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Glasgow Theatre Royal last week was the opening venue for Dance GB, which moves on to Cardiff and Greenwich. The Cultural Olympiad brought together Scottish Ballet, ENB and the National Dance Company of Wales and each performs a new ballet inspired by the Olympics.

At the Saturday matinee I attended the most popular piece was the middle one, Dream, created by Christopher Bruce on NDC Wales. It was humorous in places, with whimsical depiction of children playing and retro1950s clothes in the early parts, egg and spoon races and sack races followed by frequent references to various sports covered in the Olympics. The music was varied with that ballet cliche, Ravel's Bolero, featuring largely, because of its association with the (Winter) Olympics triumph of Torvill and Dean. Thankfully Bruce treats the music lightly and it's not the usual hackneyed strutting; the music is complemented by that of Grace Williams. The dancers are excellent, two women in particular exceptional, but I couldn't tell from the programme photos who they were.

The two other ballets made less explicit references to specific sports but each conveyed the extreme athleticism essential to the Olympics. Scottish Ballet's dancers lived up to the title of their ballet, Run for it, choreographed by Martin Lawrance to music by John Adams, dancing flat out. The ENB piece, And the Earth shall Bear again, to John Cage music, was created by that seemingly ubiquitous choreographer, Itzik Galili, who developed a lot of leg and body movements with similarities to McGregor's distortions. It was very much a group work, even though several Principals were included, but Esteban Berlanga was particularly noticeable. I choose that word advisedly: the lighting makes much of the stage obscure (not unlike sections of Tharp's In the Upper Room), yet the power of the dancing cannot be obscured, nor the dancers' exultant pleasure in performing such contemporary choreography.

The performance was opened by a film, Dancing Parallel, which shows young dancers from Aberdeen, Cardiff and London, dancing with chairs and each other in odd sites. Whilst there was some interesting dancing I wondered what members of the audience who weren't heavily in dance would make of it as there was little explanation of its aim.

All in all, it was an excellent afternoon, with three specially commissioned ballets performed by dancers at the top of their game. Catch it if you can.

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Hello, Sheila, and thank you very much for posting this - it's always particularly welcome to have coverage from places other than London. I shall have to see if I can fit it into my busy schedule.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I saw the opening night at the Big Top in the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, and it is certainly well worth a visit. Seats in the tent are comfortable and all have a good view of the stage. There is the option to sit on the floor for only £11 (bring your own cushion!). No concession has been made to the fact that this is a tent rather than a proper theatre, so Galili's piece gets the full lighting treatment. This does render most of the dancers anonymous but does give some stunning effects. The English National Ballet dancers give a riveting and exhilarating performance of often inventive choreography which pushes the boundaries of both classical and contemporary technique. They are all outstanding but, if you can spot her, watch out for Ksenia Ovsyanik in a brief solo that made me wonder if her bones are actually made of rubber and in a duet with Junor Souza which was breathtaking. Esteban Berlanga also impresses by the sheer fluidity of his movement. I wasn't sure of the signficance of the title, "And the earth shall bear again" as this seemed a completely abstract piece (I didn't buy a programme so maybe there is an explanation in it) and the only disappointment was the ending as it just seems to peter out as the curtain descends. The taped score to pieces by John Cage for prepared piano was, needless to say, percussive but strongly rhythmical and kept at a respectable volume. Christopher Bruce's piece was much more lightweight and full of humour. Sheila has given a very good description of it with which I wholeheartedly agree and it certainly had a fabulous reception from last night's audience. Unfortunately I was unable to stay for the third piece.

The setting of the College provides a wonderful ambience with audience members free to picnic on the grass before the show or during the intervals or mingle with the dancers at the many food stalls which have been set out, complete with picnic tables, all against a backdrop of the Thames and the Cutty Sark. Access is also very easy with it being literally five minutes' walk from Cutty Sark DLR which provides a clean, efficient and frequent service boding well for the Olympics! The show is running till Sunday (8th) and ticket details are available on ENB's website.

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