Scottish Ballet: Starstruck, Theatre Royal, Glasgow *****
When Gene Kelly headed to Paris in 1960, his plan was to create “a playful French frolic”. By all accounts, his Pas de Dieux shook the chandeliers at the Palais Garnier, and catapulted Paris Opera Ballet into the modern era. Rooted in classical ballet, but bejewelled with American jazz, lindy hop, Charleston and myriad other styles, the piece was born to uplift and entertain. Kelly could scarcely have guessed, 61 years ago, quite how much we would need his work of exuberant escapism today.
Returning to the theatre after 18 long months of bare stages and empty seats, Scottish Ballet would be forgiven for being a little rusty – yet the dancers looked as if they’d never been away. Somewhat ironically, a large part of Starstruck takes place in a rehearsal studio, with its mirrors, barre and dancers clad in comfy leotards and shorts. Perhaps that’s why they looked so at home, breezing instantly into perfectly executed solos and sharp synchronisation.
Principals Evan Loudon and Sophie Martin, playing the choreographer and star dancer respectively, flowed like liquid gold in and out of each other’s arms, each balletic move peppered with sensual hips and jazzy hands.
Starstruck is billed as “Gene Kelly’s love letter to ballet”, but it’s also a love letter to the man himself, from his wife Patricia Ward Kelly and Scottish Ballet’s artistic director Christopher Hampson. They spent months piecing together archive footage and Kelly’s scrawling hand-written notes to bring this work back to life. Hampson has augmented both the movement and the music, adding a prologue to shape Kelly’s tale of lovers Aphrodite and Zeus, and some Chopin to complement the original Gershwin score.
Throw in a multitude of sequins, a couple of big, showy ensemble numbers and a tale of lovers parted then reunited, and you’ve got a feel-good comeback to live performance – for them and us.
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