Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, London; June 1, 2015

Londiwe Khoza and Mthuthuzeli November in Bradley Shelver's  Scenes Photo Bill Cooper

Londiwe Khoza and Mthuthuzeli November in Bradley Shelver’s Scenes
Photo Bill Cooper

Maggie Foyer

In their final year, dancers of the Central School of Ballet take to the road as Ballet Central to gain performing experience before embarking on their professional careers. The school, which prides itself on an 80% employment average, aims to produce dancers proficient in both classical and contemporary dance. After touring up and down the country, the students present their graduate programme to a critical London audience. It is a potpourri of classical, neo-classical and contemporary dance created by a variety of choreographers that challenges both technical and performance skills.

The inclusion of two scholarship students from the Cape Academy of Performing Arts in South Africa raised the dynamics. Londiwe Khoza and Mthuthuzeli November are both gifted with strong physical presence which they used to good effect in the duet from Bradley Shelver’s Scenes set to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. The romance of the music finds contrast in the turbulence of the onstage relationship and is interpreted through a range of moves that uses depth and weight as well as moments of fluid lyricism. The dancers were also integrated in other works in the repertoire giving them the opportunity to show well-honed technique.

Another highlight was a short new work, Morning and Moonlight, from Christopher Bruce set to two of Benjamin Britten’s Four Sea Interludes: a work that integrates choreography, music and design flawlessly. The simplicity of Bruce’s movements make extreme demands on the young dancers who need to find depth beyond their years and Kyomi Ishibashi and Kai Tomioka did just that in a deeply moving duet. The flow of the full skirts added an extra dimension to a truly lovely work where all six dancers performed with great integrity.

Yoshimasa Ikezawa and Sayaka Ishibasi in La Fille mal gardée Photo Bill Cooper (DANCER DANCED)

Yoshimasa Ikezawa and Sayaka Ishibasi in
La Fille mal gardée
Photo Bill Cooper

The duet from Alexander Gorsky’s La Fille mal gardée showed top end classical training confidently realised by Sayaka Ishibashi and Yoshimasa Ikezawa. The partnering was strong and despite the difficulties, each virtuoso trick was delivered with a smile making it a pleasure to watch. The other classical work was the Blue Ball duet from Christopher Gable’s Cinderella. A rather careful and constrained performance showed two well-trained dancers but little emotion.

Christopher Hampson found time in between directing Scottish Ballet to write Four, a piece that gave the dancers classical steps in a range of moods and dynamics. It was a prime chance to show their versatility within the form and made a successful opener. Sharon Watson’s Code gave similar opportunities in a more aggressive contemporary style. A strong cast of six, including Khoza and November, commanded the stage in a work that combined interesting partnering and effective dance.

It was in Christopher Marney’s Scenes from a Wedding that the benefits of touring a programme came to fruition. This is an extremely tricky work, not so much for the dancing, although there is plenty of good material there, but for the costume and set changes executed on stage and the mass of props – wedding rings, headgear, confetti, duvets – that the dancers have to deal with. They coped like trueborn professionals never missing a glance, a gesture or a catch.  With great panache the cast dealt with the theme of young love and marriage, their comedy well timed and well judged. Philip Feeney who had provided much of the music for the evening again worked his magic on the piano while Megan Pay as the Bride, Andrei Teodor Iliescu as the Groom and a sparky Kanako Nagayoshi as the Uncertain Bride led the team bringing the evening to a feel good close.