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The Royal Ballet's Gary Avis & Friends, Ipswich Regent, Sept 2016

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I was at both performances of this, as a member of the paying audience on Saturday eve, and as a volunteer souvenir programme seller (Sunday mat).


Both houses were packed (that's 3000 people over two performances) so I very much hope that Gary will have achieved his aim of raising at least £100,000.00 for the Suffolk Community Foundation and its Arts and Culture Fund.

Billed as the largest appearance of the Royal Ballet in the UK (outside London) for over 25 years, it was a tremendous occasion, with standing ovations for both performances, and huge out-poring of affection for Gary Avis and all he has achieved. His example has been an inspiration to a generation of young dancers in his home county (and, no doubt, beyond), and it was fitting that students from the Dance East Centre for Advanced Training, were given the opportunity to perform alongside the professionals.


Kevin O'Hare, who had generously given the green light to the project, and the appearance of 14 members of the Royal Ballet, was in the audience on the Saturday.  It is a measure of the esteem in which Gary is held that so many leading choreographers readily gave permission for extracts from their works to be performed.


I had my favourite pieces, but everyone was magnificent, and every single act won tumultuous applause, cheers and whistles from the audience. I have to say that, the dancers all looked absolutely delighted – not often you get quite that response in the Royal Opera House.


Galas can be problematic, especially when you only get bits and pieces of a ballet, but most of the pas de deux stood up well – though by and large, the contemporary pieces, where there was little or no narrative to worry about, fared best.  The programme was nicely balanced, too, with each artist appearing in two numbers (apart from Gary who appeared in three) and a good range of styles and periods.


Anton du Beke was a genial, amusing compere, and kept things moving along quickly. His duet with Gary (Me and My Shadow), choreographed by Anton as a soft shoe routine brought the house down.


The costumes were all as designed for the particular RB productions and lent by the ROH.


Most of the music was pre-recorded, but there was some live playing, and that was top notch – Royal Ballet pianist Kate Shipway was magnificent in the Brahms Waltzes and the Avro Part piece to which the After the Rain duet was set. In the latter, she was accompanied by violinist Benjamin Baker, and they were joined by cellist Michael Petrov for the Swan Lake Act II pas de deux (which was played live by just the three musicians – very effectively, too.


The full programme was as follows (after a very glitzy projected set of opening credits and a reveal of all the dancers in a tableau):-



Swan Lake – Act I pas de trois.

Dancers: Helen Crawford, Meaghan Grace Hinkis and Luca Acri (a comfortable bit of pure classicism to get things started).


Within the Golden Hour – first pas de deux (Wheeldon)

Dancers: Beatrix Stx-Brunell, Alexander Cambell (a contemporary dance with a "feel-good" factor)


Nisi Dominus (Tuckett)

Dancer: Zenaida Yanowsky (totally mesmerising – what an amazing artist!)


Brim (Franceschi)

Dancers: Students from the DanceEast Centre for Advanced Training


Infra – Final duet (McGregor)

Yasmine Naghdi, Matthew Ball (Sensational)


Swan Lake – Act II White Swan pas de deux

Dancers: Mayara Magri, Reece Clarke (such maturity and depth of feeling in ones so young – both definitely going places)


A Little Something (Du Beke)

A quickstep with A du Beke and Joanne Clifton (very strictly)


Onegin – Act III Tatiana and Gremin pas de deux (Cranko)

Dancers: Mara Galeazzi, Gary Avis (Mara in fine form, you wouldn't have thought that she officially retired in 2012. This is a beautiful duet – there aren't many for happily married couples, are there?)


Asphodel Meadows – 2nd Movement pas de deux (Scarlett)

Dancers: Emma Maguire, Ryoichi Hirano (Liam is local boy, and this got a great response)


Act 2


Romeo & Juliet – Act I Balcony pas de deux (Macmillan)

Dancers: Yasmine Naghdi, Matthew Ball (This duet always makes my wife cry. It was danced sublimely –  it hardly needs repeating to Ballet.co readers, but these two are undoubted stars. They seem to have it all. Yasmine has such a beautiful line, and her acting was so affecting and natural. A great frisson in the audience when, at the beginning, Matthew ran the whole length of the auditorium in his billowing cloak)


I Know Where I've Been (from Hairspray)

Singers: Gallery Players (an Ipswich based community theatre group that Gary Avis performed with in his youth, and with which he is still closely associated)


Raven Girl- Final Duet (McGregor)

Dancers: Beatrix Stix-Brunell, Ryoichi Hirano. (This performance actually made me want to see the full ballet. Great projections, too)


The Nutcracker – Act II Grand pad de deux

Dancers: Mayara Magri, Lukas Bjorneboe Braendsrod. (Danced quite regally, which is probably how it should be done. The Sugar Plum solo was very good – with recognisable gargouillades – though the presto ending was cut. Lukas shows a lot of promise, tall and elegant with good elevation. The final leap into the fish dive was nicely timed.)


Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan (Ashton)

Dancer: Helen Crawford (We had three of the vignettes, and they were very characterfully done. Ipswich born Helen got a a very warm response).


A Little Something Else

Dancers: Anton du Beke, Gary Avis (see above).


Flames of Paris pas de deux (Vainonen)

Dancers: Meaghan Grace Hinkis, Luca Acri (Not in the RB rep, of course, but very stylishly done. High leaps from Luca and Meaghan's fouettees were astonishing, with lots of doubles.)


After the Rain (Wheeldon)

Dancers: Zenaida Yanowsky, Reece Clarke. (I just loved this piece. Incredibly emotionally charged. Yanowsky is consummate, and as for Mr Clarke, I can understand why he is being cast in the princely roles)


Voices of Spring (Ashton)

Emma Maguire, Alexander Campbell (joyful)


The Merry Widow – Act III Final pas de deux (Hynd)

Mara Galeazzi, Gary Avis. (A suitably champagne-fuelled duet, with a lovely ending which had Gary spinning Mara around endlessly as the lights faded. Created by Ronald Hynd for the Australian ballet I don't think this ballet has been seen much in this country. Roland Hynd and his wife Annette Page were in the audience on the Saturday evening, and the Swan Lake extract was dedicated to them as they had danced together in Swan Lake on the Ipswich Regent stage in 1962!)


Final bows (with bouquets for all), plus the aforementioned standing ovations, ended two wonderful performances.



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Thanks for this very comprehensive report! Just to say that the final pas de deux from Raven Girl is, in my opinion (and I know I'm far from the only one on here) not representative of the quality of the rest of it ;)

Thank you, RuthE. Raven Girl is one of the few McGregor's I haven't seen, and I was probably a bit put off by the adverse reviews. I expect I'll give it a go next time around.


Incidentally, the black lace costumes for this drew a comment from Anton du Beke, who jested that he might copy them for a duet with Lesley Joseph (his recently allotted partner, for non-aficionados of Strictly Come Dancing).

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