Tchaikovsky Celebration Gala

Ballet Ireland
National Concert Hall, Dublin

5th May 2006





Debates rage about whether ballet's future lies in preserving the classics or developing more contemporary styles, and Ballet Ireland looks caught in the middle. Its Tchaikovsky Celebration Gala included excerpts from Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker as well as seven other dances ranging from romantic comedy to modern. The company looked polished and the six live musicians accompanying the first dance were a nice touch, but Stephen Brennan's School for Lovers was the only one that offered anything out of the ordinary.

Brennan coaches the Ballet Ireland dancers and performs with them, and such close involvement pays off. He has worked with companies including Norwegian National Ballet and Scottish Ballet and understands how to use movement to tell a story. Although School for Lovers might have benefited from more time to develop the story, the cast moved well and showed emotion - looking as though they were having fun.

Brennan used a device rarely seen in ballet, placing an easel with big placards downstage to announce the arrival of the next scene. "The Wager," "The Disguise," "The Wedding" and "Untying the Knot" helped move along this tale about falling in love, with a playful Flavia Semper narrating.

Hopefully next time Brennan will have the opportunity to construct a longer dance, prompting the company to remove some of the shorter, less interesting ones from the programme. Including 10 excerpts in one evening feels more like a ballet school recital than a night of professional ballet, and Günther Falusy's Druschba could have used more development, along with Morgann Runacre-Temple's Lullabies.

Still, the dancers looked strong - as if they are rehearsing well as a corps while discovering individual strengths. Peter Jolesch's Serenade showcased a lithe Paula Archangelo and Agnes Chlebowsky was a stoic swan queen. Sören Niewelt partnered well in Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, Romeo and Juliet Fantasy and Swan Lake, and his strong technique served as a reminder that in many cases - such as during Von Rothbart's entrance at the end of Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet's death scene - it is time to leave overwrought pantomime in ballet behind.

© The Irish Times