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Dame Beryl Grey Gala

Dame Beryl Grey Gala: 'The Season' pdd, 'Le Corsaire' pdd, 'Adagio for Strings', 'Rosalinda' pdd, 'Souvenirs', 'Madam Butterfly' pdd, Tango from 'Facade', 'Don Quixote' pdd

March 2002
London, Sadler's Wells

by Lynette Halewood


Oaks in reviews

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recent Grey Gala reviews




Gala audiences must be pretty intimidating at the best of times, but particularly this one, gathered to celebrate Dame Beryl Grey's 75th year and including a substantial part of the dance establishment. The performance will be scrutinised with a particularly knowledgeable eye. And in the opening item, four dancers from the Royal ballet - three of them very recent joiners from the School - had to reprise moments of Dame Beryl's most acclaimed roles in front of her. I really felt for those girls. The list was a substantial one, including Odette, Les Syphides, Myrtha, the Winter Fairy, Sylvia, the Black Queen from Checkmate, and her Birthday offering variation. Only snatches of each, but quite a challenge all the same. The dancers were Laura McCullough, Kristen McNally, Lauren Cuthbertson and Vanessa Fenton, and the excerpts were not individually credited. The dancers appeared in simple practice clothes in front of projected pictures of Dame Beryl. Myrtha and the Black Queen probably came across the most strongly, but it is difficult to establish much of a presence in so brief an appearance. The Lilac Fairy was not included - perhaps too much of a challenge, though the School paraded in lilac dresses around her at the end of the evening.

Among the standard gala fare of showpiece pas de deux there were a few more unexpected items - an appearance from a young tap dancer: Wayne Sleep in a frenetic tap routine: and a new work danced by the ENB School which was a real hit. This was by Antony Dowson, and featured one girl, six boys and a long pole used both as ballet barre and vaulting device with some very imaginative lifts. Very smooth and well controlled, it was confidently danced and very well received. I hope we see some more work from him. The RB School also appeared in a brief excerpt from Christopher Wheeldon's Souvenirs - again well danced, but lacking the real element of surprise of the ENB appearance.

Another standard feature of galas such as this are the tributes from the great and good of the dance world. I was struck by the efforts that so many people had made to be there - Eva Evdokimova saying that crossing the Atlantic was worth it just to be there. There were very fluent speeches from Matz Skoog, ENB's AD, and the AD of the Royal Swedish Ballet, and a very sincere speech from Patrice Bart of Paris Opera Ballet, thanking Dame Beryl for the opportunities she had given him as a dancer. There were more than ten different speakers and it seemed very strange that the Royal Ballet was not represented at all among them, especially as Bussell and Cope had had to pull out of appearing. (Like everyone else, if there was any notice about this, I missed it entirely). The award for most engaging speaker must go to Lady Walton who addressed the 1400 people in the audience as if we had just dropped by for a friendly chat. And her hat deserved a billing of its own.

But back to the dancing. We had a generous number of companies represented. The Royal Swedish Ballet gave the black swan pas de deux from Swan Lake: Monica Perego and Yat Sen Chang of ENB performed the Corsaire pas de deux, Oaks and Edur the Don Q pas de deux. Oaks and Edur were in particularly fine form, (a lovely balance from Oaks) but I really don't feel the need to see another fouettee for quite a while after that. Not that these were run together - the scheduling was thoughtful so that other items with a completely different atmosphere were interspersed. There was a very fine Spring pas de deux from Nao Sakuma and Chi Cao: it was made for them by Bintley and it fits them perfectly. NBT provided a touching excerpt from Madame Butterfly with Chiai Nagao showing a physical and emotional recklessness in choreography with a certain Macmillan influence. Christopher Bruce's lovers in Grinning in your face looked more quizzical and down to earth.

The audience gave a huge welcome to Irek Mukhamedov, appearing in Rosalinda (a work commissioned from Ronald Hynd by Dame Beryl for LFB) with Marcela Giocoechea of the Ballet de Santiago. She was delightful, a very fluid mover, and Irek partnered her with tender care. He clearly relished his role in winning round his recalcitrant lover, and his stage presence is still remarkable. All galas ought to have an opportunity for us to glance at dancers we have loved and on this occasion we also got Marion Tait and Alan Dubreil, who now both only appear in character roles for BRB, in a particularly lively account of the Tango from Ashton's Façade. Great fun.





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