Empower in Motion—A Ballet Inclusive


Sadler’s Wells

Listing details and ticket info...

Stopgap at Fundraising Gala Empower in Motion A Ballet Inclusive Credit: Ryan Browne
Nadenh Poan from Stopgap at Fundraising Gala Empower in Motion A Ballet Inclusive Credit: Ryan Browne
Denecia Allen and Alicia Bellini in Reunion at Fundraising Gala Empower in Motion A Ballet Inclusive Credit: Jules Renehan
Joseph Powell Main and Hannah Rudd in The Sleepwalker at Fundraising Gala Empower in Motion A Ballet Inclusive Credit: Ryan Browne
Joseph Powell Main in Passionately Defiant at Fundraising Gala Empower in Motion A Ballet Inclusive Credit: Ryan Browne
Joseph Powell Main in Passionately Defiant at Fundraising Gala Empower in Motion A Ballet Inclusive Credit: Ryan Browne
Grace Thompson and Zak Smith in Romeo & Juliet at Fundraising Gala Empower in Motion A Ballet Inclusive Credit: Ryan Browne
Emile Gooding and Tiane Finn Grainger in Ode to a Love Lost at Fundraising Gala Empower in Motion A Ballet Inclusive Credit: Ryan Browne
Daniil Simkin and Shiori Kase in Le Corsaire at Fundraising Gala Empower in Motion A Ballet Inclusive Credit: Jules Renehan
Daniil Simkin and Maria Kochetkova in The Owl Falls at Fundraising Gala Empower in Motion A Ballet Inclusive Credit: Jules Renehan

The ultimate goal tonight, Empower in Motion—A Ballet Inclusive, a gala for charity Children Today, is to inspire donations with its showcase and raison d’être, money to buy “tools to thrive”, the difference the right wheelchair or aid can make. The audience is with it all the way.

It is a wonderful evening, a good night out, there’s something for everyone. A mixed programme of ten classical and contemporary pieces performed by abled and other abled dancers, I am full of awe and admiration at the talent on display and the programming by the organisers.

It opens with Sleepwalker (inspired by Bellini’s La Sonnambula), a minimalist kinetic collage, black on black, devised by Royal Ballet principal Alexander Campbell with choreography by Kirsten McNally, danced by wheelchair user Joseph Powell-Main (beautiful arms) and Hannah Rudd, formerly with Rambert, to ambient music by Sophie Cotton.

And closes with regular gala fare Le Corsaire, danced by international star of classical ballet Daniil Simkin and ENB lead principal Shiori Kase. There’s the mixed offering in capsule. Simkin has done this many times before, and he is dynamite. The audience, many of whom may not be ballet regulars, but family, friends and supporters, go wild. A great way to finish on an adrenaline high...

But I am ahead of myself. Rebecca Fowler’s (of Propel Dance) short bold wheelchair solo extract from Snow Queen, which follows Sleepwalker, looks fit for a masquerade ball. Take me or leave me... Electronic music is by Kris Halpin.

Another taste-bud-pricking hors d’oeuvre is Ode to a Love Lost, a very short delicate piece, “developed for The Frederick Ashton Emerging Choreographer programme” and performed sweetly by The Royal Ballet School’s Emile Gooding and Tiane-Finn Granger on a stage lit peach.

And then comes the evening’s pièce de résistance: proudly diverse Stopgap Dance Company presents two knockout pieces: Tight Textures and Unplugged. “Both pieces were created by Stopgap’s Co-Artistic Director Lucy Bennett in collaboration with a team of Deaf, Disabled, neurodivergent, and non-disabled artists.” The longest and the best, I’d call this the central focus of the evening. I love it.

Tight Textures is all-inclusive, in wheelchairs, on crutches, on nifty gravity defying feet, you name it they can do it. Hip-shaking good. Spoken poetic text, delivered on stage by Stopgap’s Access Artist Lily Norton, is projected, white on black, in graphic art installation style audio display. Mesmerizing, expressive stuff, words and movement, all bases covered. The beat is strong and funky.

Sadly, Tight Textures dancers names are not listed, as it's a collective ensemble work. Unplugged, on the other hand, is a solo performed by “Senior Dance Artist and Contemporary Wheelchair Dance Teacher and Choreographer Nadenh Poan”. Shame on me, I’ve not heard of this Cambodian man, who reminds me a little of the late David Toole.

He does the impossible with his wheelchair appendage. Strapped in, he speeds across the stage, tilts, tumbles, his means of transport on top of him, and yet he rises with great upper body strength. Astonishing feats, incredible metamorphoses…

The first half closes with Sebastian Kloborg’s new witty The Owl Falls, danced by international classical principal dancers Maria Kochetkova and Simkin, formerly of ABT and Berlin Ballet. Contemporary and classical styles in happy partnership, jazzy, funky, in black and white marionette costumes against a black and white backcloth, are they AI? There’s something of Petrushka about it.

Presented by National Youth Ballet All In! and Parable Dance, a very short, tender Romeo and Juliet pas de deux from wheelchair dancer Grace Thompson and non-disabled fifteen-year-old Zak Smith opens the second half. Is this a metaphor about accommodating differences?

Another classical pas de deux from act two of the recent ENB Mary Skeaping Giselle is taken at a dreamy, slow pace by new ENB dancers, lead principal Sangeun Lee and first soloist Gareth Haw.

Reunion, post-COVID reunion, music by Ola Gjeilo, is again a happy pairing of classical dancer Alice Bellini, First Artist at English National Ballet, with wheelchair user, Denecia Allen, a dancer from icandance. Allen has the most enchanting smile, which says everything: the joy of movement, the therapeutic value of dance. We can all dance if it’s only to wave our arms in time to music, as it courses through our bodies. The wheelchair makes a handy barre, too.

The penultimate number of the night, Passionately Defiant, by classically trained Powell-Main, who has performed for the Royal Ballet and Ballet Cymru, is a statement of fact. Now gala ambassador and former UK National Dance Para Champion, his new work to an orchestration of the Rolling Stones' “Paint It Black”, sees him in red and black ‘Bob Fosse’ costume on a dramatic red stage, which seems to say look at this devil, he has made it, he can even do fouettés… Take that!

There are introductory films and a presentation speech by Grace Spence Green, a doctor, who in 2018 aged 22 suffered spinal chord injury and now champions inclusivity as Children Today Patron. Tonight’s gala marks the thirtieth anniversary of children’s disability charity Children Today and all funds raised will go towards their work with children and young people living with disabilities. Resilience is the name of the game.

Reviewer: Vera Liber

Are you sure?