REVIEW: Rambert: A Linha Curva plus other works (The Lowry Theatre, Salford)

A scene from Frames by Rambert Dance Company ©Tristram Kenton
A scene from Frames by Rambert Dance Company
©Tristram Kenton
upstaged rating: 

Now in their 90th year, Rambert continue to lead the dance world with their exhilarating and  innovative dance works. Back in 1966, the company changed their artistic focus from classical to contemporary. Always forward thinking, they commission the most exciting choreographers, composers and designers and give them the freedom to lead wherever their vision and imagination takes them.

To celebrate their 90th year in true Rambert style, the world-class dancers are presenting three contrasting works at The Lowry, Salford. Opening with the world premiere of Malgorzata Dzierzon’s Flight, followed by Frames choreographed by Alexander Whitley and ending with the beautiful, vibrant and sexy A Linha Curva.

Malgorzata Dzierzon used stories and dialogue about travel, migration and shifting space as inspiration for Flight. It’s a captivating vision set to Kate Whitley’s evocative soundtrack, delivered by the company with fluidity and grace. A revolving set design accompanied by Luke Halls’ video projection creates an eerie atmosphere, drawing our attention to the pace at which we move through our everyday lives. Paul Koegan’s smart lighting design works perfectly alongside the dancers, creating sharp powerful silhouettes during the stunning duet between Miguel Altunaga and Liam Francis.

Frames provides a fascinating contrast, exploring themes of permanency and the dance space or theatre as a construction site. With set design by Revital Cohen and Tuur Van Balen, the performance space is transformed into a white box as the dancers construct their performance within it. The sound of metal bars clashing and Daniel Bjarnason’s industrial-esque soundtrack heighten the senses as the dancers hold the audience’s gaze, moving with agility and strength. Who knew that you could make dancing with metal structures look easy and stunningly beautiful? 

And just as you think the performance could not get any better… A Linha Curva, choreographed by Itzik Galili, explodes onto the stage, giving a powerful  injection of colour and carnival to the evening. The audience begin to join in, clapping and bobbing, whooping and cheering to the sound of the samba beat. The live percussion musicians are elevated above the dance space, upbeat and vibrant they use a range of instruments, their voices and their bodies to create the dynamic soundtrack. It’s sensual, witty and terribly good – the dancers are faultless as they move alongside each other in a truly intoxicating display.

There’s a true sense of celebration throughout the performance and during the standing ovation, which is very well deserved for Britain’s oldest dance company. Rambert may be 90 this year but they show no sign of standing still.

-Kristy Stott

Rambert: A Linha Curva plus other works is at The Lowry until Friday 30th September 2016 and you can get your tickets here.

 

 

 

 

REVIEW – Chotto Desh (The Lowry, Salford)

Chotto Desh © Richard Haughton

 

Thingstars: 

Chotto Desh is being performed as part of the Week 53 festival at The Lowry Theatre in Salford. The innovative festival seeks to bring together contemporary dance, visual arts, music and theatre in interactive installations, exhibitions and performances.

We were thrilled to find out that the Akram Khan Company were taking part in the festival with a new adaptation of their Olivier Award-winning DESH, suitable for children aged 7+ and their families. This is the first ever family show created by Akram Khan and I was very excited to introduce Thing 1, who loves to dance, to some of Akram Khan’s work.

Chotto Desh meaning ‘small homeland’ in Bengali, is the perfect blend of dance, clever animation and simple storytelling set to the beat of an original soundtrack. The narrative is beautifully painted and is pitched at the ideal pace and level for older children to enjoy and understand, detailing a young British man’s dreams, curiosities and memories on his journey to find home. Despite being born in London, Akram has roots in Bangladesh and the Philippines – we follow him on his journey from Britain to Bangladesh and back again; we understand his aspiration to be a dancer and we explore a magical world of memories and stories as they unfold to us.

The show is stunningly performed by Dennis Alamanos – the dynamic and detailed choreography fuses classical Indian Kathak with ballet and contemporary dance. With references to Michael Jackson, breakdancing and street dance – we can understand how popular culture influenced Akram’s childhood. Alamanos’ movement fuses perfectly with the voiceovers and dream-like moving images. Children’s mouths were agape at the enchanting animation – as Akram comes face to face with a crocodile and stares in awe at an elephant before sprinting away from an approaching tiger.

There is such fluidity with the whole performance which also aids little ones understanding and there is a perfect scattering of humour. It was pleasing to see so many children engaging with the performance and enjoying such a breathtaking piece of choreography. Chotto Desh is the perfect mix of storytelling and dance, loaded with innocence and affection, making it fitting for young minds.

Chotto Desh is a beautiful adventure for children aged 7+ and their grown-ups – thrilling, poignant and brilliant. It certainly encouraged us to think about our own home and family and the aspirations that drive us forward.


-Kristy Stott

Chotto Desh runs at the Lowry in Salford until 4 May 2016.

Mini Critic : The Next Step – Wild Rhythm Tour (The Lowry, Salford)

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The Next Step is a Canadian reality-style TV show that follows a group of young dancers and in the UK, this popular tween drama is broadcast on CBBC.

In this explosive collaboration,The Next Step has teamed up with new CBBC show Lost and Found Music Studios and the result is The Next Step: Wild Rhythm Tour.

as-see-on-cbbc

Young dancer and fan of the show Evie went along to The Lowry with her mum Karen to check it out…

next step

 

“Hi. My name is Evie and I am nine. I was lucky enough to go and see The Next Step at the Lowry for my birthday present off mum and it was way more than awesome!

When I have time I sit back and watch The Next Step on TV and it was just fantastic to see them dancing in front of my very own eyes. I felt like my brain was going to burst with excitement!

I loved seeing the dancers being themselves and getting to know their real personalities. James and Eldon were hilarious although the girls always rule. I enjoyed the choice of music and the emotions and drama of the different dances.

The video clips inspired me to start dancing more and maybe if I work hard and believe in myself I could be in A Troupe one day. I can’t wait to see them on tour again in October.”

Evie really enjoyed The Next Step and mum Karen was impressed by the interaction during the Q&A and the positive message that the young audience take away with them…

“I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as it’s based around a TV dance programme but I can honestly say we both loved it. And I reckon by the audience response and feel of excitement in the theatre that the was general feeling from everybody. My daughter sat in awe watching the energy and passion of the dancers in front of her and you could see the commitment they give to their dance. The show was full of interaction, humour, drama and emotion and you felt totally engaged with the show and performers.

The interactive aspect was great as the kids got to be involved in a Q+A session engaging with the dancers and learning a little more about them and their aspirations. The dancers and singers were great role models for the kids and told how if they believe in themselves and work hard and show commitment they will achieve their goals. A great message for the kids to take away. I always thought it was just a TV programme but it is so much more. On a personal level this cast and their stories mean such a lot to my daughter. She has had troubles at school even at the young age of nine and she says the programme helps her solve problems at school as the programme looks at relationship dynamics and how the cast work through them. Fantastic as our kids need all the help and tools they can in order to live life to its max.”

The Next Step begins touring again in the autumn.

Kicking off at the SECC in Glasgow on 21 October 2016 with more dates in Manchester, London. Nottingham,  Brighton, Birmingham, Portsmouth, Bath and Cambridge. You can click here to get your tickets.

 

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REVIEW – Romeo and Juliet – Birmingham Royal Ballet (The Lowry)

Birmingham Royal Ballet - Romeo and Juliet © Andrew Ross
Birmingham Royal Ballet – Romeo and Juliet
© Andrew Ross
Upstaged Rating: 

Birmingham Royal Ballet Company make a pleasing return to the Lowry in Salford to continue their Shakespeare Season which commemorates the 400 year anniversary since William Shakespeare’s death. There is no better adaptation to bring to the stage then Kenneth MacMillan’s much celebrated classic interpretation of Romeo and Juliet, which is still as fresh and as exhilarating as when it was first performed in 1965.

The tale of the star-crossed lovers is set to Sergei Prokofiev’s magnificent score, featuring ‘Dance of the Knights’ which many will recognise as the opening theme tune of BBC television show The Apprentice. However, there are no novices in this beautiful production, only stand-out performances from emotive storytellers loaded with technical brilliance.

Paul Andrews’ stunning and detailed design conjures up all of the hustle and bustle of Verona amidst the feud of the two rival families – The Montagues and The Capulets. Like a medieval masterpiece framed by a proscenium arch, the dancers glisten under John B Read’s lighting design.

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Birmingham Royal Ballet – Romeo and Juliet © Andrew Ross

Momoko Hirata impresses as the dainty, vulnerable but determined Juliet – a masterful storyteller and graceful dancer. From jesting with her nurse, who is brilliantly played by Ruth Brill, to the final harrowing scene when she finds Romeo lying cold next to her in the charnel house. Hirata handles the transitions between the varying emotions superbly in this beautiful but ill-fated love story. Joseph Caley is well cast as Romeo, charming and impulsive in love – Caley expresses the immaturity of young love during his brief passage from boyhood to death.

The Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet is a stunningly impressive production. With Prokofiev’s epic musical score delivered powerfully by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, Kenneth MacMillan’s acclaimed choreography and Paul Andrews’ picture-perfect design, the talented company deliver a beautiful performance of the most tragic love story ever told.

-Kristy Stott

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet continues at the Lowry until Saturday 5th March 2016. 

With First Steps: A Child’s The Dream on Friday, March 4 at 1 pm. A delightful ballet adaptation of A Midsummer Nights Dream recommended for ages 3-7.

 

REVIEW – The Little Match Girl (The Lowry)

The Little Match Girl at The Lowry, Salford
Date: 16 January 2016
Upstaged Rating: 

 

When the tale of The Little Match Girl comes up in conversation it is met with smiles and nostalgia for being a poignant childhood story. Hans Christian Andersen’s original tale about child poverty in the 19th century can be a tough moral lump to swallow – the sad ending of The Little Match Girl remains etched in your mind. This charming dance adaptation by choreographer Arthur Pita is uplifting and beautiful and with an ending so magical, The Little Match Girl will leave you smiling as you wipe the tear from your eye.    

The story is set on an icy Christmas eve in a fictional Italian city, little Fiammetta skips along the streets selling her matches. Cold and hungry, she meets good and bad people on her journey – those who take pity and give her a gold coin and those who steal it back from her along with her shoes. Left with only one match to keep her warm, Fiammetta’s body cannot fight the freezing cold anymore. In a heartwarming scene, her beloved Grandmother appears to guide her up through the starry sky to the moon.

Designer Yann Seabra’s snowy terrain quickly transforms into a magical lunar landscape, complete with astronaut and moon buggy. Cloaked and top-hatted Frank Moon provides the astonishing ethereal soundtrack – playing the lute, a violin and a music box amongst others. Arthur Pita’s direction keeps the audience gripped, telling the classic story with a good dose of humour and an outstanding attention to detail – pitched perfectly for the recommended age of five and over.

A cast of just four conduct swift costume changes to play a total of eleven characters. Corey Annand puts in a skilled and delicate performance as the forlorn match girl Fiammetta while Valentina Golfieri burns brightly as the brutish match boy and the haughty daughter of the wealthy Donnarumma family. Angelo Smimmo shows off a superb singing voice as the father of the Donnarumma family and as Fiammetta’s celestial grandmother. The towering figure of Karl Fagerlund Brekke completes the impressive lineup, taking on four diverse roles which include the astronaut and Mother Donnarumma.

With a running time of just one hour, Arthur Pita’s The Little Match Girl is ideal for little children’s big imaginations. However, I highly recommend this enchanting adaptation as a must-see for all ages – just perfect in every way.

-Kristy Stott

REVIEW – Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty (The Lowry)

SLEEPING BEAUTY
Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty © Johan Persson
Date: 24 November 2015
Upstaged Rating: 

Matthew Bourne and New Adventures are back at The Lowry in Salford with a gothic reimagining of the classic fairytale Sleeping Beauty.

By Bourne’s own admittance the familiar story of Sleeping Beauty always left him ‘a little cold’ – understandably so – it is a tale about a Princess who spends most of her time asleep. Taking his inspiration from Tchaikovsky’s score and the original fairytale, Bourne plays with our expectations of the well-loved tale and adds further layers to the story, with a surprising twist and new characters – Sleeping Beauty is a faultless and magical production. Giving us all the visual clues that we need to experience the story in a new and refreshing way – there is no finer storyteller than Matthew Bourne.

Set to the backdrop of Tchaikovsky’s passionate and menacing score, Sleeping Beauty tells the love story of Princess Aurora and her one true love, the Royal Gamekeeper, Leo. However, their love story is cut short when the dark fairy, Carrabosse curses Aurora to sleep for a 100 years. Carrabosse’s son, Caradoc also has designs to wed the Princess – however, she can only be awoken by her true love’s kiss.

Sumptuous gold curtains frame the stage and footlights donning fairy wings cast their light up to the stunning movement. Lez Brotherston’s set and costume design is dreamlike and striking, transporting us through from the Victorian era to the Edwardian period and then the present day with ease.

There is an abundance of personality and humour from the outset as Bourne chooses not to depict Aurora as a babe in arms but a loveable and mischievous little beauty. Using clever puppetry, Aurora is given a strong identity from the very beginning bringing giggles from the audience.

As always with Matthew Bourne and New Adventures, the most striking feature is the individuality of the dancers and their outstanding talent as dynamic storytellers. Ashley Shaw shines as Princess Aurora, playful and dreamlike, with Chris Trenfield as her true love Leo – their pas de deux at the end of Act II is perfectly expressive of young love. Adam Maskell shows his versatility as a dancer playing both malevolent Carabosse and her sinister son, Caradoc. Led by Christopher Marney‘s Count Lilac, the winged fairies Mari Kamata, Cordelia Braithwaite, Leon Moran, Dena Lague and Liam Mower, complete a wonderful line-up – technically perfect – they perform with passion, wit and vivacity. 

Once you have seen a Matthew Bourne production you become hooked and poised ready for the next. Following the well-deserved standing ovation and rapturous applause for Sleeping Beauty, Bourne hinted that he has a brand new production waiting in the wings. With a formal announcement to be made after Christmas – he did reveal that it will receive its premiere in Salford at The Lowry. I can’t wait.

-Kristy Stott

Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty is at The Lowry until Saturday 28th November.

REVIEW – Coppélia – Birmingham Royal Ballet (The Lowry)

© 2015 Roy Smiljanic
© 2015 Roy Smiljanic
Date: 04 March 2015
Upstaged Rating: 

The Birmingham Royal Ballet are back at The Lowry with an enchanting production of Coppélia. As David Bintley CBE celebrates his twentieth year as director of the company, there really is no ballet more apt for this occasion than the story of Coppélia, packed full of mischievous humour, triumph and joy.

As the Royal Ballet Sinfonia begin to play and the gauze raises to reveal Peter Farmer‘s impressive leafy set, we are transported to a village somewhere in Eastern Europe where Dr Coppélius, an eccentric toy maker wheels out his latest mechanical creation on to his workshop balcony. His only wish is to bring this wind-up doll, Coppélia, to life. Michael O’Hare tells the story of the funny doctor well and looks the part with his puzzled facial expressions and his frazzled white hair.

When Coppélia is left out on the doctors workshop balcony she arrouses attention from flirtatious Franz and the green eye of jealousy from his wife-to-be Swanilda, with neither of the pair realising that she is only a doll.

When the two lovers, separately and unknowingly decide to enter Dr Coppélius’ strange workshop comic chaos is unleashed. Swanilda and her friends pull off the dusty red drapes in the doctors spooky workshop to reveal more of his mechanical dolls. Peter Wright‘s choreography succeeds in bringing all of the humour in the story to the fore, not an opportunity is missed and the world class dancers deliver with energy and sparkle.

© 2015 Roy Smiljanic

Elisha Willis as Swanilda is as an amazing storyteller as she is a dancer – with impeccable timing she conveys humour while delivering complex ballet sequences with ease. Chi Cao as Franz shows a lightness of movement in his solo pieces – turning effortlessly as he appears to float in mid air. Again, a good actor, performing with a good hint of arrogance as the flighty Franz. Following the two striking female soloists in Act III, Celine Gittens and Delia Mathews, the pas de deux between the two main dancers appears to lack a little confidence though.

Peter Farmer‘s intricate, striking set design frames the dancing perfectly, the leafy forrest and Dr Coppélius’ workshop through to the grand drapes and garlands during the Festival of the Bell.

This joyous and witty ballet is a light hearted and humorous celebration of love, suitable for seasoned dance lovers or those who are making their first trip to the ballet. I took Thing 1 (aged 9) and he found it easy to follow and found the story very amusing. With Delibes wonderful musical score, stunningly pretty costumes and Peter Wright’s impressive choreography, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Coppélia really is a magical feast for the senses.

-Kristy Stott

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Coppélia continues at the Lowry until Saturday March 7th. 

With First Steps: A Child’s Coppélia on Friday March 6 at 1pm.