A dream for Africa dreamed up in London
A veritable smorgasbord of dancing talent graced London’s Britten Theatre for the annual Ashanti Development gala. Set up by a group of London Ghanaians Ashanti Development is a charity that helps combat extreme poverty in the Ashanti region of Ghana and all the participants in the Gala gave their services for free.
First up, and what turned out to be one of the highlights of the show, was The Royal Ballet’s Fernando Montaño and English National Ballet’s Venus Villa in Petipa’s fiendishly tricky Carnaval de Venise pas de deux. There was a sizzling chemistry between them with plenty of playful bounce from Villa and some terrific leaps and turns from Montaño.
They were followed by the first of several World Premieres; an elegant pas de deux from Simon Rice’s Still Moving (to be premiered in full on 25 September at Chisenhale Dance Space in Bow), was dreamily brought to life by Hubert Essakow and Paul Liburd.
We were then treated to a pair of contrasting solos. Vanessa Fenton’s Frozen presented the RB’s impressive Tristan Dyer in full stretch while Robert Helpmann’s neglected Miracle in the Gorbals was sadly rather dull although the RB’s Kristen McNally did her best to make a case for it.
ENB principles Elena Glurdjidze and Arionel Vargas were bussed in especially for the World Premiere of Van Le Ngoc’s Chase and, although they were hampered by a misbehaving CD player, there was enough evidence to see the potential of the piece.
ENB’s Daniel Paul Jones showed he’s a dab hand as a choreographer and a musician with his refreshing Water. Basically a duet between ENB’s Kei Akahoshi and a glass of water, Akahoshi was delightfully fluid in her movement while the glass of water showed tremendous balance.
Erico Montes’ Never Goodbye was a lilting pas de quatre with the RB’s deliciously graceful Leticia Stock excelling as the eponymous princess of Ravel’s music.
Equally compelling were Daniela Neugebauer and Paolo Mangiola from Wayne McGregor’s Random Dance. Performing the opening duet from McGregor’s Far, they injected a welcome jagged edge to the night’s proceedings.
Alberto Méndez’s charmingly weird Latino take on Coppelia Muñecos benefitted from a cheeky turn by the versatile Venus Villa in partnership with ENB’s Pedro Lapetra who uncoiled his pirouettes with suitably militaristic vigour.
Just as the audience was beginning to tire up popped Fernando Montaño again, this time as the silky Zebra from David Bintley’s Still Life at the Penguin Café. Accompanied by an ice-cool harem of RB Zebrettes in full costume, this was certainly the most visually striking entertainment of the night.
Concluding with the World Premiere of Wayne Eagling’s Wimoweh, chock-full of ENB talent and style, the whole night proved to be an astonishing showcase. With several charming musical interludes from Robert Gibbs, Oliver Davies and Henry Roche, an eye-opening film from Antonella Sinopoli and even some poetry from Romany Pajdak the Gala hopefully raised plenty of much-deserved cash for the Ashanti Development organisation.
To find out more about Ashanti Development, click here for their website.