's beautiful, sexy and witty, but the costume is so vulgar and unflattering that it just doesn't work for me. She was partnered by a newish member of the company Ian Mackay. Robert Parker who originally did that role in BRB's production is recovering from a knee injury.
Then more guests: Melissa Morissy and Duncan Cooper from Dance Theatre of Harlem in the Thais pas de deux. They looked so gorgeous in the costumes that you could almost have forgiven them if the dancing had been less than first-class. But they were very good - not perhaps as dreamy as the Sibley Dowell partnership, but better than many others.

We then had the Tango from Facade, which Ashton himself used to dance. Marion Tait got back into her dancing shoes and Irek Mukhamadov stepped forward to paly the Dago. When I saw his name (it was originally to have been Kelly) I groaned, anticipating another over the top Mukhamedov performance. But amazingly, there was no mugging, minimal eye-rolling, and he was all the funnier for that. (Ashton once said to me about his Juliet "They don't need to act, it's all in the choreography". And I think that's true of most of his ballets)
The other roles in the finale were all danced by students from Elmhurst, the ballet school linked to BRB, and very nicely too.

Then the ballroom pas de deux from Cinderell with former BRB, now Covent Garden sweetheart Mikayo Yoshida, partnered by a much happier Bonelli. "He's danced his little socks off tonight" remarked Bintley.

Finally, the last movement of Western Symphony - a great finale which sent us all happily home, despite the snow which was falling fast and heavily.
Sorry - this has been an over lengthy screed, but it really was a well planned, well executed tribute and I feel it deserved more publicity than it got in the UK.

#2 Mel Johnson

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Posted 13 March 2004 - 03:46 PM

We're grateful for the input! Thanks for the reportage and critique, Alymer! :D

#3 Alexandra

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Posted 23 March 2004 - 09:17 PM

A very belated thank you, alymer -- I'm sorry; I missed this when you first put it up. I'll borrow Giannina's "green green green," but if I can't be there, I'm happy to hear about it.

I imagine Mukhamedov could be very good in Facade --and glad to know he got a shot at it!

#4 Juliet

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Posted 24 March 2004 - 09:34 AM

I also missed this when it was first posted, and must add my thanks and lauds--

I think a good many people are looking forward to the summer performances in NYC.

A funny:
Zenaida Yanowsky came from Covent Garden to dance the pas de deux from Agon, which she did with great power and authority. Federico Bonelli (also Covent Garden) was less impressive partnering her. At times he looked like nothing so much as her little lap dog.

Yanovsky is a splendid. splendid dancer (I was disappointed recently not to see her Carabosse which I had been happily anticipating...instead I saw Thiago Soares' who danced Madge instead of Carabosse....Sigh.) Bonelli has pretty line but his stage presence is not, shall we say, powerful and arresting.

I saw Monica Zamora when George Piper Dancers were in New York and I think the prospect of her performing Slaughter would be enough to send anyone up to Birmingham, even in the snow!!!! What a riveting presence--sensual, high voltage enough to jump start even a pudding.


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