Better than the bingo
By their very nature galas can often feel bitty and faintly unsatisfactory. Not so with Yorkshire Ballet Summer School’s (YBSS) Autumn Gala of Dance and Song held at Sadler’s Wells to celebrate their 40th anniversary. This was a terrific show with some outstanding performances.
Brandon Lawrence, recent YBSS graduate who’s now springing the boards at Birmingham Royal Ballet, opened proceedings in Christopher Tudor’s When The Time Comes, a short affair that showed Lawrence’s leap off to great effect.
Sir Anthony Dowell and Sir Derek Jacobi were the night’s hosts and their first job was to introduce Wayne Sleep and Samantha Bond (of Miss Moneypenny and Downton Abbey fame) high-faluting their way through Irving Berlin’s We’re a Couple of Swells.
Northern Ballet’s Tobias Batley, Jessica Morgan and Nicola Gervasi then produced one of the night’s highlight’s in Kenneth Tindall’s Bitter Earth. Fabulously evocative choreography coupled with the dancers’ finely balanced performances brought Sadler’s Wells to a hypnotic standstill.
Elizabeth Harrod was the first Royal Ballet dancer on display and she was charm personified in You, a wistful solo created by YBSS director Marguerite Porter. Actress Imelda Staunton then showed what a fine set of lungs she has on her with a lovely a cappella song.
English National Ballet took centre stage after that with Lauretta Summerscales and Fernando Bufalà plotting their way carefully through the famous pas de deux from Le Corsaire. Equally cautious were the BalletBoyz in taking on Liam Scarlett’s Serpent but they still managed to look cool.
Michael Ball then belted out An Impossible Dream and it was all off to the bar to wait for the second half.
Once drinks had been quaffed, Dane Hurst was absolutely tremendous in an excerpt from Inala, Sisters Grimm’s forthcoming collaboration with Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Hurst’s extraordinary control and sinewy poise bodes well for the full show which is due at Sadler’s Wells in 2014.
Brandon Lawrence re-appeared with Samara Downs for an absorbing pas de deux from Kenneth MacMillan’s Solitaire before Steven McRae brought the house down with an outrageously virtuosic display of tap dancing.
Scottish Ballet were represented by Christopher Harrison and Sophie Martin who danced beautifully to Christopher Hampson’s Perpetuum Mobile and then Imelda Staunton and Michael Ball knocked out a cheeky bit of Whoopee.
Last up before the everyone-on-stage finale was Sergei Polunin who had apparently flown in specially from Moscow to spend 30 seconds reaching for the Sadler’s Wells rafters. Such is his rock star status nowadays that audience screams accompany everything he does which, in small doses, is kind of fun.
In the middle of everything another Downton Abbey star, Jim Carter (Carson the Butler) made a hugely entertaining auctioneer, even managing to persuade some kind soul part with £2,500 for the opportunity to watch the Royal Ballet from the wings of the Covent Garden stage. All money raised went to YBSS, an organization responsible for the spotting and development of a great deal of the young talent that is now gracing the world’s dance companies and, in some cases such as Kevin O’Hare and David Bintley, actually running them.
This was a tremendous gala for a very worthwhile cause and everyone involved deserves great credit not only what was achieved on the night but also for the enormous strides made over the last 40 years.