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Edinburgh: Festival Theatre Mon 1 & Tue 2 May (La Bayadere); Wed 3—Sat 6 May (Swan Lake).
Maybe it's something in the vodka. Russia’s ability to churn out generation after generation of world class dancers is nothing short of phenomenal. Anna Pavlova, Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov all started life at the Kirov's Mariinsky Theatre, which shares St Petersburg with that other household name, the Bolshoi.
But while Russia has kept up the ballet momentum, the rest of the world has looked elsewhere for its dance fix. The surge of contemporary companies over the past twenty years has left ballet adored by old ladies and little girls but ignored by most people in between. But ballet's prevailing image of being pretty but dull is unfair. That spontaneous burst of applause prompted by a gravity-defying leap or head-spinning pirouette remains something unique to classical dance. Likewise the rush of pleasure derived from watching dozens of identically dressed performers delivering the same steps in perfect unison. And few productions afford such a display of synchronicity as the corps de ballet in Swan Lake, especially when the corps in question are part of the 150-strong Kirov Ballet.
Speaking from St Petersburg, Kirov Director Makhar Vaziev is confident of the company's place in the world
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The birds from Swan Lake: Kirov tradition with a modern edge
of 21st century dance. 'The more modern companies that exist, the more valuable and precious our company becomes,’ he says. ’The world’s modern companies have, in major part, classical roots - because these people were trained within classical boundaries.’
But changes in direction have seen modern pieces infiltrating even the Kirov's long-standing repertoire. 'The Mariinsky is the place where the classical masterpieces are being preserved and maintained, and of course throughout the world we are known as the classical company. And believe me, I have no wish to change our priorities.’ says Vaziev. ’However, if one thinks about any organism that exists for a long time, there are certain things which are fixed. But an organism should develop, and we are also being very successful with the new repertoire.’
That said, the company's return to the UK still sees it performing two old favourites, Swan Lake and La Bayadere. Is it the familiar tale of audiences demanding greatest hits over new material? ’Of course we do experience pressure, because when we are invited to perform, they want the classical repertoire,’ says Vaziev. 'When people speak of the classical ballets they have a perception of something old fashioned and conservative, but this is not true. Many changes take place during the life of a ballet, because if you didn't brush up and refresh them, no one would want to see them.’ (Kelly Apter)
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Trained actor mouths a line: Improbable's new show is a general comment on war
if people can transcend their own particular position. 'If people can briefly escape from their story and look down then they'll see the whole world. That might be a point where a shift can happen.’
So serious stuff then. Well, yes and no; for, despite the meaty content, those familiar with lmprobable’s work will be looking forward to a show which brings a fresh and irreverent approach. ‘lt'll be pretty different to what people have seen before,’ promises Simpson. ’And it should be entertaining on one level or another. In fact if it’s not entertaining we won’t do it because there’s no worse crime than something that's boring.’
Despite Improbable’s success,
Glasgow: Tron Theatre
Masters of improvisation Improbable Theatre are set to return north with Spirit, a production that takes a sideways look at the numerous conflicts marking the world. But dodging the potential pitfalls of examining any one specific situation, they attempt to focus on war’s
universal aspect. ’We're looking at the dynamics of conflict and perhaps its mythology,’ says artistic director Lee Simpson. 'We’re not doing a show about the Bosnian war or the situation in Chechnya. We're trying to express the idea that if conflicts cycle through generations and the centuries, people get trapped in their story and it’s very difficult to make any change.’
For Simpson, change is only possible
Simpson displays a marked reluctance to talk up his own show. ’l'm plagued by doubts every time’, he says. ’We’ve done well but it makes you think "Oh no the next one’s gonna be a disaster". We still believe that when we're in a theatre some red-faced chap is going to appear at the back of the stalls waving a stick and shouting “Oi' You kids get out of here. Who let you in?"’ (Davie Archibald)
Stage whispers Re: heading the boards
TEXTS PRODUCED BY collaborative efforts are the order of the day. A new project by Boilerhouse is a case in point. For Red, which will tour Scotland this autumn, the company is calling for ’moments' from the general public. What it wants from you is any brief contribution on the theme of love, be it a fragment of dialogue, some prose, poetry, even stage business. Artistic director Paul Pinson, co-director and choreographer Christine Devaney and composer Quee MacArthur will draw together possibly hundreds of contributions for the finished product. If you want to add your tuppence worth go to www.boilerhouse.org.uk.
STRANGELY ENOUGH, WE hear from Catherine Wheels, the new Scottish children's theatre company, that it too is touring a show in the autumn and it will also be called Red. Equally curiously, the production is to be directed by Iain Reekie, brother-in-law of the company’s Gill Robertson and departing director of 7:84, who’s only recently been saying he was putting theatre behind him. What can it all mean?
MORE COLLABORATION IN Boundless Theatre Company's new show Biggles Cocks It Up, a reflection on the life of the eponymous fictional prince of daring-do through his grandson, a contemporary RAF pilot. lts rehearsed reading on Sat 6 May in Glasgow's 62, a taster of a full-scale production later this summer, invites audience members to submit a 500 word revue, with the incentive of a £20 cash prize for the winner. Go along. For a £2 entry you could finish up £18 ahead.
UNDETERRED BY THE critical mauling meted out to Electra last year, Theatre Cryptic is scaling new heights. Quite literally. It's touring Mexico and South America with Electra, having already performed in Mexico City where altitude is such a problem that offstage oxygen has to be provided for the performers. They’ll return in May, with a last showing from 18-20 May at G12.
Biggles Cocks It Up
27 Apr—ll May 2000 THE UST 59