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The Royal Ballet at Athelhampton House Gala


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Four weeks ago, Meaghan Grace Hinkis 
had an idea to put on a fundraising Gala event to raise funds for the performing arts. With the collaboration of dancers, musicians, technical staff and the owners of Athelhampton House, her idea became reality ... and after months of lockdown and no live performances ( or very few.. Hoxton Docks springs to mind) the chance to see stars of The Royal Ballet pulled in a sell out crowd of dance enthusiasts from far and wide.

Athelhampton House is a stunning Elizabethan mansion in beautiful grounds with ornate gardens, a perfect setting for a pre Gala picnic on the lawns. At 5.30 pm , with clear skies and doves flying over head from the dovecote, Megan Grace came on stage to welcome us all. 
The evening started with Robert Clark and Kate Shipway playing Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance Op. 46 

The first dancer on stage was the glorious Marianela Nunez who performed a new work by Erico Montes to Debussy’s Moonlight Sonata. A beautiful work, graceful and lyrical... I hope to see more choreography by Montes soon. Next,

Yasmine Naghdi , with a tambourine in her hand, gave us a sassy Esmerelda  from La Esmerelda by Petipa. 
A new piece of contemporary dance by Dane Hurst followed, danced by Romany Pajdak and Hurst. It appeared to depict a couple in conflict, possibly at the end of a relationship, and there were some lovely moments and terrific partnering though it felt rather over-long to me. 
A wonderful excerpt from Wheeldon’s  Within the Golden Hour was danced with brio and great charm by David Donnelly and Teo Dubreil. I must mention that the dancers wore leotards and not the original costumes in some pieces, including this. 
Then came Prince Florimund’s Variation from Sleeping Beauty danced very well by Calvin Richardson.

Marianela Nunez returned for her second of three solo’s , giving us a lively and charming Kitri from Petipa’s Don Q

Anna-Rose O’Sullivan then performed an exquisite Dying Swan accompanied by Hetty Snell on cello.

The final piece of the first half was an excerpt from Dances At A Gathering by Jerome Robbins... the Green girl danced with vivacity , wit and lovely expression by the super Laura Morera. 
During the interval a talented auctioneer raised large amounts for the cause by auctioning off various Ballet related prizes, mostly donated by the dancers. 
To open the second half who better than Edward Watson, in One with D by Javier de Frutos to Ivor Novello’s ‘I will give you the starlight’. Edward certainly gave us starlight in this performance, absolutely tailored to his unique style and limber lean limbs.

Akane Takada danced Nocturnes by John Neumeier, a dainty and delicate work which suited her well.

This was followed by a super pdd ‘Olga and Lensky’ from Act 1 of Onegin by Cranko danced by David Donnelly and Megan Grace Hinkis. I love the music by Tchaikovsky and this duet was very well danced by this pair.  I particularly liked Donnelly as Lensky and hope to see him given more roles when the RB can eventually get back on stage at the Opera House. 
A fab new solo work by Valentino Zucchetti was danced with energy and style by Leo Dixon to Bach’s cello suite no 1 played by Hetty Snell ( who played the lead cello in Cathy Marston’s recent  The Cellist ) 
William Bracewell was next on stage as Prince Siegfried Act 1 variation from Swan Lake . Bracewell is a fantastic dancer who I have seen little of unfortunately , hopefully I can rectify that in the future, I really liked his performance.

Bird of Paradise is a quirky new contemporary piece by Calvin Richardson and Joshua Junker , danced by Richardson with a cheeky smile and some good strong ballet technique within the contemporary style...

Marianela Nunez performed her third solo next. Nunez must have ‘ duracell’ batteries, she is so talented and must have such stamina! She danced Raymonda by Petipa, accompanied by Robert Clark . ( note... some pieces of music were recorded, others, like this, were played live) 

Elite Syncopations is always popular, Yasmine Naghdi in top hat and carrying a cane gave a very ‘elite’ rag with support from a host of ballet men : Bracewell,Dixon, Donnelly, Dubreil and Richardson . Who all donned masks at the end. Very fitting ! 
The last piece was Requiem by MacMillan, danced beautifully by Meaghan Grace Hinkis to Faure’s Requiem ( Pie Jesu) 

A final curtain call with many bouquets  ended a perfect gala evening in a gorgeous location. 

 

 

 

 

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Here are my personal highlights to add to Mandy’s full description ....

 

Marianela was sublime ... never seen her better technically. Such exquisite prolonged balances.  Perfection!  And then added honesty in her emotional portrayals.  It is clear she has really missed the stage and will make the most of any opportunity.  Simply wow 
 

David Donnelly exuded joyousness in both his Wheeldon duet with Teo Dubreil and the Onegin pdd with Meaghan.  Gorgeous sumptuous quality to his jumps too

 

Akane Takada created a special atmosphere in her adagio solo.  As did Romany Pajdak in her pdd with Dane Hurst. 
 

And William Bracewell began his lyrical Swan Lake solo with a superb arabesque balance.  Super control and wonderful mood.  

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Lovely reviews, thank you. I am so looking forward to seeing this today! Just a couple of questions, was there a cast sheet or programme available?  Also at what point were you allowed to your seat? It would be nice to leave picnic basket and rug there rather than having to carry them while strolling round the gardens.

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Hi Pas de Quatre. I received an email with the programme details and arrangements from Stuart Gordon so check your emails! The car park is open from early afternoon, the grounds open from 4pm and the seating area ( Theatre)from 5.00/5.15 for a 5.30pm start. In the beautiful gardens there are plenty of places for a picnic and if you get there early there are some chairs available. Do take a look around the ornate side gardens. I hope the weather stays fine for you. I’m not sure if you can leave any bags unattended , probably not. 

Edited by Mandy Kent
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11 minutes ago, Jan McNulty said:

Thanks for your lovely review Mandy.  I'm green with envy!

Me too! Sounds a wonderful evening when even the weather behaved. Well done to Meaghan and everyone who took part. 

Also if someone could give their thoughts on the livestream opera from the ROH I'd be interested. I'm not purchasing it myself (waiting for the ballet!) but would be interested in how it was staged, were there proper costumes etc. Also, if anyone is lucky enough to see Vadim's Swan Lake in Latvia (?) I'd love to know how that went. 

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It is so good that these wonderful dancers are performing again. Thanks very much for the reports and pictures so far, Mandy, Fiona and Tony. 

For those of us that can't go, I found these links to three of the works, as performed earlier by the same dancers. Equivalent  links for any of the remaining pieces, that other people have found, would be good ! In order:

Moonlight by Erico Montes       Marianela Nunez

Within the Golden Hour by  Christopher Wheeldon      David Donnelly and Teo Dubreuil

Nocturnes by John Neumeier     Akane Takada

 

 

 

Edited by Richard LH
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1 hour ago, jmhopton said:

Me too! Sounds a wonderful evening when even the weather behaved. Well done to Meaghan and everyone who took part. 

Also if someone could give their thoughts on the livestream opera from the ROH I'd be interested. I'm not purchasing it myself (waiting for the ballet!) but would be interested in how it was staged, were there proper costumes etc. Also, if anyone is lucky enough to see Vadim's Swan Lake in Latvia (?) I'd love to know how that went. 

Have just written something in the News section about the Opera evening. And no proper costumes I'm afraid!

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I too, went to Athelhampton yesterday and saw my first live ballet for over 6 months. I don't think I can add anything to the marvellous reviews already posted, but what a delight it was, and in a very beautiful setting.  I am also the proud owner of a framed photo of William Bracewell dancing in Swan Lake which I won in the auction. Very special memories of seeing him dance Siegfried in Madrid, which was the first time I had ever seen him dance a principal role.  He was utterly brilliant and I have been a big fan ever since. The programme yesterday contained a very good mix of all ballet styles and confirmed there is just no substitute for the live performance as opposed to any amount of streaming and TV replays.  

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1 hour ago, ninamargaret said:

Have just written something in the News section about the Opera evening. And no proper costumes I'm afraid!

 

(Which I've just moved into the Opera & Music subforum of Not Dance :) )

 

I guess access to - and subsequent cleaning of - costumes is still a problem :(

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16 hours ago, Tony Newcombe said:

Probably not fair to single out one dancer but Bracewell was absolutely superb. So sad that he did not get the the chance to dance this role with Lauren Cuthbertson at the Opera House

 

But he did dance Siegfried absolutely wonderfully in 2018 in London and in Madrid and he will do so again. I think that it was the Nureyev version of the solo this weekend.

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20 hours ago, Mandy Kent said:

Four weeks ago, Meaghan Grace Hinkis 
had an idea to put on a fundraising Gala event to raise funds for the performing arts. With the collaboration of dancers, musicians, technical staff and the owners of Athelhampton House, her idea became reality ... and after months of lockdown and no live performances ( or very few.. Hoxton Docks springs to mind) the chance to see stars of The Royal Ballet pulled in a sell out crowd of dance enthusiasts from far and wide.

 

Mandy, your's (and the following ones) might well be the first ballet review of a live performance that I've read since all this started. It was a real pleasure and you might have made history (for me anyway). Thanks !

Edited by Buddy
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On 05/09/2020 at 23:18, Mandy Kent said:

Then came Prince Florimund’s Variation from Sleeping Beauty danced very well by Calvin Richardson.

Thanks for the lovely review @Mandy Kent! Was this the Act 2 (Ashton) or the Act 3 (wedding) solo? I would love to see Calvin in a proper classical lead role. I hope he won’t get pigeon holed in contemporary rep and McGregor.

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Another wonderful performance at Athelhampton last night. Just a short shower of rain in the second half, followed by a rainbow over the stage! I never found the email with cast list, but one of the ushers said if I emailed Athelhampton they would still send one. 

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7 hours ago, MrsBBB said:

Thanks for the lovely review @Mandy Kent! Was this the Act 2 (Ashton) or the Act 3 (wedding) solo? I would love to see Calvin in a proper classical lead role. I hope he won’t get pigeon holed in contemporary rep and McGregor.

MrsBBB the Act2 , where he is lonely... 

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@Richard LH thank you for these links!  

 

I must reiterate how exuberant David Donnelly was on Saturday night.  Such luxurious quality to his movements and hang time in the air of his jumps.   The recording from IBStage is a pale comparison to how rejuvenated he was at Athelhampton!
 

 

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