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Royal Ballet Flanders: Giselle (Amran Khan), Oct-Nov 2018


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Full disclosure - I wrote most of this shortly after seeing it, but have only just got around to finishing the review, so apologies if it's a bit incomplete. Also apologies for starting a new thread so late!

 

August this year marked my fortieth birthday, and back in the spring when my girlfriend asked what I wanted to do to celebrate, I immediately suggested we could go to Belgium and see Nancy Osbaldeston dance at Royal Ballet Flanders. Those of you who follow my posts will know that she is by far my favourite dancer! So we had a look at RBF's calendar and immediately Amran Khan's Giselle stood out. I've missed it at ENB, but some glittering reviews and recommendations mean it's something I've been excited to see for ages so we booked immediately. A loooong summer of waiting finally ended last week, when we hopped on the Eurostar to Belgium.

 

I'll cut a long story short, this show was possibly the best thing I've seen on a stage. 😃

 

The word that leapt - or should that be jetéed? - into my mind as I was watching the performance was 'disruptive'. It feels almost like the first of a new generation of works in dance; elements of classical ballet woven seamlessly with contemporary choreography, both married to a taut narrative flow lifted more from the pacing of a film than a languid classical ballet. The doffs of the cap to classical versions of Giselle pleased the ballet geek in me, and the lifting en pointe of Giselle at the start of the second act demonstrated that Khan wasn't about to throw the ballet rulebook out the window, but wanted to push it forward. Whereas Matthew Bourne's contemporary productions can sometimes feel to me a bit like 'musicals with the singing taken out', this comes across like a proper ballet production, albeit one that is resolutely reaching towards the future. The set, the lighting, the use of sound (even from the dancers - gasp!), the willingness by Khan to embrace stillness for long periods all add up to a production that I found utterly mesmerising.

 

Nancy Osbaldeston, for those of you who might not have come across her, stood out to me even in the corps at ENB. She won their Emerging Dancer competition in 2013, and moved from being a First Soloist at ENB to Royal Ballet Flanders in 2014. She was promoted to Soloist in '17  and Principal in '18. Her quick promotion is a testament to just how talented she is. And it's not like she's just a big fish in a small pond; RBF have an exceptional depth and breadth of talent throughout the ranks. Their Onegin eclipsed the Royal Ballet's production for me when I saw both in quick succession a few years ago. They are a fantastic company. 

 

Nancy's dancing has a quality that raises her above so many other dancers, but I always find so hard to describe. There's a musicality, a grace of movement that feels effortless, natural; the shapes she creates are like tracing liquid through the air. You know when you gently stir a mug of tea into a mini whirlpool and add the milk slowly, the beautiful patterns it makes? Maybe something like that. 🤔 But married to that, she has a rare gift for communicating so much just through movement. Some technically excellent dancers need to communicate through their eyes or their expressions, but Nancy manages to convey complexity, depth and subtlety of emotion just through the gentle sweep her fingertips, the arc of her toe through the air. Her pas de deux scenes with Albrecht in both acts reminded me of Vera, Stina Quagebeur's superb piece Nancy danced at ENB Choreographics, such was their power. Each movement was packed with meaning, with love, with heartbreak. When Albrecht reaches to Giselle's belly in Act 2, Nancy's dancing infuses that short moment of choreography with utterly desperate sorrow.

 

Daniel Domenech was utterly superb. Danced with attack, power, coupled with sublime technique, his Hilarion was a character instantly recognisable from any city centre pub on a Saturday night. Chest puffed out, self assurance and entitlement sweating from every over-aftershaved pore, small-man-syndrome rage barely suppressed, his Hilarion viewed Giselle as a prize to be won, a commodity to be owned. While Khan's work pre-dates the 'MeToo' movement, Domenech's Hilarion here feels even more fiercely contemporary in the current climate and sublimely easy to despise. Domenech’s Hilarion had an excellent counterpoint in Claudio Canagialosi’s Albrecht, who danced with poise and nobility. Ana Carolina Quaresma utterly inhabited the role of Bathilde. She channeled the perfect blend of otherworldliness, sororal and maternal power, and a purity of rage. 

 

As I’m finishing this review nearly an entire month after seeing it - I really should get round to this quicker! - so I’ll round it off there without going into too much more. I urge you to try and catch Nancy Osbaldeston in the future, and I urge you, if you get the chance, to see her with RBF. She’s one of the finest dancers this country has produced in recent years, and RBF are a sensational environment in which to see her. You won't be disappointed, and you never know, it might just end up being the best thing you've ever seen on a stage. 

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1 hour ago, BristolBillyBob said:

Ana Carolina Quaresma utterly inhabited the role of Bathilde. She channeled the perfect blend of otherworldliness, sororal and maternal power, and a purity of rage. 

 

 

I'm guessing, from your description, that you mean Myrtha rather than Bathilde?

 

Thanks for letting us know how Nancy is getting on.  Like you, I noticed her very early on, and it's good to hear that she's prospering so well in Belgium.

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8 hours ago, alison said:

 

I'm guessing, from your description, that you mean Myrtha rather than Bathilde?

 

Thanks for letting us know how Nancy is getting on.  Like you, I noticed her very early on, and it's good to hear that she's prospering so well in Belgium.

 

D'oh, yes of course! And, then, Nini De Vet not Ana. Good spot. I put this down to three things:

 

1. Writing that bit of the review nearly a month after the event and trying to decipher the rough notes I made. 

2. Getting home at 2am the night before. 

3. Well, let's be fair it wouldn't be a BristolBillyBob write up without some kind of error like that, so how about we all agree to pretend I do it deliberately to keep you lot on your toes. 😄

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Nancy Osbaldeston has recently guested in Munich as the lead girl in Rubies. The December edition of Dance Europe includes a review.

 

While celebrating their great success in European Companies, I still find it very sad that Nancy, Ksenia Ovsyanick and Laurretta Summerscales (all products of the ENB School) left ENB for pastures new. I miss them all.

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20 minutes ago, capybara said:

While celebrating their great success in European Companies, I still find it very sad that Nancy, Ksenia Ovsyanick and Laurretta Summerscales (all products of the ENB School) left ENB for pastures new. I miss them all.

 

Chatting to Nancy afterwards, she cited getting opportunities like Rubies as one of the reasons she was so happy with RBF. I get the impression they really look after their dancers there. 

 

I remember the ENB exodus a few years ago, and it was really disappointing; so much talent left our shores. I'd also include in your list Jeanette Kakareka, who is now at Bayerisches Staatsballett (where Nancy guested). She was always one of the highlights of any ENB show for me, and in fact she graces my living room wall in a wonderful print from Laurent Liotardo...

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