British Ballet Charity Gala Review – a revealing dance extravaganza | Ballet
TThe arts are in a Covid Crisis and here is Darcey Bussell to the rescue, hosting a fundraiser featuring the UK’s six major ballet companies and two major contemporary companies. It’s not your average gala, obviously – the spaced out audience, Bussell, and co-host Ore Oduba beamed to the screen from another room – but in less obvious ways too. Usually at a charity party you would expect classic centerpieces and princess pas de deux. Here there is a tutu throughout the show (worn by Momoko Hirata of the Birmingham Royal Ballet dancing David Bintley’s romantic Cinderella) and most of the works are relatively recent. It’s ballet now.
So instead of fireworks, there’s the reflection of Will Tuckett’s Then or Now, made for Ballet Black. On poems by Adrienne Rich, it is striking in its own way, interpreted by a troupe of strong individuals overcome by the silky quality of Cira Robinson’s dance. Or Kenneth Tindall’s Bitter Earth, full of visual harmony, an ever-changing trio (maybe a trio), 12 beautifully arranged members. Each movement spurs the next in a chain reaction, the group breaking apart and reforming like droplets of mercury.
There is one more sparkling technique on display, in particular from Isaac Hernández and Francesco Gabriele Frola in Yuri Possokhov’s Senseless Kindness for English National Ballet. Possokhov weaves virtuosity into his phrases – running turns and suspended jumps – where other choreographers would treat these movements as complete stops.
There is also a cute duet for Hernández and Alison McWhinney that is like a harmonious vision of love, the pair falling effortlessly in each step – a stark contrast to Jonathan Watkins’ 1984 pas de deux, performed by Abigail Prudames and Joseph Taylor of Northern Ballet, where even desire cannot triumph over the physical rigidity imposed by Orwell’s oppressive regime.
The Royal Ballet presents the young dancers of the company in Valentino Zucchetti’s Scherzo, a fast-paced and perfectly executed work. The Royal’s star dancers may be missing but the B team are pretty impressive. Much like Rambert’s junior company, Rambert2 (the main troupe currently performs across town), especially nervous Jonathan Wade, who packs so much acrobatic power into a small setting.
Matthew Bourne’s Spitfire from 1988 (an oldie!) Is his face-to-face skit of Perrot’s Pas de Quatre ballerinas, set in the world of men’s underwear models, with loose pecs and poses from the Ken-doll catalog. It’s a reminder that Bourne has always been a brilliantly original man of ideas. More comedy comes in Sophie Laplane’s Dextera although it takes a bit of a warm-up, ending with hip moves on a bongo beats version of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.
Between the acts, short films on some of the chosen charities and what the night does brilliantly is showcasing the breadth and excellence of community dance in the UK. It’s a moving snapshot of the enormous value of dance beyond elite performance.
Five stars for the spirit, the heart and the triumph of the logistics, but in reality this gala is not quite the climax. This is partly the performance, but it is clear that the Albert Hall is not a large dance hall: the public and the small stage are separated by the vast floor of the arena, populated this evening by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia (and it’s a real pleasure to see live musicians). The show will be streaming, however – and this is an occasion where the camera should fill that gap.