Ballet Central 2015

Ballet Central
The Lowry

Ballet Central in "Four"

Ballet Central 2015 showcases the work of students in their final year at Central School of Ballet, giving the young dancers a chance to perform as professionals on stages across the UK. This year marks the 30th anniversary of Ballet Central as a touring company.

Among the performers are the familiar faces of three category finalists from this year’s BBC Young Dancer competition: Diana Patience, Kai Tomioka (both from Contemporary) and Sayaka Ishibashi(Ballet).

The show opens with “Four,” a jazzy neoclassical piece that grabs attention instantly. Especially choreographed for Ballet Central by Christopher Hampson, “Four” builds from controlled solos to a jazzy, energetic finale—four dancers fly across the stage in a string of sauté arabesques, a blur of purple and black.

A classical pas de deux from Central's founding director Christopher Gable, choreographed for his version of Cinderella, is next. Even out of its narrative context, this duet is supremely romantic. Dancers Brianna Hicke and Andrei Teodor Iliescu tell the story of Cinderella and her Prince beautifully while executing lifts, promenade turns and other challenging partner work.

Next in this hugely varied programme comes two new pieces in contrasting styles—“Morning and Moonlight,” redolent of Akram Khan’s Dust, and the quirky, Jazz Age “Hopper” by Central’s current choreography student Kit Holder.

Set to atmospheric music by Benjamin Britten, “Morning and Moonlight” evokes a grey seascape with female dancers beating their long skirts like wings and twisting their heads like gulls. These light-hearted characters give way to a moving duet performed by Julie Nunes and Kai Tomioka, which punctuates challenging passages of rapid, athletic choreography with sudden stops. This ebb and flow of movement seems to mimic the tides.

In “Hopper,” a series of characters come to life through the brushstrokes of American artist Edward Hopper. The standouts in this piece are undoubtedly the figures from his “Chop Suey” painting, rendered here as two gossipy flappers bourréeing cheekily across the stage.

Ballet Central give a further nod to the classics with extracts from La Fille Mal Gardée. Sayaka Ishibashi and Yoshimasa Ikezawa go at their pas de deux full throttle, executing its lifts, leaps, assisted pirouettes and even fouetté turns with professionalism and grace.

Once again, “Code” is a complete contrast to its pointe shoed predecessor. There’s a lot of striding barefoot across the stage—the dancers rarely move in unison and every step is sharply defined, from rapid flexes of the feet to cool looks hurled at the audience.

Finishing the night is Christopher Marney’s comic narrative “Scenes from a Wedding,” which follows a reluctant Groom and his Bride to be through a series of failed proposals, bedroom arguments, fraught dress fittings and chaotic stag and hen nights. All the trappings of a wedding are cleverly created with minimal props and set, and the dancers embrace their characters and the comic style with clear enjoyment.

Sadly, Ballet Central 2015 was only in Manchester for one night, but there’s no doubt that its talented dancers and their diverse repertoire will impress audiences on the final London dates of this tour.

Reviewer: Georgina Wells

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