It goes to show ballet is for all

2nd July 2004 at 01:00
Celebr8. Scottish Ballet, Dance4Glasgow plus Scottish Ballet's education classes. Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Dance companies and dance teachers across the country are eager to extol and exploit the health benefits of dance. So, perhaps it was not surprising that funding for Celebr8, the recent celebration of dance put on by Scottish Ballet's education unit at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow, came from the New Opportunities Fund for Physical Education and Sport (NOPES).

With all the talk of enhanced psychomotor skills and team-work, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that dance is primarily an art form. In an evening that had style, not sweat, and expression, not exercise, it was artistry, both nascent and full-blown, that distinguished the event.

Scottish Ballet's dance for all policy is truly inclusive. Dancers aged five to 76 years are enrolled in the company's ever-expanding list of education classes, all of which took part in this show.

The education department also works closely with Glasgow City Council and the Dance School of Scotland, based at Knightswood Secondary in Glasgow.

Through NOPES funding, 65 children have been attending classes there as part of the Dance4Glasgow initiative and some of the company opened the show with scenes from Cinderella by Peter Darrell, the founder choreographer of Scottish Ballet.

It must be equally thrilling and daunting to perform on such a prestigious stage as Glasgow's Theatre Royal, on which the feet of the internationally renowned Rambert Dance Company had been just a few days before, but the children in the opening scene were not fazed by this. They filled the stage with their presence and delightful steps.

In an art form where every move counts, where every flick of a wrist and out-turned foot tells part of the story (notably in "Full of Eastern Promise" in the second half of the programme), it was good to see the mime elements done with such great character.

The Cinderella excerpts also provided the most stunning image of the evening, when flame red dresses flowed and posed against an electric blue backdrop.

After that, it was the turn of Scottish Ballet's education groups to present a series of vignettes.

The youngest dancers, beautifully attired in white tutus, made lyrical sweeping arcs with their arms in Swan Lake and captured the adventurous individuality of cygnets.

In Tales of Hoffmann, small mechanical movements were precisely articulated and the gentle singing of the barcarolle in the pit was emulated by the movements on the stage.

After the interval, the pastel costumes and the elegance of the light footwork in the Giselle vignette was a stark contrast to the style of the specially-created jazz-age version of The Four Temperaments, called "Temperaments of Four". Musically it was a million miles from the original score by Hindemith, but the steps were executed with all the spicy geometry of Balanchine's original choreography.

There are some pieces that should be left to experts and Acrid Avid Jam, by Scottish Ballet's current artistic director Ashley Page, is one of them.

Diana Loosmore and Jarkko Lehmus of Scottish Ballet performed a potent and definitive interpretation of this piece, packed with tangible emotion and mesmerising muscular sweeps.

One may think that, as with footballers and tennis stars, a dancer's life is over once their exercise ability is reduced. The American choreographer Martha Graham proved that not to be the case and there was a Graham-like simplicity and eloquence of expression in "Rhythm of Life", performed by Scottish Ballet's 60-plus group, Gener8. This was the most incredibly poignant and touching performance of the evening and it brought the house down.

James Allen

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