Scottish Ballet Mixed Programme ****
SCOTTISH Ballet is back! With a bold and stylish spring to its step, too, as it demonstrated to a small but excitable crowd at the Festival Theatre last night.
After last autumn’s slightly overstretched first season under new artistic director, Ashley Page, and the strangeness of its Christmas Nutcracker, this new programme of dances shows a company which is spot on in all the right places.
There might have been the slightest of wobbles, as the opening phrases of George Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments tested the young ballerinas’ strength to the very limits. But once the piece had warmed up and began to flow, rather than depend on big, held positions, they were stunning.
Danced in black practice leotards for the ballerinas, and black leggings with tight white vests for the male dancers, this is a piece which does not allow any fault by the dancers to go unnoticed. Lit evenly from above, it also displays every ripple in the dancers’ physique - sometimes in almost embarrassing detail.
The stripped-down costumes leave nothing to detract from the dancing, however. Each of the four variations, representing the temperaments of the title, grows and develops the piece’s opening themes. There is no real story to tell here. Nor, indeed, does any of the pieces have one. It simply has an emotion to express.
And do those emotions come through! Whether it is Robin Bernadet rising in the middle of six willowy ballerinas as if he were on a chariot on the way to a funeral pyre in the Melancholic first variation. Or Jose Perez easing himself arrogantly downstage, muscles rippling, before the Phlegmatic fourth variation turns into a caricature of a 1920s flappers’ ball.
The heart of the evening is in an equally demanding and emotional piece of dance - Five Rckert Songs, by Peter Darrell, who was the founding choreographer of Scottish Ballet. It has become something of a signature piece for the company since first danced back in 1978.
Last night’s interpretation, with Claire Robertson taking the solo role of the unnamed woman and Karen Cargill singing the Rckert songs to music by Mahler played on the piano by Lynda Cochrane, was enchanting and thought-provoking.
Providing a slightly less intense bedding for these two very wonderful pieces, Ashley Page has introduced three of his own works into the company’s repertoire and brought back one of the great, but under-achieving pieces of last autumn.
Page’s own works give the young dancers of the company scope to create wonderful movements on stage, without having to concentrate on narrative. Smooth and powerful works, Soft Underbelly, Acrid Avid Jam (to music by Aphex Twin) and 32 Cryptograms all display the company at its fast-paced best.
Last night’s and tonight’s performances are without the much heralded MiddleSexGorge, with its "naked male buttocks" which replaces 32 Cryptograms for the weekend performances. But Scottish Ballet no longer needs such melodramatic marketing ploys. Its dancing speaks for itself.
• Run ends Saturday