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Ukranian Ballet Gala at Sadler's Wells September 2021

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The first section was the world premiere of ‘System A/I’ choreographed by Ludovic Ondiviela.  Bearing in mind that I am generally, but not always, in a curmudgeonly frame of mind when viewing modern works, this was my impression:

Bare stage with a few weird props – check

Dull-coloured skimpy costumes – check

Repetitive music overlaid with electronic beeps and clicks – check

Impenetrable ‘story’ – check

Good dancers doing their best and working hard – check

None more so than Mayara Magri, Matthew Ball and Leo Dixon (who was standing in for an injured Ivan Putrov).  Magri is so athletic and very good at this kind of thing – I hope she doesn’t switch to modern dance/ballet! 

An interval was followed by a long and varied selection of gala staples, interspersed with some lesser known (to me) pieces.  First off was Magri once again, this time in Gskovsky’s comfortingly familiar ‘Grande Pas Classique’ in which she roundly outdanced her partner, Denys Cherevychko.

I was impressed by Natalia de Froberville in an excerpt from Suite en Blanc, and also in her duet with ENB’s Frola in ‘Diana and Actaeon’.   Frola was very good too.

Only a few days ago I heard Marianela Nunez name the composer Astor Piazzolla as her favourite outside of classical music, and lo and behold we had a tango composed by him (choreographed by Has van Manen) and danced rather compellingly by Denys Cherevychko. Another dance that was new to me was ‘Forest Song’ choreographed by Vakhtang Vronsky and nicely danced by Yulia Moskalenko and Volodymyr Kutuzov.

There was lots more, and the grand finale was ‘our’ Cesar Corrales partnering Christine Shevchenko in a dazzling display of virtuosity from Don Quixote, which was very warmly and repeatedly applauded.  This is the kind of role in which he excels - a natural born show-off!

This was my first outing to a theatre since ‘freedom day’ and I did feel slightly nervous being closely surrounded by so many strangers, but those near me were wearing masks and I had bought a special one said by Which to be incredibly protective to the wearer as well as those around.  I drove in because Sadler’s Wells have a wonderful car park for the over sixties!  So I hope I minimised risk to myself and my dear ones.

It was a fun and interesting evening, and I saw quite a few dancers for the first time.  The quality varied.  There are a few pics here: https://maryrosedouglasuk.wixsite.com/ballet

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Watching this Gala felt like having Christmas in September. Packed full of unexpected gifts it surprised and delighted me at every turn. It just kept giving. An evening to treasure.

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Really enjoyed this gala.  Think Ivan Putrov should get an award for being such a proficient producer.  It really is a keen and much appreciated gift.  This was just so refreshing and it went off like clockwork to a much appreciative - (fairly full from what I could see which was grand) - audience.  So pleased for him.  


Highlight for me DEFINITELY was Natalia de Froberville (also enchanting in the Lifar Suite en Blanc segment - much as she was in the full thing for the week I was fortunate enough to see it in Toulouse) and ENB's divine Francesco Gabriele Frola (the ultimate world-class act - and all - including his stunning partnering - which otherwise was not always on display here - with a humility which is touching in the extreme.  What a star) in the Diana and Actaeon PDD.  Frola stands (or is that soars) alone just now in my estimation in being able to finesse bravura.  (That's a fervent BRAVO! from me.)  Another highlight were the performances (Dying Swan and Don Q PDD) of Christine Shevchenko.  I've been lucky enough to catch her in a range of performances in NY but it was wonderful to see her always characterful and musical artistry on a London stage - especially in such a magically structured evening. 


Of the home team I thought Magri brilliantly husbanded her impactful gifts in the Grand Pas Classique.  Felt for all of the RB three (Ball, Dixon and Magri) in Ondiviela's new piece.  It obviously had involved a lot of work on their part - especially Dixon who came into it as a replacement for Putrov.  Some nice PDD here but I felt there was a fundamental contradiction in terms given that A/I is (from what I can see) devoid of the extension of a emotional conversation that ballet is meant to envelop.  (Perhaps it is just me.)  Also lovely to see the Ukranian dancers in a differing range of bits and pieces of choreography.  This evening showcased them well.  [Kudos to the velvety Ms Shaytanova who was radiant in every step she undertook.  Oh, and the Gopak was (as tradition would have it) explosive fun ... and - as ever - short enough not to wear out its testosterone filled welcome.]  The Ukrainian's blossoming excitement in this fine endeavour exploded across the footlights.  That in and of itself was a thrill.  


Thanks be to Mr. Putrov.   BIG TIME!


Edited by Bruce Wall
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Am still in London with a bit of a busy day ahead but will report back

Very enjoyable Gala but  for me Frola stole the show yesterday with his partner Natalia de Froberville! More later once back




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Sorry I never got around to saying anything more about this which is not a reflection on the quality of the gala just have been busy! A week late is a bit tardy but here goes. 
Regards the ballet bits as I said above the pas de deux from Diana and Actaeon was really stunning from both dancers and Frola never lost his classical elegance no matter how much he was throwing himself into the air! The moment in the gala when you felt very glad you had come! 
I loved the Dying Swan from Christine Shevchenko and of course Corrales was his wonderful self in Don Q with Christine again a terrific and strong partner in this mini extract....there were several variations from other members of the Company as well as the pas de deux. 
In the Bayadere extract as soon as Fernando Montano walked on stage very resplendent all in white he got a round of applause just for the costume I think! 
This was nicely danced so certainly justified his initial reception but I didn’t take to Anna Muromtseva so much as she was somehow just a bit too precise but I know these sort of dances can be difficult out of context. 
I felt this about the Corsaire extract too. Some lovely bits and very good classical dancing but difficult to get into the roles to give it that real panache you get usually from the whole performance. 
I loved the Gopak ...great stuff...  and had everybody smiling ....reminded me we hardly ever see the big Folk ensembles these days from Russia and Poland Hungary and of course the Ukraine. 
I loved going to these so hope one will visit U.K. soon. 

The new Ondievela piece was what I call “Okay” Music didn’t blast you out of the theatre was actually quite pleasant in fact.  Didn’t like the costumes I’m afraid and wasn’t sure of the story ...assumed it was robots getting more and more life like and possibly about to take over human roles but could be totally wrong here. Some moves were typical of a piece about AI but there were a couple of very interesting pas de deux ( I don’t know the names of the Ukrainian dancers in an earlier one which was very good but also including one with Magri and Ball towards the end sometimes including Leo Dixon who had to replace Putrov at short notice. This finale did draw me in a bit more. 
It was a strange piece in a way....what was all the wrapping up and unwrapping of one of the dancers about. I would have got the giggles if it had been me. However it is a piece worth another look ( partly owing to the music) Sometimes pieces seem to grow on you when seen again so suppose the jury is out on this at the moment. 

I did have a gripe with Sadlers Wells though which I’ve now discussed with them and have never complained ever before! 
It was because they said they strongly recommended and encouraged the use of masks but then allowed people in to the auditorium after the interval with drinks!!

Well you certainly won’t be wearing a mask when drinking!! 
I know this is allowed usually but thought might not be allowed just at the moment. 
Maybe the intervals there should be longer to accommodate drinking if just mask wearing is your main Covid policy. I hate the damn things but we have to be careful still unfortunately as many are still unvaccinated in the London area. 

Anyway that was the only grouch otherwise a really pleasant evening a lovely end to a lovely day( almost forgotten how hot it was a week ago!) 


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