Yesterday afternoon I was having an enjoyable time with some old friends at a BBQ in Glasgow (thanks Leslie), but I bailed out early and headed across to Edinburgh. I had a ticket for the above performance at the 'real' Festival.
Now, last year, one of my disappointing experiences over a number of visits to Edinburgh had been an evening at an International Festival performance. A visiting company, big money production, expensive ticket, yet it had not given me anything like the same enjoyment as many of the Fringe events I had seen. Ever the pessimist, I wondered as I drove along the M8 yesterday, whether I should just have stayed in Glasgow. Would the evening at the Festival Theatre be worth the effort?
I had bought the ticket as soon as the Festival programme had come out. The opportunity to see one of the world's best dancers - in a contemporary dance production - seemed too good to miss. And the very fact that I'm blogging about it today means that it was a great night, one I am so glad to have experienced.
Bear with me, I have to tell you a bit about it!
Natalia Osipova is a Russian ballerina, once Principal with the Bolshoi, and, since 2013, with the Royal Ballet where she has starred in many productions. Last night though was a Sadler's Wells production to showcase Osipova's talent in contemporary dance. There were three pieces by different choreographers.
The first piece was called 'Run Mary Run'. I found the photo above in this positive review by Kelly Apter in the Scotsman, here. You can find lots of photos of Natalia online.
The story of 'Run Mary Run' was a simple one, easy to follow, and exquisitely danced. It did help that I was in the front row and almost in the performance!
The director/choreographer was Arthur Pita, whose inspiration for the piece came from listening to Shangri-Las songs from the 1960s.
As a youngster myself back then I probably didn't really appreciate the significance of the various teenage tragedy songs, or 'death discs' as they were called, that appeared in the charts of the time. Think 'Tell Laura I love her' (here, the 1960 Ricky Valance version); 'Teen Angel' (here) by Mark Dinning from 1960; and of course the Shangri-Las 1964 hit 'Leader of the Pack, here, all with the authentic scratches of old vinyl.
('Billy don't be a hero' by Paper Lace, here, came later in 1974 and was one of my favourites, and can be considered as another example of a 'splatter platter'! But I digress.)
Steering clear of 'Leader of the Pack', Pita worked 'Past, Present and Future', 'Remember (Walking in the Sand)', 'Give Us Your Blessing', 'Give Him a Great Big Kiss'', and 'Dressed in Black', all by the Shangri-Las, into the score, as well as other appropriate tracks, such as 'Walkin' Along' by the Crystals. (Look them up on YouTube, and Mary Weiss has her website here.)
As the programme notes say, 'Run Mary Run' was 'a doomed love tale, an obsessively possessive relationship, with some sex drugs and rock 'n' roll!' Indeed, there was a warning posted on the auditorium doors: 'This performance contains adult themes'. Splendid stuff.
In 'Run Mary Run', Natalia was partnered by Sergei Polunin, another of the world's great dancers. In the third of yesterday's performances 'Silent Echo', with Russell Maliphant the choreographer, the two occupied the stage separately and together in a mesmerising performance to specially composed music by Scanner, with Sergei's solo danced to 'Trouble in Paradise' by James Lavelle.
The second performance was Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's 'Qutb', an Arabic word meaning 'axis' or 'pivot'. Natalia danced with Jason Kittelberger and James O'Hara, to a wonderful score and an amazing backdrop of a red sun in an eclipse. Completely captivating, and, of the three performances, the audience's favourite.
this fan's tribute website.
Some in the packed out theatre who were expecting more of a classical ballet performance might have been disappointed, but those who appreciate contemporary dance would have been ecstatic - I know I was! August in Edinburgh continues to be a great success so far. Let's hope it continues!