Tale of two ci­ties

Bar­bara New­man ex­plores the dif­fer­ent at­ti­tudes to dance in New York and Lon­don

Country Life Every Week - - Performing Arts -

The state­ment, at­trib­uted to Ge­orge Bernard Shaw, that ‘eng­land and Amer­ica are two coun­tries di­vided by a com­mon lan­guage’ ap­plies as eas­ily to dance as to words. Both Lon­don and New York over­flow with dance in the au­tumn, of­fer­ing more than the gen­eral public can ab­sorb or af­ford, yet they set out no­tice­ably dif­fer­ent wares in no­tice­ably dif­fer­ent ways.

The english bal­let com­pa­nies are again con­cen­trat­ing on fullevening nar­ra­tives, spic­ing the sched­ule through to Christ­mas with nov­el­ties. Re­viv­ing all three acts of Macmil­lan’s Anas­ta­sia— he chore­ographed the third act first, in 1967, and, for some time, it stood alone—gives many of the Royal Bal­let’s prin­ci­pal artists a chance to ex­tend their dra­matic ex­pres­siv­ity; the com­pany last per­formed the en­tire work in 2004. An im­mi­nent triple bill by Wayne Mcgre­gor will in­clude guests from the Alvin Ai­ley American Dance The­ater, ap­pear­ing with the com­pany for the first time, and a new work with a com­mis­sioned score by the American com­poser Steve Re­ich.

Launch­ing the sea­son, David Bint­ley’s spec­tac­u­lar new stag­ing of The Tem­pest for Birm­ing­ham Royal Bal­let leans heav­ily on elab­o­rate de­signs and con­cise, re­al­is­tic act­ing, show­ing the dancers at their most dra­matic be­fore they move on to The Nutcracker, Cin­derella and Cop- pélia. english Na­tional Bal­let (ENB) is fo­cus­ing on Giselle, in both Akram Khan’s earthy new in­ter­pre­ta­tion and Mary Skeap­ing’s tra­di­tional set­ting.

Dance lovers in New York face a com­pletely dif­fer­ent choice. For its re­cent four-week run in the David h. Koch The­ater at Lin­coln Cen­ter, New York City Bal­let (NYCB) dis­trib­uted 23 pieces among seven pro­grammes. Twelve of the bal­lets re­veal the ge­nius of the com­pany’s found­ing chore­og­ra­pher, Ge­orge Balan­chine, whose vast out­put con­tin­ues to de­light the au­di­ence more than 30 years af­ter his death.

More sur­pris­ingly, the open­ing-night gala fea­tured four world pre­mieres, three by dancers in the com­pany of whom one, Justin Peck, has es­tab­lished a con­sid­er­able rep­u­ta­tion by ful­fill­ing com­mis­sions for the res­i­dent troupes in Paris, San Fran­cisco, Mi­ami, Seat­tle and Los An­ge­les as well as NYCB. The fourth pre­miere came from Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, who has not worked with NYCB be­fore, but made A Street­car Named De­sire for Scot­tish Bal­let and the strik­ing Bro­ken Wings, about Frida Kahlo, for ENB.

All four of these cre­ations may not sur­vive, al­though the breezy in­sou­ciance of Peter Walker’s ten in seven, un­der­pinned by an on­stage jazz quar­tet led by the score’s com­poser, Thomas Kikta, had an im­me­di­ate and po­ten­tially last­ing ap­peal. What im­pressed me more than their rel­a­tive mer­its was that all the chore­og­ra­phers ex­plored the clas­si­cal bal­let tech­nique on a clear, well-lit stage with­out dis­tort­ing the vo­cab­u­lary, turn­ing it into ac­ro­bat­ics, hid­ing it in shad­ows or cos­tumes, or over­whelm­ing it with scenery or pro­jec­tions.

Fol­low­ing NYCB into the same theatre, American Bal­let Theatre’s 12 per­for­mances com­prise sev­eral com­bi­na­tions of eight bal­lets, one of them a world pre­miere by Jes­sica Lang, an­other a dis­play piece for the stu­dents of the com­pany’s school. Mixed bills ev­i­dently sat­isfy a deeper hunger in New York than in Lon­don for va­ri­ety, a hunger ea­ger to sam­ple all the facets of bal­let—his­tor­i­cal and ex­per­i­men­tal—and con­tem­po­rary dance as well.

New York’s Fall for Dance sea­son packs the New York City Cen­ter an­nu­ally, not solely be­cause view­ers are cu­ri­ous about chore­og­ra­phy they may never have seen, but also be­cause ev­ery

Richard Al­ston Dance Com­pany (seen here in Buzzing Round the Hu­nisuc­cle) is cur­rently on tour in the UK

Un­framed, chore­ographed by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa for NYCB

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