Gershwin and the ballet
Wednesday 15th February 2012
Last night we went to see English National Ballet dance Strictly Gershwin. Really, with that music, a fabulous band – on stage – and some gorgeous dresses, you can’t go wrong.
The best part, without a doubt, was the orchestra, seen above behind the dancers and led by the most energetic conductor I have ever seen. He had his own little dance routines!
It was a bit disjointed, with neither the sense of ‘story’ that you get in a conventional ballet – even if, as with Matthew Bourne, it’s unconventionally staged – or the sense of an entirely un-linked series of 3 short ballets, as often staged by the Birmingham Royal Ballet. There was also 4 vocalists, who were not bad and 1 of the women had a lovely second-soprano voice; and, though it seemed bizarre at first, we had 2 tap dancers 1 of whom also sang, very well, ‘A Foggy Day’, which I did not know was Gershwin! But then, when you think of Hollywood musicals and Fred and Ginger, you can’t leave out tap dancing, can you? It was better once they took off the silver and black striped jackets and just danced in the matching waistcoats, shirts, ties and trousers. It was still murmuring: marrow; or maybe humbug, but it was better.
I felt, here and there, as if they had assessed the chief touring company opposition (New Adventures, I’d have thought) and gone: OK, Matthew does awfully well with kitsch, gay and quirky, let’s try that! But they didn’t abandon en pointe, as he does, or quite ‘let go’. Which is fine, they aren’t Matthew Bourne, they are ENB and they’re fab. The only time I have seen real elegance teamed with abandon, doom and grit, is in Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella and you’d have to go a long way to top that.
Both acts flew by and you did lose yourself, lots of handbags were tapped and toes politely wiggled. No-one is going to book this under the illusion that it will be testing or dark. It was light, sparkly, frothy and fun. I call that a good Valentine’s night out.
And next time I go to the theatre it will be to see The King’s Speech in Bath next week; and after that it’s Spamalot, I think!