Magazine article The Spectator

Endurance Test

Magazine article The Spectator

Endurance Test

Article excerpt


Royal Ballet: Dance Bites (New Victoria Theatre, Woking)

The Royal Ballet's Dance Bites has become a significant feature of the British contemporary dance scene. It was conceived as an outlet for home-grown choreographic talents as well as a good way to promote a less balletically stereotyped, more varied reputation for the company. But the temporary closure of the Royal Opera House has turned what used to be a brief run of performances by a pioneering group of dancers into a sort of Royal Ballet regional tour, with a greater deployment of artists and two separate programmes.

This newly acquired dimension does not seem to have done much good to the initiative, at least judging by what I saw last week in Woking. The more institutional approach to the Dance Bites season has detracted considerably from its home-made freshness, thwarting the spicy experimental enthusiasm and gusto that informed the early performances and, in some instances, made one overlook the choreographic weaknesses of various programmes. Such a flaw was evident throughout the quadruple bill I saw, where most of the dancing was unconvincing, unconvinced and technically untidy.

Unfortunately, the first item on the programme, David Bintley's 1986 Galanteries, requires a great deal of accuracy to allow a deep appreciation of the aerial quality conferred by the choreographer on his rendition of Mozart's music. It is true that not all stages suit the refined, yet powerful use of space this dance entails, but a limited performing space can hardly justify the lack of co-ordination, musicality, technical purity and stylistic correctness I had to endure. Only Sara Gallie managed to stand out for both the refined fluidity and the elegant quality of her dancing.

Loosely based on an interesting concept expounded by Bill Viola, Kathy Marston's Tidelines is one of those works where both the choreographer and the viewers get lost looking for a meaning and end up confused and/or with a headache. Despite a great number of stage effects, including revolving mirrors suspended in mid-air and projections of multicoloured bubbles and liquids, and an intricate choreographic layout that encompasses diverse solutions, movements and images, the work neither takes off nor reaches the conceptual depths so accurately described in the programme note. …

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