LOCKDOWN REVIEW: The Winter’s Tale, The Royal Ballet

The Royal Opera House have launched a programme of online content that audiences can access at home, for free. The programme sees many classics from the Royal Ballet streamed via YouTube. As the most recent streaming, Christopher Wheeldon’s The Winter’s Tale strips back Shakespeare’s classic tragicomedy and packs a powerful punch.

The Winter’s Tale was a hit with audiences when it first premiered in 2014. Since then, it has been revived for the company in 2016, and 2018. Wheeldon’s adaptation is strong and brings to the stage a Shakespeare classic that hasn’t been overworked or over-adapted for ballet lovers.

The relationship between Edward Watson, who plays Leontes, and Lauren Cuthbertson, playing Hermione, is fierce. Their connection pours through their movements, with a portrayal that’s as powerful, as it is heart-breaking. It’s a revival with superb casting, as we also witness Steven McRae take on the role of Florizel. His commitment to the character is certainly note-worthy, as he has a way of making the most intricate movements appear so effortless.

Lauren Cuthbertson and Edward Watson in The Winter’s Tale
Photo by Johan Persson / ROH

The first act of the Royal Ballet’s The Winter’s Tale is one of pure tragedy. The choreography perfectly coins the score and the portrayal of Leontes and Hermione leaves audiences astonished. In stark contrast, a burst of joy explodes onto the stage at the beginning of Act Two, set 16 years later, in the Kingdom of Bohemia. It showcases the love between young Perdita and Florizel, in a springtime festival. Sarah Lamb is well-cast as Perdita, as she naturally lifts spirits with her poise and innocence. Joby Talbot’s score is lively, joyful, and full of folk melodies.

Audiences can expect a much shorter and stripped back Act Three. It almost feels as though the power that was felt in the first two acts gets lost, as the choreography becomes much calmer. This is, of course Wheeldon’s intention and credit must be given to his unique adaptation.

The Royal Ballet’s The Winter’s Tale strips back the complexity of the classic story and so eloquently portrays its narrative. The strong casting and dynamic choreography unite, to create a revival that’s loved by audiences.

You can watch The Winter’s Tale on YouTube for a limited time.

Steven McRae in The Winter’s Tale
Photo by Johan Persson / ROH

INSIGHT: Online Dance Classes and Performances

It is with no question that dance has evolved over the last few months. With the growing uncertainty of the coronavirus, and the significant impacts on the arts industry, the dance world has had to change. And change very quickly.

Whilst the situation is far from ideal, we have to continue to find the positives. And it’s clear that current constraints have led to some fantastic innovation by arts companies.

So, on International Dance Day, I’m sharing with you some of the companies that are staying on top of the game and ensuring that they still connect with their audiences. Check out what they have to offer and make sure that, even during times of such uncertainty, you still make time for dance.

DanceXchange

DanceXchange have released online DXTRA classes, where you can join tutors at home for free 30-minute online classes. They’re streamed live on Instagram and include styles such as Ballet, Commercial and Salsa!

Visit their website to find out more and follow them on Instagram to keep updated.

Rosie Kay Dance Company

Rosie Kay Dance Company are now streaming two of their most well-received pieces on YouTube. 5 Soldiers and MK Ultra are available to watch for free and you can choose to help support the company on their website.

Check out my thoughts on 5 Soldiers and MK Ultra in my reviews.

MK Ultra
(c) Rosie Kay Dance Company

The Royal Opera House

The Royal Opera House is home to The Royal Ballet and have made a series of full performances available on Marquee TV, including The Nutcracker, Giselle, and The Sleeping Beauty.

Marquee TV is also currently offering a 14-day free trial to all new customers, so it’s definitely worth checking out.

One Dance UK

One Dance UK are currently offering a 3-month free membership, with access to support, resources and expert advice on the UK dance sector. They’re aiming to support everyone from freelancers, to artists, to choreographers.

Visit their website to sign-up.

Sadler’s Wells

Sadler’s Wells are encouraging people to join them on their Digital Stage, for free dance performances and workshops. With their Family Dance Workshops, Facebook Premiers and Company of Elders Workshops, they really are offering something for everyone.

Visit their website to find out more and see how you can get involved.

New Adventures

Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures are streaming Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet and The Car Man via Sky Arts, as part of their Festival of Classics campaign. They’re also offering free company classes via Instagram Live, for anyone and everyone to have a go at.

Follow them on Instagram to get involved.

Romeo and Juliet
(c) New Adventures

Right now, there are some amazing companies doing amazing things to help keep the UK dance sector alive and ensure everyone has access to dance. With such dramatic changes taking place, it makes us wonder whether this will be a turning point for the industry.

Will we continue with this new way of watching, learning and creating dance, long into the future? Let me know your thoughts in the comments x

LOCKDOWN REVIEW: Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet

Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet injects fire, passion and unrivalled energy into Shakespeare’s classic love story.

There have been many on-stage adaptations of Romeo and Juliet, each with their own interpretation. But Matthew Bourne brings to it a new lease of life, with a story that is as heart-breaking as it is unexpected.

Bourne expertly showcases the next generation of dancers and creatives in Romeo and Juliet. The New Adventures company cast six young dancers from each of their touring venues to perform alongside the professional company. This gave a total of 80 dancers the opportunity to kickstart their professional careers. Alongside this, six young associates assisted in backstage roles, to help bring the production to life. This highlights the company’s commitment to young talent development and brings to the piece a youthful energy that is yet to replicated.

Bourne’s choreography in Romeo and Juliet is jaw-dropping. It’s playful and it’s fierce and it expertly captures the naivety and passion of young love. Paris Fitzpatrick and Cordelia Braithwaite give an extraordinary interpretation of the star-cross’d lovers. A duet where their lips are locked together for an incredibly long time highlights their true desire for one another. They move together effortlessly and give a heart-breaking performance.

Paris Fitzpatrick and Cordelia Braithwaite as Romeo and Juliet
(c) New Adventures Company

Once again, the New Adventures company bring to the stage a style that is completely unique and is dripping in a narrative. The technique of the dancers is apparent, but is not the focus of the piece. Instead, the audience is consumed in the tragic story and in the ideas the piece challenges. It proves, yet again, that Bourne is more than just a choreographer; he’s someone that can tell a story, and tell it extremely well.

Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet is packed with energy and builds tension beyond belief. It’s choreographed and danced in a way that fully consumes the audience in a unique retelling of Shakespeare’s most famous love story.

Romeo and Juliet saw its Broadcast Premiere on Sky Arts on 26 April and is available to watch on NOW TV and Sky until 24 May 2020.

Romeo and Juliet Company
(c) New Adventures Company

LOCKDOWN REVIEW: Earth Trilogy, Motionhouse

Motionhouse’s Earth Trilogy is now available to watch online, as part of the company’s #TogetherInIsolation campaign.

Kevin Finnan’s Earth Trilogy is a series of three outstanding dance productions; Scattered, Broken, and Charge. It explores the human relationship with the earth and brings together film and dance, to create three incredible productions.

Scattered (2009) looks at the relationship we have with water. It takes audiences on a journey through the ocean, a waterfall, and a frozen landscape. Their clever use of a digital backdrop and sloped wall creates a mirage of artistic beauty. Broken (2013) then explores our relationship with the Earth. It is characterised by its athleticism and fast-paced movements, leaving audiences in awe.

However, Charge (2017) is the pinnacle of the trilogy and explores the role of electricity in the human body. The multimedia effects create a realistic and gripping story; one in which the dancers are wholly invested into. It sees a fusion of art and science, as Motionhouse worked with partners from the University of Oxford to inform and inspire the piece.

Broken
(c) Motionhouse

What makes this trilogy so captivating is its use of digital illusions. The company work hard to ensure that digital technology and the human body come together as one to portray seamless transitions and choreography.

The Earth Trilogy remains consistently true to Motionhouse’s style of dance. It’s daring and powerful and consumes the audience in its narrative. The physicality of the dancers is truly inspiring, as they possess a style that carves out a true identity for Motionhouse. And its precisely that identity that makes them so successful in the dance world.

The Earth Trilogy is available to watch on Youtube and donations can be made via the company’s website.

Scattered
(c) Motionhouse

LOCKDOWN REVIEW: Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake

Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is a powerful re-imagining of the classic ballet, which breaks conventions, challenges tradition, and steals the hearts of many.

Matthew Bourne is a storyteller. He takes the fundamentals of a classic story and adds to it a whole new perspective. And Swan Lake is a prime example of that. Bourne has taken the classic storyline and run with it. So far that it is pulled into the modern world and challenges any pre-assumptions that the audience may have had about the piece.

This production is perhaps best known for its male ensemble, which replaces the traditional female corps-de-ballet. But it isn’t until you see this ensemble in action that you realise how powerful it really is. To see an all-male group of dancers perform so powerfully, so passionately, is incredible. The choreography is complex and showcases their talents without them having to hide behind a female lead. It is therefore no wonder that the piece turns on its head what we thought we knew about ballet. It’s utterly empowering, and it sends an inspiring message to male dancers across the world.

Will Bozier shines as The Swan/Stranger, as does his ability to engage an audience. He’s fiery and commanding and commits to the piece whole-heartedly. He expertly leads the ensemble of Swans, and gives a performance that can only be described as mesmerising.

Act 3, Scene 2: The Royal Ball
(c) New Adventures Company

It is also refreshing to see the story narrated from an alternative perspective. The piece is embedded in male vulnerability, as it highlights The Prince’s internal struggles and mental distress. And allowing the audience to resonate with such vulnerability is exactly the kind of message that should be relayed within today’s society.

It’s interesting to see how Tchaikovsky’s score is used in the piece. Bourne interprets it in a whole new way and almost gives it a new lease of life. It’s used to create passion, excitement and intrigue; all of which are sustained from beginning to end. It doesn’t lose its steam or fall flat, but rather the audience is kept captivated throughout.

Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is a piece about freedom, in multiple senses of the word, and leaves audiences with that highly sought-after goose bump moment.

Swan Lake was the first in New Adventures’ A Festival of Classics, with some of their most famous productions being broadcast online via Sky Arts.

Will Bozier as The Swan
(c) New Adventures Company

LOCKDOWN REVIEW: MK Ultra, Rosie Kay Dance Company

MK Ultra, by Rosie Kay Dance Company, originally premiered in 2017 and is now available to watch for free online, for a limited time.

MK Ultra explores conspiracy, myth and modern culture, through the lens of an extraordinary brainwashing experiment. Choreographer Rosie Kay invites the audience to a thoroughly researched exploration of the rise of the Illuminati conspiracy. She works alongside filmmaker Adam Curtis, to incorporate documentary elements into the piece, and bring alive a new kind of dance work.

The performance, from beginning to end, is a complete treat for the senses. Everything from the wild music choices, to the clever use of the backdrop, contributes to making a spectacle on stage. No stone is left unturned, as every staging choice aligns perfectly with the story.

The choreography is nothing short of exceptional. Kay’s ability to combine elements of contemporary, jazz, and physical theatre makes the piece a unique one. The repetitive motifs in both choreographic, and musical choices emphasise the themes of power and control, and brings home the harrowing realities behind Project MKUltra. The piece is ambitious, but it works. And it’s precisely that risk-taking that makes the work of Rosie Kay Dance Company so special.

Kay’s dancers are committed to the piece from the off. As is always apparent in the company’s work, their ability to portray such well-defined characters certainly makes the piece what it is. Carina Howard’s ability to lead the performance really shines through, as she commands the audience’s upmost attention and intrigue.

MK Ultra is a fantastic exploration of conspiracy and mind control and is yet another extraordinarily ambitious piece from Rosie Kay Dance Company.

You can watch MK Ultra online for free, for a limited period of time and donations can be made via the company’s website.

MK Ultra, Rosie Kay Dance Company
(c) Rosie Kay Dance Company

LOCKDOWN REVIEW: 5 Soldiers, Rosie Kay Dance Company

Rosie Kay’s 5 Soldiers is dripping with importance and athleticism and is a valuable insight into the harrowing life of a front-line soldier.

Perhaps the most iconic piece so far from Rosie Kay Dance Company, 5 Soldiers feels poignant and real, and it makes us feel almost every emotion. From empathy, to guilt, to disbelief. But the ability to pair these feelings with elements of comedic relief is incredible and makes for a spectacular performance.

5 Soldiers feels like a staple in the world of contemporary dance. The insight it gives audiences into the harsh reality of the armed forces may be disturbing but it’s so important. It increases exposure to army life and offers a compassionate telling of it’s daily challenges.

The athleticism of all five dancers is incredible. They have a commitment to the piece that makes the audience fully invested into their story. They expertly portray the extraordinary effects that the war can have on both body, and mind.

Performed in a studio theatre, with an audience that’s almost in-the-round, Rosie Kay invites audiences to be fully immersed in the action of the piece. They’re made to feel a part of the front line, which makes this unique exploration hit home even harder.

This really is physical theatre at its best. The complexity of the choreography and the remarkably passionate execution makes for a gripping performance. Rather than delighting audiences, it makes them go away and think. And those are the pieces that make history in the world of dance.

5 Soldiers is available to stream online for free – a fantastic initiative from Rosie Kay Dance Company that makes dance fully accessible to all and helps build a greater sense of community, particularly in times like these.

5 Soldiers, Rosie Kay Dance Company
(c) Rosie Kay Dance Company