BWW Review: SCOTTISH BALLET Is Headed for a Bright New Future
Having been a fan of Scottish Ballet on previous trips to Scotland, seeing them last about eight years ago, I was curious to know how the company had evolved. Then it seemed to be a company in search of itself, some Balanchine, some Massine, some original works. Nothing memorable; on the other hand, nothing glaringly bad. Excellent dancers badly rehearsed, no artistic guidance, or so it seemed. Basically, a company on the verge-of something.
From what I can see and read, Christopher Hampson, the Artistic Director/Executive Director, has done a complete overhaul. Now reduced to 10 dancers, focusing on the modern, eschewing any old traditions while forgoing its own, and going on tours to represent its new image to an audience unaware of its past-and really not caring-the company made its Joyce debut on April 11, 2017, to a largely welcoming audience. If the three works presented were of uneven quality or merit, they all exhibited some keen observations about modern ballet and its continuing transformation into a dance form that everyone says is diminishing, but quite the contrary.
Christopher Hampson's Sinfonietta Giacoso, to music of Bohuslav Martinu, was an interesting, if not successful piece, which exploited all the dancers abilities. In fact, I don't think that there was any technical ability that was left unturned. While pleasant to watch, it soon began to unreel quickly. It is not because Mr. Hampson is untalented; quite the contrary he is. But here was an example of dance where the choreographer has clearly not decided what he wants to accomplish. Dancing for the sake of dancing is fine, but dancing with only steps and nothing else behind them is another story. There were times when it seemed as if the dance would make a statement, give voice to its choreographer's intentions, but that failed to materialize.
I would like to see more of Mr. Hampson's work in the future, as this one example leaves me wanting more. That's the sign of a good choreographer.
Bryan Arias' Motion of Displacement, according to a program note, "explores the causes and effects of storytelling, inspired by Arias' own childhood memories of his mother's journey from her native land in pursuit of love."<
I find this perplexing, because when there is a note that even gives the slightest hint of a narrative, one looks for it on stage. Here, there was nothing, and the whole thing was disconcerting. It would have been better not to say anything since, like Mr. Hampson's work, I found it a pure dance abstraction with excellent dancing, but no clues to what it had to offer. Again, I looked in vain for a choreographer to call out to me, to tell me that I was watching something special, something that stood out. And while Motions of Displacement did utilize the wonderful talent of the Scottish Ballet's dancers, it did not offer anything else in terms of a fresh choreographic testament. I expected more.
The best work of the evening, Christopher Bruce's Ten Poems, danced to the poems of Dylan Thomas as recorded by Richard Burton, was a rarity. No music, just the choreographer finding and placing the colors of Dylan Thomas' poetry to the dancers bodies.
If at times the dance seemed overshadowed by the intricacies of the poems, while the audience tried to marry both dance and poetry so that what it witnessed on stage was totally comprehensible, it proved a highly satisfying work, enabling us to view a choreographer's mind and intentions through words, and nothing else. it is very interesting to watch Mr. Bruce work on a line of poetry, to see how he devised movement that not only translated the exact words, but overplayed it with a meaning that was not always apparent. Sometimes the words went by so quickly that the momentum of the dance was lost. The words of Dylan Thomas are lush to listen to, but they also lose meaning when not seen on the printed page. Whenever you go to lieder recitals, they give you a program with the songs and their translations. This would have been welcomed. For all its merits, I would have preferred reading the poems before seeing the dance, even briefly. It would have added so much to my enjoyment.
While I had reservations, I would welcome back Scottish Ballet to the Joyce. It certainly has artistic merit and seems headed for a bright and new future under the direction of Christopher Hampson. However, if they want to produce another ballet along the lines of Ten Poems, I would like to be invited to a dress rehearsal to better prepare me for an actual performance
Photo: Alan Ross